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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Character of Louis XI.
By Philippe de Commines (c. 1447–1511)
 
From the ‘Memoirs of Philippe de Comines’

SMALL hopes and comfort ought poor and inferior people to have in this world, considering what so great a king suffered and underwent, and how he was at last forced to leave all, and could not, with all his care and diligence, protract his life one single hour. I knew him and was entertained in his service in the flower of his age and at the height of his prosperity, yet I never saw him free from labor and care. Of all diversions he loved hunting and hawking in their seasons; but his chief delight was in dogs…. In hunting, his eagerness and pain were equal to his pleasure, for his chase was the stag, which he always ran down. He rose very early in the morning, rode sometimes a great distance, and would not leave his sport, let the weather be never so bad; and when he came home at night he was often very weary, and generally in a violent passion with some of his courtiers or huntsmen; for hunting is a sport not always to be managed according to the master’s direction; yet in the opinion of most people, he understood it as well as any prince of his time. He was continually at these sports, lodging in the country villages to which his recreations led him, till he was interrupted by business; for during the most part of the summer there was constantly war between him and Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and in the winter they made truces;… so that he had but a little time during the whole year to spend in pleasure, and even then the fatigues he underwent were excessive. When his body was at rest his mind was at work, for he had affairs in several places at once, and would concern himself as much in those of his neighbors as in his own; putting officers of his own over all the great families, and endeavoring to divide their authority as much as possible. When he was at war he labored for a peace or a truce, and when he had obtained it he was impatient for war again. He troubled himself with many trifles in his government which he had better have left alone: but it was his temper, and he could not help it; besides, he had a prodigious memory, and he forgot nothing, but knew everybody, as well in other countries as in his own.  1
  And in truth he seemed better fitted to rule a world than to govern a single kingdom. I speak not of his minority, for then I was not with him; but when he was eleven years he was, by the advice of some of the nobility and others of his kingdom, embroiled in a war with his father, Charles VII., which lasted not long, and was called the Praguerie. When he was arrived at man’s estate he was married, much against his inclination, to the King of Scotland’s daughter; and he regretted her existence during the whole course of her life. Afterwards, by reason of the broils and factions in his father’s court, he retired into Dauphiny (which was his own), whither many persons of quality followed him, and indeed more than he could entertain. During his residence in Dauphiny he married the Duke of Savoy’s daughter, and not long after he had great disputes with his father-in-law, and a terrible war was begun between them. His father, King Charles VII., seeing his son attended by so many good officers and raising men at his pleasure, resolved to go in person against him with a considerable body of forces, in order to disperse them. While he was upon his march he put out proclamations, requiring them all as his subjects, under great penalties, to repair to him; and many obeyed, to the great displeasure of the Dauphin, who finding his father incensed, though he was strong enough to resist, resolved to retire and leave that country to him; and accordingly he removed with but a slender retinue into Burgundy to Duke Philip’s court, who received him honorably, furnished him nobly, and maintained him and his principal servants by way of pensions; and to the rest he gave presents as he saw occasion during the whole time of their residence there. However, the Dauphin entertained so many at his own expense that his money often failed, to his great disgust and mortification; for he was forced to borrow, or his people would have forsaken him; which is certainly a great affliction to a prince who was utterly unaccustomed to those straits. So that during his residence at the court of Burgundy he had his anxieties, for he was constrained to cajole the duke and his ministers, lest they should think he was too burdensome and had laid too long upon their hands; for he had been with them six years, and his father, King Charles, was constantly pressing and soliciting the Duke of Burgundy, by his ambassadors, either to deliver him up to him or to banish him out of his dominions. And this, you may believe, gave the Dauphin some uneasy thoughts and would not suffer him to be idle. In which season of his life, then, was it that he may be said to have enjoyed himself? I believe from his infancy and innocence to his death, his whole life was nothing but one continued scene of troubles and fatigues; and I am of opinion that if all the days of his life were computed in which his joys and pleasures outweighed his pain and trouble, they would be found so few that there would be twenty mournful ones to one pleasant.  2
 
 
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