Henri Martin’s History of France; Biographic
Universelle; Miss Pardoe’s
History of the Court of Louis XIV.; Lacretelle’s History of France; St.
Simon’s Memoires; Voltaire’s Siecle de Louis XIV.; Guizot’s History of
France; Early Days of Madame de Maintenon, Eclectic Magazine, xxxii. 67;
Life and Character of Madame de Maintenon, Quarterly Review, xcvi. 394;
Fortnightly Review, xxv. 607; Temple Bar, Iv. 243; Fraser, xxxix. 231;
Memoires of Louis XIV., Quarterly Review, xix. 46; James’s Life and
Times of Louis XIV.; James’s Life of Madame de Maintenon; Secret
Correspondence of Madame de Maintenon; Taine on the Ancien Regime;
Browning’s History of the Huguenots, Edinburgh Review, xcix. 454;
Butler’s Lives of Fenelon and Bossuet; Abbe Ledieu’s Memoire de Bossuet;
Bentley, Memoirs de Madame de Montespan, xlviii. 309; De Bausset’s Life
SARAH, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH.
* * * * *
THE WOMAN OF THE WORLD.
In the career of Madame de Maintenon we have seen in a woman an inordinate ambition to rise in the world and control public affairs. In the history of the Duchess of Marlborough, we see the same ambition, the same love of power, the same unscrupulous adaptation of means to an end. Yet the aim and ends of these two remarkable political women were different. The Frenchwoman had in view the reform of a wicked court, the interests of education, the extirpation of heresy, the elevation of men of genius, the social and religious improvement of a great nation, as she viewed it, through a man who bore absolute sway. The Englishwoman connived at political corruptions, was indifferent to learning and genius, and exerted her great influence, not for the good of her country, but to advance the fortunes of her family. Madame de Maintenon, if narrow and intolerant, was unselfish, charitable, religious, and patriotic; the Duchess of Marlborough was selfish, grasping, avaricious, and worldly in all her aspirations. Both were ambitious,—the one to benefit the country which she virtually ruled, and the other to accumulate honors and riches by cabals and intrigues in the court of a weak woman whom she served and despised. Madame de Maintenon, in a greater position, as the wife of the most powerful monarch in Christendom, was gentle, amiable, condescending, and kind-hearted; the Duchess of Marlborough was haughty, insolent, and acrimonious. Both were beautiful, bright, witty, and intellectual; but the Frenchwoman was immeasurably more cultivated, and was impressible by grand sentiments.
And yet the Duchess of Marlborough was a great woman. She was the most prominent figure in the Court of Queen Anne, and had a vast influence on the politics of her day. Her name is associated with great statesmen and generals. She occupied the highest social position of any woman in England after that of the royal family. She had the ear and the confidence of the Queen. The greatest offices were virtually at her disposal. Around her we may cluster the leading characters and events of the age of Queen Anne.