At this time he was made historiographer to the king, and witnessed many important battles. His life at court was very pleasant to him, and though he was a little too much inclined to be servile, yet he was generally an upright man. The story is told of him, that once when in the bosom of his little family, an attendant of the great duke came to invite him to dinner at the Hotel de Conde.
He sent back the reply, “I cannot go; I have returned to my family after an absence of eight days; they have got a fine carp for me, and would be much disappointed if I did not share it with them.”
Boileau and Racine were very intimate friends, and many anecdotes are related of them. Boileau had wit—Racine humor, and a natural turn for raillery. The contests of the two were often amusing. The king was much pleased with the dramatist, and gave him a suit of apartments in the palace, and the privilege of attending his parties. Madame de Maintenon made a great favorite of him. He could recite poetry freely, and was asked to declaim before a young princess. He found that she had been learning some of his own plays. One of the best of his plays was performed in the presence of Madame de Maintenon, who liked it so well that she beseeched him to write a play which should contain no offensive sentiments. Racine was in agony, for he feared to injure his reputation. His vow prevented his return to his old employment, yet he feared to refuse the request. He compromised the matter by dramatising the touching bible history of Esther. At court the play had a wonderful success, and the poet tried again upon the story of Atheliah of the house of Judah; and in “Athalie” we have the best of all his dramas. Singular as it may seem, this play was not well received at court, and Racine felt mortified. Boileau told him, however, that posterity would declare it the best of all his plays, and he was right.