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Saving France in the 1580s

Writings of Etienne Pasquier

James H. Dahlinger

Etienne Pasquier (1529–1615) was a renowned magistrate of the Parliament of Paris, a poet, an advisor to the last Valois kings as well as to Henri IV, and a founder of modern French historiography. This book examines Pasquier’s use of various genres: the dialogue, the published correspondence, and ecclesiastic history as well as his self-fashioning and his recognition by posterity for his efforts to protect the French state against threats both real and invented during the French Civil Wars of Religion. Pasquier strategically casts the Jesuits as the enemy to aid his self-construction as guardian of France and her political survival.
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2. Pasquier’s Self-Fashioning as the Ideal Public Servant


The theories of Stephen Greenblatt and Lisa Jardine1 about self-fashioning in the Early Modern period have been well known for some time now, but they can in some aspects serve as a framework for an approach to Etienne Pasquier’s construction of his career and his persona. He worked consciously and consistently to construct his image and his place in the hierarchy of the Parlement. This goal he pursued as parallel to his other one of instructing the monarchy and the public in how best to preserve traditional law and cultural/ethical values in the latter sixteenth century. Though contemporaries would never have formulated such a term as “self-fashioning,” still a modified version of Greenblatt’s and Jardine’s approach is applicable for exploring just what Pasquier and his peers in the Paris Parliament might have meant as an equivalent to our modern notion of advancement, realizing that the equally modern notion of the “self-made” professional is also anachronistic, when applied to the period. Advancement for contemporaries could in certain aspects come down to what Pasquier wishes for his son, Pierre, who has just received a military promotion. In a letter to Pierre he congratulates him on his good fortune, which will continue to allow him a place among “les gens de bien et d’honneur” ← 13 | 14 → (good and honorable people).2 In addition, Greenblatt points out that the sixteenth century was a period when the individual was particularly circumscribed by received codes of comportment, and that it was relatively unheard of to rise...

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