Show Less
Open access

French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

Series:

Edited By Daniel A. Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

Show Summary Details
Open access

Through a Glass Darkly: Dominion and the French Wars of Religion (Jeff Persels)

← 24 | 25 →

Jeff Persels

Through a Glass Darkly: Dominion and the French Wars of Religion

Abstract: This chapter proposes an ecocritical reading of early modern French political and polemical writing via the biblical notion of dominion. The frequent recourse to the conventional, didactic medieval genre of the principum specula [mirrors for princes] throughout the religious ‘troubles’ of the sixteenth century foregrounds and reworks the notion of advising the prince on how to address the associated destruction of infrastructure and economy. Essentially, the ‘good’ prince (Henri IV) is depicted as taking responsibility for conscientious management of the royal domain and French dominions broadly conceived, whereas the ‘bad’ prince (Henri III) is castigated for neglecting the same, and for ceding control to corrupt agents (the Gallican Church; royal favourites). This chapter focusses primarily on ‘late’ additions to principum specula literature, such as the variously attributed 1581 triptych of Le Secret des finances de France, Le Miroir des François and Le Cabinet du roi de France, as well as Jean-Aimé de Chavigny’s 1594 repackaging of Nostradamus’ prophecies, La Premiere Face du Ianus François, and references such classics as the De duodecim abusivis saeculi [On Twelve Forms of Abuse], long attributed to Cyprian. These works, which often take the form of actual books of accounts, however exaggerated – even fabricated – for polemical purposes, undertake to assess the physical state of the realm late in the Wars of Religion. In them can be found early signs of an environmental consciousness for which the sovereign is held increasingly accountable, albeit always in the ultimate interest of human prosperity and wellbeing.

Avant que l’homme, eut peché contre toy,
D’ouailles & beufz, avoit la seignorie
Incontinent, elle fut deperie
Quand eut peché, en transgressant ta foy.1
[Before man sinned against you,
Over sheep and oxen he had dominion.
It was lost abruptly
When he sinned by transgressing your faith.]

To what extent – if at all – did contemporaries consider the French Wars of Religion (1562–98) in environmental terms? The question is of potential topical interest, given that crediting medieval and early modern Europeans with some form of ecological consciousness we ‘moderns’ can appreciate and elucidate ← 25 | 26 → (if, primarily, the better to condemn) is manifestly an academic growth industry.2 Period partisan accounts of the endemic violence and destruction occasioned by the ‘troubles’ over more than three decades, however diffuse and sporadic, themselves constituted something of an ephemeral publishing boom.3 Replete with aggrieved reports of personal and/or collective injury and outrage, most often marshalled polemically as proof of a perpetrator’s sacrilegious otherness, such accounts do necessarily include – but rarely foreground – incidents of environmental degradation. When they do, the referenced degraded environment is almost invariably man-made: the domestic, civic and military infrastructure, as it were, of sixteenth-century life.4 Such a corpus might thus seem an unlikely source for signs of ecological awareness, (early modern or otherwise), in view of the common perception that such consciousness relates to a focus on the natural environment; on ways, as ecocritic Jonathan Bate so eloquently phrases it, ‘of reflecting upon what it might mean to dwell with the earth’.5 Yet it is precisely ← 26 | 27 → here that at least one striking early modern formulation of a thoughtful relation between humans and the environment can nonetheless be found.

This chapter will thus focus on a sample of generically and thematically connected didactic and polemical works in French from the second half of the sixteenth century, all of which can fruitfully be read as contributions to the venerable tradition of the principum specula – mirrors for princes. These works profess to offer sage advice on the art of governance to novice sovereigns. Logically enough, works of this nature tended to proliferate in periods of political instability, and their dissemination was greatly enhanced by the exploitation of printing technology in the early modern era, especially during the Wars of Religion, when a significant percentage of vernacular polemical texts exhibited associated moralising characteristics. They multiplied almost exponentially under the last Valois monarch, Henri III (reigned 1574–89), not only in the form of the weightier self-proclaimed ‘mirrors’ considered here, but also in a torrent of short ephemeral works – often enough single-sheet, octavo, sixteen-page broadsheets or pamphlets – with telltale titles: so many advertissements; advis; discours; harangues; remonstrances; responses; requestes. Aside from attempting to (re)define relations between confessions, among subjects, and between subjects and sovereign (as to be expected in a series of conflicts that were ultimately as civil as they were religious), they disclose something about the way sovereigns and subjects should relate to the environment, advising on how best to manage it in the interests of personal and general prosperity.

In 1594, Jean-Aimé de Chavigny, a medically trained humanist, published poet, and former secretary to the oracular apothecary Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus), brought out in Lyon La Premiere Face du Janus françois,6 a bilingual exegesis of his late mentor’s Prophéties, or Centuries.7 Chavigny’s unabashedly partisan work sorts and arranges the famously enigmatic quatrains into a triumphalist facing-page French/Latin chronicle of ‘les troubles, guerres civiles & autres choses memorables advenuës en la France & ailleurs’, from the arrival of Lutheran heresies in France in the 1530s, through the assassination of Henri III ← 27 | 28 → in 1589.8 It is dedicated to the Bourbon successor, Henri IV, whose abjuration of Calvinism in July 1593 cleared the final obstacle to legitimate sovereignty and – Chavigny foretells – the assumption of universal empire, with an explicit and expansive guarantee of peace and prosperity for all.9 In the second of two notes to the reader – the first delicately dispatches the hazardous issue of prophecy in an orthodox Catholic context –, Chavigny endeavours to give providential meaning to decades of confessional strife in France. They are to be understood, he argues, as divine punishments for French waywardness, for the French having shifted their devotion – like Noah’s hapless contemporaries – from the creator to the creation. It was, according to Chavigny, the extraordinary largesse of that creation that led humans in Genesis, as in Valois France, into the impious ‘vice d’ingratitude’:

Quiconque aura leu attentivement les sainctes escritures, & quelques histoires profanes aussi, aura apris & remarqué que ce tres sage & tres grand Architecte de tout le monde combien qu’il soit tres riche & abondant, & n’ait faute d’aucune chose qui se puisse voir, ou non voir, à creé neantmoins & fait de rien tout ce beau pourpris des cieux, la terre, le Soleil & ceste Lune, & toutes autres choses que nous apprehendons par les sens, pour l’usage des hommes & commodité: voire deployant les tresors de sa grande liberalité & magnificence à conferé à l’homme plus que pour ses necessitez ordinaires: de sorte que par la creation & don gratuit de tant de choses, l’humain genre à moyen de iouyr de tous biens avec plaisir & contentement, & se former ça bas un petit paradis terrestre.10

[Whosoever will have read holy scripture attentively, together with a few profane histories, will have learned and noted that the very wise and great Architect of the entire world, however rich and abundant and lacking in nothing seen nor unseen he may be, has nevertheless created and made out of nothing the vast vault of the heavens, the earth, the sun and the moon, and all other things that we can perceive with our senses for the use and comfort of humans. Indeed, disbursing his treasures with great liberality and magnificence he has bestowed on humans more than their ordinary needs require, such that by the creation and free gift of so many things, the human race has the means to use all goods with pleasure and contentment and to make for itself here below a little earthly paradise.]

Like all post-Edenic terrestrial paradises, it has suffered – and will suffer – human and environmental degradation of quasi-apocalyptical proportion, be it flooding, war, famine and/or pestilence as a means of correction. Chavigny’s copiously annotated edition of the Centuries proceeds to demonstrate that Nostradamus ← 28 | 29 → foresaw this most recent fall from grace, and prophesied the advent of its Bourbon redeemer.

As the excerpted passage repeatedly accentuates, Chavigny takes for granted the notion of dominion; in other words, as medieval historian Lynn White Jr so contentiously wrote a half-century ago, ‘the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man’.11 Chavigny’s concerns are immediate and local: he invokes biblical dominion primarily as a potent analogy for the very real French royal dominion in its various manifestations – physical, spiritual, political, economic –, all of them devastated by war resulting from Valois misrule. In a controversial article published at the dawn of the ‘ecocritical age’, White Jr posited Judeo-Christian dominion as the historic root of, and justification for, our very different – in scope, in scale, in significance –, but not unrelated, modern ‘ecologic crisis’, the product of ostensible (Western) misrule. The profuse critical response provoked by his thesis has not, in common with the crisis, become exhausted or resolved.12 It continues to generate, as White Jr fully intended, much worthwhile debate concerning medieval and early modern (lack of) European environmental consciousness, and its practically mandatory expression in terms of Christian cosmological hierarchy, as extrapolated from Genesis 1.28. Chavigny’s treatment is perfectly consonant with White Jr’s thesis: he assumes that his contemporaries’ relation to creation, hence to the environment, must begin with Genesis, just as in the case of his rearrangement of Nostradamic prophecies. He can thereby herald a renewed post-war commitment to it, personified in the accession of a new and vigorous Catholic dynast (Henri IV), who will be responsible for restoring the proper management (‘usage’; ‘iouyr’; ‘se former’) of the environment for the benefit (‘commodité’; ‘plaisir’; ‘contentement’) of his subjects, as God the Master Builder (‘grand Architect’) intended when he freely gave the wealth of creation to his creatures (‘conferer’; ‘don gratuit’; ‘tresors’). Good stewardship is, then, the defining feature of the monarch in Chavigny’s formulation, and the Ianus François can be read as the latest variant in a long line of principum specula.

Chavigny’s lesson is not terribly original: the chronic civil disorder under the last Valois kings – three brothers who each contended with some degree of de ← 29 | 30 → facto or de iure maternal regency – prompted numerous didactic works on kingship. If the veritable metastasis in France of Machiavelli’s Il Principe following Jacques Gohory’s 1571 translation13 – not to mention such censorious reactions as Innocent Gentillet’s Contre Nicolas Machiavel14 and Jean Bodin’s République,15 both from 1576 – set political theory on a pragmatic modernising course, earlier paradigms of idealised just kingship persisted.16 Closely aligned with Chavigny’s interpretation was the tenacity of the De duodecim abusivis saeculi. Long attributed to third-century bishop Cyprian of Carthage, and reinvigorated by Catholic printer Fédéric Morel’s translation (1563), coinciding with Charles IX’s majority, it enjoyed multiple strategic reprintings through the 1570s (after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre; on the accession of Henri III). Morel’s dedicatory epistle to Henri d’Angoulême – the legitimated half-brother of the last three Valois – in the third printing (1568) explicitly classes the text in the tradition of the princely mirror genre: ‘Et quant à l’utilité d’iceluy traicte, lequel est intitulé Des douze abus du monde: ie n’en diray autre chose, sinon qu’il me semble estre comme un certain & vray miroir de la vie humaine, dans lequel un chacun, de quelque aage ou estat qu’il soit, peut appercevoir non seulement ce qui est de son devoir pour bien & Chrestiennement vivre: mais aussi s’il y a quelque tache ou macule en ses mœurs, le moyen de l’oster & du tout effacer’.17 The most reprised of the twelve abuses in contemporaneous polemic was, unsurprisingly, the ninth ‘mirror’ – reserved for the prince –, ‘Du Roy inique’ [‘Of the Unjust King’], whose principal latent ‘stain’ or ‘blemish’ is delineated in Morel’s translation:

Mais celuy qui ne gouverne son Royaume & soy-mesme selon ceste loy [Catholic doctrine], il se met au hazard, & est en danger d’endurer en son temps beaucoup d’iniures & d’adversitz. Car à cause de ce, souvent la paix est rompue entre les peuples & nations, & de là adviennent grands scandales & troubles en un Royaume. Les fruicts aussi de la ← 30 | 31 → terre en sont diminuez, & les subsides des peuples empeschez. Beaucoup d’autres maux aussi corrompent & gastent la prosperité du Royaume. La mort des enfans, & plus chers amis, apporte de la tristesse: les courses qui font les ennemis gastent par tout les provinces: les bestes sauvages se iettent sur les troupeaux tant du gros que du menu bestail: les tempestes du printemps & de l’hyver empeschent la fertilité des terres, & le rapport de la mer. Et quelque fois la foudre & les esclairs bruslent les bleds & les arbres, les fleurs & les bourgeons.18

[But he who does not govern his realm and himself according to this law [Catholic doctrine] puts himself in jeopardy and in danger of suffering in his time many injuries and adversities. For this reason peace is often broken among peoples and nations, whence great scandals and troubles in a realm arise. The fruits of the earth are diminished, and subsidies from the people impeded. Many other ills corrupt and destroy the prosperity of the realm. The death of children and dear friends brings sadness; enemy raids lay waste to the provinces; wild beasts attack herds of livestock big and small; spring and winter storms diminish the fertility of the earth and bounty of the sea. And sometimes thunder and lightning burn the wheat and the trees, the flowers and the buds.]

The prince who strays from the path of Christian virtue abandons the requisite qualities of the good steward, and his realm suffers the consequences in very real environmental terms: crops fail; children die; wild animals feast on the domesticated; weather patterns become devastatingly unpredictable. The realm’s prosperity is ‘spoiled and corrupted’, leading to diminished state revenue (‘les subsides des peuples’). The divinely instituted order of the human, animal and plant worlds is turned topsy-turvy; a punitive mundus inversus is realised. If the Twelve Abuses are generic enough to cover any monarchical regime, they are also sufficiently germane to the state of affairs in the sixteenth century to resonate with the chroniclers of France’s protracted confessional conflict. Chavigny holds accountable one particular errant prince, Henri III, just as he credits his agnatic kinsman and heir Henri IV with the prophetically proven potential to set things right.

Between Morel and Chavigny, other forthright attempts to hold Henri III to account appeared, among which a striking (and strikingly understudied) trio of polemical publications from the early 1580s, the first two of which marketed themselves as annotated books of account, while the third presented itself as the critical handbook, or hand-mirror, to prompt the king to reflect on such works, and turn them to figurative and literal profit. In order of dated dedicatory epistles, the works are: Le Secret des finances de France, signed Nicolas Froumenteau, and addressed to Henri III (January 1581); Le Miroir des François, autographed Nicolas de Montand, and dedicated to Louise de Lorraine, the consort of Henri III ← 31 | 32 → (October 1581); Le Cabinet du roy de France, attributed to Nicolas Barnaud, and – like Le Secret – addressed to Henri III (November 1581). All three issued sans privilège from anonymous presses. Of the three largely undocumented authors, only Barnaud – a medically trained alchemist and Calvinist convert from the Drôme who resided in Geneva during the 1570s and 80s – seems to have had a publishing life outside the material in question.19

These massive pamphlets, which exhibit varying degrees of Calvinist bias, offer a singularly prodigious array of fantastical statistics, fictional colloquies, imagined debates, and long-winded authorial harangues comprising well over two thousand octavo pages. Each is a coherent and autonomous work in its own right, but with sufficient shared internal references, points of style, and an overarching agenda to have long made the idea of a group reading – even a concerted strategy – attractive. They loosely form a definitive and authoritative, albeit often satirical, audit of the steadily worsening Valois fiscal crisis, and propose ways of addressing it. They thus provide a rare glimpse into the (imagined) workings of early modern provincial estates, the Estates-General, and associated gatherings for the expression of limited popular sovereignty, for which the manifest model was – not by chance – the defiant Estates-General at Blois in 1576–7. The serious challenges to royal authority made there by the Huguenots and, increasingly, the Catholic League multiplied the opportunities and the perceived need for such expression, in the (vain) hope of putting an end to the internecine destruction. The assembly was convened during the brief respite following the Edict of Beaulieu (May 1576), between the fifth and the sixth of eight wars, when damage to and mishandling of the economy, the commonweal and the environment had drastically reduced the revenue stream for the monarchy, obliging the king to increase exactions from the first and third estates. The works create a discursive triptych representing a polemically slanted recensement of the state of the realm circa 1580 with regard to its economic health (poor), its wealth (misappropriated and/or squandered), and ← 32 | 33 → its management (corrupt, but salvageable). They constitute a vast hall of princely mirrors for the direct and express edification of Henri III, with the aim of advising him about the most just (and lucrative) methods of taking back his largely alienated domain, and reasserting his dominion.

Le Cabinet du roi de France is divided into three books, each devoted to one of the three pearls ‘d’inestimable valeur’, revealed upfront as a metaphor for the three traditional estates of France: the clergy; the nobility; the bourgeoisie or the commons. Logically enough, the first pearl denotes the first estate, the Gallican Church, warranting Barnaud’s most detailed and sustained treatment. Its principal conceit takes the form of an exposé or, more precisely, an ‘outing’ of the Gallican Church: the author claims to have obtained secret accounts (‘catalogue’), akin to a confidential internal memo entitled La Poligamie sacree, which purportedly documents the deviant (and inextricably intertwined) sexual and financial practices of clerics of all ranks. The ‘leaked’ file is apparently so damning that, in the words of an anxious senior prelate who claims to have no direct knowledge of it, ‘si l’on continuë à le publier, n’y aura grands ny petits, qui ne nous crache au visage [if we persist in publishing it, there will be no one, great or humble, who will not spit in our faces]’.20

This exposé (‘mise en lumière’) of La Poligamie sacree is seemingly a confused mishmash of Huguenot polemical thrusts and parries, familiar since the outbreak of the Wars. What is perhaps most striking and novel is the opening hundred pages of ‘proof’ – ‘preuve’ is one of Barnaud’s terms of choice – in the form of detailed accounts of the real revenue of the Gallican Church, and its expenses. By Barnaud’s calculations, the Gallican Church counts twenty-one archbishoprics (of which twelve in France), 160 bishoprics (of which ninety-six in France), 132,000 parishes, 540 archpriories, 1450 abbeys, 12,320 priories, 259 commanderies, 152,000 chapels, 567 women’s priories and abbeys, 700 convents, and 180,000 castles belonging to the clergy, of which 83,000 exercise high, middle and low jurisdiction (which might be glossed as criminal, civil and small-claims courts) over some 1,377,000,000 subjects. The annual revenue from all this amounts to 92 million écus ‘en deniers clairs & liquides’, which – at 3 livres to the écu – comes to over 270 million livres.21 Barnaud then accounts for the prodigious amount that the Church collects in kind – legumes and grains, including wheat; cattle and other stock; eggs; butter –, and inventories the number of farms and fields, the ← 33 | 34 → number and the size of fishponds and water-mills, and the acreage of vine, pasturage and woodland. He calculates that of the 200 million arpents of French land, the Gallican Church pockets tithes from 47 million. In sum, the annual receipts of the Gallican Church have deprived the kings of France of 3,060,000,000 écus (or 9,180,000,000 livres tournois); the narrator drily notes that ‘par ainsi ne faut s’esmerveiller si trois millions de personnes vivent aux depens du Crucifix [thus one should not wonder that three million people earn a living from the Cross]’.22

It is not so much the receipts, however, as the expenses that bear the brunt of Barnaud’s scrutiny. It is one thing that the Gallican Church rakes in fantastical proceeds, to which – the account implies – it has dubious claim; how it expends those proceeds is quite another. Attention shifts to the facing page of the ledger, to an itemised account of corporate outlay. As might be expected, the pursuit of terrestrial pleasures – antithetical to the Church’s celestial mission – is the big ticket item: whores and adulteresses, and their numerous bastard progeny, even the bastard offspring of bastards, sodomites and catamites (presented as a Jesuit weakness), and the human and animal retinue necessary to maintain them. The narrator provides statistical ‘proof’ of obscene Church wealth immorally squandered on scandalous commodities, both sexual and sensual. Here begins the satyre violente proper: the discrediting of the Gallican Church, which is the goal of Le Cabinet, is effected by means of a corrosive representation of a literal act of déboursement, the emptying of a bourse – which has the pointed advantage of meaning ‘purse’ and ‘testicles’ – that is both public (French patrimony) and private (illegitimate clerical paternity). These are the ‘lignes de compte’, the ledger items with which the fiscal hawk concerns himself, and endeavours to concern the presumably scandalised reader. The meticulously measured outflow is one of substance and semen, the stuff of earthly kingdoms and earthy men.

Le Secret des finances is likewise a tripartite ledger of meticulous, if equally inflated accounts. It opens on an overt exhortation to Henri III to put the royal house in order. France was once the enviable ‘miroir & principal regard de la Chrestienté [reflection and principal representation of Christianity]’:

Toutes ses Provinces sont bien & proprement marquees de villes & citez, si bien traversees de fleuves & rivieres, qu’outre la douce & plaisante navigation d’icelles, le seul regard contente l’homme: arrousent d’autre costé les prez & her[b]ages, qui produisent en leur saison fertilité de fruicts, si grande & si heureuse, qu’il y a bien peu de pays estrangers, prochains & lointains, qui ne participent de son abondance.23 ← 34 | 35 →

All of [France’s] provinces are amply and neatly dotted with towns and cities traversed by so many rivers and streams that, aside from the gentle and pleasant navigation of them, the mere view of them delights the human eye. They irrigate on either side meadows and pastures that produce in season such a great and happy abundance of fruits that few foreign countries, near and far, do not profit from it.

Civil war and disastrous fiscal mismanagement (‘desordre & mauvais mesnagement’) have sadly reduced it, and the obsessive author-cum-statistician reproduces the tarnished mirror that remains, the better to stir the king to action that, if successful, will see ‘ce Royaume en peu de temps reprendre sa premiere splendeur’.24

The first of the three books covers receipts from the royal domain, various forms of national taxation (salt, wine, ban & arrière-ban), and royal and government expenses from the reign of Henri II through December 1580. The second and third volumes, taking up 911 of the work’s 1063 pages, extend to a comprehensive, itemised assessment of the fiscal health of the entire realm, following a relatively simple, repetitive formula. The realm is split into north/south along an east-west axis running south of the forty-sixth parallel, so that the Midi and l’Occitanie feature in Book 3, and the northern two-thirds in Book 2, reflecting the perception that the Midi and the southwest were disproportionately affected by the combat. The three books inventory in thoroughly disturbing detail, diocese by diocese, the price of war: first, the multiple taxes and other forms of official exaction (‘gabelles’; ‘tailles’; ‘aydes’; ‘dons gratuits’; ‘subsides & imposts’); second, the increase in the number of fees (‘espices’) for grasping royal functionaries (‘sergens’; ‘notaires’; ‘advocats’; ‘procureurs’); finally, the violent deaths of men of both cloths, nobles, soldiers of both confessions, natives and foreigners, the number of women and girls raped, of homes destroyed and of villages burned. A total of 765,200 dead, according to Froumenteau’s Estat final, among whom 32,900 nobles, which rises to 1,244,078 if one tallies up the actual itemisation – roughly 6% of a population of ± 20 million in 1580.25 The funds levied (and lost) to support this war are calculated (as of 1580) at 4,750,000,000 livres tournois, at a time when the king’s annual revenue from all taxes was around 15 million lt, and government debt just over 40 million.26 Froumenteau claims to keep the books for writing down – but not ← 35 | 36 → off – the intolerably high cost of property seized, damaged and destroyed during France’s seemingly unending religious and civil troubles.

As if only too aware of the incendiary nature of the astonishingly detailed statistics, Froumenteau near the close is careful to offer up thirty-four pages of what he, like Barnaud, calls ‘preuves’, such as the ‘rooles & contrerolles’, the ‘contes ès Chambre des contes’, and the ‘cahiers de doléances’ that he claims to have consulted. Froumenteau’s claims allow him to produce what cultural historian Mary Poovey terms ‘the appearance of accuracy’.27 This enables him to create a persuasive statistical map – an early, discursive form of cadastral survey – of the degraded state of the realm that is explicitly charted for the king, and ostensibly drawn from unprecedented measurements recorded by the king’s men, in order to assist the monarch in (re)claiming his own, and restoring the realm to the peaceful and prosperous glory it knew under Louis XII (reigned 1498–1515), the yardstick by which all the numbers in Le Secret are measured. It was evidently designed to make Henri III and his advisors ébahis [abashed/astonished] – one of Froumenteau’s preferred terms – by the scale and the scope of a seemingly endless national, regional and local calamity; as proof of, according to Froumenteau’s dire concluding warning, ‘le danger eminent de [l’]estat, qui ne tient qu’à un filet [the imminent danger to the state, which hangs by a thread]’.28

Unlike Le Cabinet and Le Secret, Le Miroir des François only sporadically respects the format of a formal book of accounts,29 and is dedicated not to Henri III, but to Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, the king’s consort of the preceding half-decade. It plays nimbly – if tritely – on the suitability of a princely mirror as a gift to ‘la plus belle creature & rare en lineations de visage qu’on ait peu rencontrer aux quatre coins du monde’.30 Such attractions perfectly position her to influence ← 36 | 37 → her husband; if she succeeds, the rewards will be real, quantifiable and commensurate with those recovered in Le Cabinet and Le Secret, including ‘environ deux cens millions que ces arpyes ont volé peculativement, tant sur le Roy que sur son peuple’.31 Like the other two works, Le Miroir is something of a hodgepodge: over two of three books, seven improbably populated colloquies – Étienne Marcel, the martyred fourteenth-century Prévôt des Marchands de Paris and Third-Estate fiscal hawk at the Estates-General of Paris in 1355, is placed in dialogue with Pierre de Versoris, the late sixteenth-century Parisian parliamentarian, Third-Estate delegate, speaker and editor of cahiers de doléances – are peppered with Rabelaisian lists, cost of living indices, and so forth. The third book is devoted to a rambling first-person harangue by Montand, a heteroclite assemblage of gripes from which a pattern of nascent political economy emerges. In his severe, meandering critique of social ills connected by their perceived lack of self or public control – sumptuary abuses; alcoholism; gluttony; gambling; dancing; sorcery; aristocratic hunting practices and horse-feeding (both of which have a negative impact on commoners) –, there is something of a Calvinist blueprint for an obsessively, puritanically controlled economy, maniacally mindful of waste. Montand goes as far as proposing price controls, a comprehensive inventory of production, the supervised distribution of goods (primarily wine and wheat) – a system of tight control for an environment that has, to return to White Jr’s terms, ‘no reason for existence save to serve man’.32

Like Le Cabinet and Le Secret, all ‘proof’ is forcefully assembled to shore up Valois legitimacy by offering a multi-pronged approach to reclaiming royal dominion. If such measures, Montand claims, are judiciously reflected upon and applied, and if existing edicts of toleration – themselves management of the confessional environment – are enforced, a utopian period of peace and prosperity will ensue:

Voici qui adviendra, le marchant qui s’adonne trop à l’avarice, & à courrir iour & nuict par mer & par terre, pour avoir des biens, les trouvera tout prests à sa porte, le laboureur verra paistre son troupeau parmy les valees & montagnes, sans avoir peur du felon soldat, ny des voleur & brigands, car le pays en sera despetré, le gentilhomme verra ses suiets cultiver & labourer la terre, qui luy payeront librement ses rentes & censives: les prestres travailleront de leurs mains, les sages mesnagers nourriront abondamment la volaille, & autres animaux qui serviront à l’usage & nourriture des hommes: les uns feront valoir les terres infertiles, les autres feront des vergers nouveaux, qui produiront fruits plantureux & divers, d’autres nettoyeront les prez qui sont desers & en buissons, & feront courir l’eau au moulin d’iceux d’un autre artifice qu’on n’avoit pas encores accoustumé, aucuns ← 37 | 38 → semeront de luyserne pour avoir quantité de foin, d’autres feront de petits garennes pour la sauvagine, l’un plantera force muriers pour nourrir les vers d’Indie, l’autre force saules: qui semera des pepins, qui des meilleurs fruits, qui des fossez autour des her[b]ages. Et finalement on verra produire plus de biens s’il plaist à Dieu dans une annee que l’on n’en recueilloit en cinq ou six precedentes.33

[Here is what will happen: the merchant who is too prone to avarice and to scurrying day and night by sea and by land to amass goods, will find them ready at his door. The husbandman will see his flock graze among the valleys and mountains, with no fear of marauding solider, thief or brigand, for the country will be free of them. The gentleman will see his tenants cultivate and work the earth, and they will freely pay his rents and charges. The priests will work with their hands. The prudent householders will feed their poultry generously, together with other animals who serve the needs and nourishment of men. Some will make infertile lands produce, others will plant new orchards that will produce abundant and diverse fruits. Others will clear abandoned and overgrown meadows and channel water to mills, using techniques to which we are not yet accustomed. Some will sow clover to produce much fodder, others will make warrens for wild game. One will plant many mulberry trees to nourish silk worms, another many willows. Yet another will sow fruit seeds, another [will plant] the best fruit trees, one [will dig] ditches around pastures. And finally we will see produced more goods, if it please God, in one year than we harvested in the five or six preceding ones.]

This beatific vision pointedly recalls the opening of the third book, an eloquent rendering of the principal promises of biblical dominion drawn word-for-word from Leviticus 26.3–6 in Pierre Robert Olivétan’s translation (1535), which was the basis for the later Genevan Bible:

Si vous cheminez en mes ordonnances, & gardez mes commandemens, & les faites, ie vous donneray la pluye en son temps, & la terre donnera son fruit, & les arbres des champs donneront leur fruict, la bature des grains entre vous rencontrera la vendange, & la vendange rencontrera les semailes, & mangerez vostre pain en santé, & dormirez seurement en vostre terre, & donneray paix en la terre, vous dormirez sans que nul vous espouvante. Ie feray cesser les mauvaises bestes de la terre, & le glaive ne passera point par vostre terre.34

[If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.] ← 38 | 39 →

As with Chavigny and Cyprian/Morel’s formulations, Barnaud, Froumenteau and Montand make a concerted effort to ‘prove’ that an environment conducive to human prosperity – which is the unquestionable goal and good – is contingent on competent stewardship. The Wars of Religion, characterised as a consequence of Valois misrule, serve as a catastrophic counter-example. In the estimation of these authors, God-given dominion and its concomitant responsibilities have been alarmingly compromised, and the duty of a good and just Christian king – be he Valois or Bourbon, and capable of being rehabilitated for the task – is to reassert the first and live up to the second, even if he has to confront powerful, corrupt institutions, such as the Gallican Church (Le Cabinet) or the king’s own ministers and favourites (Le Miroir), among many examples of failed stewardship.

The three polemical works offer evidence (‘preuves’) that the quality of the environment is increasingly perceived as quantifiable in the early modern period; degradation due to human mismanagement must be measured, if solely to correct negative effects on human welfare. In this, we can locate early expressions of an ecocritical sensibility; of, returning to Bate’s terms, ‘reflecting upon what it might mean to dwell with the earth’.35 All the aforementioned authors of principum specula engage seriously with the biblical notion of dominion – both reflecting and reflecting upon contemporary notions of it. Understanding the evolution of that engagement, as White Jr pointed out for the medieval period so many decades ago, is an indispensable preliminary to ecocritiquing French history.

References

Aberth, John, An Environmental History of the Middle Ages: The Crucible of Nature (London: Routledge, 2013)

[Barnaud, Nicolas], Le Cabinet dv roy de France, dans leqvel il y a trois Perles precieuses d’inestimable valeur, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Laimarie], 1581)

Bate, Jonathan, The Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000)

Boehrer, Bruce T., Environmental Degradation in Jacobean Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Bodin, Jean, Les Six Livres de la République (Paris: Du Puy, 1576)

Bowen, Willis H., ‘Sixteenth-Century French Translations of Machiavelli’, Italica 27.4 (1950), 313–20 ← 39 | 40 →

Chavigny, Jean-Aimé de, La Premiere Face du Ianus François, contenant sommairement les trovbles, guerres ciuiles & autres choses memorables aduenuës en la France & ailleurs dés l’an de salut MDXXXIIII iusques à l’an MDLXXXIX fin de la maison Valesienne (Lyon: Roussin, 1594)

Chevignard, Bernard, ‘Jean-Aimé de Chavigny: son identité, ses origines familiales’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 58.2 (1996), 419–25

[Cyprian], De douze manieres d’abus qui sont en ce monde en diverses sortes de gents, & du moyen d’iceux corriger, & s’en donner garde, trans. by F. Morel (Paris: Morel, 1568)

Dupâquier, Jacques, ed., Histoire de la population française, vol. 2 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1988)

Egan, Gabriel, Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism (London: Routledge, 2006)

Eire, Carlos M. N., War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Froumenteau, Nicolas, Le Secret des finances de France, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Berjon], 1581)

Gentillet, Innocent, Discours svr les moyens de bien govverner et maintenir en bonne paix vn Royaume ou autre Principauté; contre Nicolas Machiauel ([Paris]: [n. pub.], 1576)

Gilmont, Jean-François, GLN 15–16: les éditions imprimées à Genève, Lausanne et Neuchâtel aux XVe et XVIe siècles (Geneva: Droz, 2015)

Grinevald, Jacques, ‘La Thèse de Lynn White, Jr (1966): sur les racines historiques, culturelles et religieuses de la crise écologique de la civilisation industrielle moderne’, in Crise écologique, crise des valeurs? Défis pour l’anthropologie et la spiritualité, ed. by D. Bourg and P. Roch (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2010), 39–67

Grove, Richard H., Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Haag, Eugène, and Émile Haag, La France protestante, 10 vols (Paris: Cherbuliez, 1846–59)

Hoffmann, Richard C., An Environmental History of Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Kelley, Donald R., ‘Murd’rous Machiavel in France: A Post-Mortem’, Political Science Quarterly 85.4 (1970), 545–59

Machiavel, Nicolas, Le Prince, trans. by J. Gohory (Paris: Le Mangnier, 1571)

Malingre, Mathieu, Noelz nouveaulx ([Neufchâtel]: [Pierre de Vingle], 1533) ← 40 | 41 →

Meens, Rob, ‘Politics, Mirrors of Princes and the Bible: Sins, Kings and the Well-Being of the Realm’, Early Medieval Europe 7.3 (1998), 345–57

Montand, Nicolas de, Le Miroir des Francois, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Laimarie], 1581)

Montchrestien, Antoine de, Traicté de l’oeconomie politique ([Paris]: [n. pub.], 1615)

Moore, Jason W., ‘The Modern World-System as Environmental History? Ecology and the Rise of Capitalism’, Theory and Society 32.3 (2003), 307–77

Pettegree, Andrew, Malcolm Walsby and Alexander S. Wilkinson, French Vernacular Books: Books Published in the French Language before 1601 (Leiden: Brill, 2007)

Picot, Georges, Histoire des États Généraux, considérés au point de vue de leur influence sur le gouvernement de la France de 1355 à 1614, 4 vols (Paris: Hachette, 1872)

Poovey, Mary, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998)

Richards, John F., The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003)

Thomas, Keith, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983)

Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York, NY: Academic Press, 1974)

Wandel, Lee P., Voracious Idols and Violent Hands: Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg, and Basel. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)

White Jr, Lynn T., ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis’, Science 155.3767 (March 1967), 1203–7 ← 41 | 42 →


1 Mathieu Malingre, Noelz nouveaulx ([Neufchâtel]: [Pierre de Vingle], 1533), Cv-Ciiv [unreferenced translations are mine].

2 Richard C. Hoffmann, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); John Aberth, An Environmental History of the Middle Ages: The Crucible of Nature (London: Routledge, 2013); Bruce T. Boehrer, Environmental Degradation in Jacobean Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Gabriel Egan, Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism (London: Routledge, 2006); John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An Environmental History of the Early Modern World (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003); Richard H. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500–1800 (London: Allen Lane, 1983); Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York, NY: Academic Press, 1974). For a thoughtful proof of the latter book’s ecocritical bona fides, see Jason W. Moore, ‘The Modern World-System as Environmental History? Ecology and the Rise of Capitalism’, Theory and Society 32.3 (2003), 307–77.

3 Andrew Pettegree, Malcolm Walsby and Alexander S. Wilkinson, French Vernacular Books: Books Published in the French Language before 1601 (Leiden: Brill, 2007); Jean-François Gilmont, GLN 15–16: les éditions imprimées à Genève, Lausanne et Neuchâtel aux XVe et XVIe siècles (Geneva: Droz, 2015).

4 As we might expect, acts of iconoclasm loom large in anti-Protestant polemic. See Carlos M. N. Eire, War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Lee P. Wandel, Voracious Idols and Violent Hands: Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg, and Basel.(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

5 Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 266.

6 Jean-Aimé de Chavigny, La Premiere Face du Ianus François, contenant sommairement les trovbles, guerres ciuiles & autres choses memorables aduenuës en la France & ailleurs dés l’an de salut MDXXXIIII iusques à l’an MDLXXXIX fin de la maison Valesienne (Lyon: Roussin, 1594).

7 On the historically cloudy identity of Chavigny, see Bernard Chevignard, ‘Jean-Aimé de Chavigny: son identité, ses origines familiales’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance 58.2 (1996), 419–25.

8 Although only one edition of Chavigny’s work is known to us, a number of close variations were published in Paris in 1594, 1596 and 1603.

9 Chavigny promises the second, forward-looking ‘face’ of Janus for 1607, once said empire will have been realised, but no sequel came to print.

10 Chavigny, La Premiere Face du Ianus François, 13 [my emphasis].

11 Lynn T. White Jr, ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis’, Science 155.3767 (1967), 1203–7 (1207).

12 Jacques Grinevald, ‘La Thèse de Lynn White, Jr (1966): sur les racines historiques, culturelles et religieuses de la crise écologique de la civilisation industrielle moderne’, in Crise écologique, crise des valeurs? Défis pour l’anthropologie et la spiritualité, ed. by D. Bourg and P. Roch (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2010), 39–67; Hoffmann, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe, chapter 3.

13 Nicolas Machiavel, Le Prince, trans. by J. Gohory (Paris: Le Mangnier, 1571).

14 Innocent Gentillet, Discours svr les moyens de bien govverner et maintenir en bonne paix vn Royaume ou autre Principauté; contre Nicolas Machiauel ([Paris]: [n. pub.], 1576).

15 Jean Bodin, Les Six Livres de la République (Paris: Du Puy, 1576).

16 On the topic of Machiavelli translated into French, see Willis H. Bowen, ‘Sixteenth-Century French Translations of Machiavelli’, Italica 27.4 (1950), 313–20; Donald R. Kelley, ‘Murd’rous Machiavel in France: A Post-Mortem’, Political Science Quarterly 85.4 (1970), 545–59.

17 [Cyprian], De douze manieres d’abus qui sont en ce monde en diverses sortes de gents, & du moyen d’iceux corriger, & s’en donner garde, trans. by F. Morel (Paris: Morel, 1568), 4 [my emphasis]. On the De duodecim abusivis saeculi in a much earlier but pertinent politico-historical context, see Rob Meens, ‘Politics, Mirrors of Princes and the Bible: Sins, Kings and the Well-Being of the Realm’, Early Medieval Europe 7.3 (1998), 345–57.

18 [Cyprian], De douze manieres d’abus, 37.

19 The most extensive effort to sort out this tripartite publishing enigma was undertaken by the brothers Eugène and Émile Haag, whose fascination and frustration are palpable in the biographical entries spread across three volumes and a dozen years of their encyclopedic La France protestante in the mid-nineteenth century. They ultimately throw up their hands, ‘en attendant que de nouvelles recherches nous autorisent à nous prononcer [while waiting for new research to authorise a definitive decision]’ (I, 256); the matter has yet to be resolved. Eugène Haag and Émile Haag, La France protestante, 10 vols (Paris: Cherbuliez, 1846–59), entries for ‘Barnaud (Nicolas)’, I (1846), 250–6; ‘Froumenteau (Nicolas)’, V (1855), 181–5; ‘Montand (Nicolas de)’, VII (1857), 449–53 [each entry contains a detailed synopsis of the attributed work].

20 [Barnaud, Nicolas], Le Cabinet dv roy de France, dans leqvel il y a trois Perles precieuses d’inestimable valeur, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Laimarie], 1581), I, 120.

21 [Barnaud], Le Cabinet du roy, I, 2.

22 [Barnaud], Le Cabinet du roy, I, 16.

23 Froumenteau, Nicolas, Le Secret des finances de France, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Berjon], 1581), I, ii.

24 Froumenteau, Le Secret des finances, I, viiv.

25 Froumenteau, Le Secret des finances, III, 377–80. For population figures, see Jacques Dupâquier, ed., Histoire de la population française, vol. 2 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1988), 151.

26 Georges Picot, Histoire des États Généraux, considérés au point de vue de leur influence sur le gouvernement de la France de 1355 à 1614, 4 vols (Paris: Hachette, 1872), III, 3; 20. According to Picot (III, 20n2), these figures feature in unpublished papers belonging to the Venetian ambassador.

27 Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 56; on the ‘epistemological effect’ of the spread of double-entry bookkeeping, see 30–2.

28 Froumenteau, Le Secret des finances, III, 415.

29 In contrast to Le Cabinet and Le Secret, Le Miroir was taken relatively seriously as an exercise in economic reporting by at least one near-contemporary, Antoine de Montchrestien, who excerpted whole sections of it – neglecting attribution – in his widely known Traicté de l’œconomie politique ([Paris]: [n. pub.], 1615). The basic tenets of seventeenth-century mercantilism are thus in many ways due to Montand’s – somewhat scattershot – notions of political economy, though Montand lifted a sizeable portion of material from Bodin’s Les Six Livres de la République – also neglecting attribution.

30 Nicolas de Montand, Le Miroir des Francois, 3 vols ([Geneva]: [Laimarie], 1581), I, iiiir-v.

31 Montand, Le Miroir, I, iiiiv.

32 White Jr, ‘Historical Roots’, 1207.

33 Montand, Le Miroir, III, 483.

34 Montand, Le Miroir, III, 446 [my emphasis]. The English rendering is from the King James version of the Bible (1611).

35 Bate, The Song of the Earth, 266.