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XVI. Character of Francis I. FRANCEs died at Rambouillet, on the last day of March,
in the fifty-third year of his age, and the thirty-third of his reign.-During twenty-eight years of that time, an avowed rivalship fubfifted between him and the Ema peror ; which involved, not only their own dominions, but the greater part of Europe, in Wars, profecuted with more violent animosity, and drawn out to a greater length, than had been known in any former period. Many circumstances contributed to both. Their animosity was founded in oppofition of interest, heightened biy personal emulation, and exafperated, not only by mutual injuries, but by reciprocal insults. At the famna time, whatever advantage one seemed to possess towards gaining the afcendant, was wonderfully balanced by fome favourable circumstance peculiar to the other. The Emperor's dominions were of
great extent; the French king's lay more compact : Francis governed his kingdom with absolute power; that of Charles was limited, but he supplied the want of authority by address : the troops of the former were more impetuous and enterprising; those of the latter, better disciplined, and more patient of fatigue.
The talents and abilities of the two monarchs were as different as the advantages which they possessed, and contributed no less to prolong the contest between them. Francis took his resolutions suddenly ; prosecuted them, at first, with warmth*; and pushed them into execution with a most adventurous courage : but, being destitute of the perseverance necessary to furmount difficulties, he often abandoned his designs, or relaxed the vigour of pursuit, from impatience, and fometimes from levity. Charles deliberated long, and determined with copiness: but, having once fixed his plan, he adhered to it with inflexible obstinacy; and neither danger, nor discouragement, could turn him aside from the execution of it.
The success of their enterprises was as different as their characters, and was uniformly influenced by them. Francis, by hii impetuous activity, often difconcerted the Emperor's best-laid schemes ; Charles, by a more calm, but steady prosecution of his designs, checked the
rapidity of his rival's career, and bafiled or repulsed his most vigorous efforts. The former, at the opening of a war or of a campaign, bruke in upon his enemy with the violence of a torrent, and carried all before him ;. the latter, waiting until he saw the force of his rival begin to abate, recovered, in the end, not only all that he hvad lost, but made new acquisitions. Few of the French monarch's attempts towards conqueit, whatever promifing aspect they might wear at firit, were conducted to an happy issue; many of the Emperor's enterprises, even after they appeared desperate and impracticable, terminated in the moit prosperous manner.
The degree, however, of their comparative merit and reputation, has not been fixed, either by a stri& fcrutiny into their abilities for government, or by an impartial consideration of the greatness and success of their undertakings ; and Francis is one of those monarchs, who occupy a higher rank in the temple of fame, than ei. ther their talents or performances intitle tliem to hold. This pre-eminence he owed to many different circumstances. The fuperiority which Charles acquired by the victory of Pavia, and which, from that period, he preserved through the remainder of his reign, was fo ma. nifelt, that Francis's struggle against his exorbitant and growing dominion, was viewed by moit of the other powers, not only with the partiality which naturally arises for those who gallantly maintain an unequal conteit, but with the favour due to one, who was refiiting a common enemy, and endeavouring to fet bounds to a monarch equally formidable to them all. The characters of princes, too, especially among their contemporaries, depend, not only upon their talents for government, but upon their qualities as men. Francis, not withstanding the many errours confpicuous in his foreign policy and domestic adminiftration, was, nevertheless, humane, beneficent, generous. He poíTeffed dignity without pride, affability free from neanness, and courtely exempt from deceit. All who had access to know him, and no man of merit was ever denied that privilege, respected and loved him. Captivated with his personal qualities, his subjects forgot his defects as a monarch; and, admiring him as the most accompliihed and amiable
gentleman in his dominions, they hardly murmured at acts of mal-administration, which, in a prince of less engaging dispositions, would have been deemed unpardonable.
This admiration, however, must have been temporary only, and would have died away with the courtiers who bestowed it ; the illufion arising from his private virtues must have ceased, and posterity would have judged of his public conduct with its usual impartiality: but anon ther circumstance prevented this ; and his name hath been transmitted to pofterity with increasing reputation. Science and the arts, had, at that time, made little progress in France. They were just beginning to advance beyond the limits of Italy, where they had revived, and which had hitherto been their only feat. Francis took them immediately under his protection, and vied with Leo himself in the zeal and munificence with which he encouraged them. He invited learned men to his court, he conversed with them familiarly, he em. ployed them in business, he raised them to offices of dignity, and honoured them with his confidence. That race of men, not more prone to complain when denied the respect to which they fancy themselves intitled, than apt to be pleased when treated with the distinction which they consider as their due, thought they could not exceed in gratitude to fuch a benefactor, and strained their invention, and employed all their ingenuity, in panegyric.
Succeeding authors, warmed with their descriptions of Francis's bounty, adopted their encomiums, and refined upon them. The appellation of Father of Letters, beitowed upon Francis, hath rendered his memory facred among historians; and they seem to have regarded it as a sort of impiety, to uncover his infirmities, or to 'point out his defects. Thus Francis, notwithstanding his inferiour abilities and want of success, hath more than equalled the fame of Charles. The virtues which he poilefled as a man, have intitled him to greater admiration and praise, than have been beiłowed upon the extensive genius, and fortunate arts, of a more capable, but less amiable rival.
XVII. The Supper and Grace. А
SHOE coining loose from the fore-foot of the thill
horse, at the beginning of the ascent of mount Tau. rira, the postilion difmounted, twisted the shoe off, and. put it in his pocket : as the ascent was of five or fix miles, and that horse our main dependànce, I made a point of having the shoe fastened on again, as well as we could; but the poftilion had thrown away the nails, and the hammer in the chaise-box being of no great use without them, I submitted to go on.
He had not mounted half a mile higher, when, coming to a flinty piece of road, the poor devil loft a second fhoe, and from off his other fore-foot. I then got out of the chaife in good earnest; and, seeing a lioule about a quarter of a mile to the left hand, with a great deal to do I prevailed upon the poftilion to turn up to it. The look of the houfe, and of every thing about it, as we drew nearer, foon reconciled ine to the disaster. It was a little farm house, , surrounded with about twenty acres of vineyard, about as much corn; and, close to the house, on one side, was a potagerie of an'acre and a half, full of every thing which could make plenty in a French peafant’s house; and, on the other side, was a little wood. which furnished wherewithai to dress it. It was about eight in the evening when I got to the house :. so I left the poftilion to manage his point as he could; and, for mine, I walked directly into the house.
The family confisted of an old gray-headed man and his wife, with five or fix sons and sons-in-law and their several wives, and a joyous genealogy out of them.
They were all fitting down together to their lentil.' soup; a large wheaten loaf was in the middle of the table; and a flagon of wine at each end of it promised joy through the stages of the repast-'twas a feast of love.
The old man rose up to meet me, and, with a respecte ful cordiality, would have me fit down at the table. My heart was set down the moment I entered the room: fo I sat down at once like a son of the family; and to invest myself in the character as speedily as I could, I inftantly borrowed the old man's knife, and taking up the
loaf, cut myself a hearty luncheon ; and, as I did it, I faw, a testimony in every eye, not only of an honest wel. come, but of a welcome mixed with thanks that I had not seemed to doubt it.
Was it this; or tell me, Nature, what else it was that made this morfel so sweet-and to what magic I owe it, that the draught I took of their flagon was to de. licious with it; that it remains upon my palate to this hour ?
If the supper was to my taste, the grace which fol. lowed was much more fo.
When fupper was over, the old man gave a knock upon the table with the haft of his knite, to bid them prepare for the dance. The moment the signal was given, the women and girls ran altogether into the backapartment to tie up
up their hair, and the young men to the door to wash their faces, and change their sabots, (wooden Moes); and in three minutes esery foul was ready, upon a little esplanade before the house, to begin. The old man and his wife came out last, and placing me betwixt them, fat down upon a sophą of turf by the dour,
The old man had some fifty years ago been no mean performer upon the vielle; and, at the age he was then of, touched it well enough for the purpose. His wife, fung now-and-then a little to the túne, then intermitted, and joined her old man again, as their children and grandchildren danced before them..
It was not till the middle of the second dance, when, for fome pauses in the movement wherein they all seemed to look up, I fancied I could distinguish an elevation of spirit different from that which is the cause or the effect of fimple jollity. In a word, I thought I beheld religion mixing in the dance ; but, as I had never seen her to engaged, I should have looked upon it now as one of the illusions of an imagination which is eternally misleading me, had not the old man, as soon as the dance ended, said, that this was their constant way;
and that all his life long, he made it a rule, after fupper was over, to call out his family to dance and rejoice ; believing, he said, that a cheerful and contented mind was the best fort of thanks to heaven that an illiterate pea. fant could pay.--Or a learned prelate either, faid I.