The Poet's Princess

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Fox hole

Sarasin settles at Hôtel de Gondi in 1645 and adopts its refined culture with pleasure, though without being blinded by the dazzle of its lavishness. Gondi’s salon is open to the best society of its time. Here the intellectuals mix freely with aristocrats of the highest birth and the nobility of spirit equals the most esteemed title.

Paul de Gondi treats Sarasin with utmost consideration. He enjoys his company and the poet escorts him not only to his residence at Saint-Cloud but also to Bourbon, where the Coadjutor is in the habit of taking a cure at the spa. There is no other place where Sarasin’s mind could have developed better. At Gondi’s he finds his old friends Gilles Ménage and the poet and critic Jean Chapelain, and makes new acquaintances not only with other writers, such as the poet Saint-Amant and the novelist Gomberville, but also with famous scientists Patru, Gassendi and Descartes. Unfortunately, it is also the moment of his fatal encounter with the Condés.

Apparently, Gondi is Sarasin’s ideal solution. The poet offers his mind without ceasing to be a free man. He is the Coadjutor’s courtier, not his servant. Yet, even this situation is far from being ideal for the poet. A master, even the best one, remains a master and Sarasin hates any dependency. Convinced of his intellectual superiority to Gondi the poet believes that the Coadjutor does not sufficiently appreciate “the gift of his company.” Furthermore, he feels debased by Gondi’s wealth which he does not consider justified. The persistent question “why him and not me?” is eating his heart out.

Such immaturity may be surprising coming from a man as level-headed as Sarasin who should have known by then that high mental qualities are generally less considered than noble birth. Though this frustration is not the only reason why the poet leaves the Coadjutor after four years only. Sarasin got mixed up, against his will, in Gondi’s politics, hostile to the Cardinal Mazarin. In 1647 the poet was even accused of being the author of some fierce pamphlets against Mazarin, written, most probably, by Gondi himself. He escaped imprisonment at the Bastille only thanks to the relative of his wife, Robert de Pille, who hid him in his home.

Sarasin is appalled by such a foul play. Why should he pay for Gondi? He swears to take his revenge and, in 1634, he writes two violent pamphlets against the Coadjutor. In a lordly fashion, Gondi considers them “highly accomplished”.

Gondi’s magnanimity is due as much to his intellectual standards as to his noble birth. In order to appreciate, at its true value, your opponent’s right to his own opinion and his courage to pronounce it, one has to be above the crowd, unaware of the risk of being trampled underfoot and crushed to pulp.

After the affair of the pamphlets against Mazarin, Sarasin swears never to write again. Renouncing to live by his writing he opts out of the market of the “hired pens” and loses thus his only resources. His financial situation becomes desperate.

In November 1648, Sarasin commits a tragic error for which he will pay with his life: he becomes the secretary to the Prince de Conti. Abbé de Cosnac, secretary to the Prince de Conti himself, affirms that Sarasin owes this appointment to the protection of Monsieur de Chavigny, Minister to the Cardinal Richelieu. Gondi assures, that he was the one that pulled the strings to get this job for Sarasin. His assertion is confirmed by Tallemant des Réaux:

“During the Parisian war, the Coadjutor was so closely attached to Madame de Longueville that the Prince de Conti felt obliged to take Sarasin as his secretary.”

As always: “cherchez la femme!”

Whoever obtained the post for Sarasin, his influence on Conti must have been considerable. The poet receives an appointment occupied, until then, by a man of merit, the academician Jean de Montreuil, absent from Paris in order to defend Conti’s interests in Rome.

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