Letters from home: the epistolary aspects of Joachim Du Bellay's 'Les Regrets.'.
Les Regrets should thus be seen in a new light, as a collection of verse epistles that experiment with the sense of community on a human and poetic level. The epistle allowed Du Bellay to maintain a sense of community with friends, both at "home" in Rome and "abroad," back in France, but by its very nature it was also a device for stressing exile and separation. Furthermore, although Du Bellay often disparages in Les Regrets his official responsibilities as intendant and secretary, this role, a major part of which involved letter-writing, contributes significantly to the collection's epistolary character. As part of a larger work on the epistolary nature of Les Regrets, it is our intention here not only to demonstrate the importance of the epistolary and secretarial traditions for our understanding of Les Regrets, but also to show how Du Bellay uses them to elaborate a new poetics. Du Bellay's Roman sojourn was extraordinarily fruitful: just as he transformed the Petrarchist poetics of the Olive into a painful deliberation on Rome's past, present, and future in the Antiquitez de Rome,(2) Du Bellay expanded the rather limited amorous repertoire of the sonnet, only recently adopted in France, by combining it with the entire classical and vernacular epistolary tradition. He also redefined his place in French poetry with respect to the towering figure of Pierre de Ronsard.
Two key examples should suffice to illustrate the validity of an epistolary approach to Les Regrets. Not only can one find many rich instances in the collection where, in the manner of a letter, a sonnet's subject matter is completely tailored to its addressee, but there are numerous examples of actual correspondence, such as the exchanges between Les Regrets of Du Bellay and Les Souspirs of Alfred de Magny, who was also a secretary/poet living in Rome at the same time as Du Bellay. Indeed, many instances of actual exchanges involve other poets. One of the more obvious cases was with Pierre de Ronsard: in La Continuation des Amours 119, he called attention to the decision of Du Bellay to write Latin poetry - he was, after all, author of La Deffence et illustration de la langue francoyse, in which he had exhorted writers to turn away from Latin to their native tongue. Du Bellay responds in Regrets 10:
It is not the Tuscan river with its haughty banks It is not the air of the Latins or the Palatine hill Which now (my Ronsard) makes me speak Latin, Changing to a foreign tongue my natural language. It is the anguish of seeing myself, three years and more Like a Prometheus, attached to the Aventine hill Where miserable hope and my cruel destiny, Not the amorous yoke, hold me in servitude?
It is not, according to Du Bellay, his residence in the city of the Romans which has inspired him to compose in Latin, but strangely enough, the sadness occasioned by his "cruel destiny" and long "servitude." Although one might wonder how state of mind and subject matter could influence Du Bellay's choice of language in which to compose his verse, the relationship becomes clear in the first tercet:
So what (Ronsard), so what, and if on the foreign shore Ovid dared to change his language into a barbarous one In order to be understood, who can reproach me With making a change for the better?(4)
He has taken as his model the poet Ovid, who laments his exile from Rome in his Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, which are collections of verse epistles. Thus Du Bellay writes to Ronsard in French about his new poetics in Latin - which will carry over into his French work as well, for the tide Les Regrets is in fact a French echo of Tristia. It is also important to note here that Du Bellay uses this epistolary sonnet to counterpoint his poetics with Ronsard's; while Ronsard is held prisoner by the "amorous yoke," and thus by love poetry (particularly of the Petrarchist kind), Du Bellay is experimenting with Ovidian elegy. One notes, then, how indirect, allusive, even obscure this seemingly straightforward sonnet is. Such is typical of the language of letters: although they are often published for a larger audience, they usually contain private references mainly intended for the recipient. At the same time, however, these learned allusions to Ovidian and Petrarchist poetics are also accessible to a wider group of readers: they suppose the existence of a community familiar with poetry and with the Pleiade's program, i.e. French and Italian humanists. This epistolary sonnet also helps to cement this community by the very fact that it requires the audience's complicity in order to be understood.
The very first sonnet of Les Regrets establishes the important relationship between the role of the secretary and the body of poetry that will follow. There Du Bellay describes his verse precisely as reliable secretaries, confidants who sympathetically record the troubles of his existence in Rome:
I complain to my verse, if I have any regrets I laugh with them, I tell them my secret For they are the most trustworthy secretaries of my heart. . . .(5)
In accordance with the etymology of secretaire, the secretary was first and foremost considered to be a guardian of secrets; by confiding his own secrets in his verse, whose contents were both private and public, Du Bellay is announcing a deliberate poetics of obscurity which draws upon guidelines developed for the epistle and in particular for the secretarial profession, where diplomatic security was an important issue. We also learn in a sonnet (Regrets 14) that poetry is a consolation and a compensation for Du Bellay's dissatisfaction with his professional activities. To Estienne Boucher, himself official secretary of the French embassy in Rome,(6) Du Bellay declares, "Verse takes the bother away" ("Les vers m'ostent l'ennuy," 14.2). Yet more is at stake than mere frustration: two sonnets, both addressed to secretaries, develop the idea that being a secretary jeopardizes one's ability to write poetry. The first sonnet addresses the poet Olivier de Magny, secretary to the French ambassador to Rome Jean d'Avanson, to whom Du Bellay dedicates the long introductory poem of Les Regrets: "Given the household aggravations which assail me. . . you are often stunned that I can sing" ("Veu le soing mesnager, dont travaille je suis . . . Tu t'esbahis souvent comment chanter je puis," 12.1-4). In the second, addressed to Jean de Pardeillan ("Panjas"), secretary to cardinal Georges d'Armagnac, Du Bellay enumerates his administrative responsibilities, which he ironically calls "pastimes" ("passetemps") and then concludes, "Don't you wonder how I manage to compose verse?" ("Ne t'esbahis-tu point comment je fais des vers?" 15.14). Thus he presents his career as being at odds with his poetic production, and he does so in correspondence with other secretaries.
In order better to grasp the evidence for the epistolary character of Les Regrets, it is now essential to review briefly the history of the epistle prior to humanist practice, to examine its status at the time Du Bellay was writing, and to evaluate the relationship between Du Bellay's professional and poetic activity while in Rome. Demetrius of Phaleron, writing in the second or third century C.E., had established the main characteristics of the letter as it would be known in the Renaissance: its style which is plain, yet more crafted than spoken discourse, the idea that it represents a gift of sorts, and finally the notion that the character of the letter is determined by its recipient.(7) The reflections of Cicero on the ideal Attic style in the Orator, in particular his treatment of the "low genre" or genus humile, one of the three oratorical styles, would have a crucial influence on epistolary literature.(8) First of all, he gave the genus humile, the low style, a central place in oratorical prose. For him, the genus humile is above all an exquisite genre: it manifests neglegentia diligens, a style whose simple aspect is inimitable because it is the product of the greatest art. The genus humile exemplifies the quality of purity (elegantia), precision (subtilitas), and clarity. It is a useful tool against adversaries thanks to the incorporation of verbal barbs, but it still remains in conformity with decorum. When Cicero discusses the letter itself (in his correspondence), in which the genus humile would play a role, he gives a definition which will be adopted by almost all the theoreticians of the Renaissance, namely that the letter palliates an absence and brings news to someone uninformed.(9) However, although he uses everyday discourse,(10) Cicero disdains the purely communicative letter, the staple of scribes and messengers,(11) instead regarding it as an art closely related to pleasure and the search for glory.(12) The contributions made by two other classical authors to the prose epistolary tradition should also be mentioned here. Senecas Letters to Lucilius takes the idea of correspondence as dialogue further by using it to develop philosophical ideas; his difficult choppy style brought about self-discovery and the gaining of wisdom in the reader, who was required to develop great discernment in order decipher its meaning. With Pliny the Younger the letter becomes a partly fictional form and moves closer to acquiring the status of a literary work. Finally, the verse epistolary tradition, including Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto on the one hand, and Horace's Satires and Epistles on the other, provided important models for Du Bellay's Regrets, both as letters and as exile literature; a good deal of critical work already exists on this subject.(13)
The next important stage in the epistolary tradition for our study takes place in the eleventh century: the letter acquired new importance in response to the needs of chanceries and was heavily influenced by the formulaic writing required. Yet according to Ernst Robert Curtius, these developments not only affected administrative letter-writing but the practice of writing in general, since all of rhetoric became subordinate to a theory of epistolary style.(14) This new rhetoric became known as the ars dictaminis, and depended upon dictatores, whose responsibility it was to take letters in dictation. The term dictator had acquired many meanings over time: even though the original meaning of dictare in Antiquity was "to dictate," it had gradually come to encompass the activity of writing in general, and then, beginning with Augustine, to signify "to compose poetry." Through this semantic fusion, a dictator became both a letter-writer and a poet; Dante refers to the troubadours as "dictatores illustres" (76). At least in theory, then, letter-writing was entirely compatible with poetic composition.(15) In practice, however, the authors of letters were separate from the scribes who took them in dictation. These dictatores, far from composing missives which communicated their personal thoughts, were expected to be mere transparent instruments of their superiors and to add nothing of their own to what they were writing.
Thus a considerable evolution had taken place since Cicero, who disdained to write letters conveying simple news because such functions were better-suited to servants, while reserving for himself the pleasure (and the craft) of the familiar and higher, more refined style. Now the "servants" engaged in almost no writing of their own. In addition, from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, artistic prose fades into the background while the strict chancellery style, product of dictation, comes to the fore. Letter-writing becomes more and more technical.(16) Thus was born the epistolary art of the secretary.(17)
Petrarch's contributions to letter-writing in the Quattrocento offer an important counterpoint to this administrative tradition. It is not surprising that the great humanist, who had discovered Cicero's private correspondence, would adopt many of its underlying principles, especially the "familiar" style which is incompatible with formal, philosophical discourse such as that practiced by Seneca. Petrarch states that the main use of his letters is to communicate his state of mind ("nichil quasi aliud egi nisi ut animi mei status"(18)), and from this idea he draws the conclusion that letters are as variable as one's moods. Petrarch's uses of the letter have therefore little to do with the prescriptions of the ars dictaminis.(19) On the other hand, one must not forget that in being so "personal," Petrarch is following his model Cicero - even Petrarch's characteristic sadness is authorized by him: "Talis ille vir tantus in doloribus suis fuit: talis ego in meis fueram."(20)
Yet this is not to say that Petrarch did not find practical applications for his missives. Manifesting his typical historical and literary self-consciousness, Petrarch complains that unlike Cicero who wrote to Atticus, or Seneca who addressed his thoughts to Lucilius, he is forced write to many and to travel in search of patrons.(21) In the same letter, he states that the primary rule of the letter-writer is to take into account the character of the recipient.(22) According to Petrarch, it is this necessity, in addition to his changing states of mind, which explains why his letters appear so diverse and even contradictory when taken together.(23) Yet, since there is the additional requirement of being faithful to one's nature, a conflict results; Petrarch recognizes that in certain cases he betrays himself.(24)
The Ciceronian (and Demetrian) tradition thus seem more pertinent than the Senecan for understanding the form and even the subject matter of Petrarch's correspondence; this is by Petrarch's own confession.(25) These influences, as well as his personal situation, allow him to break definitively with the tradition of the dictator. Unlike Senecas letters, Petrarch's familiar letters must adopt a light style, avoid a too-pronounced philosophical character, and respect the double necessity of being faithful to the character both of their author and of their many recipients. Such constraints were responsible for contradictions not only between letters, but also in the epistolary theory which Petrarch developed. Their effect on Petrarch is also illustrative of a certain flexibility of the self, which, according to Thomas Greene, typifies the period that has come to be known as the Renaissance.
Petrarch's epistolary legacy was important to later humanists because his uses of the letter had made clear how well-suited the genre was to meeting the needs of their milieu - and his stature authorized such practice. First of all, the letter was a means of displaying one's talents as a writer.(26) Second, it allowed humanists to keep others abreast of their work and to solicit aid from the powerful. Finally, the letter also excelled at its original role of maintaining contact between separated friends, and it made possible the exchange of news. This was perhaps the most oft-practiced type of humanist literature. Being of a Protean nature, the letter adapted itself so well to so many different roles that it became one of the most fluid genres, capable of moving from prose to poetry, from the private sphere to the public domain.(27)
Desiderius Erasmus's De conscribendis epistolis, published in 1522, had an enormous effect on Renaissance epistolography. Its most important contribution was to remove almost all constraints from the letter, leaving only the rule that it should be perfectly adapted to the circumstances. This program is implemented in the first lines of the treatise, where Erasmus affirms the infinite complexity and heterogeneity of the letter genre.(28) Determined by widely differing conditions, all of which fell under the general idea of the aptum, the epistle took on an infinitely malleable nature. Thus De conscribendis breaks definitively with the medieval tradition of the artes dictaminis.(29)
As for the circumstances which determine the nature of a particular letter, according to Eramus the epistola must above all please the addressee. It is this requirement which paradoxically gives the letter a flexibility denied other genres.(30) The addressee is so important in the Erasmian conception of the letter that the classification of letters by subject, inherited from Cicero and so often adopted by letter-writing manuals, is replaced by a system founded exclusively on the type of person to whom one is writing.(31) De conscribendis also offers directions concerning the appropriate letter-writing style. Adopting the traditional definition of the letter as a conversation between separated friends, "absentium amicorum quasi mutuus sermo," Erasmus explains that the appropriate language is one characterized by simplicity and candor, charm and finesse.(32) Just as in Cicero's letters, a fundamental aspect of this style is the variety of subject matter which it accommodates.(33) It is the Attic style, the genus humile based on brevitas, which best meets these requirements. Anticipating the objections of those who would be revolted by the inferior status of the genus humile with respect to more noble styles, Erasmus states that it is better to crawl on the ground than fly with Daedalus through the air, suggesting that humilitas is better than attempting a style beyond one's reach.(34)
One might think that this simple yet elegant style (which accords with Demetrius's principles) would be incompatible with obscurity. Indeed, Erasmus condemns lack of clarity in both oratory and letters.(35) However, obscurity is not inherently bad; it all depends on the addressee, for what is clear to one person may be incomprehensible to another.(36) Besides the fact that the letter is the genre which is most forgiving of errors (because it has so few rules), it is also the only one which allows obscurity.(37) According to Erasmus, ambiguity in fact has its uses, as long as it is erudite (modo non indocta). The letter thus becomes a space for play, a place for verbal fencing among two humanists who wish to show their learning and/or who want to avoid being understood by others or even by their correspondent:(38) Erasmus boasts of having written to Thomas Linacre a letter in trochaic tetrameters, thus in verse, a fact which Linacre did not perceive.(39) As a means for playing such games, Erasmus advises the letter-writer to follow Cicero's example and make use of allusions, riddies, foreign words, and abrupt phrases.(40) Despite the learned allusiveness, the Erasmian letter still tries to seem as spontaneous as speech, but of course this impression is the product of considerable work.(41) The Erasmian letter thus treads a thin line between simplicity and complexity masquerading as simplicity, between clarity and obscurity which is clarity only to a select few.
The role of obscurity in the letter is a topic which will be given more and more attention in subsequent treatises on letter-writing.(42) Manuals intended for ambassadors and secretaries often devote important sections to it.(43) Obscurity became increasingly common in letters written in the second half of the sixteenth century, when brevitas became a dominant ideal under the renewed influence of Seneca and Tacitus at the expense of Cicero. It is worth noting, however, that while humanists increasingly seem to want to purify the epistolary style by making it ever more brief and sober - and thus bring it closer to the most simple prose - they see more and more affinities between the authors of letters and inspired poets. In his treatise on the art of letter-writing, the Epistolica institutio (1591), the Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius wrote that the writer comes to his work "mente tumente,"(44) like a poet inspired by a divinity. As if this parallel with poetic fury were not sufficiently clear, a little later, in order to justify the idea that the relative carelessness of the letter is in conformity with the principle of decorum,(45) Lipsius cites a letter to Atticus by Cicero, according to which "Epistolas debere interdum hallucinari" (Att. 11: 16.1). It follows that the writer must also become ecstatic, enter into a poetic state, in order to compose such letters.(46) Lipsius made a similar declaration in one of his own letters, where he explicitly compares the necessary state of mind to that required for poets composing verse.(47) Such observations were completely in keeping with the Pleiade's insistance on fureur poetique as a precondition to writing poetry.
The official letter as practiced by the secretary could seem diametrically opposed to the creative process involved in composing familiar letters according to Lipsius. While at least in theory, private correspondence had a tendency to free itself progressively from overly-strict rules, official letter-writing was still very much subject to them. For a private individual, letters were the most personal genre of writing, an open space for personal thoughts, yet for the secretary, the former dictator, the letter was the most impersonal genre, and it required total self-effacement. Sincerity was de rigueur in the private letter, but the secretary's duty was to maintain appearances. Finally, if a private individual might need recourse to different techniques to protect the intimacy created by the private letter, it was even more strongly recommended that the secretary, in accordance with his etymologically-determined role,(48) constantly avail himself of them to hide secrets - not his own, of course, but those of his prince.
Yet the differences are not as irreconcilable as one might think. In growing recognition of the importance of the secretarial profession, one observes, in the second third of the sixteenth century, the publication of numerous manuals, called Segretarii, aimed at guiding those who intend to become secretaries.(49) The Segretarii often contain letter-writing treatises.(50) Conversely, the letter continued to play such an important role in the administration of the affairs of states that in the sixteenth century, letter-writing manuals are intended for secretaries rather than for authors of private correspondence;(51) even general treatises use the term secretary, but quite simply in the sense of author of letters.(52) When Estienne Du Tronchet published the first sixteenth-century private French correspondence, his "Lettres missives et familieres d'Estienne du Tronchet, secretaire de la Reyne mere du Roy" (1569), the tide of secretary seems to confer an auctoritas necessary for an author of familiar letters. On the other hand, in his Idea del Segretario (1606), Bartolomeo Zucchi has his two volumes of model letters preceded by a treatise on imitation and even a manual on composition, where, as the secondary title explains, the secretary is almost forgotten, since only "a few remarks concerning the profession of the secretary" are given.(53) Perhaps most importantly, despite the very administrative style of writing which the secretary often had to practice and the conception of the secretary-automaton who needed inspiration from his master, several Segretarii stipulate that the secretary should also be a poet(54) - just as we have seen for the writer of familiar letters. In his Il Segretario (1620), for example, Vincenzo Gramigna offers a practical justification for such a requirement: the secretary must be as much poet as historian, because the poet's ability to create comparisons and allusions is crucial to the art of secrecy, of dissimulation.(55) In fact, the poetic side of the secretary seems to compensate for the extreme servitude characteristic of his role.(56)
The general principles which govern the official letter and private correspondence are the same, with a similar insistence on the importance of brevitas, clarity, and decorum? For example, both types of manuals emphasize the importance of the recipient in determining the nature of the letter, in addition to its variability which makes the classification of letters by type(58) or even the elaboration of universally applicable rules impossible. Not surprisingly, then, secretaries moved in a seemingly effortless fashion between official and familiar letters, and in sixteenth-century Italy, the popularity of the familiar letter as a literary genre is attributed to the fact that so many erudite men were writing official letters as part of their secretarial careers.(59)
Unlike the situation in Italy, in sixteenth-century France, the vernacular epistle had a tenuous generic status. In her study of the French verse epistle from 1400 to 1550, Yvonne Leblanc shows through careful diachronic textual analysis, but also through an examination of the ways in which epistles were collected and printed in poetic collections, that the epistle followed a certain number of rules, albeit fluid ones. Leblanc succinctly defines the epistle as "a monologic work written for a specific addressee whose relationship to the letter-writer inspires its theme and style" (1). In addition, following the work of Paul Zumthor, she states that another essential characteristic is that epistolary practice draws attention to itself; this occurs through such elements as "superscription, subscription, salutation, securing of goodwill and complimentary close - [which] often contain thematic references to the act of corresponding" (29). However, in the Neo-Latin tradition, which provided some of the models that Du Bellay would seek to emulate, it was not customary to identify verse epistles as such,(60) and the tight form of the sonnet made the inclusion of meta-epistolary features rather difficult.
In his famous 1549 manifesto, La Deffence et illustration de la langue francoyse, in which the epistle seems to acquire formal generic status for the first time,(61) Joachim Du Bellay himself had but little to say about the letter: just enough to condemn it as incapable of enriching the vernacular, on the grounds that it deals generally only with familiar and domestic matters rather than more worthy literary subjects.(62) This is in keeping with its ill-defined status, for twenty years later, in the preface to his Lettres missives et familieres, Estienne du Tronchet states that since the French language has just begun to pulluler, it is time for letters to contribute to this development - and one might add especially because of the competition represented by the Italians, whose Pietro Aretino had published his letters in 1537.(63) However, Du Tronchet's collection was mainly composed of fictive pieces, models, and translations of Aretino's letters. Although Estienne Pasquier thought he had reason to claim in 1586 that his Lettres were the first true correspondence, they were more like short treatises on political, moral, and literary subjects. The birth of the collection of vernacular prose correspondence as a literary genre would have to await the publication of Guez de Balzac's correspondence in 1624, and would not flourish on a wide scale before the period 1650-1660.(64)
Du Bellay, preoccupied with the role of poetry in his program of French literary renewal, makes no mention of the prose letter; however, the place of the verse epistle remains to be considered. Although there certainly existed a well-developed body of French epistolary poetry at the time, Du Bellay chose to avert his gaze from this tradition and focus exclusively on the imitation of the Ovidian elegy and the Horatian epistle.(65) Why? Du Bellay was doubtless seduced by the irresistible prestige of classical models, but he was perhaps also motivated by his rivalry with Thomas Sebillet who had published his own poetic treatise one year earlier in 1548. Sebillet had only discussed the verse epistle in the Art Poetique francois, yet he had adopted the Ciceronian definition of the prose letter, commenting that it was a missive sent to inform someone absent about a matter concerning him or her; he added that it was a short form which was not confined to any one subject but rather accommodated many.(66) Unlike Du Bellay, though, Sebillet finds French as well as Latin models to recommend: not only does he mention Ovid, but also the court poet Clement Marot whose works Du Bellay held in low regard for not being able to glorify (illustrer) the vernacular.
Since Marot's contributions to the verse epistle earn him a major place in the history of French poetry, the implications of his influence on Du Bellay's use of the genre cannot be ignored. This influence, while indisputable and essential, was extremely problematic for Du Bellay. Thanks in part to their more independent status and as part of their effort to seek a greater prestige for themselves and their works, the Pleiade poets sought to distance themselves from what they perceived as the too-common character of their predecessor's verse; part of this banality stemmed from its courtly character, which is hardly surprising since in the context of French vernacular poetry, the epistle was a courtly genre par excellence.(67) Du Bellay was to go on to write an anti-courtly poem, "Le Poete Courtisan," but most importantly, Les Regrets itself is in large part a diatribe against the Papacy and its court. Thus, while the epistle had attractive models in Latin, the tradition of the vernacular epistle made the composition of epistles in French quite compromising to both the Pleiade's program in general and Les Regrets in particular. If one adds to these considerations Marot's authority in French poetry, Du Bellay's interest in dissimulating the fact that he had chosen the epistle - by grafting it on the form of the sonnet and avoiding explicit identification of the form - would be at least as strong as his interest in using it.(68) Marot's most significant legacy for Du Bellay, however, may lie on the one hand in the tailoring of the epistle to emphasize the poetic persona and its experiences, and on the other in the use of familiar language resembling speech.(69)
One year after La Deffence, in his anonymous Quintil Horatian, Barthelemy Aneau protested against Du Bellay's narrow views and took up Marot's and Sebillet's defense. While Du Bellay had made no mention in La Deffence of either the familiar letter or of its official counterpart with the seeming implication that they had no contribution to make to glorifying and enriching the French language - Aneau not only seeks to make a place for the familiar letter, but even focuses on the value of the secretarial, official letter. Most importantly, Aneau takes issue with Du Bellay's view that there is an irreconcilable difference between the practical prose letter and the poetic elegy which Du Bellay had recommended.(70) In the Quintil, it is precisely the prose letter's utility which should make it a cornerstone for enriching the vernacular, and he cites the examples of Cicero and Pliny as proof.(71) Immediately after the enumeration of these famous Ancients, he gives, not without malice, the example of an official letter, an epistle sent to a German secretary, which he attributes to a certain Monsieur de Langey, who was none other than the brother of Cardinal Du Bellay, and thus the poet's cousin. Aneau's further argument is actually a long apology for the craft of those involved in any kind of letter-writing: secretaries, lawyers, prosecutors, shopkeepers - even personal friends. Aneau concludes that he would rather learn to speak and to write, and to glorify his mother tongue by reading letters of this sort, than Du Bellay's "tearful elegies."(72) In an uncanny foreshadowing of Du Bellay's situation in Rome, he adds that it would be an affront for a secretary, who was ordered by his lord to write a letter for him, to produce instead a personal missive which related only the secretary's own sadness.(73) Aneau ends by insisting that if Du Bellay indeed sees himself as a glorifier of the French language, he should then recognize the value of both prose and poetry,(74) but Aneau's final jabs are to mention Marot's contributions to the verse epistle, and to insist that knowing how to write prose letters is a prerequisite for composing elegies.(75) It is significant that Aneau uses "elegies" here to designate the sonnets of the Olive, for the elegy was an outgrowth of the epistle, generally dealing with love in an elevated fashion.(76) Thus Du Bellay's first work is already seen by a contemporary as participating in the epistolary tradition.
Aneau's insistence on the value of the prose letter for enriching the vernacular and most importantly his defense of the profession of secretaries, whose duty was to write letters for others, is particularly relevant for our understanding of Du Bellay's Regrets. Although all of the details of Du Bellay's role in Rome are uncertain, it is generally accepted that Du Bellay was employed as an intendant, or secretary, by his cousin the cardinal, in which capacity he almost certainly wrote letters.(77) Thus, in a strange twist of fate, Du Bellay found himself precisely in the position of an official letter-writer faced with making the transition from the official letter to the tearful elegy.
As has already been intimated, Les Regrets is a complex reflection of these ideas, of a confrontation with the practices and ideologies of Du Bellay's contemporaries and his predecessors. The secretary is not important merely as a professional backdrop to the collection: the word actually appears in the first sonnet in the lines already cited, "I complain to my verse, if I have any regrets / I laugh with them, I tell them my secret / For they are the most trustworthy secretaries of my heart . . . (lines 8-11)." Du Bellay's use of the figure cannot be adequately understood without referring to its appearance elsewhere in Renaissance poetry, especially in the verse of his great Italian forerunner Petrarch.(78) In Petrarch's Canzoniere 168, a thought transmitted by Love to the poet is presented as a secretary:
Love sends me that sweet thought which is an old secretary between us and comforts me and says that I was never so close as I am now to to what I yearn and hope for.(79)
Here the secretary tends toward being a mere intermediary, a conduit as it were between Love and the poet.(80) Not only does the "thought / secretary not console" (for that is the role of Love), but there is little emphasis here on the idea of the secretary as an assistant entrusted with secret, private thoughts - nor is he at all involved in the act of writing, be he a scribe or copiste. However, at the same time, the secretary's role does seem to carry a hint of that of the counselor.
The secretary also appears frequently in the poetry of Du Bellay's contemporary and rival Pierre de Ronsard.(81) In a sonnet taken from Ronsard's Amours, published in 1552, the poet carries on a dialogue with the Gatine forest, also introduced as his secretary, and the Loire river:
Saint Gatine, fortunate secretary of my agony, Who respond in your woods, Now in high, now in low voice, To the long sighs that my heart cannot keep quiet: Loire, you who restrain the impetuous movement Of the swiftest currents through my land, When you hear me accuse this beauty, Who always leaves me hungry and thirsty: If I receive the favorable sign, And if my eye was not yesterday deceived, By the sweet looks of my sweet Thalia, From now on you will make me a poet, And you will be called throughout France, The one my laurel, the other my Castalie [my fountain of Parnassus].(82)
Ronsard is intent on establishing his own poetic genealogy, appropriating Petrarch's legacy of the amorous wood and the laurel myth, yet giving them the cachet of France and the stamp of Ronsard. In this context, the secretary has ceased to be a mere emissary, let alone an ethereal one ("sweet thought"). He has assumed an imposing physical presence; Ronsard's secretary, "fortunate" in its devotion to Ronsard, is the entire Gatine forest. The forest plays an important passive role as confidant - but also a somewhat more active one as the poet's respondent, even if the answer is basically an echo.(83) One supposes that the "forest's"/"secretary's" response comes most likely in the form of verse; it is crucial to Ronsard's poetic immortality, for, if Ronsard himself is fortunate, it "will make [him] a poet" and insure him, like Petrarch, the laurel in line 14. Thus the secretary is, as Douglas Biow calls him, a "complex double of the poet," yet one of the functions of this subordinate is to underscore the superiority of the poet Ronsard.
The materialization of the secretary's writing and Ronsard's dependence upon it for eternal fame are rendered even more explicit in one of his Sonnets pour Helene, included in the 1587 edition:
You streams, you rocks, you solitary caves, You oaks, heirs of the silence of the woods, Hear the sighs of my last voice, And of my testament be present as notaries. Be faithful secretaries of my misfortune, Inscribe it in your bark, so that it grows Each month.(84)
Here the oaks take in dictation, as it were, Ronsard's last lines of verse, and insure his immortality by inscribing them in their bark. This time they are both skillful notaries (necessary so the testament will be valid) and faithful secretaries. By calling upon the expertise of two professions, the legal and procedural knowledge of the notary and the dependable transparence of the secretary, Ronsard seems to emphasize the importance of his survival with posterity.(85)
Such clear dramatizations of the dependence of poets on a secretarial subordinate also exist in the sixteenth-century French tradition prior to Ronsard and outside of Petrarchism. Clement Marot's treatment of the secretary in his poetry has implications for both the status of the secretary and the style of his writing. In the "Epitre de Frippelippe" (1537), Marot has a secretary write, using his name, to Marot's arch-enemy Francois Sagon. By choosing a secretary for this duty, Marot implies that being a secretary is a lowly occupation since Sagon is not worthy of a direct answer from himself. The figure of the secretary is also associated with a much more familiar and vigorous style with which he further excoriates his adversary.(86)
These examples cast a new light on the presence of the secretary in Du Bellay's Regrets, where the conflict between his activities of secretary and poet becomes a leitmotiv. Du Bellay himself makes very clear that the move from paying bills and writing administrative letters to composing Les Regrets is nevertheless a natural one - as we saw earlier in the sonnet to Etinne Boucher, writing verse is a consolation for the annoyances of his position: "Verse takes the bother away" ("Les vers m'ostent l'ennuy" line 2). Of course, we also observed that if poetry makes Du Bellay's administrative life bearable, at the same time the demeaning role of the secretary thwarts and threatens his poetic powers, as in the twelfth and fifteenth sonnets of the collection where Du Bellay complains of his administrative responsibilities in order to conclude, "Don't you wonder how I manage to compose verse?" ("Ne t'esbahis-tu point comment je fais des vers?" 15.14).(87) Yet in the very first sonnet, where Du Bellay declares that his lines are secretaries of his heart, he makes the idea of consolatory verse a major theme of the collection:
I complain to my verse, if I have any regret I laugh with them, I tell them my secret, For they are the most trustworthy secretaries of my heart Thus I do not want to comb and crimp them, Or disguise them with more noble names Than daily records and summaries.(88)
The poet does not reject his role as an abject secretary: like Marot and Ronsard before him (who however were not secretaries), he transfers, displaces it from himself onto his verse, in a sense thereby abandoning a subordinate position for one of prestige and power. Here the secretary is a poet determined, on one level, to compensate for, and in a sense rehabilitate, his stultifying professional role by projecting it on his verse. This poetry, "the most trustworthy secretaries of my heart" ("de mon coeur les plus seurs secretaires") comes in the form of prosaic "papiers journaulx, ou bien de commentaires" ("daily records and summaries," line 14)(89) - the jottings-down of a secretary. Du Bellay's relationship with this secretary is however more involved and intimate than in Petrarch or Ronsard: his lines of verse seem to be real interlocutors, not merely emissaries or echoes, for not only does Du Bellay complain to them, but they laugh and he laughs with them ("Je me ris avec eulx," line 10). While these letters constitute an intimate, solipsistic correspondence between the poet and himself, they will eventually be re-addressed to close friends - through the different addressees who inform the sonnets - and also, in accordance with the nature of the verse epistle, to a wider public capable of comprehending the dense personal, literary, and political allusions typical of this work.(90)
Thus far we have seen the implications of Du Bellay's administrative duties in Rome for the genesis of Les Regrets - a relationship made clear by the sonnets themselves. However, a more subtle and perhaps more profound influence can be discerned in the very poetics of this verse, in its style and generic qualities. In terms of style, the lines quoted above emphasize the "simple" character of the collection and Du Bellay's modest claims for it: "Thus I do not want to comb and crimp them" ("Aussi ne veulx-je tant les pigner et friser" line 12). By treating his verse at the end of this very same sonnet as daily records and summaries, Du Bellay is doing more than denigrating it as simple, uncarefully wrought poetry: seemingly in accordance with the prose production of a secretary, he is quite simply denying it the status of poetry at all. The style of Les Regrets chosen by Du Bellay is the genus humile. Finally, there is a subtle irony in the refusal to disguise Les Regrets by applying more noble names, "plus braves noms" to them, to mince words so to speak, for this collection of sonnets is replete with names, references to living people who share the extratextual reality on which Les Regrets is based. Yet these names help to undermine their status as poetry: the epistolary phenomenon itself, the constant reference to real-life people and events, depoeticized Les Regrets.(91) Du Bellay thus uses proper names to define an anti-poetry, a prose poetics. At the same time, however, he may also be brilliantly applying the adage ars celare artem: there is no greater artistic refinement for the courtier - and the poet - than to deny that his work is the product of any craft whatsoever. From this perspective, one can hardly imagine a more illustrious accomplishment than to refuse one's poetry recognition as such.
The apparently simple, yet complex low, "transparent" style characteristic of Les Regrets contributes significantly to the poems' status as epistles. At the same time, however, the declared forthrightness and clarity of this verse, ostensibly intended to communicate Du Bellay's thoughts and to act as secretaries, must be considered with suspicion because the message is so often obscure.(92) Here the obscurity characteristic of the humanist epistle comes into play. Indeed, the relative opacity of Les Regrets was noticed almost at the time of publication by one of its addressees, the disgraced chancellor Fancois Olivier, who remarked in a letter to Du Bellay's protector, Jean de Morel, that some allusions escaped him, and that as he reread the sonnets, he became increasingly aware of how many oblique references they contained.(93) Not surprisingly, certain contemporary readers appeared to enjoy deciphering the enigmatic references.(94) This is completely in keeping with the type of obscurity which Erasmus recommended. While Wolfgang Iser sees this phenomenon as inherent in literature, which requires that the reader fill in the gaps,(95) and Francois Rigolot sees it as fundamental to poetic discourse,(96) the elliptical language of Les Regrets seems characteristic of letters, written to one person or a small group who alone understand their particular context.(97) Indeed, insofar as Les Regrets are presented as at least semi-private correspondence between friends, the same playful obscurity of which Erasmus boasted in his letters helps to give the reader the impression of eavesdropping on an intimate dialogue between others.(98)
As mentioned earlier, the proper names which figure so prominently as addressees - 149 out of 191 sonnets are addressed to third parties - as well as the content of the sonnets, often specifically tailored to these people, are a signal of the epistolary nature of Les Regrets. There is even evidence of actual exchanges: for example, one finds numerous reciprocal references between Les Regrets and the collection of another French secretary/poet in Rome, Olivier de Magny's Souspirs.(99) The themes of Les Regrets fall into the two broad categories typical of epistles: encomiastic pieces addressed to patrons and poems centered around friendship.(100) The plaintive tone so characteristic of the collection also shows unmistakably its Ovidian epistolary heritage: the Tristia (whose fide is echoed in Les Regrets) and Epistulae ex Ponto were an important classical model whose influence on Les Regrets has been clearly established. Finally, the political and satirical dimensions of these sonnets were a well-established part of the vernacular epistolary tradition.(101)
A clear example of the correspondent-addressee relationship characteristic of epistolary literature can be found in those sonnets addressed to other poets. In particular, when these poets are other members of the Pleiade, the group whose cause Du Bellay championed with his Deffence et illustration de la langue francoyse, Du Bellay uses the allusive, epistolary possibilities of Les Regrets to delimit the boundaries of his artistic milieu and further refine his poetic program. It is surely not an accident that the most frequent correspondent of Les Regrets is none other than Pierre de Ronsard, the acknowledged head of the Pleiade and premier French poet. It is perhaps most instructive to begin with Du Bellay's and Ronsard's teacher, Jean Dorat. In sonnet 130, addressed to Dorat, the first poem devoted to Du Bellay's return to France from Rome, Du Bellay plays with an earlier piece, the famous sonnet 31, using the imperfect tense to describe his former naive jealousy of Odysseus/Ulysses who had been able to return home to see his smoking chimney:
And I too used to think what Ulysses thought That there was nothing more sweet than seeing again one day Smoke leaving one's chimney, and after a long stay Finding oneself back in one's native land.(102)
Trouble has awaited him as it did Odysseus: "I find a thousand biting cares in my home" ("Mille souciz mordans je trouve en ma maison" line 5). Du Bellay ends the poem by saying "Adieu" to Dorat and telling him that he will return to Rome unless Dorat lends him the Muses's poetic bow to wreak his vengeance.
One might take Dorat's presence in this poem to be more or less gratuitous, having no necessary relationship with the use of the Ulysses myth, for example. However, as Henri Chamard points out in his edition of Les Regrets, sonnet 130 is a condensation of a Latin poem by Du Bellay also addressed to Dorat, and most importantly, both respond to a Latin poem of welcome written by Dorat for Du Bellay precisely on the latter's return from Rome:
Circe tried everything, as did Calypso, In order to detain this cherished man. But they tried everything in vain: Odysseus Preferred being a mortal in his homeland, to being a god far away.(103)
In this witty Latin epigram, entitled "De eius reditu ab Italia" ("Upon his return from Italy"), the basis for the antithesis mortal at home/god abroad is not easy to grasp at first: what could make Du Bellay an immortal in Rome? However, the Latin language itself (and by extension whatever was written in it) was associated with immortality, and in terms of the number of lines, about half of poetry to have come from Du Bellay's stay in Rome is in Latin. Dorat thus salutes not only the return of Du Bellay to France, but also praises the decision to write French poetry - thereby also underlining the irony that the author of the Deffence, which passed judgment on contemporary poets who preferred Latin to their native tongue, had himself courted the Latin muse. Thus when in sonnet 130, Du Bellay, now disappointed with France, threatens to return to Rome, he is alluding to the fact that he will continue to indulge in the prestige and pleasure of composing Latin poetry - and recultivating the sense of exile that pervades the poetry he composed in Rome.
The sonnets of Les Regrets which trace the poet's return trip from Rome have a particularly pronounced epistolary character: they resemble poetic postcards. In the Bibliotheque Nationale's copy of the 1558 edition, four of these sonnets carry manuscript titles such as "Suisse," "De Genefve," "De Lyon" (addressed to the poet Maurice Sceve), and "Paris," further suggesting portraits sent from different cities. Of the two Swiss sonnets, which are satirical in character, the piece entitled "Suisse" (sonnet 135) is addressed to a member of the Pleiade, the poet Remy Belleau, and describes the gluttony and barbarity of the Swiss. When Du Bellay magnanimously praises the country's abundant natural resources, he imitates drunken, repetitious speech, concluding that he can no longer remember, because he has been made to drink so much.(104) Again, the link with Belleau might appear to be gratuitous, but only if one forgets that Belleau had just published (1556) his translation of the Carmina Anacreontea, where drinking and love are important themes. Thus this sonnet playfully and allusively salutes Belleau's first published work. Du Bellay does so again explicitly in the sonnet 156; addressed to the Pleiade poet Jean-Antoine de Baif, this piece acclaims the recent works of five members of the Pleiade and so trumpets the accomplishments of the group as a whole: "Because of his Anacreontic lines Belleau makes me love both wine and love" ("Par ses vets Teiens Belleau me fait aymer / Et levin & l'amour" lines 1-2).
Du Bellay's frequent sonnets addressed to Ronsard throughout Les Regrets offers him a means to counterpoint his own poetics to that of his great rival. In accordance with the exceedingly humble characterization of his forthcoming verse as "papiers journaulx" and "commentaires," it is not surprising to see Du Bellay oppose Ronsard the poet inspired by his lady and Marguerite de France with himself, incapable of composing poetry so far from such a flame as the latter:
Do not be shocked (Ronsard), dearer part of me, If of Du Bellay France reads nothing more . . .
But I, who am absent from the rays of my Sun, How may I feel a warmth like that Of he who is close to his divine flame?"(105)
In a sonnet mentioned at the beginning of this essay,(106) Pierre de Ronsard had begun is Continuation des Amours with the picture of Du Bellay contemplating the Tiber and the Palatine hill - and abandoning his "naturel langage" (line 4) in order to compose in Latin - only to contrast this tableau with the self-portrait of the enslaved lover. Ronsard's remark was doubtless meant to underscore the irony of seeing the author of the Deffence give in to the prestige of Latin after exhorting French poets to compose in the vernacular. Du Bellay responded in sonnet 10 of Les Regrets by saying that he had not chosen to compose in Latin merely because he was in the Eternal City, as Ronsard had supposed, but rather because of exile - just as Ovid had adopted the language of the Getae in order to be understood. By citing the example of the Roman poet, Du Bellay makes clear (in French) that he is staking out a new poetic territory, that of Ovidian imitation in Latin and French, as distinct from Ronsard's new simple style of love poetry.
However, Du Bellay's affirmation of a different poetic identity is not made without borrowings from Ronsard - or perhaps it would be better to speak of exchanges since it is not clear with whom certain features originated. When one examines La Continuation des Amours, first published in 1555, one is struck by the fact that the first few sonnets speak to individuals - to members of the Pleiade or its friends, in fact: Pontus de Tyard, Etienne Jodelle, Jacques Peletier du Mans, Jean Dorat, and naturally Joachim himself. This of course is hardly a rarity in poetry, but what is noteworthy in both Ronsard's and Du Bellay's works is the way in which they address others as a means of creating community. Whereas Du Bellay acclaims the Pleiade's accomplishments in order to make them known to the world, in his capacity as author of the Pleiade's manifesto and thus as its authorized spokesperson, Ronsard brings these members together around his person, the recognized head of the group, in order to inaugurate a new work. Du Bellay's movement is mainly centrifugal, away from the Pleiade (nevertheless with him at its center) toward his addressees but also beyond them to a greater public; Ronsard's is centripetal, making sure that the gazes are focused on his next performance. Because of this centripetal movement, the sonnets which are directed at others are less shaped by the addressees than by Ronsard himself and have much less of an epistolary quality; moreover, the number of poems addressed to living individuals is a small proportion of the total number. This does not prevent isolated pieces from functioning like epistles, however: the Ronsardian sonnet to which Du Bellay responds in Les Regrets actually quotes a poetic exchange with Olivier de Magny, a French secretary in Rome who was Du Bellay's other important correspondent. While the form is the same in both Ronsard's and Du Bellay's case, the effects of genre are different: Ronsard's sonnets are love poems written by a stable persona mainly to a single mistress, whereas Du Bellay's are elegiac epistles in which the poetic self subtly searches to define itself by reaching out to make a multiplicity of contacts.
The contrast between the inspired poet of a high genre and the uninspired practitioner of the genus humile is a leitmotiv in all of Du Bellay's exchanges with Ronsard. In sonnet 20, Du Bellay celebrates Ronsard as a living, yet already immortal, poet and implicitly compares him to the premier divinely inspired bard, Orpheus.(107) At the same time, however, Du Bellay's praise is subtly tainted because Ronsard's success may be due to diplomatic skill: the victory is already Ronsard's, he says, since he has the king's favor.(108) Ronsard's true claim to fame, as the epic poet of the forthcoming Franciade, comes to the fore in sonnets 22 and 23. Sonnet 22 both continues the thread about favor and revives the debate with Ronsard about Du Bellay's fidelity to his French mother tongue. More than ever, Du Bellay says, he enjoys composing in French and Latin, given the indulgence with which the ruler (Henry II) looks upon literary endeavors. Du Bellay uses this flattery directed at the king to counter-attack, saying that Ronsard has henceforth no excuse for not finishing his Franciade:
Thus the sacred craft, in which your mind finds amusement, Will be henceforth a vain exercise, And the late labor which your hand promises us, Henceforth for Francus will have no more excuse.(109)
At the same time, Du Bellay will imitate the humblest songs of Ronsard's tired muse, the laureate's famous beau style bas, by continuing to compose his Regrets.(110) In the following sonnet 23, Du Bellay adopts a much more aggressive tone, appearing to taunt Ronsard in the two quatrains with six successive questions, all of which ask why the laureate's love poetry has not given way to the Franciade. The purely rhetorical nature of these questions is confirmed shortly thereafter, at the end of the sonnet: there is no and will be no Franciade because, despite optimal conditions, the epic's hero and future founding father of France, Francus, is stuck on the Trojan shore and will never leave.(111) If one reads between Du Bellay's lines, then, one discovers that this naturally self-denigrating poet is severely criticizing Ronsard while giving himself considerable praise: he implies that the inspired poet Ronsard might nevertheless be a bout de souffle because he continues to write the same love poetry (albeit with variations in tone and style which distinguish the Amours from the Continuation and Nouvelle Continuation), while Du Bellay has already moved beyond with his Olive and Petrarchist love poetry and is experimenting with genus humile poetry in an entirely new vein.
Sonnets 98 and 147 also discuss Ronsard's privileged status as an inspired poet, yet in a more flattering light. Sonnet 98 and the preceding piece form a pair dealing with the Demoniaques, women possessed by the Devil, whom Du Bellay had a chance to observe during his stay.(112) The subject receives a different treatment depending on the addressee. Sonnet 97 first shows the poet terrified at the sight of these women, then laughing at an exorcism performed by a monk. This poem is addressed to Rene Doulcin, a cleric from Chartres who would probably appreciate such humor.(113) The next sonnet is addressed to Pierre de Ronsard and in the manner of sonnet 23 is entirely built of questions, this time about the nature of demonic possession. As Screech indicates in his edition of Les Regrets, the immediate answer to why Du Bellay would ask such questions of Ronsard is that the head of the Pleiade could be considered an expert on the subject, for he had written as part of his Hymnes a piece entitled "Les Demons" in 1555; this allusion is thus a way of praising Ronsard's accomplishment and erudition.(114) However, the flattery goes even deeper, since only an inspired poet such as Ronsard would have personal experience of possession and thus be able, for example, to answer Du Bellay's last question, namely whether the demons inhabiting these women were of high, middle, or low nature:
Tell me, I beseech you (Ronsard) who know their natures, Those who torment these poor creatures in this way, Are they of the higher, middle, or lower orders?(115)
Du Bellay's ignorance of these matters implies that he is not an initiate; as he states in the sonnet to Doulcin, he feels terror, with hair standing up on his head, yet this is simply fear and not inspiration.
As if the epistolary nature of this flattery were not sufficiently clear already, Du Bellay himself is forced to draw attention to it in sonnet 152, in response to the reproach that he and Ronsard are like two donkeys who scratch each other's backs.(116) For the first time, one finds explicit mention of the fact that Du Bellay and Ronsard correspond as if by letters:
So enough, I beseech you, enough talk of these boors And these little gentlemen, who, at a loss for words, Say, upon seeing Ronsard and Du Bellay correspond, That they are two donkeys who scratch each others' backs.(117)
Yet this praise, which Du Bellay cynically states can be trafficked like money yet at no cost whatsoever,(118) and especially the means by which it is trafficked, has been shown to be very significant for our understanding of Les Regrets. Clearly, this collection is a product of the humanist epistolary tradition. Despite the fact that Du Bellay opposes secretaries and poets, he is a poet-secretary to his friends; his secretarial activities may appear to compromise his poetic production, yet the allusiveness and obscurity associated with these responsibilities (and with letter-writing in general) carry over into his verse. Perhaps most typical of humanist epistolary practice, the epistolary form, whose raison d'etre is to be found in the addressee, becomes a means for Du Bellay to experiment with different forms of himself as he reaches out to different individuals. In the exchanges with Ronsard, Du Bellay's praise of his rival and self-deprecation are paradoxically a means for outlining his own poetics in opposition to Ronsard's poetic practice.
The letter makes this possible in at least two ways. First of all, Seneca's Letters to Lucilius showed that the letter can help one to reflect in a manner analogous to an essay - but with the advantage afforded by a distinct addressee. Approximately a quarter of a century after Du Bellay's death, Montaigne affirmed that his Essays would have adopted the form of letters "si j'eusse eu a qui parler."(119) Second, although designed to bring people closer together, the letter posits by definition a distance that underscores a separation between its author and its addressee. By writing to Ronsard, Du Bellay thus distances himself from the poet laureate. If the epistolary tradition offers Du Bellay a means for fashioning a new lyric voice, and for situating himself in the French literary constellation, it serves to make him an outsider as well. In fact, Du Bellay utilizes the letter so as to express a sort of perpetual exile. In Rome he has returned "home" to his cultural heritage, yet by means of the epistolary sonnet he expresses his estrangement from it, yearning to see "the chimney smoke of my little village" ("de mon petit village / fumer la cheminee," line 30). However, no sooner does he return to France, to his patrie and mother tongue, than he writes his teacher, the humanist Jean Dorat, "so goodbye Dorat, / I am again Roman" ("Adieu donques [Dorat] je suis encor' Romain," line 130).(120) Exploiting the possibilities offered by the epistle to insure that his self is de-centered both linguistically and geographically, Du Bellay demonstrates that he is a quintessential Protean man of the Renaissance.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
1 See for example Cooper, 1980, 491 and Legrand, 35; see also Weber, 461 and Francois Pare, 261. Tucker has viewed Les Regrets as participating in a "fictional dialog with his contemporaries in France and Rome" (35); although he too pursues how Du Bellay forges an identity through exile and writing, he is less interested in how Du Bellay uses the epistolary tradition to fashion that exile.
2 For a brilliant analysis of Rome as Du Bellay's imperial mistress, see Rebhorn's article. Professor Rebhorn's insight and exquisite sense of judgment were crucial to me as I worked on this article.
3 All references to Les Regrets are drawn from the Screech/Jolliffe edition. All translations are my own unless otherwise noted. "Ce n'est le fleuve Thusque au superbe rivage, / Ce n'est l'air des Latins ny le mont Palatin, / Qui ores (mon Ronsard) me fait parler Latin, / Changeant a l'estranger mon naturel langage. / C'est l'ennuy de me voir trois ans & d'avantage / Ainsi qu'un Promethe, cloue sur l'Aventin / Ou l'espoir miserable & mon cruel destin, / Non le joug amoureux, me detient en servage" (1-8).
4 "Et quoy (Ronsard) & quoy, si au bord estranger / Ovide osa sa langue en barbare changer / Afin d'estre entendu, qui me pourra reprendre / D'un change plus heureux?" (9-12).
5 "Je me plains a mes vers, si j'ay quelque regret, / Je me ris avec eux, je leur dy mon secret / Comme estans de mon coeur les plus seurs secretaires . . ."(8-11).
6 See Richard Cooper, 1990, 402. Basic information concerning the extratextual reality of Les Regrets is provided by Gladys Dickinson's Du Bellay in Rome.
7 [section]223-35. I have used the Loeb edition by Doreen Innes.
8 [section]75-[section]90. The debate on the ideal "Attic" style continued through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; although at the outset Cicero had spoken in favor of the "Attic" style, beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, it was the anti-Ciceronians who made it their own; for them, the characteristic abundance of oratorical Ciceronian prose was on the contrary evidence of its "Asianism." John Monfasani observes that "after the mid-sixteenth century Ciceronianism came to be understood especially as denoting not merely an adherence to Ciceronian diction but also a preference for a fulsome oratorical style as distinct from a plain or, as a major anti-Ciceronian, Justus Lipsius, put it, 'Laconic' style, which, in fact, meant different things to different critics and which was believed to be best represented by other classical authors, such as Seneca and Tacitus," 195. It is also useful to read Morris Croll, Style, Rhetoric, and Rhythm, in particular " 'Attic Prose' in the Seventeenth Century," 68-70, where he affirms that the Attic label "attique" always kept a trace of its original associations with philosophy. Other helpful chapters are "Muret and the History of 'Attic Prose'" and "Juste Lipse et le mouvement anti-ciceronien," 21 sqq.
9 "Epistolarum genera multa esse non ignoras, sed unum illud certissimum, cuius causa inuenta res ipsa est, ut certiores faceremus absentis, si quid esset quod eos scire aut nostra aut ipsorum interesset," (Correspondence 2: 4.1; my emphasis).
10 "Epistulas cotidianis verbis texere solemus" (ibid., 4: 21.1). Quintilian, who does not specifically discuss the letter in his Institutio oratoria, does however admit free prose (oratio soluta), close to conversational speech and to epistolary language, suitable for treating "familiar" matters: "Est igitur ante omnia oratio alia vincta atque contexta, soluta alia, qualis in sermone et epistulis, nisi cum aliquid upra naturam suam tractant, ut de philosophia, de re publica similibusque" (9: 4.19).
11 "Huius generis litteras a me profecto non expectas; domesticarum enim tuarum rerum domesticos habes et scriptores et nuntios, in meis autem rebus nihil est sane noui. Reliqua sunt epistolarum genera duo, quae me magnopere delectant, unum familiare et iocosum, alterum seuerum et graue" (ibid., 2: 4.1).
12 For example, he distinguishes between letters intended for a specific addressee and those which can reach a wider audience: "aliter enim scribimus quod eos solos quibus mittimus, aliter quod multos lecturos putamos" (ibid., 15: 21.4). Cited in Pauly, article "Brief," 841.
13 See for example Demerson, 1982, Legrand, and the collective work Ovide en France dans la Renaissanc. On Du Bellay and Horace, see Demerson, 1984 and Lebegue. For the recent perspective of a classicist on Ovid's exile poetry, see Williams.
14 Curtius, 76: "what is new in the eleventh century is the attempt to subordinate rhetoric to the art of epistolary style."
15 Ibid., 148: "in theory the an dictaminis embraced both prose and poetry"; in practice they were distinguished by different rules governing them, "prose being regulated by rhythm, poetry by meter or by rhythm and thyme." The end result was that "the boundaries between poetry and prose . . . became more and more blurred." (149).
16 Witt, 33, writes of the "narrow technical approach to rhetoric prevailing among the dictatores," rejected by Petrarch. Fumaroli, 1978, 887, is of the same opinion: "Ces Formae dictandi ou Artes dictaminis, dont James Murphy, dans son Rhetorics [sic] in the Middle Ages a fait l'inventaire et l'analyse, avaient gele pour ainsi dire le genre (de la lettre] dans une pratique administrative de secretaires, le soumettant a la disposition en cinq parties de l'oratio antique, a une imitation etroitement calquee sur des modules fixes, a un decorum imperativement adapte a des situations officielles en nombre limite." See Murphy, 1974.
17 For an analysis of the somewhat dramatic consequences which the slavish art of letter-writing had for cultivated Renaissance secretaries such as Machiavelli and Torquato Acetto, see Biow, Najemy, and Nigro.
18 Familiari 1: 1.33: "Multa igitur hic familiariter ad amicos, inter quos et ad te ipsum, scripta comperies, nunc de publicis privatisque negotiis, nunc de doloribus nostris, que nimis crebra materia est, aut aliis de rebus quas casus obvias fecit. Nichil quasi aliud egi nisi ut animi mei status, vel siquid aliud nossem, notum fieret amicis; probabatur enim michi quod prima ad fratrem epystola Cicero idem ait, esse <<epystole proprium, ut is ad quean scribitur de his rebus quas ignorat certior fiat>>."
19 See Witt, 31-32: "A major factor influencing [Petrarch] was that he was not a dictator by profession, but a private man. Even when he spoke on issues of public life, he spoke with a certain detachment from political partisanship, a freedom not enjoyed by the chancery official or the professional teacher. . . . Cultivation of a personal mode of expression accorded naturally with this status."
20 See Michel, 25-26: "Au moment meme ou il critique le caractere de Ciceron, Petrarque imite amoureusement son style dans ce que ce dernier a de plus spontane."
21 It is significant here that Petrarch describes himself as an exiled Ulysses, just as Du Bellay will do in his Regrets. Familiari 1: 1.21: "Ulixeos errores erroribus meis confer."
22 Ibid., 1: 1.28: "Prima quidem scribentis cura est, cui scribat attendere."
23 Ibid., 1: 1.27: "In his ergo vite tempestatibus, ut ad rein redeam, nullo portu anchoram longum in tempus iaciens, quot veros amicos nescio, quorum et iudicium anceps et penuria ingens est, notos autem innumerabiles quaesivi. Multis itaque multumque animo et conditione distantibus scribere contigit; tam varie ut ea nunc relegens, interdum pugnantia loquutus ipse michi videar: Quod propemodum coactum me fecisse fatebitur quisquis in se simile aliquid expertus est."
24 Ibid., 1: 1.29: "Quibus ego difficultatibus multum a me ipso differre compulsus sum."
25 Ibid., 1: 1.32: "Multa quoque de familiaribus curis, tunc forte dum scriberentur cognitu non indigna, nunc quamvis cupido lectori gravia, detraxi, memor in hoc irrisum a Seneca Ciceronem; quanquam in his epystolis magna ex parte Ciceronis potius quam Senece morem sequar."
26 Henderson, 339. For a detailed study of how Erasmus used his correspondence in part to promote himself as the premier European humanist, see Jardine, and Mesnard. According to Mesnard, Erasmus's correspondence "vise a construire le monde de l'humanisme sur la base de rapports personnels entre tous ses representants qualifies" (24). These functions are confirmed in Machiavelli's correspondence by Najemy. The role of the letter in the evolution of the humanist program is made clear in Grafton and Jardine, 1986.
27 Najemy, 57: "I would add that it was also the Proteus among Renaissance literary genres. It slipped into the novella, the treatise, and the essay, into poetry and the theater; it was public and private, political and personal; and it straddled the critical space between the old myth (so clear to the rhetoricians) of language as natural and pure speech and the unsettling recognition (usually urged by the poets) of the mysteries and obscurities of textual metamorphosis."
28 Erasmus: "res tam multiplex propeque ad infinitum varia" (209).
29 See Fumaroli, 1978, 888: "Il revint a un humaniste du Nord, a Erasme, de renouer de facon decisive avec l'esprit de Petrarque, et de combattre, dans le stylus ciceronianus italien, un retour masque au formalisme social des Artes dictaminis medievaux."
30 See Henderson, 355: "Although books are written in a style designed to please the most learned of their many readers, Erasmus argued, the letter need please only the correspondent. It can therefore be distinguished from other genres by its flexibility of style."
31 "Nam quod M. Tul. ad Curionem tria epistolarum genera facit, non ide agebat vt singulas literarum species distingueret, sed vt propositae complexioni seruiret. Ea vero diuisio quae non ex argumenti varietate, sed ex characteris conditione ducitur, parum mihi videtur ad docendum apposita. Quod si quis ex argumentorum differentia formas commetiatur, quum illorum infinita sit varietas, quis erit formarum modus?" (309). All quotes refer to the Margolin edition in the Opera Omnia series.
32 "Eoque simplicitatem, candorem, festiuitatem, argutiam amat hoc epistolarum genus" (225).
33 "neque diu sermonem eundem vrgebimus . . . miscebimus . . . non solum multa, verumetiam varia" (225).
34 "Huic generi magis congruet atticismus, ac stilus humilior, comoediae propior quam tragoediae, aut si quid etiam humilius phrasi comica, modo docta sit humilitas; meminerimusque non inferioris esse facultatis, cum laude humi serpere, quam cum Daedaleo volare per aera; et vicinum litus legere contractis veils, quam sublatis antennis medio ferri pelago. Amica est huic generi breuitas, maxime si vel de multis, vel de minutulis negociis agetur; et si aut ipsi qui scribimus, aut ii quibus scribitur occupatiores erunt" (225).
35 "Caeterum, vt ad institutum sese referat oratio, quanquam obscuritas quoties officit, vbique vitanda est vet dicenti, vel scribenti; tamen haud scio an vllo in genere plus inueniat veniae quam in epistolis, modo non indocta . . ." (221).
36 "Quod huic obscurum est, illi dilucidum" (221).
37 "haud scio an vllo in genere plus inueniat veniae quam in epistolis"; "non aliud genus admittat obscuritatem" (217-18).
38 velut cure eruditus cum etudito velitatur literaris iocis, quos nolit a quouis intelligi" (218).
39 "Quemadmodum nos olim lusimus curn eruditissimo viro Thoma Linacro: cui scripsimus epistolam metro trochaico tetrametro, sed ira temperata ompositione, vt aliud agenti non suboleret esse carmen" (218).
40 "Ciceronis exemplo, licet subinde graeca miscere latinis obscuris allusionibus vti, amphibologiis, significationibus, paroemiis, aenigmatibus, clausulis de repentes praecisis" (221).
41 See for example "Multa lectione, multis praescriptionibus, accurata scriptorum obseruatione, multi scribendi dicendique vsu paratur sermonis mundicies" (227) and Fumaroli's comments: "le choix du style harmoniquement accorde, dans chaque cas, aux nombreuses variables qui president a l'ecriture d'une lettre, est une operation trop complexe et delicate pour ere abandonnee a la spotaneite. Ce coup d'oeil exerce, ce consilium, ne peut conquerir sa justesse qu'au prix d'une soigneuse et longue preparation. La liberte
epistolaire n'est pas une license, mais recompense de la parfaire maitrise d'une culture, et des possibilites du langage" (890).
42 In a passage which appears to follow Erasmus's De conscribendis very closely, the great Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives admits that allusions, riddles, and language shifts may be used with learned recipients (301). Yet he goes further, because for Vives, using foreign words in a letter constitutes an example of coded, secret language which is appropriate for making delicate subjects unintelligible to others.
43 Very early in De officio legati d'Estienne Dolet (1541), but then in the Segretario of Francesco Sansovino (1561) (and thus in the Secretaire de Gabriel Chappuys, published in 1588, which translates it), in the Secretarii of Angelo Ingegneri, Panfilo Persico and of Vincenzo Gramigna. See below.
44 "Nam ad Inuentionem vberibus praeceptis quid opus? cum semper ea prompta; nec ad Epistolam scribendam veniatur nisi argumento concepto, & mente (vt ita dicam) tumente" (17).
45 "Omnino decora est haec incuria" (17). One also finds slightly earlier: "Vt in colloquiis incuriosum quiddam & incompositum amamus: ita hic" (17).
46 Which requires corresponding capabilities in the reader. Fumaroli, 1978: "Lipse decouvre que le lecteur, contrairement a l'auditeur, est libre de revenir en arriere, de s'attarder sur la page, de la mediter et de la gouter a la facon d'un poeme" (897).
47 "Sane si quid in oratione nostra aut stilo probandum: totum a natura est, vix a cura. Rationem meam scribendi scire uis? fundo, non scribo. Nec id nisi in calore et interno quodam impetu, haud aliter quam poetae" (Cent. II. Ep. 2). Cited in Mouchel, 426 n. 196. With respect to "calor ingenii," Mouchel states on page 192 that Lipsius "etait ici l'heritier de Seneque," but like us he also sees the influence of Longinus (via Manutius's reflections on the Sublime). For the history of Longinus's influence in the sixteenth century, relatively weak according to the experts, see Logan and also Fumaroli, 1986.
48 It is the first meaning of the word given by Huguet's Dictionnaire de la langue francaise du seizieme siecle. Moreri, II, 309 which traces this idea back to Carolingians and even to the Romans, who called certain servants of the ruler secretaries because they kept secrets. "[a Rome] On distinguoit trois colleges de notaires. . . . Ceux du second college etoient nommes Domestici & Familiares Principis, parcequ'ils etoient loges dans le palais, & qu'ils avoient plus de part dans les secrets du prince: c'est pourquoi ils furent ensuite appelles Secretarii." On the Carolingians: "les rois en prirent quelques-uns apres de leurs personnes pour travailler aux choses secretres & de confidence. Eginhard fur secretaire de Charlemagne." Angel Day, author of the sixteenth-century treatise The English Secretory, gives perhaps the best explanation: "I will boldly for this cause define, that in respect of such Secrecie, trust and assurance required at the hands of him who serueth in such a place, the name was first giuen to be called a Secretory, and that by the Etymologie of the very word it selfe, founding in true conjecture, quasi custos, or conseruator secreti sibi commissi, a keeper, or conseruer of the secrets unto him committed," 393-94.
49 One can suppose that theory often codified what was already well-established in practice, and that as a consequence the end-of-the-century manuals mentioned can furnish important information about the secretarial profession at the time when Du Bellay was writing his poems.
50 For example, the entire third book of Panfilo Persico's Segretario treats different types of letters; the second book develops the art of writing them, with a discussion of figures and metaphores. This is very common according to Nigro who writes of the invitation "a la preparation et a l'exercice dans le -mode epistolaire . . . a travers l'etude de lettres exemplaires dont, en general - dans la deuxieme partie de tousles traites est fourni un tres vaste recueil" (187).
51 Such as in Le Prothocolle des notaires, tabellions, greffers, sergens . . . avec le guydon des secretaires (1518), which contains a collection of models at the end: "Acrestation," "Bail a loyer," "Lettres de reception en foy," "Marche de menuserie," "Summation et denonciation," "Traicties de mariaige."
52 See for example the title page of Gabriel Chappuys's Secretaire (1588), which seems quite simply to equate the secretary with one who writes letters: l'art des / secretaires / et nobles parties / et qualitez d'iceux, // Avec le Stile & methode fort facile d'escrire en / tous genres de lettres missives: la declaration de / chacune des parties d'icelles, illustrees d'exem- / ples, put l'instruction de ceux qui veulent appren- / dre a composer plusieurs belles, parfaictes & / doctes Epistres, pour le profit & contentement / de tous ceux qui suiuent vn art tant noble, ex- / traites d'hommes scauans.
53 alcuni auuertimenti per la professione del segretatio." I thank Douglas Biow for having drawn my attention to this treatise.
54 Butler: "If he is interested in poetry, and can write verse himself, so much the better" (14).
55 Gramigna: "Laonde per non tacere vn pensiero, che mi viene ora a mente, non solo doura chi lode acquistat brama di Segretario, esse storico, ma poeta. Conciosiacosache a niun' artefice piu che al poeta si apartengano le similitudini, nelle quali perche ageuol cosa e'l prendere 'nganno, conuiene percio che finissimo giuditio habbia, oltre alia viuacita dell'ingegno, che le dee accoppiare" (39-40).
56 For Persico, the reading of poetry, like the reading of history and oratory, is an important part of the secretary's literary training. Poetry constitutes moreover an ornament which serves to make him appreciate beauty and virtue. "Ma per far quella ricca suppelletile e quell' apparato copioso, chi hauemo detto desiderarsi nel Segretario per adornat Pinuentione, e l'docutione, e per seruirsen' ad ogni bisogno meditatamente, e d'improuiso, essendo necessaria la lettione de poeti, degli histori, e degli oratori, ci testa dimostrar come di questi s'habbia a coglief frutto per l'vso, e per l'imitatione. Conciosiache tra le parti, che sono d'omamento in lui alcuni stimino assai la poesia, perche oltre quel, che conferisce all' arte del dire, eleua lo' intelletto, essercita lo' ngegno, & induce nell' animo dilettatione del bello, e della virtu" (63). As Nigro states: "Le lecteur de la Dissimulation honnete est donc averti des le debut: l'auteur est un secretaire qui repugne a endosser l'habit etroit et servile que l'office et les traites ont cousu sur lui; c'est un -poete qui dans la litterature retrouve la dignite et la liberte qui lui sont refuses en societe et qui connait les possibilites d'allusion de l'artfact litteraire et la valeur circonstancielle de l'utilisation de citations strategiquement placees et astucieusement censurees" (789-90).
57 Day, 232: "first Aptnesse of words and sentences, respecting that they be neate and choicely picked, and orderly handled: next, Breuitie of speech, according, in matter and circumstance tidy to be framed: lastly, Comeliness in deliuerance, concerning the person and cause whereupon the direction is grounded;" Ingegneri, 43: "Queste sono, il Decore, la Chiarezza, & la Brevita."
58 Ingegneri: "perche non e di intention mia, ne perauentura di necessita della materia, che al presente si tratta, il discorrerne particolarmente; oltre che cio sarebbe vn gire in infinito" (40). However Ingegneri proposes a classification scheme according to the type of relationship between author and and addressee and according to the type of letter (private/official): "Affermo pertanto, triplicemente diuidersi ie lettere, secondo la loro sostanza, nell'vfficio, nd negotio, & nel composito dell'vna cosa, e dell'altra; & altrettanto farsi, secondo l'accidente, cioe, che tra vguali, o dal superiore all'inferiore, o dall'inferiore al superiore si scriua. Hora quello, ch'a tutte queste sorti, & a ciascuna di esse, si richiegga conuenevolmente, si verra essaminando" (42).
59 See Butler on this: "Another reason for the vogue of the letter as a literary form during the Cinquecento may well be sought in the extraordinary number of cultured men of literary tastes who were secretaries to secular and ecclesiastical princes, and in the nature of things spent a great past of their time writing letters. Bembo, Caro, Bernardo Tasso, Guarini, to mention only the more outstanding, all at one time or another held such secretarial posts while hosts of minor writers served lesser princes in the same capacity, and probably expressed themselves more readily in letter-form than in any other. It would seem indeed that seventy-five per cent or more of the authors of published letters either were secretaries at the time of bringing them out, or had once been secretaries, or remained secretaries all their lives" (13).
60 See Sperberg-McQueen who writes on the Neo-Latin German poet Martin Optiz: "It is not immediately apparent, when one examines editions of Opitz's poems, that he actually wrote poetic epistles in German. None of his German poems is titled 'Brief,' and none is so called in its text. Such omissions are, however, consistent with neo-Latin practice, where explicit genre markers for both prose and verse epistles are often absent until a number of epistles are brought together and collectively labelled 'liber epistolarum' or the equivalent. The difficulty of identifying any of Opitz's poems as epistles is made even greater by the lack of autographs. These might have exhibited traits - address, letter format - which would clearly have marked certain poems as epistles . . . What, in general, will Opitz's poetic epistles look like? As letters, they will, of course, be addressed to someone and will have the title 'An . . .'" (527).
61 LeBlanc: "Beginning with Du Bellay, the term genre was applied to the verse epistle, though the precise meaning of this word was not determined in the Arts poetiques of the sixteenth century" (52).
62 "Quand aux epistres, ce n'est un poeme qui puisse grandement enrichir nostre vulgaire, pource qu'elles sont voluntiers de choses familieres et domestiques, si tu ne les voulois faire a l'immitation d'elegies, comme Ovide, ou sentencieuses et graves, comme Horace" (II: iv. 215).
63 Du Tronchet: "Ce que ie ne puis receuoir de nous, que d'vne pure negligence, & d'vne diffidence que nous auons de nous-mesmes, sinon qu'ils voulussent dire qu'il ny a pas longtemps que nostre langue Francoise commance de pulluler, & depuis qu'elle est entree a se congnoistre, prenant quelque plus gratieux air, de mitiguer sa durete ancienne, comme si nous venons a fueilleter les liures & expeditions de noz modernes predecesseurs, sans courir plus auant, nons trouuerons qu'elle est de beaucoup augmentee, singulierement sur le butin qu'elle a faict au moyen de la curieuse & louable couersation de ses voisines, mesmement sur l'Italienne, qui sans nulle doubte luy a faict heureuse part de son bien" (n.p.)
64 Viala, 182.
65"[S]i tune les voulois faire a l'immitation d'elegies, comme Ovide, ou sentencieuses et graves, comme Horace" (II.iv).
66 Sebillet, 153: "L'epistre Francoise faire en vets, ha forme de missive envoyee a la personne absente, pour l'acertener ou autrement avertyr de ce que tu veus qu'il sache, ou il desire entendre de toy. . . ."
67 LeBlanc, 165: "Though its range had shifted, the epistle remained primarily a poetic form at the service of a closed society, such as the courts of late fifteenth- and sixteenth-century France."
68 Ibid., 170: "Besides exploiting the personalizing aspect of the epistle, Marot explored the forms generic limits." Yet just like Marot, Du Bellay loved to explore the generic limits of the form he was working with.
69 Ibid., 158: "The most important innovation brought to the epistle by Marot was thus the personalizing of its content and the oral quality of its discourse".
70 Du Bellay, 1969, 215: "Tu metz les epistres hors du jeu, qui sont bien les plus necessaires, non seulement a nostre langue, mais a toutes, pour la commune societe des hommes, soit en prose ou en vers." All quotes from the Quintil come from the 1904 Charnard edition of the Deffence (reprinted in 1969).
71 Ibid., 215-16: "Tu allegues une belle et suffisante raison: pource qu'elles sont (ce dis tu) de choses familieres. Mais d'autant plus sont idoines a enrichir nostre vulgaire, qui converse et est le plus souvent mis en usage es choses familieres. Combien que outre l'exemple et la translation des autres langues, comme les epistres de Ciceron, Pline, Basil le Grand, Phalaris, Euchier, mises en francois, encores en est il de francoises originales, de non moindre gravite que celles-la."
72 Ibid., 216: "Desquelles je voudroie mieux apprendre a parler et escrire, et enrichir mon vulgaire, et ma langue illustrer, que de tes elegies larmoyantes."
73 Ibid.: "Car si j'estoie secretaire de quelque grand seigneur qui me commandast escrire son vouloir et son intention en autre lieu, et it aurae tel personnage, ou a quiconque ce fust, et au lieu de cela, je luy allasse escrire une elegie suyvant l'affection de ma propre douleur, qui en rien et a luy et a autre ne toucheroit . . .: peusez qu'il seroit bien ayse, et m'en sauroit grand gre de faire ainsi, Nostre Dame de Pitie."
74 Ibid.: "N'es tu pas celuy illustrateur de la langue francoise? laquelle doit et peult bien eatre, et est illustree de l'une et l'autre, oraison et poesie?"
75 Ibid., 217: "[Q]ui ne sait escrire une epistre ou une missive (car c'est tout un) pour parler a un absent et luy communiquer son intention, en vain sait il poetiser des elegies."
76 Sebillet, 155: "Prends donc l'elegie pour epistre Amoureuse"; Peletier du Mans, 183: "A mon avis que l'Elegie a ete transferee en l'Amour, non point comme en consideration de joyeusete, mais plutot de tristesse, dont les pauvres amoureux sont toujours pleins . . ." For the relationship between the elegy and the epistle, see LeBlanc, 48: "In France, the elegy appears to have grown out of the epistle and, by consequence, shared its general format. The elegy was always perceived as a more homogenous and elevated form than the epistle which seemed by the mid-sixteenth century to be irrevocably associated with the quotidian."
77 See for example Henri Chamard, 304 (who, however, always exaggerates biographical indications): "Les fonctions de Joachim ne se bornaient pas au simple role d'intendant. Je n'irai pas jusqu'a pretendre avec Colletet qu'il etait au courant de tous les secrets politiques. Les secretaires d'ambassadeurs au XVIe siecle ne connaissaient pas tant de choses. Magny, qui l'etait, nous renseigne peremptoirement (Souspirs, S. 13). On ne traite pas de la sorte quelqu'un qui detient des secrets d'Etat. Du Bellai sans nul doute etait loge a la meme enseigne. En qualite de secrtaire, il pouvait rediger pour son maitre des billets de politesse mondaine: les depeches diplomatiques ne passaient point par ses mains." In the edition of Du Bellay's correspondance edited by Pierre de Nolhac, there are letters concerning administrative matters which were written after Du Bellay's return to France: see the letters 9 and 10, for example.
78 I am greatly indebted here to my colleague Douglas Biow's work in progress, Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries: Professionalism and Humanism in Renaissance Italy.
79 "Amor mi manda quel dolce pensero / che secretario antico e fra noi due, / et mi confort et dice che non fue / mai come or presto a quel ch'io bramo et spero."
80 See Biow: "The secretary in this sonnet is just a substitute, a stand-in for the presence of another whose words he simply transmits." Vincenzo Gramigna would insist much later on the letters role in communicating our thoughts to others: "le lettere, come quelle, che mezzane ne sono per communicate alttui i nostri pensieri, e piu communi anche dell' altre scritture, e piu necessarie, deono, s'esser vogliamo 'ntesi, conformarsi di mano in mano a' presenti constumi" (88).
81 See for example in the Laumonier edition 4: 128, l. 1; 8:159, l. 206; 9: 72,1. 175; 11: 138,1. 415; 15: 208,1. 26; 15: 340,1. 10; 17: 163, l. 123; 17: 211,1. 5; 18: 218,1. 5; 18: 355, l. 9. The first sonnet may well be directed at Ronsard, given the repetition of different sounds which make up Ronsard's name: see Mathieu-Castellani, 255.
82 "Saincte Gastine, heureuse secretaire / De roes ennuis, qui respons en ton bois, / Ores en haulte, ores en basse voix, / Aux longz souspirs que mon cuoeur ne peult taire: / Loyr, qui refrains la course voulontaire / Du plus courant de tes flotz vandomoys, / Quand acuser ceste beaute tu m'ois, / De qui tousjours je m'affame & m'altere: / Si dextrement l'augure j'ay receu, / Et simon oeil ne fur hyer deceu / Des doulx regardz de ma doulce Thalie, / Dorenavant poete me ferez, / Et par la France appellez vous serez, / L'un mon laurier, l'aultre ma Castalie" (4:128.1-14).
83 Ronsard the poet, is after all, a Narcissus.
84 "Vous ruisseaux, vous rochers, vous antres solitaires, / Vous chesnes, heritiers du silence des bois, / Entendez les souspirs de ma derniere vois / Et de mon testament soyez presents notaires. / Soyez de mon mal-heur fideles secretaires, / Gravez-le en vostre escorce, afin que tousles mois / Il croisse comme vous . . ." (18.218.1-7).
85 As Biow comments, "It would seem that in sixteenth century France to climb the heights of Mount Parnasssus the professional poet needs a professional secretary too."
86 See LeBlanc. 163, for a discussion of the poem.
87 It is interesting to compare this declaration with that of the lawyer and part-time rhetoriqueur Jean Bouchet, who, writing a century earlier, defends his poetry against the charge that it is a waste of time for someone as busy as he, and in so doing uses the verb "rymassez," of which Clement Marot made great use in his famous "Epistre au Roy": "Plusieurs ont dit, ainsi comme j'entends / Que je perdois a rymasser, le temps, / Mais telles gens ne scaavent par quel guise / Le temps, les jours, et heures je divise, / Si j'emprunty en trente aris le sejour / Pour composer une heure seule on jour, / Ne sont pas grans le temps et les demeures / De dix foiz rail neuf censet cinquante heures?" fol. 24.
88 "Je me plains a mes vers, si j'ay quelque regret, / Je me ris avec eulx, je leur dy mon secret, / Comme estans de mon coeur les plus seurs secretaires / Aussi ne veulx-je tant les pigner & friser, / Et de plus braves noms ne les veulx deguiser, / Que de papiers journaulx, ou bien de commentaires" (9-14).
89 I justify this translation as follows: Huguet actually has an entry for "papier journaulx" as it appears in this very poem: "registre relatant les faits de chaque jour." As for the meaning of "commentaires," it would seem to derive from its Latin cognate commentarius, which for example Aulus Gellius, the author of the Noctae atticae, uses to designate an intermediate stage of his work whereby notes (annotationibus pristinis) were combined to form portions of text (commentarii) which are still fragments: "Facta igitur est in his quoque commentariis eadem rerum disparilitas quae fuit in illis annotationibus pristinis, quas breviter et indigeste et incondite eruditionibus lectionibusque variis feceramus" (1:3). The editor of the Bude edition explains that "Les essais, commentationes et commentarii, designent l'ouvrage mis en oeuvre comme fait de morceaux independants: essais, etudes, notes, cahiers, carnets, feuillets. Cela s'oppose aux notes primitives de lectures annotationes, matiere premiere inelaborne de l'ouvrage" (2, n. 2). Like Du Bellay, Aulus Gellius insists on the insignificant, playful character of his work, calling it modeste little elaborations (lucubratiuncutas istas). I owe these insights to Catherine Magnien-Simonin; see her very pertinent article on the influence of the Noctae atticae on Montaigne's Essays.
90 Leblanc, 34: "most verse epistles were composed with a larger audience in mind than their inscribed addressees. They are mostly public texts, polished works intended for the consumption of a particular readership."
91 As LeBlanc notes, "the use in an epistle of proper names and dates serves to situate the text within a spatio-temporal reality, for they delimit and particularize the relationship between correspondent and addressee" (11). Roman Jakobson defined the function of poetic language precisely as the tendency toward linguistic autonomy. See the article "Linguistique et poetique" in his Essais de linguistique generale.
92 The style is also not as low, as un-epic, as Du Bellay would have us believe. Pantin, 156-58 shows convincingly that both the high and low styles are present in Les Regrets, and that they highlight each other: "Cette intensite et cette mobilite emotionnelles, se reefletent dans le style qui utilise beaucoup de figures pathetiques, telles que les hyperboles ou les apostrophes. Ces dernieres sont loin d'etre toujours utilisees parodiquement, or elles caracterisent le style sublime. . . . Le style haut, accompagne de ses 'ornements essentiels', occupe donc une grande place dans Les Regrets; il n'en disparait jamais mais il n'y regne pas et s'y trouve comme perturbe et brouille."
93 This letter was included (2) in the 1558 edition of Du Bellay's Poemata: "Bellaii poemata, mihi post tuum discessum, ter, quater relecta, semper magis ac magis allubescunt. Quanquam sunt in iis nonnulla quae me fugiunt, quod scilicet res ipsas queat." Olivier also noted that far from being rough, Les Regrets was the extremely polished product of a very refined judgement: "Hoc unum scio: qualia scribit, nisi ab eo praestari non posse, qui sit uaria ac multiplici eruditione, iudicio autem perelegante perpolitus."
94 For example, see B.N. ms. coil. Dupuys 736, where Regrets sonnet 113 whose allusions to three popes in the first line "Avoir veu devaller une triple Montagne" are explained by marginal annotations. The 1558 edition of Les Regrets (grande reserve Res. Ye. 410) contains similar annotations.
95 Iser, 111: "Communication in literature, then, is a process set in motion and regulated, not by a given code, but by a mutually restrictive and magnifying interaction between the explicit and the implicit, between revelation and concealment. What is concealed spurs the reader into action, but this action is also controlled by what is revealed; the explicit in its rum is transformed when the implicit has been brought to light. Whenever the reader bridges the gaps, communication begins. The gaps function as a kind of pivot on which the whole text-reader relationship revolves."
96 Rigolot, 1977, 13: This ambiguity is 'un corollaire oblige de la poesie."
97 Duchene, 1976, 34-35: "les lettres ne se comprennent pas par rapport au lecteur eventuel, mais par rapport a celui pour lequel elles ont ete ecrites, leur destinataire. En cela aussi, il y a <<traduction immediate>> de la realite vecue: elles appartiennent au monde de l'allusion, du din d'oeil, du demi-mot. Entre l'autre de la lettre et le destinataire, il y a route une masse de connaissances partagees, de complicites implicites, d'affaires menees naguere ensemble qui servent de base et de toile de fond. Les letteres surgissent au confluent de deux vies, et traduisent en consequence une double complexite. Le lecteur n'est que le temoin de confidences fragmentaires et sporadiques. Il ne peut tout reconstituer. . . ."
98 Finally, such language may well have been protective: Les Regrets is often filled with satirical and generally controversial content, could and would fall into the hands of others; thus, the secretarial tradition of masking, of using allusive, even coded language to insure that a message was only understood by few may have been of use here; many pages of the secretarial treatises are devoted to the subject of dissimulatio. Yet the oblique quality of the satiric discourse in Les Regrets was not sufficient to keep their meaning obscure to unwanted readers; in a prose letter to his second cousin Cardinal Jean Du Bellay, involved in sensitive negotiations with the Vatican which could have been affected by the poet's mordant wit, Du Bellay found it necessary to explain that his sonnets had circulated without his permission. Even when he published Les Regrets, certain of the most virulently satirical sonnets were excluded from all editions but one, the edition B.N. Res. Ye. 410, with its special "carton" containing sonnets 105-112.
99 See for example R. 1 and S.176; R.11-14, 48 and S.50; R. 15 and S.13; R. 33 and S. 148; R. 38 and S.34; R.53 and S.67; R.67 and S.70; R.64 (addressed however to Bizet) and S.48, 99, 141,142; R.85 and S.138; R. 93 and S.160; R. 105 and S.118, 143, 147; R.116 and 5.7; R.123-26 and S.119, 125, 152; R. 150 and S.94.
100 LeBlanc mentions that as far as the epistles of sixteenth-century poets are concerned, "the thematic range of their epistles is already previewed in the works of Chastellain, Castel, Robertet, Baude, and Molinet: encomiastic pieces to glorify a patron and texts of friendship to honor and entertain a peer" (105).
101 See LeBlanc, ch. 3: "Social Context and Epistolary Practice at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century." Also Desan.
102 "Et je pensois aussi ce que pensois Ulysse, / Qu'il n'estoit rien plus doulx que voir encor' un jour / Fumer sa cheminee, & apres long sejour / Se retrouver au sein de sa terre nourrice" (1-4).
103 Omnia tentavit Circe, pariterque Calypso, / Dilectum ut possent detinuisse virum. / Omnia sed frustra tentarunt: maluit esse / Ille vir in patria, quam procul inde Deus (1:39). This is also in Dorat's works. For more on Dorat, see Grafton, 1983, esp. chapter 3 "Poliziano's Legacy in France" and Demerson, 1983.
104 "Ils ont force beaux lacs & fore sources d'eau, / Force prez, force bois. J'ay du reste (Belleau) / Perdu le souvenir, tant ilz me firent boire" (12-14). There is also a play on words Belleau / belle eau. See Xenia 52, "Remigius Bellaqueus" in the Autres oeuvres latines and Magnien-Simonin.
105 "Ne t'esbahis (Ronsard) la moitie de mon ame / Si de ton Dubellay France ne lit plus rien . . ." (1-2). Mais moi, qui suis absent des raiz de mon Soleil, / Comment puis-je sentir echauffement pareil / A celuy qui est pres de sa flamme divine? (9-11).
106 Continuation des Amours (1555), 3:119.
107 "Ja du laurier vainqueur tes temples se couronnent, / Et ja la tourbe espesse a l'en-tour de ton flanc / Ressemble ces esprits, qui la bas environnent / Le grand prestre de Thrace au long sourpely blanc" (11-14).
108 "Courage donc (Ronsard) la victoire est a toy, / Puis que de ton coste est la faveur du Roy" (9-10).
109 "Donq le sacre mestier, ou ton esprit s'amuse, / Ne sera desormais un exercice vain, / Et le tardif labeur que nous promet ta main / Desormais pour Francus n'aura plus nulle excuse" (5-8).
110 "je suivray . . . Les plus humbles chansons de ta Muse lassee" (10-11).
111 "Il ale vent a gre, il est en equipage, / Il est encor pourtant sur le Troyen rivage, / Aussi croy-je (Ronsard) qu'il n'en partit jamais" (12-14).
112 See Viatte, 456-60.
113 On Doulcin, see Chardon.
114 Du Bellay reiterates the compliment with a new twist in sonnet 147 (which responds directly to a poem by Ronsard entitled "l'Elegie a Chretophe de Choiseul, abbe de Mureaux" and included in the second book of Hymnes), where it is implied that immortal works are accompanied at the outset by a Demon.
115 "Dy, je te pry (Ronsard) toy qui scais leurs natures, / Ceulx qui faschent ainsi ces pauvres creatures, / Sont-ilz des plus haultains, des moyens, ou plus bas?" (12-14).
116 Erasmus uses this image in The Praise of Folly and Holbein illustrated it. I thank Professor Rebhorn for drawing my attention to this fact.
117 "Laissons donc je te pry laissons causer ces sotz / Et ces petitz gallandz, qui ne sa-chant que dire, / Disent, voyant Ronsard & Bellay s'entr'escrire, I Que ce sont deux muletz qui se grattent le doz" (5-8).
118 "On peult comme l'argent trafiquer la louange, / Et les louanges sont comme lettres de change, / Dont le change et le port (Ronsard) ne couste rien" (12-14). On this subject, see Hampton.
119 This is a reference to the loss of his great departed friend Estienne de la Boetie: "Sur ce subject de lettres, je veux dire ce mot, que c'est un ouvrage auquel mes amys tiennent que je puis quelque chose. Et eusse prins plus volontiers ceste forme a publier mes verves, si j'eusse eu a qui parler. Il me falloit, comme je l'ay eu autrefois, un certain commerce qui m'attirast, qui me soustinst et soulevast. Car de negocier au vent, comme d'autres, je ne scauroy que de songes, ny forger des rains noms a entretenir en chose serieuse: ennemy jure de route falsification. J'eusse este plus attentif et plus eur, ayant une addresse forte et amie, que je ne suis, regardant les divers visages d'un peuple. Et suis deceu, s'il ne m'eust mieux succede" (1.40.252). On the analogy between the letter and the essay, see Rigolot, 1988, especially chapter 4.
120 He of course continued to compose Latin poetry once he was back in France.
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