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The Memoirs of Duc de Saint-Simon

"His memoirs...make one wish for a similar chronicler of our own

democratic age——wise, vital, witty, and knowing everything that goes on among those in power."

The Claremont Book Review
"A landmark."

The New Criterion Book Review
“…a fascinating memoir….Entertaining, edifying, satisfying.”

Publisher’s Weekly
“Miss Norton’s translation breathes excitement on each page as she captures Saint-Simon.…”

Library Journal
“…the rich sensation of being back at Versailles under Louis the XIV….”

New York Review of Books
“The memoirs are not only the best in any language but a supreme masterpiece of French prose…Norton’s version captures the run of the prose, and is a glorious labor of love which provides intense enjoyment.”

Raymond Mortimer, The Sunday Times, UK

“…detailed recollections and sharp character sketches….”

Kirkus Associates
“Lucy Norton’s version is the finest I have yet read…a masterpiece….”

The Financial Times, UK
Superb gossip at Versailles.”

The Daily Telegraph
“Lucy Norton deserves full marks for producing an abridgement that flows easily yet retains the baroque splendour of the original.”

The Birmingham Post
“Glittering anecdotes…a book to prize and to keep.”

The Irish Times
A literary monument….”

The Spectator
“The Memoirs of Duc de Saint-Simon is not only great history, it’s a great read!  Lucy Norton’s definitive translation brings this wonderful work to life for English-speaking readers.  Saint-Simon is one of the most vivid---and witty---writers from history, and these lively memoirs are as compelling and enjoyable today as they were when he first chose to write down the story of day-to-day life, love, power, betrayal and intrigue at the Court of the Sun King, Louis XIV.”

Antonia Fraser

“Miss Norton has caught Saint-Simon alive…an English classic.”

Nancy Mitford

“…a detailed and precious record by an observant and penetrating eye and a fluent pen; Of all the memoirs that illuminate the history of France these stand unrivaled at the top.”

Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization VIX, the Age of Voltaire

“…never, before or since, has there been so much to observe; never, before or since, so miraculous an observer.”

Lytton Strachey

“There is not much doubt about Duc de Saint-Simon being the best memoir writer yet…unique both as history and as literature.”

Auberon Waugh

“A writer of genius….”

Oliver Bernier, Louis XIV: A Royal Life

“By force of genius, he has raised personal recollections to the dignity of history. …Saint-Simon is a true artist, who fascinates by the charm of his pictures.”

Leon Vallee

“…under all circumstances Saint-Simon loves and seeks the truth. “It forms a perfect panoramic picture, highly finished in all its details.…”

Bayle St. John

“…as if a curtain had been lifted from the past century, and had let in a flood of light into every corner of Versailles. …not a book, but a world.”

C.-A. Sainte-Beuve

The Memoirs of Duc de Saint-Simon

About the Author

Duc de Saint-Simon was a peer at the court of Louis the XIV from an early age. He kept a daily journal for the decades he was at the court and spent the rest of his life writing his memoirs, knowing they would not see the light of day until after his death. Of his work he said, “I have preferred the truth above everything. I have cherished it even against myself.”

About this Edition

Saint-Simon’s original work is dozens of volumes of minute handwriting. Acclaimed translator Lucy Norton has edited it with a commitment to maintain the narrative flow of the whole, while abridging the repetitive and irrelevant. She writes, “It has been my chief endeavor to preserve the flow of history that was always uppermost in Saint-Simon’s mind…the history as it unfolds, the figures that loom so large…the portraits that bring them alive, the comical stories that light up the past and transport it into our own century, the friends and enemies about whom he felt so passionately.”

About the Memoirs

When he was forced out of court during the regime change, Saint-Simon took with him an enormous mass of notes and memoranda. He then spent years organizing and revising them. The memoirs were his life’s work, completed shortly before his death. Shortly after they were impounded, “by order of the king,” because of their content. The complete work was not made available to the French public until 1830. It was immediately and hugely popular, an expose written by an insider from the royal court.

Publishing History

1755: Confiscated by order of the King upon Saint-Simon’s death

1830: First available to the public

1900: First English translations

1967: First and only modern English translation, by Lucy Norton

2007: 1500 Books publishes in paperback for the first time in the U.S.

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