The Cat and the King
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: March 1981
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
You save: $1.96 (18%)
A cat may look at a king, says an old proverb. The king is the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, whose fabled court at Versailles was the wonder of Europe; the cat is the watchful chronicler, Louis de Rouvroy, second duc de Saint-Simon, author of the famous Memoirs which are the definitive record of Louis’ reign. Auchincloss has conceived his novel as an extension of the Memoirs, in which Saint-Simon reveals his own story—as well as a great deal about the private lives of the great and near-great that did not find its way into the published record. With his inimitable gift for characterization, Auchincloss portrays Saint-Simon, the meticulous, proud aristocrat of the old school who is at once fascinated and threatened by the powerful centralized monarchy Louis is building and by the king’s plot to bolster his position by marrying off his illegitimate children to princes of the blood. Elegant, crisp, and abounding in authentic detail, The Cat and the King shows us the factions, liaisons, intrigues and dalliances that made up daily life at Versailles as they might have been seen from Saint-Simon’s highly critical perspective. Auchincloss imagines the dominant figures of this greatest period in French history—the aging Louis; his pious morganatic spouse, Madame de Maintenon; Monsieur, the king’s homosexual brother; the great warrior and ladies’ man Conti; and many others—as wholly believable individuals with peculiar tics and foibles of their own; but none is stranger, more fascinating, or more believable than Saint-Simon himself. A remarkable portrait of a quintessential man of his time, a discerning study of the use and abuse of power, and an utterly convincing recreation of a turbulent age that bears no small resemblance to our own, The Cat and the King is a many-faceted jewel that represents a new dimension of achievement in Louis Auchincloss’ distinguished career as a novelist.