The Splendid Century, Warnie Lewis' fascinating book

What can you say about a book that gives you Louis XIV sitting on the grass at Versailles carrying on a conversation with a little girl? This is history with a human face. When Louis made the little girl laugh he knew she liked him for himself and not because she was trying to gain the favor of The Sun King. When you think of Versailles do you think of elegance and sumptuosness? Of course! But do you also picture courtiers eating soup out of one tureen using a communal spoon? Or of using a piece of stale bread as a plate? And if you were lucky enough to be in residence at Versailles your living quarters were likely to be the size of a small attic room. And that's if you were lucky!

This book is also much more than just Louis and Versailles. It lives up to its subtitle. For you also learn about how the church and the army operated; what it was like to be a peasant or a member of the impoverished nobility; there is an excellent chapter on the bureaucracies involved surrounding doctors and dentists; life for a criminal sentenced to the galleys; the education of women, etc. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is only about 285 pages but there is so much learning and entertainment between the covers that you will be amazed. Probably the best thing I can say is that even though it was written almost 50 years ago, the book does not seem dated in the least. I would imagine that in the scholarly world things have come to light which might necessitate changing some things here and there but for the general reader it does not get any better than this! I will always have the image of little Louis (he was only 5 feet 5 inches) sitting on the grass, charming and being charmed by that anonymous little girl...

Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA

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