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A Glance Into The French Academy
by [?]

In the republic of letters the establishment of an academy has been a favourite project; yet perhaps it is little more than an Utopian scheme. The united efforts of men of letters in Academies have produced little. It would seem that no man likes to bestow his great labours on a small community, for whose members he himself does not feel, probably, the most flattering partiality. The French Academy made a splendid appearance in Europe; yet when this society published their Dictionary, that of Furetiere’s became a formidable rival; and Johnson did as much as the forty themselves. Voltaire confesses that the great characters of the literary republic were formed without the aid of academies.–“For what then,” he asks, “are they necessary?–To preserve and nourish the fire which great geniuses have kindled.” By observing the Junto at their meetings we may form some opinion of the indolent manner in which they trifled away their time. We are fortunately enabled to do this, by a letter in which Patru describes, in a very amusing manner, the visit which Christina of Sweden took a sudden fancy to pay to the Academy.

The Queen of Sweden suddenly resolved to visit the French Academy, and gave so short a notice of her design, that it was impossible to inform the majority of the members of her intention. About four o’clock fifteen or sixteen academicians were assembled. M. Gombaut, who had never forgiven her majesty, because she did not relish his verses, thought proper to show his resentment by quitting the assembly.

She was received in a spacious hall. In the middle was a table covered with rich blue velvet, ornamented with a broad border of gold and silver. At its head was placed an armchair of black velvet embroidered with gold, and round the table were placed chairs with tapestry backs. The chancellor had forgotten to hang in the hall the portrait of the queen, which she had presented to the Academy, and which was considered as a great omission. About five, a footman belonging to the queen inquired if the company were assembled. Soon after, a servant of the king informed the chancellor that the queen was at the end of the street; and immediately her carriage drew up in the court-yard. The chancellor, followed by the rest of the members, went to receive her as she stepped out of her chariot; but the crowd was so great, that few of them could reach her majesty. Accompanied by the chancellor, she passed through the first hall, followed by one of her ladies, the captain of her guards, and one or two of her suite.

When she entered the Academy she approached the fire, and spoke in a low voice to the chancellor. She then asked why M. Menage was not there? and when she was told that he did not belong to the Academy, she asked why he did not? She was answered, that, however he might merit the honour, he had rendered himself unworthy of it by several disputes he had had with its members. She then inquired aside of the chancellor whether the academicians were to sit or stand before her? On this the chancellor consulted with a member, who observed that in the time of Ronsard, there was held an assembly of men of letters before Charles IX. several times, and that they were always seated. The queen conversed with M. Bourdelot; and suddenly turning to Madame de Bregis, told her that she believed she must not be present at the assembly; but it was agreed that this lady deserved the honour. As the queen was talking with a member she abruptly quitted him, as was her custom, and in her quick way sat down in the arm-chair; and at the same time the members seated themselves. The queen observing that they did not, out of respect to her, approach the table, desired them to come near; and they accordingly approached it.