Books Magazine

Letters from Versailles — Dreaming of France

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

Quiicksilver means mercury.

I’m reading Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson as part of my Anglophile year, but it’s a wide-ranging book (and over 900 pages) covering two continents and parts of two centuries. So, this is the second time I’ve managed to pull a Dreaming of France post from it. Last time, it was a lusty look at Les Halles.

This time, a character has become a lesser person in the Court at the Palace of Versailles at the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV. The whole chapter is written as letters from her to a couple of men that she has business interests with. This passage describing Versailles is from a letter to Dr. Leibniz, one of many historical figures in this book. Leibniz is famous for developing calculus and being in dispute with Newton about who did it first and better.

To describe this place in words is hopeless. Indeed I believe it was meant to be so, for then anyone who wants to know it must come here in person, and that is how the King wants it. Suffice it to say that here, every dram of water, every leaf and petal, every square inch of wall, floor, and ceiling, bear the signature of Man; all have been thought about by superior intellects, nothing is accidental. The place is pregnant with Intention and wherever you look you see the gaze of the architects–and by extension, Louis–staring back at you. I am contrasting this to blocks of stone and beams of wood that occur in Nature and, in most places, are merely harvested and shaped a bit by artisans. Nothing of that sort is to be found at Versailles. (p. 640)

photo of Eiffel tower with words Dreaming of FranceThis is my post for Dreaming of France, a Monday meme at An Accidental Blog.

If you also write posts about the British Isles, join us on Fridays for a meme modeled on Dreaming of France called British Isles Fridays.

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