A Few Additional Texts Mentioning the Death of François Vatel, as reported by Madame de Sévigné

Although there is already an Internet copy of the text of the Memoirs of Mlle de Montpensier which includes her mention of Vatel's suicide, Dominique Michel (p. 100) has published a version with a very important difference. So I'm posting it here. He gives the reference as Montpensier, Mlle de, Mémoires, Paris, 1778, t. VI, p. 104.

Un maître d'hôtel, qui avait paru et qui était en reputation d'être un homme très sage, se tua parce que M. le Prince s'était fâché d'un service qui n'était pas arrivé à temps pour le souper du roi.
A major domo, who appeared and had the reputation of being a well thought out person, killed himself because the Prince was angry about a course which didn't arrived on time for the King's supper.


This is a very different version of the events from that which Michel quotes from Gourville, in which the Prince sought out Vatel particularly to comfort and encourage the latter.

For comparison, I am copying here a passage from an Internet version of the text which James Eason says he has typed from "19th century edition of Adolphe Chéreul". Note what's missing. Is it in fact the same passage?


Il arriva un tragique accident comme la cour étoit à Chantilly. Un maître d'hôtel de M. le Prince, qui avoit toujours été fort sage, se tua. On dit que c'étoit qu'il avoit trouvé que quelque chose n'alloit pas bien à sa fantaisie et qu'il s'en étoit tué de dépit.
A tragic accident occurred while the court was at Chantilly. A major domo of the Prince, who had always been well thought out, killed himself. They say that it was because something didn't go exactly according to his liking, and he killed himself in pique.


Below is the letter of April 24, 1671. The text was reconstructed from the various scans at Archive.org. It seems to be from a Parisian edition of 1823. I have copied it with its quirks, exactly as printed (except for one explanatory footnote), because at the moment my copy seems to be the only one on the Web which is both legible and in a text format.


LETTRE CLII

DE MADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ A MADAME DE GRIGNAN.

Vendredi au soir , 24 avril 1671 , chez M. de La Rochefoucauld.

Je fais donc ici mon paquet. J'avois dessein de vous conter que le roi arriva hier au soir à Chantilly; il courut un cerf au clair de la lune; les lanternes firent des merveilles; le feu d'artifice fut un peu effacé par la clarté de notre amie; mais enfin, le soir, le souper, le jeu, tout alla à merveille. Le temps qu'il a fait aujourd'hui nous faisoit espérer une suite digne d'un si agréable commencement. Mais voici ce que j'apprends en entrant ici, dont je ne puis me remettre, et qui fait que je ne sais plus ce que je vous mande; c'est qu'enfin Vatel, le grand Vatel, maître d'hôtel de M. Fouquet, qui l'étoit présentement de M. le prince, cet homme d'une capacité distinguée de toutes les autres, dont la bonne tête étoit capable de contenir tout le soin d'un état ; cet homme donc que je connoissois, voyant que ce matin à huit heures la marée n'étoit pas arrivée, n'a pu soutenir l'affront dont il a cru qu'il alloit être accablé, et, en un mot, il s'est poignardé. Vous pouvez penser l'horrible désordre qu'un si terrible accident a causé dans cette fête. Songez que la marée est peut-être arrivée comme il expiroit. Je n'en sais pas davantage présentement : je pense que vous trouvez que c'est assez. Je ne doute pas que la confusion n'ait été grande; c'est une chose fâcheuse à une fête de cinquante mille écus.
M. de Menars épouse mademoiselle de La Grange-Neuville; je ne sais comme j'ai le courage de vous parler d'autre chose que de Vatel.
Letter CLII

From Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan.

Friday evening, 24 April 1671 , at the home of M. de La Rochefoucauld.

I am packing. I had intended to tell you that the King arrived yesterday evening at Chantilly; he went stag-hunting by moonlight; the lanterns were wonderful, the fireworks were a little effaced by the brilliance of our friend; but all in all, the evening, the supper, the play, everything went wonderfully. Today's weather gave us hope that such a pleasant beginning would continue suitably. But this is what I learned when I returned here - I can't recover from it - because of which I know longer know what I'm writing to you: finally, it's that Vatel, the great Vatel, Monsieur Fouquet's major domo, who at the moment was serving the Prince of Condé in that capacity, that man whose abilities were above those of all others, whose good head was capable of containing the all the care of a state, that man whom I knew, seeing that this morning at eight o'clock the fish had not arrived, and not being able to bear the dishonor by which he thought he was about to be struck - in one word, he stabbed himself. You can imagine the disorder which such a terrible accident caused at this fête. And imagine that just as he was dying, the fish arrived. That's all I know at the moment; I think you'll agree that it's enough. I have no doubt but that the confusion was great; it's an annoying thing at a party which cost 50,000 écus.
Monsieur de Menars is marrying Mademoiselle de La Grange-Neuville; I don't know how I have the courage to talk to you about anything but Vatel.


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