The Age of Louis XIV - Richelieu and Mazarin
The court of France displayed a magnificence that had never before been witnessed. The palace of Versailles, and the gardens which were adorned with statues, fountains, and alleys of trees, were a model of taste for all Europe, fetes of all kinds, jovial parties, ballets, fireworks, the opera and the theatre, in the service of which the first intellects in France employed their talents, followed upon each other in attractive succession; poets, artists, men of learning, all were eager to do honor to a prince who rewarded with a liberal hand every kind of talent that conduced either to his amusement or to his glory. Sumptuous buildings, as the Hospital of Invalides, costly libraries, magnificent productions of the press, vast establishments for the natural sciences, academies, and similar institutions, exalted the glory and renown of the great Louis. The refined air of society, the polished tone, the easy manners of the nobility and courtiers, subdued Europe more permanently and extensively than the weapons of the army. The French fashions, language, and literature, bore sway from this time in all circles of the higher classes. The consequences of the French Academy by Richelieu were a development of the language, style, and literary composition, that was extremely favorable to the diffusion of the literature. The language, so particularly adapted for social intercourse, for conversation, and for epistolary writing, remained from henceforth the language of diplomacy, of courts, and of the higher classes; and although the literary productions are wanting in strength, elevation, and nature, - the polish of the form, and the ease and felicity of the style, gave French taste the supremacy in Europe, and strengthened the French people in the agreeable delusion that they were the most civilized of nations.