- First name
- Charles de Marguetel de Saint Denis
- Last name
- Saint-Évremond, de
- Date of Birth
- Date of Death
- Born in
- Died in
Charles de Marguetel de Saint Denis de Saint-Évremond was educated at the Parisian Collège de Clermont. He embarked upon a military career under Louis II de Bourbon during the Fronde. He was forced to leave France for his royalist stance and stayed in exile in England (1662–5, 1671–96) and in the Netherlands (1665/66–70). Saint-Évremond was an Epicurean writer who excelled in biting satire of topical events and moralist essays. He met Thomas Hobbes, Gassendi, and Vossius. See: Ternois, 1965; NNBW, vol. 7, cols 1084–9; Cohen, 1925–6; Hope, 1999. For the alleged influence of Spinoza on Saint-Évremond: Potts, 2002, pp. 13–15.
Pierre Desmaizeaux, Saint-Évremond biographer, wrote about the relationship between Saint-Évremond and Spinoza. The French libertine claims to have been in some regular contact with Spinoza and he puts forward details about their friendship (if any) in two of his testimonies recorded by his biographer, Desmaizeaux.
The account in ‘Vie de Mr. De St.-Evremond’ reads thus:
Mr. Saint-Évremond had also a pleasure to see several savants and some celebrated philosophers, who were also in The Hague, and particularly messrs Heinsius, Vossius and Spinoza. ‘The last, he [Saint-Évremond] told me one day, had a mediocre size and a pleasant physiognomy. His knowledge, his modesty and his indifference was appreciated and sought after by all the kindred people who resided at The Hague. It never became evident in his ordinary conversations that he had the sentiments which one can subsequently find in his ‘Posthumous Works’. He acknowledged a distinct being apart from matter, who operated miracles through natural ways, and who ordained religion to observe justice and charity, and to call for obedience. It is also, adds mr. Saint-Évremond, with what he subsequently tried to prove in his ‘Political Theology’ [the ‘Theological-Political Treatise’]. It seems effectively that this was the principle goal of this book, but if one looks closely it quickly shows will that the author takes on religion itself. Spinoza had not uncover himself at once. He withheld his considerations also when mister Saint-Évremond was in Holland. But if one may believe mister Stouppe, several years later he [Spinoza] haughty expounded in his discourses: that God was not endowed with intelligence, infinitely perfect and happy as how we imagine him, but this is nothing else than this virtue of nature which is extended in all creatures. The same attitude can be perceived in all his works. His ‘Political Theology’ holds the seeds of his atheism, but in a disguised manner, and it is firstly in his ‘Posthumous Works’ that he makes known his true feelings.
The second testimony of Saint-Évremond was only recorded by Desmaizeaux in November 1701 and reiterates some details from the first testimony (cf. Ternois, 1965, p. 4.). The account report reads the following:
Mr. Saint-Évremond had the occasion to see Spinoza often because he sometimes went to dinner with mr. … where mr. Saint-Évremond lodged and he has assured me that in his conversations he never showed that he was an atheist, nor in his book (‘Tractatus theologico-politicus’), that he acknowledged a distinct being from matter and that he believed that he operated miracles but through natural ways, and that he only ordained religion to observe justice and charity to call for obedience. Spinoza had a mediocre size and had nothing unpleasant. He was not rich and prominent people often bought him a meal, more particularly to have a conversation with him than to do something good to him. He spoke Latin fluently, but not very elegantly.
Finally, another testimony made by Saint-Évremond in 1701 adds to the confusing complex of circumstances surrounding Spinoza’s death. The issue, not corroborated by any historical evidence, focuses on the question of how the dying philosopher was to assess religion and mortality in his last hours. According to the testimony, like many, Koenraad van Beuningen had been curious what a philosopher like Spinoza would have to say about all this. The account by Saint-Évremond reads:
Mr. van Beuningen, a man of spirit and erudition, assured mr. de Saint-Évremond that, when he was with the dying Spinoza—because he was curious, and also others had done the same thing—and asked him with which sentiments on religion he was to die, he [Spinoza] said to him: ‘That he put the care of his soul in the hands of God, that he had served him according to the knowledge he [God] had given him and that he had served him otherwise had he given him other [knowledge]’.