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December 02, 1990|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE AGE OF MAGNIFICENCE: Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV of the Duc de Saint-Simon Edited and translated by Ted Morgan (Paragon: $12.95). A key source for historians of the 17th Century and an influential work of literature, the "Memoirs" of Saint-Simon remain eminently readable. Born in 1675, Louis de Rouvroy was only the second Duc de Saint-Simon, and his status as a relative parvenu made him ferociously protective of the privileges of his rank. Although he was one of the few courtiers shrewd enough to realize that the fantasy world of ceremony and etiquette Louis XIV had created at Versailles (where the privilege of holding the king's candlestick at bedtime was a coveted honor) was designed to emasculate the nobility politically, Saint-Simon was unable to resist its glittering appeal. This realization, coupled with his inability to reach the inner circle of royal favor, embittered him, and his gossipy reminiscences are often slanderous Ted Morgan's vivid translation captures the unique mixture of vitriol and elegance that characterizes the author's style.

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