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How to invent a secret in the absence of all mystery

Moliere's many enemies accused him of EVERYTHING in his lifetime — of having plagiarised Italian and Spanish authors, of having borrowed from the memoirs provided by his admirers (see for example the texts from 1663 relative to the querelle de L’École des femmes), of being a dangerous libertine, and of course of being a cuckold (N.B. He began to play the roles of cuckolds well before getting married), without forgetting of course being accused of marrying his own daughter(!) — there is only one thing of which he was never accused: the very idea of a literary hoax never once occurred to any of his many virulent enemies, even those who would have him and his books burned at the stake. There would have been matter for a lovely attack, but the idea that Moliere's works could have been written by anyone else was simply inconceivable.

The thesis of absolute secrecy. Since, during Moliere's own lifetime and in the decades that followed his death, not the slightest shadow of a doubt appeared regarding his status as an author, Louÿs and his followers were reduced to inventing their “Corneille theory” on the principle of absolute secrecy — fundamental principles of all modern-day conspiracy theories. In sum, Moliere's contemporaries remained oblivious because the collaboration between Moliere and Corneille remained utterly secret.

Secrecy, or the piling up of “new discoveries”. However, this sort of postulation of utter secrecy — in light of the fact that Moliere's life (from his return to Paris in 1658 to his death in 1673) was so extraordinarily public, spied on and decried by his enemies, as the most recent biography of Moliere (by Roger Duchêne, Paris, Fayard, 1998) remarkably shows — supposes that readers of the theory admit without question and with the purest of faith the affirmations of Pierre Louÿs. From there arises the necessity of complementing this invitation into the “faith” with a piling up of affirmations of all kinds, each more unfounded than the last.

The most recent discoveries of Pierre Louÿs's disciples consist of two new, fantastical, affirmations: on the one hand, that Moliere held the status of Louis XIV's court jester, a situation which prevented contemporaries from taking the risk of divulging a secret of which everyone was aware; on the other hand, that Moliere, like all other author-actors, merely lent his name to literary personalities that wished to remain anonymes.

France and Holland, or the impossibility of keeping secrets at court. We will demonstrate further along that these affirmations have no basis in reality. In the mean time, we would like to remind our readers at this stage that the followers of Louÿs, like their master, forged a completely fantastical image of the 17th century for themselves. For one, since the reign of Louis XIII, there has been no official court jester and when Moliere was painted as a “fool” (bouffon) by his enemies, it is in the sense (common at the time), of a mere stooge whose comic schtick relies upon clownish antics (we will see that the texts which use the term bouffon are quite unambiguous). For another, to imagine that Louis XIV could forbid everyone from divulging a commonly known secret has no basis in historical fact and presupposes an astounding confusion between a King of France from the 17th century and a Russian or German dictator from the 20th century. If France in the 17th century was (very partially) subject to censorship by the King and Church, Dutch publishers took pleasure in printing anything and everything that could be perceived as contrary to the politics of Louis XIV, and it is from Holland that came (despite the vain efforts of the Royal Police) all the lampoons mocking (and thus revealing) the secret affairs of Louis XIV and of the royal family. On the lookout as they were for the secrets of the court of France, all the while being great admirers of the best French authors (particularly Corneille, Moliere and Racine whose every play they counterfeited), the Dutch and French exiled in Holland would have taken great pleasure in exposing Moliere and Corneille's secret agreement if there had been any truth to it. Their silence is the best answer to the ravings of Louÿs and his disciples.


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