As those who read only for amusement are, in my opinion, more worthy of attention than those who open a book merely to find fault, to the former I address myself, and for their entertainment commit the following pages to press, without being in the least concerned about the severe criticisms of the latter. I farther declare, that the order of time and disposition of the facts, which give more trouble to the writer than pleasure to the reader, shall not much embarrass me in these memoirs. It being my design to convey a just idea of my hero, those circumstances which most tend to illustrate and distinguish his character, shall find a place in these fragments just as they present themselves to my imagination, without paying any particular attention to their arrangement. For, after all, what does it signify where the portrait is begun, provided the assemblage of the parts form a whole which perfectly expresses the original? The celebrated Plutarch, who treats his heroes as he does his readers, commences the life of the one just as he thinks fit, and diverts the attention of the other with digressions into antiquity, or agreeable passages of literature, which frequently have no reference to the subject -- for instance, he tells us, that Demetrius Poliorcetes was far from being so tall as his father, Antigonus; and afterwards, that his reputed father, Aritigonus, was only his uncle; but this is not until he has begun his life, with a short account of his death, his various exploits, his good and bad qualities; and at last, out of compassion to his failings, brings forward a comparison between him and the unfortunate Mark Antony.
In the life of Numa Pompilius, he begins by a dissertation upon his preceptor Pythagoras; and, as if he thought the reader would be anxious to know whether it was the ancient philosopher, or one of the same name, who, after being victorious at the Olympic games, went full speed into Italy to teach Numa philosophy, and instruct him in the arts of government, he gives himself much trouble to explain this difficulty, and, after all, leaves it undetermined.
What I have said upon this subject is not meant to reflect upon this historian, to whom, of all the ancients, we are most obliged; it is only intended to authorize the manner in which I have treated a life far more extraordinary than any of those he has transmitted to us. It is my part to describe a man, whose inimitable character casts a veil over those faults which I shall neither palliate nor disguise; a man, distinguished by a mixture of virtues and vices so closely linked together, as in appearance to form a necessary dependence, glowing with the greatest beauty when united, shining with the brightest lustre when opposed.
It is this indefinable brilliancy, which, in war, in love, in gaming, and in the various stages of a long life, has rendered the Count de Grammont the admiration of his age, and the delight of every country wherein he has displayed his engaging wit, dispensed his generosity and magnificence, or practised his inconstancy: it is owing to this that the sallies of a sprightly imagination have produced those admirable bon mots, which have been with universal applause transmitted to posterity. It is owing to this, that he preserved his judgment free and unembarrassed in the most trying situations, and enjoyed an uncommon presence of mind and facetiousness of temper in the most imminent dangers of war. I shall not attempt to draw his portrait: his person has been described by Bussi and St. Evremond, authors more entertaining than faithful. The former has represented the Chevalier Grammont as artful, fickle, and even somewhat treacherous, in his amours, and indefatigable and cruel in his jealousies. St. Evremond has used other colours to express the genius and describe the general manners of the Count; whilst both, in their different pictures, have done greater honour to themselves than justice to their hero.
It is, therefore, to the Count we must listen, in the agreeable relation of the sieges and battles wherein lie distinguished himself under another hero; and it is on him we must rely for the truth of passages the least glorious of his life, and for the sincerity with which he relates his address, vivacity, frauds, and the various stratagems he practised either in love or gaming. These express his true character, and to himself we owe these memoirs, since I only hold the pen, while he directs it to the most remarkable and secret passages of his life.
Memoirs of Count Grammont