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Eleven days in the life of Pascal: 1639, Jacqueline and the cardinal


FIGARO HORS-SÉRIE (2/11) – Won over by the theatrical performance of little Jacqueline Pascal, Cardinal de Richelieu granted her the rehabilitation of her father.

This article is taken from

Figaro Hors-Série: Blaise Pascal, the heart and the reason


Blaise isn't the only genius in the family.

What he is to mathematics, Jacqueline, his younger sister, is to poetry.

At the age of six, her charming little face, her laughing eyes, the kindness of her spirit made her invited everywhere, “

so that, says Gilberte, she hardly lived with us


The older sister strives to teach her to read, but the little one loses interest in it, until one day she hears Gilberte pronounce a few verses.

She appreciates the rhythm so much that she asks to be taught everything with this music: "

When you want me to read, make me read from a book of verse: I will say my lesson as much as you want.


Read alsoThe editorial of Le Figaro Hors-série: Blaise Pascal, a man for eternity

At eight years old, even before knowing how to read, the little girl learned verses and composed them.

She goes so far as to stage, with the daughters of Mme Sainctot, a neighborhood friend, a comedy in five acts and in verse.

The "

little Pascal

" became the darling of all Paris, she was even invited to the Court, where she improvised a few verses for Mademoiselle, and served the Queen's dinner in her private apartments.

When, in 1639, Richelieu wanted children to play a comedy, Jacqueline played her role so admirably that she delighted the public.

The cardinal is conquered.

And when, with a pounding heart, the little girl advances towards him to greet him, he takes her on his knees to speak.

The red man then notices the tears streaking the youthful face and asks him the cause.

It is, she says, her father's misfortune.

A year earlier, in 1638, the war against Spain weighing on the finances of the State, the Hôtel de Ville in Paris stopped paying its rents.

Étienne Pascal and a few other pensioners went to assert their rights with Chancellor Séguier and the Intendant of Finances, jostling him harshly.

Unsurprisingly, the rebels were imprisoned.

Étienne only escaped it

With tears in her eyes, little Jacqueline recites the compliment she had prepared: "

Do not be surprised, incomparable Armand, / If I have not pleased your eyes and your ears: / My mind, agitated by unparalleled fears, / Forbidden to my body and voice and movement.

/ But, to make myself here capable of pleasing you, / Call my miserable father back from exile: / It is the good that I expect from a signal kindness.

The inflexible is touched.

Ask whatever you want;

you are too kind, we can refuse you nothing.


Étienne, whose reputation Richelieu knew as a magistrate of integrity, was therefore appointed deputy commissioner in Normandy by His Majesty for the collection of the subsistence tax for the troops.

He will have to face the "

Revolt of the Barefoot

", due to a reorganization of taxes and the corruption of officials.

He will put things in order, and will carve out the reputation of being incorruptible, and the respect of all, because he is careful not to overwhelm miserable regions with excessive taxes.

Seeing his father exhausted himself at night in long and tedious calculations, Blaise will also work to get him out of trouble: after months of work, in 1642, he presents him with an arithmetic machine which accomplishes, "without any


" , all calculations.

He was just nineteen years old and had just invented the calculator, of which he had around fifty copies made, accompanied by a note in which he addressed the future user: the "pascaline" allows you to "relieve yourself from



that you have often times tired your mind when you have operated with the token or with the pen


He also warns him about counterfeits, showing there, in addition to his business sense, a certain humor: “

I have particular reason to give you this last opinion, after having seen with my own eyes a false execution of my thought, made by a worker from the city of Rouen, a watchmaker by profession (…);

but as the good man has no other talent than that of skillfully handling his tools, and as he does not even know if geometry and mechanics are in the world, so (…) he only made a useless piece, ( …) so imperfect inside that it is of no use


He concludes with an eloquent formula his tirade on the counterfeit machines: “

they make appear a small monster which misses the principal members, the others being shapeless and without any proportion (…).

The appearance of this little runt displeased me to the last point


Blaise Pascal, heart and reason

, 164 pages, €13.90, available on newsstands and on

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Cover after the posthumous portrait of Blaise Pascal by François II Quesnel, after 1662. Figaro Hors-Série

Source: lefigaro

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