Books: The Cardinal's Virtues

RICHELIEU by D. P. O'Connell. 436 pages. World. $10.

It was the worst of times: the first half of the 17th century. Spain rotted. The German principalities writhed. Sweden, France, Spain and even Switzerland were seething with religious mania. The European peasantry was regularly picked over by tax collectors and aimless bands of soldiers detached from all allegiance. Trade patterns kept collapsing. The gaudy corpse of feudalism weighted the Continent, but there was nothing, apparently, strong enough to winch it out of sight.

Yet such a force was being created, and on the Continent its principal inventor was the despised and sickly rationalist,...

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