There is no reason to suppose that a member of one's own family should record a more accurate or benevolent account of one's life than some impartial spectator of the same period or in some following century. Some of the most rancorous and warped biographies have been written by members of the same family, from the royal houses of Europe to the would-be royal houses of Hollywood. Yet the reasons for turning first to the biography of Pascal written by his sister Gilberte Perier militate against any predisposition against families writing about families. First, Gilberte, who was born in 1620, and was therefore the oldest of Pascal's three sisters, had never been separated from him for any length of time. Surely such firsthand observation cannot be called into doubt. Second, Gilberte had none of the intellectual ambitions of her brother and, it seems evident, none of his high religious aspirations. Gilberte was married on 15 April, 164 I, to her cousin Florian Perier, counsellor of the king at Clermont-Ferrand; together they had produced many children by the time that she wrote her brief biography. There are no grounds for rivalry or resentment in Gilberte's account. There is even a touch of pride when she recounts how her brother was so impatient while their father was trying to explain some deduction in Euclid's Geometry. Gilberte even implies that her brother Blaise had discovered the first principles of geometry by the age of twelve. Given the many examples of mathematical precocity, her account is not to be dismissed out of hand. Third, there is the incontestable fact that posterity would have had none of the manuscripts of the Pensees, or others of Pascal's works, if the piety of the Perier family had not considered his writings in some sense sacred, and had kept every

scrap. Although many French seventeenth-century manuscripts have vanished, the holographs of Pascal's Pensees, the 'Memorial,' the 'Mystere de Jesus,' and other fragments are preserved in the Bibliotheque N ationale in Paris, thanks to the devotion of his sister Gilberte and her family. Finally, there is the evidence of style: Gilberte writes with a simplicity, a frankness, an aloof lovingness that brings to mind Celeste Albaret's memoir of Marcel Proust. Styles can be elaborate and involuted, like Proust's, or stark and unadorned, like Madame de La Fayette's. But a style should never break down under scrutiny: and Gilberte Perier's does not.