The Unknown Mademoiselle

Lister’s Lover?

In February 1666, King Louis XIV, in preparation for the War of Devolution, ordered all Englishmen to leave France within three months.

Lister’s studies at Montpellier were thus peremptorily finished, and as Philip Skippon related, they left for Lyon, accompanied by Francis Jessop, physician Henry Sampson, Peter Vivian, a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Sir Thomas Crew. Lister later met Ray and Skippon and ‘Dr Moulins’ (the Scotsman James Milne from Aberdeen) there before they all proceeded on horseback to Paris. Before he left Lyon, Lister wrote a letter addressed to an unknown mademoiselle who seems to have been his first significant love, the draft copy surviving in his papers. Lister wrote:


Je ne sçaurois quitter la France, sans vous dire adieu derechef par escrit. tant vous ay-je à coeur et vos civilites me seront eternellement dans ma memoire en quel pais qui ce soit, ou je vay demeurer. Si je me retire tout a faict chez moy, j’y attenderois de vos nouvelles avec passion. maudite guerre! que tu me donnez de chagrin en m’arrachent de mes delices; ce transport est pour vous et pour ce qu’il y a de beau à Montpelier. ne soyez pas satisfé de partager mes inclinations avec une si belle ville. me voudriez vous faire l’honneur de votre souvenance de temps en temps. je verrois si il y aura moyen de vous faire tenir de mes lettres. je finis. Mademoiselle votre tres humble tres obeissant et tres passioné serviteur.

Martin Listeur

Letter, February 1666


I did not know how to leave France without saying farewell to you once again in writing. I have you so much in my heart and your courtesies will be forever in my memory in whatever country I dwell. I may be returning home, but I will eagerly await news of you there. Cursed war! How you give me pain as I tear myself from my delights. This is for you and for everything beautiful in Montpelier. Do not be content with sharing my [affections] with such a beautiful town. Pray do me the honour of your remembrance from time to time. I will see if there are means by which you may have my letters. I end, Mademoiselle, your very humble very obedient and very [devoted] servant.

Martin Lister

LetterFebruary 1666

We do not know if he sent the letter or if she ever replied, but we do know that he kept it until his death.

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