La Princesse de Montpensier

Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de La Fayette, Paris, 1662, (Gallica)

Lister recorded reading this work in January 1664/5.

The comtesse de La Fayette (1634-1693) was a noblewoman and French author who wrote La Princesse de Clèves, the first modern French novel.  She spent most of her life in the Paris family home in the Rue de Vaugirard, attending literary salons of Madeleine de Scudéry where she met François de La Rochefoucauld, another author on Lister’s reading list.

She was a perceptive and keen observer of human character, memorably writing in one of her letters:

Il en coûte cher d’apprendre à être raisonnable, il en coûte la jeunesse. 1

La Princesse de Montpensier is a novella concerning an adulterous love triangle.  The characters, though fictional, were loosely based on intrigues at King Louis XIV’s court, and the work is characterized by insightful analysis of passions and aristocratic morals.   Bertrand Tavernier recently made the novella into a movie of the same name.  The official trailer from VISO trailers is below:

  1. Lorna Sage, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 374.

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