Sévigné, Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de

views updated

Marie de Rabutin-Chantal Sévigné, marquise de (märē´ də räbütăN´-shäNtäl´ märkēz´ də sāvēnyā´), 1626–96, French woman of letters. Her correspondence of more than 1,500 letters is a monument of French literature. After her husband's death (1651) she devoted herself to her two children. To her daughter, the comtesse de Grignan, who lived in Provence, the marquise wrote long letters on personal, literary, and social news, full of witty comment. These letters constitute the greater part of the Sévigné correspondence. Her writing is distinguished by the unaffected elegance of her style and the acuteness of her observation. But the letters are also of great interest for the revelation of the personality of their author, a principled, intelligent, and delightful woman, and for their chronicle of her times. She counted among her friends Turenne, La Rochefoucauld, and Mme de La Fayette. The first edition of her letters appeared posthumously in 1725; a later definitive collection was published in 1953–57 (3 vol.). Among English translations of her letters is the partial edition by Richard Aldington (1937). Edward FitzGerald compiled a useful Dictionary of Madame de Sévigné (1914).

See studies by A. I. T. Ritchie (1881, repr. 1973) and F. Mossiker (1985).