Gay, Sophie (1776–1852)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Gay, Sophie (1776–1852)

French novelist. Name variations: Madame Gay. Born Marie Françoise Sophie Nichault de la Valette or de Lavalette in Paris, France, on July 1, 1776; died in Paris on March 5, 1852; daughter of M. Nichault de la Valette and Francesca Peretti (an Italian); married M. Liottier (an exchange broker), in 1793 (divorced 1799); married M. Gay (a receiver-general of the department of the Roër or Ruhr); children: (second marriage) Delphine Gay Girardin (1804–1855).

Sophie Gay was the daughter of M. Nichault de la Valette and Francesca Peretti , an Italian woman. In 1793, Sophie married M. Liottier, an exchange broker, whom she divorced in 1799. Shortly thereafter, she married M. Gay, a receiver-general for the department of the Roër (or Ruhr). When her husband was posted to Aix-la-Chapelle, a wealthy resort town, Gay began to hold a literary salon there and subsequently in Paris. She became friends with many celebrated personages, and her salon was frequented by all of the distinguished writers, musicians, actors, and painters of the time, whom she attracted with her intelligence, charm, and beauty. Her first literary effort was a letter written in 1802 to the Journal de Paris in defense of Germaine de Staël 's novel Delphine. That same year, Gay published anonymously her first novel Laure d'Estelle, a controversial work which concerns a woman who, believing her husband killed in battle, has a series of amorous liaisons. Léonie de Montbreuse, which appeared in 1813, was considered by Sainte-Beuve as Gay's best work, but Anatole (1815), the romance of a deaf-mute, was even more highly regarded. Following the death of her husband, economic necessity prompted greater literary output, and from 1822 on she published regularly. Her other works include Les malheurs d'un amant heureux (1818), Un Mariage sous l'Empire (A Marriage during the Empire, 1832), LaDuchesse de Châteauroux (1834), La Comtesse d'Egmont (1836), Salons célèbres (2 vols., 1837), and Marie de Mancini (1840). Gay wrote several comedies and opera libretti which met with considerable success, and her play The Marquis of Pomenars had a long run. An accomplished musician, she also composed both the lyrics and music for a number of songs. In 1834, she published her memoirs, Souvenirs d' une Vieille femme. Her daughter, Delphine Gay, wrote under her married name of Madame de Girardin (Delphine Girardin ).

suggested reading:

Gautier, Théophile. Portraits contemporains.