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Riccoboni, Marie-Jeanne (1713–1792)

Riccoboni, Marie-Jeanne (1713–1792)

French novelist. Name variations: Jeanne Riccoboni. Born Marie-Jeanne Laboras de Mézières in Paris, France, in 1713 (some sources cite 1714); died on December 6, 1792; married Antoine François Riccoboni, in 1734 or 1735 (separated); companion to Marie-Thérèse Biancolleli, from 1753 to 1792.

Selected writings:

(fiction) La vie de Marianne (The Life of Marianne, 1745 [some sources cite 1765]), Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd (Letters from Mistress Fanny Butlerd, 1757), Histoire de M. lemarquis de Cressy (The History of the Marquis de Cressy, 1758), Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby (Letters from Juliette Catesby, 1759), Histoire de Miss Jenny (The History of Miss Jenny, 1762), Amelia, 1762; (nonfiction) Histoire d'Adélaïd (The History of Adelaide, 1766), Lettres d'Elisabeth-Sophie de Vallière (Letters of Elisabeth-Sophie de Vallière, 1772), Lettres de Milord Rivers (Letters of Lord Rivers, 1776), Les Amours de Roger et Gertrude (Roger and Gertrude in Love, 1780), Histoire de Christine, reine de suab (The History of Christine, Queen of Swabia, 1783), Histoire de deux juenes ami (The Story of Two Young Friends, 1786), Ernestine (1798); (play) Les Caquets (The Gossipers, 1761); (correspondence) Lettres de Mme R. à Diderot (Letters from Mme R. to Diderot) in Diderot, Oeuvres (1798), Correspondence de Laclos et de Mme R (The Correspondence of Laclos and Mme R., 1864), and Mme Riccoboni's Letters to David Hume, David Garrick and Sir Robert Liston 1764–1783 (1976).

Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni was born Marie-Jeanne Laboras de Mézières into a bourgeois family in Paris in 1713. In 1734, at age 21, she married Italian actor Antoine François Riccoboni, son of actress Helena Virginia Riccoboni and actor-playwright Lodovico Riccoboni. Riccoboni herself tried acting, but met with little success. She soon separated from her husband, and from the age of 40 lived the rest of her life with her companion Marie-Thérèse Biancolleli , who was also an actress.

Riccoboni launched her literary career with a continuation of Marivaux's unfinished novel La vie de Marianne (The Life of Marianne) in 1745. Her next three novels, Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd (Letters from Mistress Fanny Butlerd, 1757), Histoire de M. lemarquis de Cressy (The History of the Marquis de Cressy, 1758), and Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby (Letters from Juliette Catesby, 1759), provided Riccoboni with the means to quit the theater and continue writing. She also collected a small pension from the crown until such practices were abruptly ended with the French Revolution in 1789.

Riccoboni wrote her books in letter form, with romantic themes. Her heroines are typically strong women ensnarled in unresolvable conflicts with men who are their moral inferiors. Her work has been described as clever and written with real pathos, and was admired for its perceptive descriptions of love and friendship. (A later critic, however, noted that "Madame Riccoboni is an especial offender in the use of mechanical aids to impressiveness—italics, dashes, rows of points and the like.") One of her later novels, Lettres de Milord Rives (Letters of Lord Rivers, 1776), recounts the relationship between two Frenchwomen who prefer their union to love between men and women. She wrote one play, Les Caquets (The Gossipers), in 1761, and her last novel, Ernestine, which appeared posthumously in 1798, was considered by some to be her masterpiece. Riccoboni died destitute at the age of 79 on December 6, 1792.

sources:

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Harvey, Sir Paul, and J.E. Heseltine, eds. The Oxford Companion to French Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959.

Maria Sheler Edwards , freelance writer, Ypsilanti, Michigan

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