Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Marie Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, Comtesse de La Fayette

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Author of memoirs and novels, born in Paris, 1634; died there, 1693 (al., 1696). She received a very good education and acquired, among other accomplishments, a remarkable knowledge of Latin and Italian; one of her instructors was the grammarian Menage. Her wit and literary talents soon gave her aleading position in the social life of Paris. She was, with her friend, the Marquise de Sévigné, the best representative of that set of distinguished ladies known as "Les Précieuses", whose influence was so great on the manners and language of the young Court of Louis XIV. She numbered among her friends most of the great men of the time: Condé, Huet, La Rochefoucauld, Bossuet, La Fontaine; she was also for many year the confidante of Princess Henrietta of England, the sister-in-law of Louis XIV. Her first venture in literature was a novel published without the author's name,"La Princesse de Montpensier" (1622). "Zayde", which was published in 1670 under the voluminous novel of Mlle de Scudéry. "La Princesse de Clèves", her masterpiece, appeared in 1678. It is a picture of French social life at the time of the Fronde, although the scenes are laid in the sixteenth century. The moral beauty of the characters reminds the reader of the tragedies of Corneille. It may be considered as the first French "psychological" novel. The style is clear, simple, lively; it shows no other trace of the affectation of the "Précieuses" than a constant care to avoid any word or expression that might seem vulgar. Besides these works should be mentioned: "Memoires de la Cour de France pour les années, 1688, 1689" (Amsterdam, 1731).

Pierre Marique.