By Anne-Marie-Louise D'Orleans Montpensier, Duchesse De Montpensier
In the bold letters offered during this bilingual version, Montpensier condemns the alliance method of marriage, offering as a substitute to discovered a republic that she could govern, "a nook of the area within which . . . girls are their very own mistresses," and the place marriage or even courtship will be outlawed. Her pastoral utopia would supply therapy and vocational education for the bad, and all of the houses could have libraries and reports, in order that every one lady may have a "room of her personal" within which to jot down books.
Joan DeJean's full of life advent and available translation of Montpensier's letters—four formerly unpublished—allow us unheard of entry to the brave voice of this impressive woman.
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Extra info for Against marriage : the correspondence of la Grande Mademoiselle
The king could not have foreseen that Lauzun’s captivity would provide in the long run the solution to the problem so many had been seeking to solve for so long, that of gaining control over Montpensier’s lands. In order to ransom him, she was forced to give up huge territories—in particular, the earldom of Eu and Dombes, an independent principality that ofﬁcially became a part of France only in 1762, which she was obliged to sign over to the duc du Maine, the illegitimate son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan.
10 Montpensier was naturally well aware of contemporary pastoral literature—witness the prominent reference in her ﬁrst letter to Honoré d’Urfé’s Astrée (1607–27), by far the most celebrated French pastoral novel. At the same time, however, she takes exception most violently to the principal pastime in d’Urfé’s pastoral fantasy: courtship and romantic love. Seventeenthcentury readers would have understood that she was thereby aligning herself with the philosophy of a very particular and today far less known contemporary tradition of utopian writing, one in which a series of French women writers imagined lands or societies under female control.
I have slightly altered Montpensier’s vocabulary in the passage just cited because the words she uses as synonyms for “exile”—“retirement,” “retreat”—both have such different connotations today. In seventeenth-century French, these words—along with “repose” and “desert”—were used to mean political exile; they also signiﬁed, as is the case in the opening paragraph of Montpensier’s memoirs, all the positive aspects of life away from the agitation of court life. On this vocabulary and its uses, see Domna Stanton, “The Ideal of ‘repos’ in Seventeenth-Century French Literature,” L’Esprit créateur 15, nos.