Madame Du Deffand and World

Benedetta Craveri, Author, Teresa Waugh, Translator
Benedetta Craveri, Author, Teresa Waugh, Translator David R. Godine Publisher $35 (488p) ISBN 978-1-56792-001-7
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This elegant epistolary biography of the Marquise du Deffand (1696-1780) charts her transformation from dissolute libertine to witty conversationalist, poet, playwright, letter-writer, associate of Voltaire and Montesquieu and host of a cosmopolitan Parisian salon. Born Marie de Vichy Champrond, she entered Parisian society at the height of the Regency through her loveless marriage to a distant cousin. The marquise had passionate friendships with British novelist Horace Walpole and Enlightenment philosophe Jean-Baptiste d'Alembert. Her salon, a vortex for ideas on liberty, reform and constitutional government in the 1750s, eventually became an isolated refuge for aristocrats. Tormented by insomnia and, from age 50, by impaired sight and finally blindness, she assumed an air of Olympian detachment. Craveri, a professor of French literature in Italy, affectingly limns a passionate soul who hid her voracious emotions and fear of death by assuming the role of a tough, heartless, superficial society lady. Illustrated. (Nov.)
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