Divine Thalie: the Career Of Jeanne Quinault

BookDivine Thalie: the Career Of Jeanne Quinault

Divine Thalie: the Career Of Jeanne Quinault

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2007:08


August 1st, 2007

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By convention, the likely end of the career of an eighteenth-century actress was marriage, the convent or the gutter. Jeanne Quinault used her talents to shape a most unconventional life. Despite her provincial origins, she was a favourite for over twenty years at the Comédie-Française and also carved an identity for herself in literary and salon life.
Jeanne Quinault’s role as organizer of the société badine, called the Bout-du-Banc, is what has attracted the most interest, but historians have not generally recognized in her a salonnière as devoted to benevolence and mentorship as her wealthier and better-born contemporaries. From the time of her depiction in the pseudo-memoirs of Mme d'Épinay, the story has been distorted and errors have been handed down. This study offers a fresh assessment of her friendships with Caylus, Piron, Duclos, Maurepas and many other prominent individuals.
In the theatrical sphere, Mlle Quinault promoted the development of sentimental comedy, sponsored both authors and actors, and participated in the creation of a number of works, including those of Françoise de Graffigny. Another client was Voltaire, whose letters shed light on the interplay between writers and performers. On a broader scale, the story of Jeanne Quinault is also that of the large acting family to which she belonged and of their aspiration to acceptance in polite society.
Drawing on archival resources and unpublished collections of letters, this work offers readers the first detailed study of the actress and her circle.

Curtis’s historical narrative has the great advantage of providing an excellent overview of Parisian society in the eighteenth century.
- Modern language review

The copious amount of information about the French actress and salonnière Jeanne Quinault compiled in this volume will appeal to scholars of French history, literature and cultural studies, as well as theatre.
- New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Copyright Page5
List of illustrations8
List of abbreviations12
1. The family established21
i. Françoise27
ii. Jean-Baptiste-Maurice28
iii. Abraham-Alexis29
iv. Mlle de Seine/Dufresne33
v. Marie-Jeanne35
2. The clan ascendant, 1718-172939
i. Out of obscurity43
ii. Quinault-Dufresne and Mlle de Seine46
iii. Burgeoning careers49
iv. Mlle Balicourt50
3. Private entertainments55
i. Lazzis and lazzillons58
ii. Bouri, Loulou, Tonton62
iii. A circle within circles64
4. Piron and Caylus66
i. Binbin66
ii. The Ermine and her Bear69
iii. Luchon79
5. Voltaire and others, 1732-174185
i. Le Préjugé à la mode and L’Enfant prodigue88
ii. ‘L’arbitre du bon gou t’92
iii. Thalia steps down96
iv. An important new friend: Mme de Graffigny98
6. Thalia in retirement: the Bout-du-Banc takes shape, 1741-1745103
i. Finance and patronage105
ii. The circle in early days: members, name, activities108
iii. Caylus & company in print115
7. Loss and renewal, 1745-1746124
i. Discord in the camp124
ii. The claims of family126
iii. A deepening friendship: Quinault and Graffigny130
iv. ‘Cette cousine etoit tout...’138
8. Clients, friends and relations, 1747-1749141
i. The money problem143
ii. Minette144
iii. The universal aunt146
iv. Duclos149
v. Salley152
vi. Maurepas157
9. ‘Tant d’affaires’: from Cénie to a new Bout-du-Banc, 1749-1758160
i. Cénie160
ii. Old patterns restored164
iii. The Bout-du-Banc full-fledged168
10. Old friends and new circles, 1758-1779174
i. Saint-Germain-en-Laye175
ii. Mme de Meinières and other friends of old age178
iii. Olympe183
iv. The Diderot question185
v. The letters to Grimod de La Reynière187
vi. The letters to Devaux196
11. Passing into ‘history’199
i. A bizarre tribute203
ii. The ‘memoirs’ of Mme d’Epinay204
iii. More fancy than fact213
Appendix: Jeanne Quinault’s reported theatrical roles220
List of works cited222