Françoise de Graffigny

BookFrançoise de Graffigny

Françoise de Graffigny

Her Life and Works

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2004:11


November 25th, 2004



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The story of Françoise de Graffigny’s life reads like a novel. Following a disastrous marriage, she was forced by political upheavals to leave her native Lorraine and move to Paris, where she struggled to survive against poverty and persecution. Here she made her way into the heart of literary society in the heyday of the Enlightenment, wrote a novel – the Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747) – that made her an international celebrity, wrote a play – Cénie (1750) – that ranked among the ten most successful new plays of the century, and became a noted salon hostess. Yet fifty years after her death she was almost forgotten, and has been rediscovered only in the last few decades. Now her novel is widely read once more, and studied as a masterpiece. At the same time, a vast collection of her letters and papers emerged, and scholars have used the ongoing edition of her Correspondance to shed important light on a long list of noted figures, such as Choiseul, Crébillon fils, Duclos, Helvétius, Palissot, Prévost, Rousseau, and Voltaire.
This biography draws on those letters, including the hundreds not yet published, and on the editorial team’s highly praised research, to provide the first biography in ninety years of this phenomenal woman. It provides new material on all aspects of her life, from her intimate feelings to the composition and publication of her literary works. It is by far the most complete and accurate account of Mme de Graffigny’s life and times.

'This is a very good book, thoroughly researched and admirably well written.'
Modern Language Review

'It is impossible to separate Graffigny’s life (and thus her biography) from her correspondence, but in its quotidian minutiae, a correspondence, even one as personal, rich and continuous as Graffigny’s, cannot present a coherent overview. With his intimate knowledge of all her writings, Showalter provides the necessary perspective. His biography navigates through the correspondence and other documents to give shape and direction to Graffigny’s life, highlighting how her struggle for independence paralleled her development as an author and how her social gifts for forming friendships and intellectual bonds with many of the period’s renowned authors, philosophes, and playwrights helped her create the network and support crucial to succeed as a writer, a dramatist and a salonnière.'
French Review