Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet
Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet (1588 – 2 December 1665), known as Madame de Rambouillet, was a society hostess and a major figure in the literary history of 17th-century France.
|French literary history|
Born in Rome, she was the daughter and heiress of Jean de Vivonne, marquis of Pisani, and Giulia Savelli, who belonged to a noble Roman family. She was married at the age of twelve to Charles d'Angennes, vidame du Mans, and afterwards marquis de Rambouillet. They had seven children, two sons and five daughters. The young, beautiful and witty marquise found the coarseness and intrigues of the French court little to her taste and, after the birth of her eldest daughter, Julie Lucine d'Angennes, in 1607, she began to gather around her the circle that gave its renown to her salon. She and her husband had taken residence in Paris at the Hôtel Pisani, then renamed Hôtel de Rambouillet, and situated rue Saint-Honoré. This hôtel was later demolished to make room for Cardinal Richelieu's Palais Cardinal, and a new Hôtel de Rambouillet was built in 1618 on the rue Saint-Thomas du Louvre, between the Louvre and the Tuileries. Madame de Rambouillet arranged her hotel for the purpose of receiving her guests, and devised suites of small rooms where guests could move around and find more privacy than in the large reception rooms. She received her visitors in a salon painted in blue, the chambre bleue. The Hôtel de Rambouillet maintained its importance as a literary salon until 1650. Almost all major personages of the French aristocracy and literature of the time frequented it, and its reputation was at its height in the second quarter of the century. Occasionally, in spring and summer, the marquis and marquise de Rambouillet would entertain the habitués of their Parisian residence in the château de Rambouillet.
Her success as a salonnière has many explanations. Her natural abilities had been carefully trained. The marquise had a genuine kindness and a lack of prejudice that enabled her to entertain princes and princesses of the blood royal and literary men with the same grace, whilst among her intimate friends was the beautiful actress Angélique Paulet. The respect paid to ability in the salon effected a great advancement in the position of French men of letters. Moreover, the almost uniform excellence of the memoirs and letters of 17th century French men and women may be traced largely to the development of conversation as a fine art at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and the consequent establishment of a standard of clear and adequate expression. Mme de Rambouillet was known as the "incomparable Arthénice", the name being an anagram for "Catherine", devised by François de Malherbe and Racan.
Among the more noteworthy episodes in the history of the Hôtel de Rambouillet are the literary quarrel between the Uranistes and the Jobelins - respective partisans of two famous sonnets, the Sonnet d'Uranie, by Vincent Voiture, and the Sonnet de Job, by Isaac de Benserade - and the composition by almost all the great poets of the day of the Guirlande de Julie, a collection of forty-one madrigals, each on the theme of a flower, offered in 1641 to Julie d'Angennes by Charles de Sainte Maure, who had been wooing her for ten years when he conceived the idea of the handsome manuscript, but whom she kept waiting four more years. Julie herself, the Hôtel de Rambouillet Princesse Julie, was responsible for a good deal of the preciosity for which the Précieuses were later ridiculed by Molière.
The Précieuses, who are usually associated with Molière's avowed caricatures and with the extravagances of Mlle de Scudéry, but a name Madame de Sévigné herself was proud to bear, insisted on a ceremonious gallantry from their suitors and friends, though it seems from the account given by Tallemant des Réaux that mild practical jokes took place at the Hôtel de Rambouillet. They especially favoured an elaborate and quintessenced kind of colloquial and literary expression, imitated from Giambattista Marini and Luís de Góngora y Argote, then fashionable throughout Europe.
Molière's immortal Précieuses ridicules was no doubt directly levelled not at the Hôtel de Rambouillet itself, but at the numerous coteries which in the course of years had sprung up in imitation of it. The satire affected the originators as well as the imitators, the former more closely perhaps than they perceived. The Hôtel de Rambouillet remained in existence until the death of its hostess, although the troubles of the Fronde diminished its influence.
The chief original authorities respecting Madame de Rambouillet and her set are Tallemant des Réaux in his Historiettes, and Antoine Baudeau de Somaize in his Grand Dictionnaire des Précieuses (1660).
Among the habitués of Madame de Rambouillet's chambre bleue were:
- Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac
- Le Grand Condé
- Anne Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, duchesse de Longueville
- Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier, La Grande Mademoiselle
- Honorat de Bueil, seigneur de Racan
- Roger de Bussy-Rabutin
- Jean Chapelain
- Claude de Chaudebonne
- Guillaume Colletet
- Valentin Conrart
- Pierre Corneille
- Jean Desmarets de Saint-Sorlin
- Claude Favre de Vaugelas
- Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant
- Antoine Godeau
- Madame de La Fayette
- Jean de La Fontaine
- François de Malherbe
- Claude de Malleville
- François Maynard
- Gilles Ménage
- Jean Ogier de Gombauld
- Angélique Paulet
- Madame de Sévigné
- Charles de Sainte-Maure, duc de Montausier
- Paul Scarron
- Georges de Scudéry
- Madeleine de Scudéry
- Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux
- Vincent Voiture
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- G. Lenotre, Le Château de Rambouillet, six siècles d'histoire, chapter: Les Précieuses, Denoël, Paris, 1984, p. 19.
- Map of Paris by N. de Fer, dated 1705, on which the rue Saint-Thomas du Louvre, which disappeared in mid-19th century, can be seen between the Louvre and the Tuileries: fr:Fichier:Plan de Paris 1705 BNF07710700.png
- Tallemant des Réaux Historiettes, chapter Madame de Rambouillet, "Mémoires" reviewed by MM. de Monmerqué & Paulin, (3rd edition), published by J. Techener, Libraire, Paris, 1862, tome 2, p. 262.
- Tallemant des Réaux, p. 265
- G. Lenotre, pp. 24-25.