Hôtel de Rambouillet
The Hôtel de Rambouillet was the Paris residence of Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a renowned literary salon there from 1620 until 1648. Formerly the Hôtel de Pisani, it was situated in the rue Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre, in a former quarter of Paris (demolished during the 19th century) and located between the Louvre and Tuileries palaces, near the then much smaller Place du Carrousel, in the area of what was to become the Pavillon Turgot of the Louvre Museum. (This Hôtel de Rambouillet, formerly Hôtel de Pisani, should not be confused with the one by same name situated on Rue Saint-Honoré, which belonged to the d'Angennes family who sold it in December 1602, and on which site Cardinal Richelieu began building his Palais-Cardinal in 1624.)
Members of her salon, received in the intimacy of her Chambre Bleue, admitted to the ruelle—the space between her daybed and the wall of the alcove— represented the flower of contemporary French literature, fashion, and wit, including Madame de Sévigné, Madame de La Fayette, Mademoiselle de Scudéry, the Duchesse de Longueville, the Duchesse de Montpensier, Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, Bossuet, Jean Chapelain, Corneille, François de Malherbe, Racan, Richelieu, La Rochefoucauld, Paul Scarron, Claude Favre de Vaugelas, and Vincent Voiture. They adopted for themselves the term précieux, which became a term of abuse when satirized by Molière in Les Précieuses ridicules (1659).
The quality looked for in this self-defining circle was honnêteté, a quality looked for in vain at the contemporary court, crass, ostentatious, corrupt and corrupting. Honnêteté was a mode of restraint and decorum, so practiced that it had become easy and as if natural, shared by aristocrats and fastidious members of the high bourgeoisie, but which could not readily be taught or learned. In contrast with the court, the Hôtel de Rambouillet received an elite that chose its own members, or, more precisely, whose members recognized one another's right to belong.... The ordinary rules of civility did not govern daily interchange. Members of the group wrote and above all talked to one another. Conversation was a sacred art, the forum in which the group developed its taste. L'Astrée was staged as well as read; other reading included the novels of La Calprenède and Mlle de Scudéry, which held up a mirror of this microsociety".
The préciosité refinements of the French language would find some codification in the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française eventually published by the Académie française, which found its start in the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Words like "celadon" to describe a certain range of pale glaucous blue-green glazes of Chinese porcelain come straight from the Hôtel de Rambouillet.
- Mémoires et documents relatifs au département de Seine-et-Oise: Inventaire de l'hôtel de Rambouillet à la mort de Charles d'Angennes, marquis de Rambouillet (25 juin 1652), p. 31, note 1: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k454602q/f30.image.r=voiture%20julie%20d%27angennes.langFR
- 1652 map of Paris by Jacques Gomboust: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/1652_Gomboust_9_Panel_Map_of_Paris%2C_France_%28c._1900_Taride_reissue%29_-_Geographicus_-_Paris-gomboust-1900.jpg
- Walckenaer, Charles Athanase (M. le baron), Mémoires touchant la vie et les écrits de Marie de Rabutin Chantal, dame de Bourbilly, marquise de Sévigné, durant le ministère du cardinal Mazarin et la jeunesse de Louis XIV, Librairie Firmin Didot Frères, Imprimeurs de l'Institut, 56 rue Jacob, Paris, 1843, pp. 382-383.
- Antoine Baudeau de Somaize published a Grand Dictionnaire des Précieuses, ou La Clef de la Lanque des Ruelles (1660-1661).
- Honnêteté is discussed at some more length by Jacques Revel, "The uses of civility" in Roger Chartier, editor, A History of Private life: Passions of the Renaissance, Arthur Goldhammer, translator, (Belknap Press, Harvard University), p 192ff.
- Revel, p 194.
- Leon H. Vincent, Hôtel de Rambouillet and the précieuses, Boston : Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1900.