Marie-Catherine de Villedieu

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Marie-Catherine de Villedieu.

Marie-Catherine de Villedieu, born Marie-Catherine Desjardins and generally referred to as Madame de Villedieu (1640 - 20 October 1683) was a French writer of plays, novels and short fiction. Largely forgotten or eclipsed by other writers of the period (such as Madame de La Fayette) in the works of literary historians of the 19th and 20th centuries, Madame de Villedieu is currently enjoying a literary revival.


Madame de Villedieu was born at Alençon, the second daughter of Guillaume Desjardins and Catherine Ferrand, who worked as a ladies' maid for the wife of duke Henri de Rohan-Montbazon. After the divorce of her parents in 1655 the fifteen-year-old girl was taken by her mother to Paris.[1] She came under the protection of the duchess of Rohan (thanks to the poems she presented her). Louis XIV gave Madame de Villedieu a pension of 1500 livres. She was admitted to the Academy of the Ricovrati of Padua. She died at Saint-Rémy-du-Val (Sarthe).

Madame de Villedieu was prolific in the genre of "nouvelles historiques" and "nouvelles galantes" which began to appear in France in the 1660s. An interest in love, psychological analysis, moral dilemmas and social constraints permeated these relatively short novels. When the action was placed in an historical setting, this was increasingly a setting in the recent past, and although still filled with anachronisms, these novels showed an interest in historical detail; these are generally called "nouvelles historiques". A number of these short novels recounted the "secret history" of a famous event, linking the action generally to an amorous intrigue; these were called "histoires galantes". Les Désordres de l’Amour is perhaps Madame de Villedieu's most well-known work in this genre.

Her masterpiece is perhaps the pseudo-memoir novel Mémoires de la vie d'Henriette-Sylvie de Molière, a remarkably realistic story (in the vein of a picaresque novel) recounting the economic and emotional misfortunes of a young woman in contemporary French society.

Along with her novels, she wrote three plays: the tragicomedy Manlius performed with critical success by the actors of the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1662 (the play engendered a debate between Jean Donneau de Visé and François Hédelin, abbé d'Aubignac concerning its historic accuracy); the tragedy Nitétis performed April 27, 1663; and the tragicomedy Le Favori, performed April 24, 1665 at Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris and June 13, 1665 at Versailles.

She died at her manor in Clinchemore in 1683.


Works and works available online (in French)[edit]


  1. ^ Donna Kuizenga, DLB 268, p. 385.


External links[edit]