12mo. 19th century cloth. 78, 69pp. Each part with separate title page. A-C12, D6; A-B12, C11. Very good copy with slight darkening to pages of first part.
Memoires de la vie de Henriette-Sylvie is an epistolary novel from a character's point of view: an author who has often been subject to false accounts of her life and character. "In time the heroine realizes the futility of attempting to control her reputation by telling the truth. Instead she opts to participate in the circulation of the rumors, while maintaining an ironic distance from false accounts, and recognizing the inevitability of unkind gossip" (Lalande who suggests many autobiographical events between the novel and the life of Desjardines).
Completed in 1674, "the Memoires comprises six long, first-person letters... [that] tell the story of an abandoned infant of uncertain parentage who, as a young woman, is thrown out into the world on her own after her foster father attempts to rape her. The Memoires is neither an autobiography, nor a novel, nor memoir, nor an epistolary novel, but a text that has something of all these genres... This is her most striking work. The text, which has a number of picaresque elements, skillfully mixes real events from the author's life with fictional adventures, creating a first-person tale of an independent and enterprising woman" (Kuizenga).
This work, along with Scud'ey's epistolary fiction Lettres amoureuses de divers auteurs de ce temps (1641), are the first French examples of the narrative form that would be so popular in the eighteenth century (Stephens). Villedieu is credited by historian Pierre Bayle with the invention of the gallant tale, which replaced the long sentimental novels that had been fashionable (as quoted in Kuizenga).
The 1671 edition was almost certainly issued alone as Parts I&II. Only one other copy has been located in the British Library, also Parts I&II alone. According to most sources, Memoires was published by Barbin in six parts as follows: Parts I&II were published in 1672, Parts III&IV and V&VI in1674. One copy in OCLC (College of Charleston, SC) describes the publishing history as Paris: [s.n.], Year:1672-1674: Imprint of v. 1-2 have date 1672, v. 3-6 have date 1674. Kuizenga's new commentary and translation of the Memoires writes repeatedly that the novel was first published in 1672. The 1671 edition is not mentioned; moreover, a good deal of information is provided about the author's writing career and the publisher Claude Barbin's publishing relationship with Villedieu. The BnF does not have the 1671 edition. Their 1672-74 edition adds the following note: Attribue a Mme de Villedieu, a d'Alegre ou a Subligny. Chaque partie a son titre et sa pagination propres. Une autre edition a ete publiee chez Barbin a la meme date sous le titre: "Avantures, ou Memoires de la vie de Henriette-Silvie de Moliere." This early publication may reflect the first attempts to publish this important novel.
Viulledieu, Catherine des Jardins, Mme de (1640-1683). She wrote some thirty short novels which had a considerable vogue in their day. The best of the novels is said to be Memoires de la vie de Henriette-Sylvie de Moliere (Oxford French).
Called the George Sand of the seventeenth century, she was the daughter of a prevot de la marechaussee and of a lady in waiting of the duchesse de Montbazon. She was born at Alencon, probably in 1632 (although Leris & Mouhy have the date as 1640). She became known locally for her verses and escaped to Paris after an amorous adventure with a cousin, Tallemant des Reaux, where she may have become an actress. She was protected by the duchesse de Montbazon and became a well-known author, writing occasional verse, novels, letters, and plays.
Although much has been made of the linkage of the name of the heroine to the life of Armande Bejart Moliere's first wife; Most contemporary criticism, including Kuizenga's, say nothing of this linkage and deal instead with the relationship of the heroine's life to that of the Mancini sisters (Lalande), or to the author's life, herself. The Moliere bibliographer includes this novel, calling this a "curieux roman," in the bibliography because it has an account of the Fetes des Plaisirs de l'Ile enchantee (Guibert p. 822).
There was a translation into English, The Memoires of the Life, and Rare Adventures of Henrietta Silvia Moliere, as they have been very lately published in French with remarks done in London: J.C. for W. Crooke, 1677 (Wing D1191-2).
Provenance: Jean Meyer. References: Stephens, Sonya ed. A History of Women's writing in France. Cambridge U, 2000; Villedieu, Marie-Catherine-Hortense de. Kuizenga, Donna. (Editors & Translator) Madame de Villedieu. Memoirs of the life of Henriette-Sylvia de Moliere a novel. (U of Chicago Press, 2004); Lalande, Roxanne Decker [book review of] Goldsmith, Elizabeth C. Publishing Women's Life Stories in France 1647-172. (Ashgate, 2001). In Biography 25.3 (2002) 522-526.
Location: OCLC: British Library has a copy as our with two parts only. (Inventory #: 0756)