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By Anne-Marie-Louise D'Orleans Montpensier, Duchesse De Montpensier

In seventeenth-century France, aristocratic ladies have been valued through their households as commodities to be married off in alternate for cash, social virtue, or army alliance. as soon as married, they grew to become legally subservient to their husbands. The duchesse de Montpensier—a first cousin of Louis XIV—was certainly one of only a few exceptions, due to the colossal wealth she inherited from her mom, who died almost immediately after Montpensier was once born. She used to be additionally one of many few politically strong ladies in France on the time to were an finished writer.

In the bold letters provided during this bilingual version, Montpensier condemns the alliance procedure of marriage, providing in its place to discovered a republic that she might govern, "a nook of the area within which . . . girls are their very own mistresses," and the place marriage or even courtship will be outlawed. Her pastoral utopia would offer remedy and vocational education for the bad, and all of the houses might have libraries and experiences, in order that each one girl could have a "room of her personal" during which to write down books.

Joan DeJean's vigorous advent and available translation of Montpensier's letters—four formerly unpublished—allow us extraordinary entry to the brave voice of this awesome woman.

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The fact remains that it was during her exile that Montpensier began the experiments with prose fiction that would continue to occupy her until the 1670s. 5 4. On the question of Montpensier’s collaboration with Segrais, see my Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 52–55. For another view, see Jean Garapon, La Grande Mademoiselle mémorialiste: Une Autobiographie dans le temps (Geneva: Droz, 1989), 30 –35. 5. Montpensier’s memoirs were published only posthumously, initially in 1718, in an incomplete edition, next in 1728, in the first complete publication.

Throughout the eighteenth century, French women writers—Françoise de Graffigny and Isabelle de Charrière, for example— continued this tradition of utopian speculation. 19 20 La Grande Mademoiselle To reinforce her point that this is no longer the immediate post-Fronde era, Montpensier carefully dates two key letters, a decision that no longer seems noteworthy today but was just that in her day. The vast majority of the letters that have survived from the first half of the seventeenth century are not dated; the years in which Montpensier began her correspondence mark the moment when dating letters began to be standard practice.

Only the Condé princes had greater wealth (266). La Grande Mademoiselle wealthy, independent woman’s dreams of how she might improve her existence and that of other women if she were to refuse to allow herself to be exchanged as a marital commodity. It can be thought of as a feminist counterpart to Thomas More’s celebrated political essay Utopia (1516): Montpensier imagines the ideal government as one under female control and the ideal state as one perfectly responsive to women’s concerns. 2 Beginning with her birth at the Louvre, on May 29, 1627, her entire existence was played out as public spectacle.

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