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Bucolic Scenes (Photo credit: Google images)

Other than polite and witty conversation, the main activity of salonniers and salonnières was writing.  They had been influenced by Giovanni Battista Guarini’s (1538-1612) Il Pastor Fido (1590), a pastoral tragicomedy, and Honoré d’Urfé’s L’Astrée (1607-1628), a lengthy novel featuring shepherds and shepherdesses living in bucolic settings resembling Il Pastor Fido’s Arcadia.

Salonniers and salonnières wrote abundantly and love was their favourite topic.  Among the books they wrote, we know about La Guirlande de Julie.  It was a gift to Julie d’Angennes, Madame de Rambouillet’s daughter, and contained sixty-two madrigals each of which compared Julie to a flower.  According to the rules of Préciosité, a movement born in Salons, women looked upon themselves as precious or précieuses.  Moreover, Préciosité had banished unrefined behaviour, in general, and unrefined courtship, in particular. So the Duc de Montausier courted Julie d’Angennes for fourteen years before she consented to marry him.


Carte du Tendre (the map of love)

This map was included in Mademoiselle de Scudéry’s novel: Clélie

Moreover, as we will now see, love was subjected to various rules.  For instance, Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701) described the towns, villages and rivers of her Arcadia, called Tendre.  A map of the pays de Tendre was actually designed.  It was engraved by François Chauveau (1613-1676).

Madeleine de Scudéry (1607-1701) had been a member of l’Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first famous salon of seventeenth-century France.  But as the Marquise de Rambouillet grew older, salonniers and salonnières started to gather every Saturday at the home of Madeleine de Scudéry whose pseudonym was Sappho.  Thus was born the Société du samedi (Saturday Society).  It flourished during the second half of the seventeenth century, called le Grand Siècle (the Great Century), the age of Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun-King.

Sappho was well educated and a prolific writer.  Madeleine de Scudéry’s longest work is Artamène, ou le Grand Cyrus (10 vols., 1648–53), but la Carte de Tendre was featured in Clélie (10 vols., 1654–61).

Clearly outlined on the Carte de Tendre are three forms of love each depicted as towns on the side of three rivers: Inclination, Estime (esteem) and Reconnaissance (gratitude). So, love had three forms: inclination, estime, reconnaissance. Villages on the side of Rivers are allegorical: Jolis-vers (lovely poems), Billet-doux (love letter) and others.

If lovers allowed themselves to enter untamed passion, they sailed on a dangerous sea, called Mer dangeureuse. However, if passions were restrained, love could be a source of happiness. Interestingly, although she had a gentleman-friend, Paul Pelisson, Mademoiselle de Scudéry never married.

As may be expected, Mademoiselle de Scudéry’s Carte de Tendre was satirized. In fact, Molière (1622-1673) wrote his first Parisian play on the PrécieusesLes Précieuses ridicules. By 1659, the Précieuses had a high an opinion of themselves. Molière did not condemn Préciosité, but Cathos and Magdelon are affected women.  Although Molière’s comedy may have been a bit of a blow to the movement,  it was a great success and Molière went on to bigger and better things, including a friendship with Louis XIV.

Passions were abundantly discussed in seventeenth-century France.  Both Descartes and Pascal contributed a treatise on passion.  Descartes wrote a treatise on the Passions de l’âme (The Passions of the Soul) and Pascal, a Discourse on the Passion of Love.

However, passionate love was never so dangerous than in Madame de La Fayette’s La Princesse de Clèves (1678), a psychological novel in which love is viewed as a source of endless pain.  It feeds on jealousy as does Phèdre’s love for Hippolyte.  Interestingly, dramatist Jean Racine‘s (1639-1699) Phèdre, a tragedy, was first performed in 1678, the year Madame de La Fayette (1634-1693) published, anonymously, La Princesse de Clèves.

Airs de Cour – French Court Music from the 17th Century

© Micheline Walker
4 October 2011