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The Princess of Cleves
Published by G. Kearly No. 46 Fleet Street Augt. 1, 1777. (Wikisource)

I wrote a second post on La Princesse de Clèves, but it has disappeared. I do not know how to retrieve an earlier version of a post written in the Block Editor.

I was about to discuss our heroine, Mlle de Chartres, who has been taken to court by her widowed mother so she can find a husband. She is sixteen and has not discovered passion. She will marry le prince de Clèves, but he will find no change in her after they marry. In the following quotation, she is still unmarried, but she does not know life, let alone love. Mlle de Chartres is sixteen. She marries the Prince of Cleves who is less repulsive (avec moins de répugnance) than other men.

The Prince of Cleves senses that she does not love him:

Est-il possible, lui [le prince de Clèves] disait-il, que je puisse n’être pas heureux en vous épousant? Cependant il est vrai que je ne le suis pas. Vous n’avez pour moi qu’une sorte de bonté qui ne peut me satisfaire; vous n’avez ni impatience, ni inquiétude, ni chagrin; vous n’êtes pas plus touchée de ma passion que vous le seriez d’un attachement qui ne serait fondé que sur les avantages de votre fortune, et non pas sur les charmes de votre personne. (Le Prince de Clèves) (Gutenberg’s eBook # 18797)
[Is it possible, says he, that I should not be happy in marrying you? and yet it is certain, I am not. You only show me a sort of civility which is far from giving me satisfaction; you express none of those pretty inquietudes, the concern, and impatience, which are the soul of love; you are no further affected with my passion, than you would be with one which flowed only from the advantage of your fortune, and not from the beauty of your person. (Wikisource [15])

Mademoiselle de Chartres ne savait que répondre, et ces distinctions étaient au-dessus de ses connaissances. Monsieur de Clèves ne voyait que trop combien elle était éloignée d’avoir pour lui des sentiments qui le pouvaient satisfaire, puisqu’il lui paraissait même qu’elle ne les entendait pas. (Gutenberg’s eBook # 18797)
[Mademoiselle de Chartres did not know what to answer; these distinctions were above her comprehension. The prince of Cleves plainly saw she was far from having that tenderness of affection for him, which was requisite to his happiness; it was manifest she could not feel a passion which she did not understand.] (Wikisource [16])

Mlle de Chartres will discover passion after she marries the Prince de Clèves. She will be invited to a ball, le bal du Maréchal de Saint-André. She has been told about the Duc de Nemours:

Mais ce prince était un chef−d’œuvre de la nature ; ce qu’il avait de moins admirable était d’être l’homme du monde le mieux fait et le plus beau.
[The duke de Nemours was a masterpiece of nature; the beauty of his person, inimitable as it was, was his least perfection; what placed him above other men, was a certain agreeableness in his discourse, his actions, his looks, which was observable in none beside himself: he had in his behaviour a gaiety that was equally pleasing to men and women; in his exercises he was very expert; and in dress he had a peculiar manner, which was followed by all the world, but could never be imitated: in fine, such was the air of his whole person, that it was impossible to fix one’s eye on anything else, wherever he was.
(Wikisource []

She knows who he is when she sees him at the ball. It will be the coup de foudre.

Madame de Clèves acheva de danser et pendant qu’elle cherchait des yeux quelqu’un qu’elle avait dessein de prendre, le roi lui cria de prendre celui qui arrivait. Elle se tourna, et vit un homme qu’elle crut d’abord ne pouvoir être que monsieur de Nemours, qui passait par-dessus quelques sièges pour arriver où l’on dansait. Ce prince était fait d’une sorte, qu’il était difficile de n’être pas surprise de le voir quand on ne l’avait jamais vu, surtout ce soir-là, où le soin qu’il avait pris de se parer augmentait encore l’air brillant qui était dans sa personne; mais il était difficile aussi de voir madame de Clèves pour la première fois, sans avoir un grand étonnement. (Gutenberg’s eBook # 18797)
[She had finished her dance, and as she was casting her eyes round to single out some other person, the king desired her to take him who came in last; she turned about, and viewing him as he was passing over the seats to come to the place where they danced, she immediately concluded he was the duke of Nemours. The duke’s person was turned in so delicate a manner, that it was impossible not to express surprise at the first sight of him, particularly that evening, when the care he had taken to adorn himself added much to the fine air of his carriage. It was as impossible to behold the princess of Cleves without equal admiration.] (Wikisource [19])

We are at the court of Henri II (1519-1559). Henri II is the husband of Catherine de’ Medici, but he has a mistress, Diane de Poitiers, Madame de Valentinois, who also lives at court. Henri’s son François II has just married Marie Stuart or Mary Queen of Scots. François marries at the age of 16.

I hope my second post on La Princesse de Clèves will surface. Part of it is in Words, and I remember what I wrote. It could be, however, that the quotation above reveals an impending tragedy. After the ball, we enter Part Two of a four-part narrative.

Sources and Resources

La Princesse de Clèves is a Librivox and Internet Archive Publication FR
The Princess of Cleves is a Wikisource publication EN
La Princesse de Clèves is a Wikisource publication FR
La Princesse de Clèves is Gutenberg’s [eBook # 18797]FR
La Princesse de Clèves is Gutenberg’s [eBook # 467] EN
La Princesse de Clèves is a Librivox and Internet Archive Publication
Wikipedia
Britannica

Love to everyone 💕

Natalie Schwamova plays Mozart‘s Ah! vous dirai-je maman, (12 Variations).
Madame de La Fayette (Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
17 December 2020
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