The dramatic life of the Paris street urchin, Adrienne Couvreur, who grew up to become Adrienne Lecouvreur, celebrated actress, friend of Voltaire, and darling of pre-Revolutionary French society, is the basis for this novel. Adrienne is presented as a woman who achieved much through her dedication to the art of acting, which sustained her through childhood poverty, the birth of an illegitimate daughter and a long separation from her, until she burst upon the scene as a licensed actress at the Comedie Francaise. She substituted the rhythms of natural speech for the rather wooden declamatory style then in vogue in the theatre, and achieved a place in court society not easily attainable by one of her scandalous profession. She also lost much through her love for the fascinating illigitimate son of the King of Poland, Maurice de Saxe, to whom she gave her devotion, her jewels to aid him in his attempts for a throne, and finally, her life, as she was poisoned by a rival for Maurice's affections. The background of French society on the eve of revolution and the complex character of the devoted and malicious Voltaire are especially well-drawn, but it is the romantic figure of Adrienne herself that dominates this book.