MADAME DE GENLIS by Violet Wyndham


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Felicite de Genlis was truly a remarkable woman and a fit subject for biography. She was not only the mistress of that Duc d'Orleans who (although a royal prince and a cousin to the King of France) took the name of Philippe Egalite during the French Revolution; not only was governess to his children and educated the boy who was to become King, Louis-Philippe; but she wrote over 100 books, claimed to the Irish writer, Lady Morgan, that she knew twenty trades by each of which she could earn her living, and was a close friend of such disparate people as Napoleon, Madame Recamier, Talleyrand, and Chateaubriand. She was also a powerful intellectual force in French society twice in her long life-- she was a champion of democracy and Catholicism-- ideas which in the France of her day were often considered opposites. During her lifetime, she was considered as having been one of the instigators of the Revolution (an opinion which the author does not share) and as having born two illegitimate daughters to her royal lover (a speculation which the author, who in private life is married to a descendant of one of these girls, supports with some cogency). As Felicite lived in the Europe of 1746 to 1830, an extremely complex era, some knowledge of the major course of events during the period, as well as of the major figures, would be helpful in reading this account of her life. Although the book is necessarily dense with facts, the fascination of the central character and the author's skillful use of quotation from primary sources make it interesting reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1960
Publisher: Roy