Tuesday, February 14, 2012


"L'amour est un je-ne-sais-quoi, qui vient je-ne-sais-où, et qui finit je-ne-sais-quand." -- Mlle Madeleine de Scudéry, the celebrated "precieuse." (1607-1701). Love is a I-don't-know-what, which comes from I-don't-know-where, and which ends I-don't-know-when. 

A woman's movement of wit and subtlety
La Préciosité, a French 17th-century lifestyle of extreme refinement in art, music, manners and especially language, had at its heart Mlle Scudéry, an aristocratic feminist who idealized love but refused the "tyranny" of marriage and remained single all of her life. Credited with inventing extraordinary neologisms and brillant turns of phrases that even revolutionized the French language, the rather closed circle of femmes précieuses  frequented one another's literary salons to discuss and comment poetry and novels of galanterie and amour in conversations enlivened by artistic plays on words. Satirized as complicated and affected by Molière in Les Précieuses Ridicules (1659), Mlle Scudéry, aka Sapho, was nonetheless the very first woman of letters to receive the Académie Française prize for eloquence.

un langage recherché:  a refined choice of words characterized by the desire to create a certain effect
la préciosité:  preciousness; in the derogatory sense, an exaggerated concern with elegant or refined behavior, language or manners
la galanterie:  gallantry, polite attention or respect given by men to women
l'amour:  love
un roman:  a novel
un bel esprit:  a person with a fine and gifted mind

©2012 P.B. Lecron

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