17th-century French Literature - Other Genres - Mémoires and Letters

Mémoires and Letters

The 17th century is noted for its biographical "mémoires". The first great outpouring of these comes from the participants of the Fronde (like Cardinal de Retz), who used the genre as political justification combined with novelistic adventure. Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy (known as Bussy-Rabutin) is responsible for the scandalous Histoire amoureuse des Gaules, a series of sketches of amorous intrigues by the chief ladies of the court. Paul Pellisson, historian to the king, wrote a Histoire de Louis XIV covering 1660–1670. Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux wrote Les Historiettes, a collection of short biographical sketches of his contemporaries.

Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac's collected letters are credited with executing (in French prose) a reform paralleling Francois de Malherbe's in verse. Madame de Sévigné's (1626–1696) letters are considered an important document of society and literary events under Louis XIV. The most celebrated mémoires of the 17th century, those of Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon (1675–1755), were not published until over a century later.

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Famous quotes containing the word letters:

    Letters are like wine; if they are sound they ripen with keeping. A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine.
    Samuel Butler (1835–1902)