These translations from the French bring two of Claudine-Alexandrine de Tencin’s novels back to life: The Memoirs of the Count of Comminge (1735), in a much-needed new translation, and The Misfortunes of Love (1747), appearing here for the first time in English. Published more than half a century after Marie-Madeleine de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves, they belonged less to Tencin’s time than to the tradition of the “feminine historical novel” inspired by Lafayette. Beautifully written in the spare but powerful prose characteristic of French classicism, widely read in Tencin’s lifetime and beyond, the novels were forgotten in the mid-nineteenth century, but recently re-edited by Editions Desjonquères. Like the work of Abbé Prévost and Pierre de Marivaux, they were important contributions to the early sentimental novel. They also anticipated, surprisingly, the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe which appeared later in the century.
"Over the last several decades we have discovered, in the novels of Jane Austen, a new continent of feminine fiction that is reshaping our understanding of her time. These early nineteenth-century novels would probably not exist were it not for the creations of Claudine-Alexandrine de Tencin and others like her from the reign of Louis XV. De Tencin personally experienced the constraints society imposed on all women who dared to affirm their desire or their will. Barred from the political sphere, she at least gained a new type of freedom in her love life, in the direction of her salon, and in her fictional inventions. Jonathan Walsh’s project deserves applause for making available in English these narratives intimately linked to the clarity of classical French, but which can be expressed in other languages."
Professeur des universités, Paris IV, Sorbonne
"The Misfortunes of Love (1747) is the last completed novel by Claudine Alexandrine de Tencin. Like her friend Marivaux, she explores the secret movements of the heart through the unfortunate destinies of three women: Pauline the wealthy heiress of a financier, Eugenie the poor aristocrat victim of her own caste, and Hippolyte the commoner, a jailer’s daughter in love with Pauline’s lover, Barbasan. Betrayals, misunderstandings, and false situations are progressively revealed by a polyphonic narration which works like a jigsaw. The treatment of these torn couples extends the plot of the Memoirs of the Count of Comminge (1735), in which the male narrator’s flaws contrast sharply with the passionate energy of his lover, Adélaïde. Anticipating Charrière’s and Staël’s novels, Tencin examines heroism and the ethics of love from a feminine point of view."
Maître de conférences of Eighteenth-century French Literature, Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle
JONATHAN D. WALSH is professor of French Studies at Wheaton College, in Norton, Massachusetts. He is currently working on a study of Prévost’s Cleveland and adapting works by Prévost and Kate Chopin for the stage and screen.
Iter and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2016
The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series 48
Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 499
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