Letters of Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend

Overview

Considered by many scholars to be among the most brilliant novels written in French during the eighteenth century, Letters of Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend was composed as a response to Samuel de Constant's misogynist novel, The Sentimental Husband (1783). Charri re presents six letters penned by a Mistress Henley, who has chosen a decent and affectionate man as her life's companion only to discover that she cannot bear sharing his life. An immediate success on its publication in 1784, Mistress Henley ...

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Overview

Considered by many scholars to be among the most brilliant novels written in French during the eighteenth century, Letters of Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend was composed as a response to Samuel de Constant's misogynist novel, The Sentimental Husband (1783). Charri re presents six letters penned by a Mistress Henley, who has chosen a decent and affectionate man as her life's companion only to discover that she cannot bear sharing his life. An immediate success on its publication in 1784, Mistress Henley was greeted with acclaim and controversy: one reader called the book "literarily excellent" but "morally dangerous in various ways." Remarkable for its empathy for both spouses, Mistress Henley is not only a moving work of fiction but also one of the most modern novels of its day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A work of startling modernity, which could become a curricular standard like 'The Yellow Wall-Paper' or The Awakening." --English Showalter, author of The Evolution of the French Novel

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This moving epistolary novel, a provocative success when it appeared in 1784, appears now in a fluid new translation. In a mere six letters, de Charriere questions both the possibility of happiness in marriage and the value of the Enlightenment ideal, the man of reason. An orphan of good birth seeking security, Mistress Henley marries a well-to-do young widower who promises a peaceful life in the country. But Mr. Henley's ``reason and moderation,'' which the new wife at first respects, soon seem more like prejudice and indifference. He dispassionately resists her attempts to introduce change--such as the redecoration of her bedroom--into his ordered life. After a romantic mishap involving the servants, she writes, ``He is astonished that we excitable souls fall prey to each others' outbursts and exaggerations.'' His cool borders on the callous when he wonders whether her emotional nature should preclude the pregnant Mistress Henley from nursing their future infant. In what the authors of the fine introduction call a modern ending, de Charriere leaves open whether her despairing heroine, torn between residual admiration for her husband and alienation from him, will reconcile herself to her life. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Here are two centuries-old epistolary novels rescued by their inclusion in an MLA series expected to make inroads in literature and women's studies curricula. Ably translated, so that they echo their 18th-century origins, and boasting a full complement of scholarly appartus, these works should succeed in rectifying students' notion of literature of the Enlightenment. As popular with 18th-century readers as Candide , de Graffigny's work involves the romance of an Inca princess captured first by the Spanish in Peru and then by the French in a battle at sea. The heroine, who ``writes'' by knotting cords, must learn French and become truly literate. She loses her Inca prince to a European and refuses her captor, who becomes her generous, amorous, but respectful guardian. In her last letter, she offers him friendship from the comfortable chateau he has deeded to her. De Charriere, a prolific Swiss novelist, gives a knowledgeable English setting to her roman a clef. Mistress Henley marries a thoroughly decent widower and is miserable. Her husband's decision--made entirely on his own--not to enter the political sphere precipitates a collapse from which she recovers, fated to live out her leftover life. Recommended for academic libraries.-- Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY-Binghamton
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780873527767
  • Publisher: Modern Language Association of America
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Series: Texts and Translations , #1
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 42
  • Sales rank: 878,316
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Meet the Author


Philip Stewart's study of French narrative has led to the publication of Imitation and Illusion in the French Memoir-Novel, 1700-1750; Le Masque et la parole: le langage de l'amour au XVIIIe siècle; an edition of Prévost's Cleveland; and a study of literary illustrations entitled Engraven Desire: Eros, Image, and Text in the French Eighteenth Century. Professor Stewart is a former president of the American Association of Teachers of French and a member of the Editorial Board of Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century.
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