Rambouillet, Catherine De Vivonne
literary hotel madame
RAMBOUILLET, CATHERINE DE VIVONNE, MARQUISE DE (1588-1665), a lady famous in the literary history of France, was born in 1588. She was the daughter and heiress of Jean de Vivonne, marquis of Pisani, and her mother Giulia was of the noble Roman family of Savelli. She was married at twelve years old to Charles d'Angennes, vidame of Le Mans, and afterwards marquis of Rambouillet. Her celebrity is due to the salon or literary meeting-place which she established as early as 1608 in the Hotel de Rambouillet, - or, to give it its proper name, the Had Pisani, for M. de Rambouillet had shortly before his marriage sold his family mansion. Madame de Bam-bouillet not merely endeavoured to refine the manners of her guests and gave special attention to literary conversa-tion, but also seems to have taken great trouble to arrange her house for purposes of reception, and is said to have been the first to devise suites of rooms through which visitors could move easily. The hotel was open for more than fifty years, and almost all the more remarkable person-ages in French society and French literature frequented it, especially during the second quarter of the century, when it was at the height of its reputation. The incidents con-nected with the salon of the " incomparable Arthenice" (an anagram for Catherine which is said to have taken two poets of renown, Malherbe and Racan, a whole afternoon to devise) are innumerable, and it would be impossible to recount them in any space here available. Among the more noteworthy are the sonnet war between the Uranistes and the Jobistes - partisans of two famous sonnets by Voiture and Benscrade - and the composition by all the famous poets of the day of the Guirlande de Julie, a collec-tion of poems on different flowers, addressed to Julie d'Angennes, Madame de Rambouillet's eldest daughter. Even more important is the rise of the Precieuses, who owed their existence to Madame de Rambouillet's salon and influence. These ladies - who are usually represented in the memory of posterity by Moliere's avowed caricatures and by Mademoiselle de Scudery, but whose name, it must be remembered, Madame de Sevigne herself was proud to bear - insisted on a ceremonious gallantry from their suitors and friends (though it seems from Tallemant's account that practical jokes of a mild kind were by no means excluded from the Hotel de Rambouillet), and especially favoured an elaborate and quintessenced kind of colloqinal and literary expression, such as at the end of the 16th and in the earlier part of the 17th century was fashionable throughout Europe. The immortal Precieuses Ridicules was no doubt directly levelled not at the Hotel de Ram-bouillet itself but at the numerous coteries which in the course of years (for the salon had been open for more than a generation when MoHere's piece, which was patronized by the real Precieuses themselves, appeared) had sprung up in imitation of it. But the satire did in truth touch the originators as well as the imitators, - the former more closely perhaps than they perceived. The HOtel de Ram-bouillet continued open till the death of its mistress, 27th December 1665, but latterly it lost its peculiar position. It had no doubt a very considerable influence in bringing about the classicizing of French during the 17th century, though the literary work with which it is chiefly identified was of an older school than that of the age of Louis XIV. proper.
The chief original authorities respecting Madame de Rambouillet and her set are Tallemant des Reanx in his Historiettes and Somaize in his Dictionnaire des Precieuses. Many recent writers have treated the subject, among whom MM. Cousin, Livet, and De Barthelemy deserve special mention.