La marquise de Sévigné (1626-1696), is considered one of the foremost epistolary authors in French literature or in any literature, for that matter. Born Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, daughter of Celse-Bénigne de Rabutin, baron de Chantal, she was raised by her maternal uncle, Christophe de Coulanges. She received an unusual education for women at her time, including foreign languages and literatures.
Married in 1644 to Henri, baron de Sévigné (who called himself marquis
), she bore two children
and Françoise-Marguerite. Widow
ed young, when her husband
was killed in a duel
regarding a mistress
, she quickly became much sought after in Parisian
society. She was known to be friends with the duc de La Rochefoucauld
, Mme de Lafayette
, and Mme Scarron, the future Mme de Maintenon
and secret wife of Louis XIV
In 1671 her daughter married the comte de Grignan, who was obliged to live in the south of France because of his government duties. This was the beginning of a long and exhaustive correspondence, most of which focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter. Nevertheless, few subjects escape the marquise's pen; children, marriage, religion, gossip, royalty, peasants, agriculture and literature are all treated in her letters, with freshness and vitality. The letters were first published in authorized form in 1725, although many had been circulated or published earlier.