The first literary work of Honoré d’Urfé (dur-FAY) was a series of philosophical meditations, Epistres morales (1598). Le Sireine, a pastoral poem begun in 1583, was published in 1606. Between 1599 and 1609, d’Urfé composed a heroic poem in nine books, La Savoysiade (a fragment of this work appears in Nouveau Recueil des plus beaux vers de ce temps, 1609). At the request of Marie de Médicis, d’Urfé wrote a long pastoral play in five acts titled La Sylvanire (pb. 1627). Les Tristes Amours de Floridon (1628) contains two shorter pastoral works, “Les Fortunez Amours de Poliastre et de Doriane” and “Le Berger désolé.”
In spite of Honoré d’Urfé’s numerous other works, his fame rests on his five-volume novel Astrea. Astrea was one of the most prodigious successes of the period and became the most widely read novel in seventeenth century France, influencing the life of the time as well as the literature that succeeded it. The appearance of Astrea coincided with the end of the political and social unrest caused by the religious wars from 1562 to 1598.
The period following the Ligue was one in which heroic individuals tried to mold themselves to a courtly and therefore civilized pattern. The warrior became attuned to social requirements and the polite conversation of the salons. Astrea, with its refined dialogue and its bucolic setting, spoke directly to a psychological need for calm and order after years of civil strife. It quickly became a manual of courtly love for the aristocracy. It was through Astrea and the courtly texts of the Italian Renaissance, Torquato Tasso’s Aminta (1587; English translation, 1591) and Baldassare Castiglione’s Il cortegiano (1528; The Book of the Courtier, 1561), that the nobility became versed in the code of Neoplatonic love.
From 1607 to the middle of the seventeenth century, Celadon, Astrea, Silvandre, Diane, and the code of amour honnête that they exemplified enjoyed a great vogue. Astrea was read at court, in the salons of the...
Hembree, James M. Subjectivity and the Signs of Love: Discourse, Desire, and the Emergence of Modernity in Honoré d’Urfé’s “L’Astrée.” New York: Peter Lang, 1997. An analysis of the novel Astrea and its significance to the history of French philosophy. Hembree argues that the novel is a bridge between Michel Eyquem de Montaigne’s ideas about the nature of being and René Descartes’s more modern and subjective ideas about self-knowledge.
Hinds, Leonard. Narrative Transformations from “L’Astrée” to “Le Berger extravagant.” West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2002. A comparison of d’Urfé’s idealist, pastoral romance with Charles Sorel’s The Extravagant Shepherd—The Anti-Romance, a realistic parody of d’Urfé’s novel published in 1627. Demonstrates how Sorel altered d’Urfé’s language and other aspects of the pastoral genre to create his satire.
Horowitz, Louise K. Honoré d’Urfé. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A volume in the Twayne World Authors series, Horowitz’s book is an introductory overview of d’Urfé, with biographical information and discussion of Astrea and other writings. Includes a bibliography and an index.
_______. “Honoré d’Urfé: Bellwether Beginnings.” In Beginnings in French Literature, edited by Freeman G. Henry. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002. Horowitz’s examination of the sources and origins of Astrea is included in this collection of essays about French literature. A scholarly essay, appropriate for advanced students.
Wine, Kathleen. Forgotten Virgo: Humanism and Absolutism in Honoré d’Urfés “L’Astrée.” Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2000. An analysis of Astrea, in which Wine discusses how d’Urfé altered the traditional genres of pastoral and epic to create myths about personal and literary autonomy that would resonate throughout French literature.