Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Shortly after renting a country house near Rennes, the narrator states, he came upon several notebooks in the house containing the story of a lady, presented in her own handwriting. At the request of his friends, he agreed to edit and publish her account. Marianne, the name the lady in the autobiography gives herself, is a countess, about fifty years of age at the time of her writing. She explains that she is describing her past because a dear friend has entreated her to tell the full story of her life.
While still an infant, Marianne is orphaned in an attack by brigands on the coach in which she and her parents are traveling. She is the only survivor of this brutal encounter, and as a result her identity is unknown. Passersby rescue the child and put her in the care of the sister of the local priest. Marianne remains the ward of that kind person until she is fifteen years of age, at which time, while she and her foster mother are visiting Paris, misfortune comes to her again. An epidemic breaks out, and all of those intimately concerned with Marianne’s welfare are fatally stricken.
Soon another benefactor appears, Monsieur de Climal, who offers to aid her out of charitable piety. By this time, Marianne is a beautiful young woman, and Climal shows his fondness by buying her expensive clothing and arranging for her lodging with a widowed shopkeeper, Madame Dutour. Marianne objects strongly to the bourgeois atmosphere of her new home, but her...
(The entire section is 1076 words.)
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