Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, later the Comtesse de La Fayette (lah fah-yeht), was the daughter of Marc Pioche de la Vergne, a gentleman of Paris who was important enough to have a Marshal of France and a niece of Cardinal Richelieu as his daughter’s godparents. Marie, born in Paris in March, 1634, was educated privately but evidently was educated well; later, as lady-in-waiting to the queen, and as a member of the most intellectual circles of the capital, she was known for her wit and for her ability to converse freely in Latin. She was married to François, Comte de La Fayette, when she was twenty-two years old. The couple lived for a time at the count’s country estate in Auvergne, but after she had borne her husband two children Madame de La Fayette returned to Paris, to remain there for the rest of her life.{$S[A]Segrais;La Fayette, Madame de}{$S[A]Pioche de la Vergne, Marie-Madeleine;La Fayette, Madame de}{$S[A]Vergne, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la;La Fayette, Madame de}

Her literary interests soon brought her to the attention of her most talented contemporaries; she became acquainted with Molière, for example. In her own court circles she was one of an intimate group that included Madame de Sévigné and the Duc de La Rochefoucauld. Her best books were written during this period of literary and personal association.

It has been established beyond doubt that Madame de La Fayette wrote the novels ascribed her, even though she...

(The entire section is 420 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born in Paris and baptized on March 18, 1634, as Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, Madame de La Fayette was well connected with the royal court. Her mother, Isabelle Pena, was the daughter of the physician of King Louis XIII. La Fayette’s father had an honorable career in the royal army until his death in 1649. Her mother’s second husband, Renaud-René de Sévigné, was involved in the aristocratic rebellion known as the Fronde and was exiled from the court in 1652. Three years later, La Fayette married François, Comte de La Fayette.

Madame de La Fayette spent less than four years at her husband’s estate in the Auvergne. By 1659, the couple was back in Paris, where their second son was born. In 1661, the count returned to the Auvergne, leaving Madame de La Fayette to live in the house built by her father and to participate in the life of the court. She was close to Madame de Sévigné and to Princess Henrietta of England, wife of Philippe d’Orléans, brother of the king. She frequented the salon of the literary Du Plessis-Guénégauds, held at the Hôtel de Nevers. In 1665, she began a long friendship with the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, a former leader of the Fronde and author of the well-known Maximes (1665-1678; The Maxims, 1670, 1706). After his death in 1680 and her husband’s death in 1683, she renewed her friendship with the active literary figure Gilles Ménage. In the later 1670’s, she was active in secret diplomatic negotiations with the duchy of Savoy. After 1689, she turned toward religion under the direction of the Abbé de Rancé.