Madame de Pompadour A Life

Evelyne Lever; Translated from the French by Catherine Temerson

St. Martin's Griffin

0312310501

9780312310509

Trade Paperback

320 Pages

CAD26.99

$22.99

Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

Acclaimed French historian Lever here chronicles the extraordinary life of the most famous and influential mistress of Louis XV: Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour. This seductive, astute, and resilient woman was destined to be both adored and reviled by the Court and French public because of her relationship with one of the most powerful men in Europe, yet she was also to wield enormous influence on the culture, politics, and military future of France, with an authority that far exceeded any previously exerted by an official mistress.

The incredible story of how a bourgeois girl of questionable parentage would rise to the highest ranks of French society, consolidate her position at Court and maintain a twenty-year relationship with Louis XV, begins with a fortune-teller's prophecy that one day the young Jeanne-Antoinette would be the mistress of a king. In spite of the difficulties presented by her background, by the age of twenty-four the beautiful Jeanne-Antoinette had indeed become the favorite of the monarch. The implications—both personal and political—of their relationship were far-reaching, and Lever illustrates how Madame de Pompadour gradually played the role not only of official mistress but also of France's second queen.

Louis XV's happiness was of the utmost importance to his lover, and this talented and innovative young woman was to make a lasting contribution to the culture of the period through her efforts to amuse him and her own lively interest in the arts. She was an outstanding singer and actress, and frequently entertained the King and Court in impressive stage productions. She sat for portraits and commissioned paintings by Boucher, Nattier, Van Loo, La Tour, and Pigalle; and she formed friendships with many of the philosophers and writers of the time, including Fontenelle, Crébillon, and Voltaire. But she was also loathed for her role in France's disastrous military losses during the Seven Years War, and was the victim of persistent court gossip and intrigues designed to remove her.

With this illuminating biography of a woman who succeeded against all odds, and whose love affair with a king changed the fate of a nation, Lever weaves a portrait of an extraordinary relationship, an exceptional woman and a country in turmoil.

REVIEWS

Praise for Madame de Pompadour

"[A] compact, sympathetic [life] aimed at an intelligent readership. Lever's portrait is . . . revealing of the intimate life."—The New Yorker

"In this lively biography we get to know the mistress of Louis XV of France. Except for the fortune teller who predicted it all before the fact, no one would have guessed that a bourgeois girl in the 18th century could go so far. And go far she did, becoming a wealthy and influential woman in her own right. We read here of the travails she faced, and the gossip she had to overcome, in her quest to become a bona fide patroness of the arts. Even Jesuit priests would refuse her absolution when she tried to say confession. Life wasn't easy, but it was never boring for a woman who made the most of what she had in a particularly colourful period of French history."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Artfully observed . . . Lever offer[s] an astute portrait of Madame de Pompadour in the court of Louis XV . . . [She] details why Madame de Pompadour was never a favorite with the common folk, whose resentments ran the gamut from the gifts lavished on her to her association with French military defeats and woeful treaties."—Kirkus Reviews

"One of the most famous mistresses in the long annals of European royalty, Madame de Pompadour, official 'favorite' of France's handsome but moody Louis XV, is restored to glorious life in an artfully written biography by the celebrated author of Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France. The important element to remember about Pompadour's reign as official mistress is the fact that she came from humble origins, for her bourgeois background was unique to the list of Louis XV's anointed 'lady friends,' and the source of not simply annoyance but also derision at the French court. Creative and intelligent as well as beautiful, Pompadour set her hat not only to catch the king but also to exert influence over him and thus earn a place for herself in French history. The court at Versailles during the ancien regime had, of course, a highly mannered and competitive atmosphere, and Lever's biography reveals a delightfully clever woman who steered a triumphant path through the difficult and demanding 'customs of the country.' An excellent companion to the author's previous book."—Brad Hooper, Booklist

"Detailed and passionate . . . Lever, an expert in the history of the royal family, displays an impressive range of scholarship. Nothing escapes her attention."—Jean-François Josselin, Le Nouvel Observateur

"Perfectly realized . . . [The reader is] fascinated . . . A remarkable book, at once a portrait of a singular woman and an accurate fresco of a period."—L'Histoire

"An immensely detailed biography . . . With the precision of an university historian, Evelyne Lever follows, step by step, the adventures of the Marquise de Pompadour."—Stéphane Bern, Madame Figaro

"Lever not only puts in context the long-ago world of 18th-century France, a world in which married women openly engaged in petty intrigue to gain their handsome, horny, and self-absorbed monarch's attention, but she also guides readers to a better understanding of King Louis XV's favorite mistress."—Publishers Weekly

"Lever has a panoramic eye, carefully laying out the complex machinations of the court as Jeanne-Antoinette's role grows from object of curiosity to unofficial 'prime minister.'"—Vogue

"In this new biography, French historian Evelyne Lever chronicles the extraordinary life of the most famous and influential mistress of Louis XV: Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour. This seductive, astute, and resilient woman was destined to be both adored and reviled by the Court and the French public because of her relationship with one of the most powerful men in Europe, yet she was also to wield enormous influence on the culture, politics, and military future of France, with an authority that far exceeded any previously exerted by an official mistress. With this illuminating biography of a woman who succeeded against all odds, and whose love affair with a king changed the fate of a nation, Lever weaves a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary relationship, an exceptional woman, and a country in turmoil."—Translation Review

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Evelyne Lever; Translated from the French by Catherine Temerson

  • Evelyne Lever is a leading French historian and the author of several books, including Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France. She lives in Paris with her husband, writer Maurice Lever.

BACK