History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: Marie Deffand, Patron of Fashion and LiteratureMarie Deffand
Patron of Fashion and Literature
1697 – 1780 A.D.

An accomplished French woman, resplendent in the age of Louis XV., was born in Paris in 1687, and she died in the same city in 1780. She was of noble birthday, and was educated in a convent, but at an early age astonished her parents by her skeptical opinions on religious subjects.

At twenty years of age she was married to the Marquis du Deffand, for whom her indiscretions soon caused her to be separated, after which she launched a into a career of fashionable dissipation, and for many was one of the most brilliant ornaments of the court of Louis XV. Although incapable from natural selfishness and want of sympathy of entertaining the passion of love, she knew how to inspire others; and over the greater part of her numerous lovers, among whom, it is said, was the regent himself, her influence remained unimpaired until their dotage.

Her conversational powers and clear, cool judgement caused her to be courted by the most eminent men of the time, and in her fifty-sixth year she became totally blind, her salons in the convent of St. Joseph were the favorite resort of Montesquieu, Voltaire, President Hénault, David Hume, D’Alembert, and many others. At this period in her life she became acquainted with Horace Walpole, between whom and herself a correspondence was for many years carried on.

As she grew old her selfish traits developed more disagreeably, and the ungenerous manner in which she treated her companion and reader, Mlle. de Lespinasse, alienated many of her friends. Her latter years were marked with peevishness and ennui, and she died unhappy after several years unavailing efforts to consecrate herself to the life of a devotee.

Her epistolary writings comprise her correspondence with Hénault, Montesquieu, D’Alembert, and the Duchess of Maine, and with Horace Walpole. Her prose style is a model of elegance, but her poetry never rose above mediocrity.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.