Celebrating the completion of this landmark edition
Françoise de Graffigny (1695-1758), French novelist and playwright whose talent was celebrated all over Europe after the publication of her novel Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747), and her play Cénie (1750), knew many leading figures of the time, including Voltaire. Her letters offer a unique insight into France’s intellectual, social, political and literary history, as well as the female condition in the eighteenth century.
Portrait de Mme de Graffigny par Pierre-Augustin Clavareau, Lunéville, Musée du château, inv.2011.2.1, cliché T. Franz: Conseil général de Meurthe-et-Moselle
CBC radio interview with the editors
‘She was the world’s most famous writer at one time… but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of her. Francoise de Graffigny was admired throughout Europe in the mid 18th century for her novel Lettres d’une Péruvienne and her drama Cénie.
‘But over two centuries later her name was pretty well forgotten. Then in 1975 a group of international scholars based at the University of Toronto came together to edit over 2500 letters written by Mme de Graffigny. Now, 40 years later, it’s finally been completed [and published by the Voltaire Foundation].’
Professor David Smith, who’s been an editor with the Graffigny project since its inception, and Professor Penny Arthur, an associate editor since 1981, talk about this monumental task in this CBC Radio One interview on the programme Fresh Air (24 April 2016):
‘Mme de Graffigny’s letters to François-Antoine Devaux, a lawyer with literary aspirations who was her closest friend and confidant until her death, are considered her “masterpiece”. […] she wrote candidly about disparate topics including a three-month stay with writer and philosopher Voltaire and his mistress, aspects of her health, and artistic rivalries. […] In the letters, her writing is spontaneous and unrehearsed, providing a magnificent example of everyday language during the period.’
‘On International Women’s Day, join us in celebrating the publication next month of the final volume of letters of pioneering writer and salon hostess, Madame de Graffigny. It will […] bring to a close the story of Mme de Graffigny’s lost papers which began over 250 years ago.
‘When Mme de Graffigny died on 12 December 1758, she was the world’s most famous living woman writer. Despite the failure of her last play, La Fille d’Aristide (1758), she was admired throughout Europe for her novel, Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747), and her drama, Cénie (1750), both huge popular successes. […]
‘Now complete in fifteen volumes, containing 2518 letters, this correspondence has restored Mme de Graffigny to prominence among French Enlightenment writers. The letters themselves constitute an unusual masterpiece, written in a lively personal style, with a frank and intimate portrait of a woman and her society.’
Célébration de l’achèvement de cette édition décisive qui fera étape dans l’histoire de la littérature
Françoise de Graffigny (1695-1758), femme de lettres dont le talent était reconnu dans toute l’Europe grâce à son roman, Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747), et de sa pièce de théâtre Cénie (1750), fréquentait un nombre impressionnant de personnalités, dont Voltaire, et ses lettres fournissent un témoignage exceptionnel de l’histoire intellectuelle, sociale, politique, et littéraire de la France pendant un quart de siècle. Cette correspondance constitue une mine de renseignements sur la France et surtout sur la condition de la femme au dix-huitième siècle.