A reminder to read Les Lettres de Madame de Sévigné
One-thousand-five-hundred letters and three centuries later. Marie de Rabutin-Chantal (1626-1696) who would marry and become the Marquise de Sévigné, a revered woman of letters of the Grand Siècle, had a fashionable passion for chocolate. With a fine mind and sense of humor, she had also what the French call de l'esprit. Her witty epistolary works, occasioned by the moving away of her beloved daughter and years of correspondence with her, have important literary and historic value.
Chocolate was introduced to the royal court in France in 1643 when Louis XIV's Spanish fiancée, Marie-Thérèse, gave some to him as an engagement gift; by 1650 a chocolate craze had taken hold among French aristocrats. (Cortèz had initially brought chocolate to Spain in 1528 from the New World.)
In 1898 a chocolatier created the brand Marquise de Sévigné, one of the principal haut de gamme chocolates since. Today simply mentioning "la Marquise" is enough to conjure up visions of cocoa...
Le Grand Siècle: during the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715); the apogee of French classicism
l'esprit: the spirit, soul, mind
avoir de l'esprit: to be witty
avoir l'esprit vif: to be quick-witted
épistolaire: epistolary; that which pertains to an exchange of letters
un chocolatier: a chocolate maker
haut de gamme: high end
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Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron