Selected Letters of Madame De Sevigne (Classic Reprint)

Selected Letters of Madame De Sevigne (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Selected Letters of Madame De Sevigne

As an excuse for an edition of the Letters of Mme de Sevigne, I may plead the very kind words of encouragement called forth from teachers and reviewers by my edition of Moliere's L'Avare. I may also quote in support of my views as to the manner in which a text should be edited, the words of Mr. Balfour. He, speaking of the immortality which is con ventionally ascribed to great writers of the past, says: "If they survive at all, it is but a shadowy life they live, moving on through the gradations of slow decay to distant but inevitable death. They can no longer, as heretofore, speak directly to the hearts of their fellow-men, evoking their tears or laughter, and all the pleasures, be they sad or merry, of which imagination holds the secret. Driven from the market place, they become first the companions of the student, then the victims of the specialist. He who would still hold familiar intercourse with them must train himself to penetrate the veil which, in ever thickening folds, conceals them from the ordinary gaze."

It is impossible in the short space of an introduction to give all that is necessary to enable us to "penetrate the veil" which hangs between us and the century of Mme de Sevigne. This has been done once with loving care by the Baron de Walckenaer (Memoires sur Mme de Sevigne), but as this fills out some eight volumes, I may be excused from thinking that it is likely to have been read by the ordinary student. I have felt compelled to omit from my choice of letters all reference to the Jansenist controversy, despite Mme de Sevigne's close connection with the Arnauld family; nor have I ventured to mention Descartes.

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