I Humbly beg Leave these Letters may appear in an English Dress, under the Protection of your Name; whose Accuracy in the Original, justly Intitles you to this Dedication; and whose Advantagious Birth, Greatness of Mind, and Uncommon Improvements, exact a Veneration from the most Invidious; and render you an Illustrious Ornament of your Sex.
Madam, For me to attempt here the Publishing your Vertues and Accomplishments, so universally acknowledg’d by all that have the Honour of your Acquaintance, would be to detract from your Merit; and might more justly be censured for Presumption than Flattery.
It were better to imitate the Painter, who perceiving it not possible to represent the Father’s Grief for the loss of his Daughter, drew a Veil over his Face, and owned his Inability.
But I forget, Madam, ’tis my part only to crave your Pardon for this bold Address; and to study ever to approve myself,
Your most Obedient Servant.
IT is not sufficient to write things true, but they must likewise seem probable, to gain belief. This has sometime so prevail’d with me, as to make me think of retrenching from my Relation the strange Stories you will find therein. But I have been withheld from doing this, by Persons of such great Sence and Merit, as has made me conclude, that I cannot do amiss in following their Judgments.
I do not doubt but there will be some, who will accuse me of hyperbolizing, and composing Romances; but such would do well to acquaint themselves first with the Countrey, Humour, and Character of those I treat of. A Fact must not be presently condemn’d as false, because it is not publick, or may not hit every Man’s Fancy. I cite no feigned Names, no Persons whose Death may give me the Liberty of attributing what I please to them.
In a word: I write nothing but what I have seen, or heard from Persons of Unquestionable Credit; And therefore shall conclude with assuring you, That you have here no Novel, or Story, devised at pleasure; but an Exact and most True Account of what I met with in my Travels.
AT the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth there were several women in France who had gained no small reputation for the writing of amusing if somewhat extravagant Contes des Fées. Of these Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness of Aulnoy, has best survived her contemporaries as the author of La Chatte Blanche, La Grenouïlle Bien-complaisante, Le Prince Lutin, L’Oiseau Bleue, and of other tales which, as M. La Harpe has thought, place her supreme in the realm of delicate frivolity.
The life of this brilliant woman will doubtless present a contrast with most preconceptions of her character based upon a mere reading of her books; and we may be surprised to find in her such a marked individuality, so peculiarly in touch with her time, and offering so little of the ideal and sensitive nature it was fairly natural to infer. We have not, in fact, a mere writer of amusing tales and half romantic histories, but an intriguing, though charming, woman, of a bold and often reckless nature, sufficient to stamp her a worthy daughter of her time. And, after all harsh verdicts have been passed, we shall, I think, return to Madame Aulnoy, by way of her books, with a feeling of affection and interest.
Barneville, near Bourg-Achard (Eure), is her birthplace. Her father was Nicolas-Claude Le Jumel, and her mother, who subsequently married the Marquis of Gudaigne and went with him to Rome, Judith-Angélique Le Coustellier. Nicolas is said to have served long in the armies of Louis XIV., and to have been related to some of the best families of Normandy. Judith later, when in Rome, seems to have rendered peculiar services to the Spanish court, for which she was duly rewarded.