Evelyne Lever is distinguished French historian who is speciality is the ancien regime.
One of the most fascinating creatues of the ancien regime is the Marquise de Pompadour, the legendary maitrese en titre of King Louis XV. Posterity has not been kind to Madame de Pompadour. But neither were her contemporaries. The infamous poissonades (as she was born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson) attacked her and left her reputation in tatters.
Born into middle class, she was far from the royal court, but she was very carefully eductaed and groomed to become a royal mistress. That she made it to this position, is already amazing.But it is even more intriguing that she kept that position even after her sexual relations with the King had seized. For 20 years she was the all powerful mistress of the court, a Queen in all but name. How did that all happen?
La Pompadour - she got the title of Marquise from the King- was a woman of culuture, exquiste taste, entertaining, intelligent
Evelyn Levers book is written with much knowledge and passion. She has a great feeling for the time and knows how to re-created the world of the court in Versailles for modern readers. She clearly like Madame la Marquiese and focusses most intently on the Marquise's intimate life. She stress Madame de Pompadour's heroism and self-sacrifice in loving so selfish and thoughtless a man as Louis XV. But she forget a bit too much the bad sides of the Marquise.The book is therefore not really balanced. Her political influence is less well described.
But Mrs Lever clearly captured the essence of La Pompadour in an immensely readable form. What Nancy Mitford in her 1953 biographie staretd, Evelyne Lever continues: to redeem the name and reputation of the Marquise de Pompadour. It is not quite "the last word" on her, but a pleasure to read.
I bought this book primarily because I have long been interested in this lady who was the favourite mistress of King Louis XV of France. With great skill and maturity beyond her years, Jeanne-Antoinette, who was to become the future Madame de Pompadour, held her positon for twenty years long after the King's minor mistresses had failed to captivate. I also chose this book because it was written by Evelyne Lever who has also written Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Ms Lever's style is just perfect for the non-historian, not too academic but not Mills and Boon either. The book does not centre on the relationship of Louis and Madame de Pompadour alone; Ms Lever gives you a sense of time and place - I felt I had a better understanding of the social, political and economic situation of this period without reading heavy tomes of history books. I really enjoyed reading this book and I would highly recommend it.
on 11 November 2002
...and of course her excellent translator!
I thoroughly enjoyed their last book on Marie-Antoinette, and this one is just as wonderfully written. I very much enjoy Ms Lever's easygoing storytelling and her ability to bring her characters to life.
Mlle Poisson was the first maitresse declarÃ©e to rise from outside the "ranks" and by sheer personality (and a bit of coaching), made it to be the most powerful woman of her age.
Although there is a wealth of other books on this subject, do read this one as well, it does fill out for the bits the other authors perhaps missed. I cannot recommend Ms Lever more highly!