La Fayette, Marie Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de

La Fayette, Marie Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de

(märē` mädəlĕn` pyôsh də lä vĕr`nyə, kôntĕs` də läfāĕt`), 1634–92, French novelist of the classical period, whose chief work, La Princesse de Clèves (1678), is the first great French novel. The psychological realism of this story of a woman's renunciation of an illicit love, treated with chaste simplicity and quiet wit, has given the novel enduring appeal. Mme de La Fayette's friendship with the duc de La RochefoucauldLa Rochefoucauld, François, duc de
, 1613–80, French writer. As head of an ancient family (in his youth he bore the title prince de Marcillac) he opposed Richelieu and was later active in both Frondes.
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 has led to unfounded theories that he appears in her novel as the unhappy lover and that he collaborated on the work.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

La Fayette, Marie Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, Comtesse de


Born Mar. 18, 1634, in Paris; died there May 25, 1693. French writer.

La Fayette delineated the mores of the French court in two books of historical memoirs, published posthumously: The Story of Mme. Henriette of England (1720) and Memoirs of the French Court During 1688 and 1689 (1731). She published her novels and novellas anonymously or under a pseudonym: La Princess de Montpensier (1662), Zayde (vols. 1–2, 1670–71), and La Princess de Clèves (vols. 1–4, 1678; Russian translation, 1959).

La Fayette’s best work is the psychological novel La Princess de Clèves, which reveals the psychological drama of a young woman in aristocratic society. Her treatment of the problem of marriage, prompted by observations of the life and customs of upper society, sharply distinguishes her work from the saccharine and far-fetched precious novels of the mid-17th century. The artistic form is also innovative, marked by simplicity and compression of plot and clarity of language. A motion-picture version of the novel was made in France in 1960.


Romans et nouvelles…. Paris [1958].


Stendhal. “V. Skott i Printsessa Klevskaia.” Sobr. soch., vol. 9. Leningrad, 1938.
Gukovskaia, Z. M. “M. de Lafaiet.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Edited by E. G. Etkind. Moscow, 1964.
Dédéyan, C. M-me de La Fayette. Paris, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.