treatise on the French language; and Anne Dacier*, a leading expert on Greek literature.
The way women were portrayed in literature showed significant change, with a greater percentage of dramatic and fictional protagonists displaying heroic traits, self-reliance, and a strong sense of self-worth. This was especially frequent in works of female writers, but not necessarily limited to them. On the one hand, the highly visible activity of women in the political sphere (notably during the two regencies and in the Fronde*, as well as the influence of women at Louis XIV's court) was a major contributing factor in the prominence of the femme forte in print. On the other hand, women were also praised for their naturalness and spontaneity in expressing their personal feelings, especially in the letter form. Sévigné* was the greatest, but hardly the only, able female letter writer of the age.
Backer, Dorothy. Precious Women. New York: Basic Books, 1974.
Beasley, Faith. Revising Memory: Women's Fiction and Memoirs in Seventeenth-Century France. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990.
DeJean, Joan. Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
Lougee, Carolyn. Le Paradis des femmes: Women, Salons, and Social Stratification in Seventeenth-Century France. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
Maclean, Ian. Woman Triumphant: Feminism in French Literature, 1610-1652. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.
Magendie, Maurice. La Politesse mondaine et les théories de l'honnêteté en France au XVIIe siècle, de 1600 à 1660. Paris: F. Alcan, 1932.
Pelous, Jean-Michel. Amour précieux, amour galant (1654-1675). Paris: Klincksieck, 1980.
Reynaud, Gustave. La Femme au XVIIe siècle: Ses Ennemis et ses défenseurs. Paris, 1929.
At no other time except our own were French women as influential and as visible as they were in the eighteenth century. Their reign, acknowledged throughout the continent, was epitomized by three royal mistresses-the duchesse de Châteauroux* ( 1717-1744), the marquise de Pompadour* ( 1721- 1764), and the duchesse du Barry* ( 1743-1793)--who left their mark on the private and public spheres. From the pinnacle of the court and the lodestone of salons to the streets of Paris and the market alleys of Les Halles, women's involvement in social, political, cultural, literary, and economic activities was, undoubtedly, France's most striking and unique distinction. That peculiarity did not escape the attention of Montesquieu's astute observer, Rica, who noted, in