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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Geoffrin, Marie Thérèse Rodet

< 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica

GEOFFRIN, MARIE THÉRÈSE RODET (1699-1777), a Frenchwoman who played an interesting part in French literary and artistic life, was born in Paris in 1699. She married, on the 19th of July 1713, Pierre François Geoffrin, a rich manufacturer and lieutenant-colonel of the National Guard, who died in 1750. It was not till Mme Geoffrin was nearly fifty years of age that we begin to hear of her as a power in Parisian society. She had learned much from Mme de Tencin, and about 1748 began to gather round her a literary and artistic circle. She had every week two dinners, on Monday for artists, and on Wednesday for her friends the Encyclopaedists and other men of letters. She received many foreigners of distinction, Hume and Horace Walpole among others. Walpole spent much time in her society before he was finally attached to Mme du Deffand, and speaks of her in his letters as a model of common sense. She was indeed somewhat of a small tyrant in her circle. She had adopted the pose of an old woman earlier than necessary, and her coquetry, if such it can be called, took the form of being mother and mentor to her guests, many of whom were indebted to her generosity for substantial help. Although her aim appears to have been to have the Encyclopédie in conversation and action around her, she was extremely displeased with any of her friends who were so rash as to incur open disgrace. Marmontel lost her favour after the official censure of Bélisaire, and her advanced views did not prevent her from observing the forms of religion. A devoted Parisian, Mme Geoffrin rarely left the city, so that her journey to Poland in 1766 to visit the king, Stanislas Poniatowski, whom she had known in his early days in Paris, was a great event in her life. Her experiences induced a sensible gratitude that she had been born “Française” and “particulière.” In her last illness her daughter, Thérèse, marquise de la Ferté Imbault, excluded her mother’s old friends so that she might die as a good Christian, a proceeding wittily described by the old lady: “My daughter is like Godfrey de Bouillon, she wished to defend my tomb from the infidels.” Mme Geoffrin died in Paris on the 6th of October 1777.

See Correspondance inédite du roi Stanislas Auguste Poniatowski et de Madame Geoffrin, edited by the comte de Mouÿ (1875); P. de Ségur, Le Royaume de la rue Saint-Honoré, Madame Geoffrin et sa fille (1897); A. Tornezy, Un Bureau d’esprit au XVIIIe siècle: le salon de Madame Geoffrin (1895); and Janet Aldis, Madame Geoffrin, her Salon and her Times, 1750–1777 (1905).