The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Rambouillet, Catherine de Vivonne
RAMBOUILLET, Catherine de Vivonne, marchioness de, a French leader of society, born in Rome in 1588, died in Paris, Dec. 2, 1665. Her father was Jean de Vivonne, marquis of Pisani, French ambassador in Rome, and her mother was a Roman lady. At an early age she married Charles d'Angennes, afterward marquis de Rambouillet. After arriving in Paris she was shocked by the immorality and puerility of the court circles, gathered round her a select society, and fitted up the hôtel Rambouillet with a special view to its convenience for literary reunions. Here she dispensed generous hospitality for half a century alike to authors, wits, and persons of rank, who now for the first time met on a footing of equality. Her daughter Julie, afterward duchess de Montausier, was the idol of her guests, of whom the women were called les précieuses, and assumed classical and romantic names. The conversational brilliancy which ever afterward distinguished the great saloons of Paris originated here, and the French academy took its rise from one of the literary reunions which grew out of those at the hotel Rambouillet. Voiture, one of the original members of the academy, was the most assiduous and popular habitué of the house; Corneille and Bossuet first came into notice here; Descartes found here warm admirers; Balzac, La Rochefoucault, Malherbe, Mme. de Sévigné, and hosts of other distinguished persons were among the visitors. During the first half of the 17th century these gatherings exerted a noble influence on the French language and literature, but subsequently declined, chiefly owing to the mannerism of Mlle. de Scudéry and other ladies, and never recovered from the effect of Molière's comedy Les précieuses ridicules (1659), though this was aimed particularly against numerous extravagant offshoots of the hôtel Rambouillet.—See Mémoires pour sertir à l'histoire de la société polie en France pendant le dix-septième siècle, by Roederer (Paris, 1835), and Précieux et précieuses, by Charles Livet (1859).