Books: Queen of Letters

LETTERS FROM MADAME LA MARQUISE DE Sévigné (389 pp.)—Selecfed and translated by Violet Hammersley—Harcourt, Brace ($6.75).

Louis XIV ruled an empire on which the sun quickly set, but its literary lights —Corneille, Racine, Pascal, La Fontaine—still glow. Among them was Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, whom generations of critics have crowned "the queen of letter writers." In this selection of 272 out of many hundreds of De Sévigné letters, the diadem seems to have its fair share of paste jewels, but it is worn with a regal flourish and idiosyncratic authority.

In a brief biographical introduction, British Essayist Violet...

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