Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gédéon Tallemant, Sieur Des Réaux (November 7, 1619 - November 6, 1692), was a French writer known for his Historiettes, a collection of short biographies.

Biography

Born at La Rochelle, he belonged to a wealthy middle-class Huguenot family; the name des Réaux was derived from a small property he purchased in 1650. When he was about eighteen, he was sent to Italy with his brother François, abbé Tallemant. On his return to Paris, Tallemant took his degrees in civil law and Canon law, and his father obtained for him the position of conseiller au parlement. Disliking his profession, he decided to seek an alternative income by marriage with his cousin Elisabeth de Rambouillet. His half-brother had married a d'Angennes, and this connection secured for Tallemant an introduction to the Hôtel de Rambouillet.

Madame de Rambouillet was no admirer of King Louis XIII, and she gratified Tallemant's curiosity with stories of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII that were of real historical value. The society of the Hôtel de Rambouillet opened a field for his acute and somewhat malicious observation. In the Historiettes he gives finished portraits of Vincent Voiture, Jean Louis Guez de Balzac, Malherbe, Jean Chapelain, Valentin Conrart and many others; Blaise Pascal and Jean de la Fontaine appear in his work; and he chronicles the scandals of which Ninon de l'Enclos and Angélique Paulet were centres.

The Historiettes are invaluable for the literary history of the time. It has been said that the malicious intention of Tallemant's work may be partly attributed to his bourgeois extraction and that the slights he received are avenged in his pages, but independent testimony has established the substantial correctness of his statements. In 1685 he was converted to Catholicism. It seems that the change was not entirely disinterested, for Tallemant, who had suffered considerable pecuniary losses, soon after received a pension of 2,000 livres. He died in Paris.

Des Réaux was a poet and contributed to the Guirlande de Julie, but it is by his Historiettes that he is remembered.




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