Un moulin à paroles

French author Madeleine de Scudéry, was born on November 15, 1607. I know her best as the protagonist in E.T.A. Hpffman’s early mystery novella of the same name. The real Mademoiselle de Scudéry was from a modest provincial family, but she received a superior education for anyone of her era, especially a woman. She moved to Paris with her brother, a playwright, and sometimes used his name to publish her own works and sometimes used the nom de plume ‘Sapho.’ Madeleine de Scudéry was at first admitted to the intellectual salons of the capital and then founded her own, la Société de samedi, the Saturday Society.

She developed a unique literary style that was sort of the People magazine of the 17th century; by including the disguised exploits of all the movers and shakers of the Paris court she ensured they would want to read her immense novels. Artamène was over 2 million words long, published in 10 volumes.  De Scudéry also tackled bigger issues, such as the right of all women to receive the quality of education she had enjoyed. She didn’t escape ridicule in her own era; Molière satirized her in his play about affected women, Les Précieuses Ridicules.

Today’s expression, un moulin à paroles (uhn moolahn ah pahroll) literally means “a word mill” but we’d say “a windbag.” It’s not the nicest phrase for a woman who wrote millions of words, but it sure is accurate!

The Story of Sapho (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe)   

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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