Claudine Alexandrine Tencin - Encyclopedia

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CLAUDINE ALEXANDRINE Guerin De (1681- TENCIN 1 749), French courtesan and author, was born at Grenoble. Her father, Antoine Guerin, sieur de Tencin, was president of the parlement of Grenoble. Claudine was brought up at a convent near Grenoble and, at the wish of her parents, took the veil, but broke her vows and succeeded, in 1714, in gaining formal permission from the pope for her secularization. She joined her sister Mme. de Ferriol in Paris, where she soon established a salon, frequented by wits and roues. Among her numerous lovers were the Chevalier Le Camus Destouches, the duc de Richelieu, and according to her biographer many other persons of distinction. The last of her liaisons had a tragic ending. M. de la Fresnaye committed suicide in her house, and Mme. de Tencin spent some time in the Chatelet in consequence, but was soon liberated as the result of a declaration of her innocence by the Grand Conseil. From this time she devoted herself to political intrigue, especially for the preferment of her brother the abbe Tencin, who became archbishop of Embrun and received a cardinal's hat. Eventually she formed a literary salon, which had among its habitués Fontenelle, Montesquieu, the abbe de Saint Pierre, Pierre Marivaux, Alexis Piron and others. Hers was the first of the Parisian literary salons to which distinguished foreigners were admitted, and among her English guests were Bolingbroke and Chesterfield. By the good sense with which she conducted what she called her "menagerie," she almost succeeded in effacing the record of her early disgrace. She was a novelist of considerable merit. Her novels have been highly praised for their simplicity and charm, the last qualities the circumstances of the writer's life would lead one to expect in her work. The best of them is Memoires du comte de Comminges (1735), which appeared, as did the other two, under the name of her nephews, MM. d'Argental and Pont de Veyle, the real authorship being carefully concealed. Mme. de Tencin died on the 4th of December 1749.

Her works, with those of Mme. de la Fayette, were edited by Etienne and Jay (Paris, 1825); her novels were reprinted, with introductory matter by Lescure, in 1885; and her correspondence in the Lettres de Mmes. de Villars, de La Fayette et de Tencin (Paris, 1805-1832). See P. Masson, Madame de Tencin (Paris, 1909).

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