Jardins, Mary Catharine Des

, a French lady, famous for her writings, was born about 1640, at Alençon in Normandy, where her father was provost. Her passions as well as her genius came forward very early. Being obliged to quit Alençon, in consequence of an intrigue with one of her cousins, she went to Paris, where she undertook to support herself by her genius, studied the drama, and published at the same time some little novels, by which she acquired a name. She had, by her own description, a lively and pleasing countenance, though not amounting to beauty, nor entirely spared by the small-pox. Her attractions, however, soon furnished her with lovers, and among them she distinguished M. Villedieu, a young captain of infantry, of an elegant person and lively genius. He had been already married about a year, but she persuaded him to endeavour to dissolve his marriage. This proved impracticable; nor was it likely from the first to be effected; but the attempt served her as a pretext for her attachment. She followed her lover to camp, and returned to Paris by the name of madame de Villedieu. This irregular union was not long happy; and their disagreements had arisen to a considerable height, when Villedieu was ordered to the army, where soon after he lost his life. The pretended widow comforted herself by living among professed wits and dramatic writers, and leading such a life as is common in dissipated societies. A fit of devotion, brought on by the sudden death of one of her female friends, sent her for a time to a convent, where she lived with much propriety, till her former adventures being known in the society, she could no longer remain in it. Restored to the world, in the house of madame de St. Ramaine, her sister, she soon exchanged devotion again for gallantry. She now a second time married a man who was only parted from, his wife this was the marquis de la Chasse, by whom she had a son, who died when only a year old, and the father not long after. The inconsolable widow was soon after united to one of her cousins, who allowed her to resume the name of Villedieu. After living a few years longer in society, she retired to a little village called Clinchemare in the province of Maine, where she died in 1683. Her works were printed in 1702, and form ten volumes 12mo, to which two more were added in 1721, consisting chiefly of pieces by other writers. Her compositions are of various kinds: 1. Dramas. 2. Miscellaneous poems, fables, &c. | 3. Romances; among which are, “Les Disordres de l’Amour;” “Portraits des Foiblesses Humaines;” “Les Exilés de la Cour d’Auguste;” which are reckoned her best productions in this styje: also, “Cleonice,” “Carmente,” “Les Galanteries Grenadines,” “Les Amours des Grands Hommes,” “Lysandre,” “Les Memoirs du Serail,” &c. 4. Other works of an amusing kind, such as, “Les Annales Galantes,” “Le Journal Amoreux,” &c.

The style of this lady is rapid and animated, but her pencil is not always correct, nor her incidents probable. Her short histories certainly had the merit of extinguishing the taste for the old tedious romances, and led the way to the novel, but were by no means of such excellence in that style as those that have since been written by Duclos, Marivaux, Marmontel, and others. She has also the fault of attributing her feigned adventures to great personages known in history, and thus forming that confusion of fictitious and real narratives which is so pernicious to young readers. Her verse is inferior to her prose, being languid and feeble. 1


Gen. Dict. —Moreri.