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Distributed for Iter Press

New Observations on the French Language, with Praises of Illustrious Learned Women

Edited and Translated by Lynn S. Meskill
Two volumes by a seventeenth-century French gentlewoman and teacher, published in English for the first time.
According to the few historical records that mention Marguerite Buffet, she lived her entire life in seventeenth-century Paris where she taught French to aristocratic women. Buffet’s vivid example of proper language use in New Observations on the French Language offers a rare glimpse into the life, habits, and culture of seventeenth-century France. She describes common errors in contemporary language use and gives examples of correct expressions for speaking and writing all the while encouraging women to aspire to higher levels of intellectual achievement.
In addition, her Praises of Illustrious Learned Women, a catalog of biographies of women who displayed exemplary intellect, wit, and conversation, includes a number of the author’s contemporaries such as Anna Maria van Schurman and Madeleine de Scudéry. Buffet’s collected praises of these women, many of whom were connected to the court of Louis XIV, show her unique position as both a participant in and historian of the intellectual and social world of the French salon.
This volume presents Buffet’s work in its near entirety for the first time in English, bringing to light Buffet’s unique contribution to the centuries-long debate concerning the status of women known as the querelle des femmes.

164 pages | 1 figure | 6 x 9

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“Buffet’s fascinating text allows today’s readers to experience the vibrant and provocative salon culture of seventeenth-century France by bringing to life its sounds, conversations, and participants. Meskill’s elegant and faithful translation conveys the voices of Buffet’s female contemporaries as they shape French language and engage fully in early modern culture wars. Buffet’s text forces a reexamination of long-held views about salon culture and women’s roles in seventeenth-century France, freeing the salon from satirical portraits of Molière and succeeding centuries. Meskill’s exemplary introduction provides the tools to understand this work in its complex literary and historical context. Women regain their place as the masters of conversation and a major force that shaped the French language."


Faith E. Beasley, Professor of French, Dartmouth College

Table of Contents




New Observations on the French Language, with Praises of Illustrious Learned Women

Epistle: “To the Queen”
Epistle: “To the Reader”
Epistle: “To Mademoiselle Buffet, on Her Book”

Of the necessity of speaking your language well, and how highly French is esteemed by all nations

The First Part
For the correction of barbarous and archaic terms, as well as those necessary for proper use; and of the origin of the letters that make up spelling

Against those who speak too much, and the advantages to those who are sparing of words. On the subject of Pleonasm which follows

The Second Part
Examining pleonasm, or the redundancy of useless words, and the means of correcting it

Concerning corrupt and badly pronounced words, and the advantages enjoyed by women who speak with exactness

The Third Part
Treating corrupt and badly pronounced words, and the means of correcting these errors

Regarding terms that are poorly adapted, and the use one should make of time

The Fourth Part
In which may be found remarks concerning some badly adapted terms, or terms whose meanings are confused with other terms

A Treatise of Praises of Illustrious Learned Women, Past and Present
Praises to the Glory of Some Illustrious Learned Women of Past Ages
Certificate of the King’s Privilege


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