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Madame de Chastenay (1771–1855)

Author of Mémoires : 1771-1815

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Louise-Marie-Victorine de Chastenay was born into an ancient French noble family and received an unusually broad education for a girl of her time, studying botany and history and the works of the French philosophes, and becoming an accomplished musician. Although she never married, she was called "Madame de Chastenay" because at age 14 she received the title of a secular canoness and maintained her own household. Her Memoires, published posthumously, provide a valuable eyewitness account of the ancien regime, the French Revolution, the Consulate, and the First Empire, and her many acquaintances such as Madame de Staël and Napoleon. She spent some time in prison during the Reign of Terror but managed to escape the guillotine. Her interest in natural history led to the writing of the two-volume Le Calendrier de Flore ou Etudes de fleurs d'après nature (Calendar of Plants) in 1802–1803; she also published the historical work Les Chevaliers normands en Italie et en Sicile (The Normans in Italy and Sicily) in 1816. Madame de Chastenay also translated into French the works of popular English novelists such as Oliver Goldsmith and Ann Radcliffe.
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