“My menagerie,” Alexandrine Tencin called her salon; her guests were “mes betes.” Her Tuesdays she filled with good talk, high spirits, and low comedy involving chamber pots and such. Her leisure she filled with literature, the recourse of the bored. Her four sentimental novels she filled with the wordy woes of lovers parted by misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and the cruelties of society. What a pity she did not record the novel of her own life!
She died on December 4 1749, at the age of sixty-seven. Old Fontenelle heard the news. “Oh dear, such a good woman!” he cried. “But where shall I dine Tuesdays? Well, I’ll go to Mme Geoffrin’s.”
Her brother, Abbe Tencin, charge d’affaires at Rome and minister of state, immediately dropped his official duties and the greatness that his sister had forced upon him. He could have hardly risen higher on this earth, except to be pope, even though what he really wanted all along was, like Kafka, to be left alone. And although Mme de Tencin was such an iconic enlightenment figure, he ceaseless promotion of her brother showed the profound religious links that that provided the structure for the nascent secularism- her own pursuit of flesh and money- of which the stirrings of liberal democracy were dependent upon. Abbe Tencin retired happily to his archiepiscopal seat at Lyon and served his flock faithfully until his death in 1758. “My God receive his soul!” remarked Voltaire. “He was a terrible unbeliever.” Provocative. But remember, Voltaire was a terrible calumniator.
Alexandrine Tencin was a bad girl, certainly. Yet there is something splendid in her rebellion and in her achievement. Her life was a long series of battles: to gain freedom from the convent to which he father placed her and to have her vows annulled. To gain her due pleasure, or love amidst a society that lowered her status as being scandalous; her search for financial security, consideration, and respect; an finally eminence for her brother which was in many ways, a vehicle for her own link to religious heritage. She shows what a poor lone helpless girl can do, how by using her natural gifts she may attain success and esteem in defiance of society’s rules. She is an early hero of Women’s lib. Hers is really a very moral story: To avoid becoming a victim of passion and circumstances- of idolatry; and the apparent limits, real and imagined, of finding a feasible solution that uncovers a balance, a productive co-existence between rationalism and the volatility of the emotions….
(see link at end)…All these romantic traits contribute to shaping the character of the count of Comminge as that of an unfortunate,
melancholic hero, unable to subdue his feelings to reason, and therefore destined to unhappiness. The huge success of Tencin’s novel was due not only to its brevity and the clarity of its style, but mainly to the psychological depth of its characters. Comminge, whose looks are never described, and whose key features reside in his determination to react against social restrictions and in his passionate, unrestrained sensibility, symbolizes his tragic hero-like destiny through his challenge to the paradigms of social respectability that eventually positions him between an enlightened sense and a romantic sensibility….Read More:http://www.c-s-p.org/flyers/978-1-4438-2868-0-sample.pdf