perfide manon: peace with the “petit collet”

Perfide Manon and Abbe Prevost. She was the classic cocotte, and he the classic dupe; first the Abbe wrote his famous story, and then he set out to live it…

…Prevost ventured back to France, and there was joined by Lenki Eckhardt, faithful in her fashion. He pulled what strings were in his grasp and obtained on June 5,1734, an apostolic brief that pardoned him for his misdeeds but directed him to another branch of the Benedictine order at Evreux. After only three months of expiation he returned to Paris to edit Le Pour et Contre, write a series of novels, and cultivate the great who kept open house for the intelligentsia. He assumed the petit collet, the clerical collar, and was appointed chaplain to the Prince de Conti, with his quarters provided. He received no salary, but gained security against hounding creditors and made friends in the world of letters, among them Voltaire and Rousseau.

---François Boucher, Pastorale d'automne (Autumn Pastorale) ---click image for source...

—François Boucher,
Pastorale d’automne
(Autumn Pastorale)
—click image for source…

And Lenki? We hear no more of her, unless bychance she was the MMe de Chester who, to Prevost’s great relief, left Paris in November, 1735, and got married. He dowered her with his last eight hundred francs.

Freed of Lenki and Mme de Chester, perhaps in the same person, Prevost began to prosper. Literature and patronage conferred excellent rewards. He was enabled to rent a pleasant house on the outskirts of Paris, with a garden, a lackey, a cook, and a charming widow as housekeeper. He was even in a position to buy a Holy Family by Veronese for 6,600 francs.

A true writer never stops writing. He produced novels of his own, and translated those of Samuel Richardson, which had a splendid sale, of which there was no indication that Richardson received any payment! He edited and wrote a great collection of voyages. Altogether, he published 112 volumes, 65 of them original, the rest translations. He died on November 25, 1763, of an apoplectic stroke, while taking a walk in the woods of Chantilly. ( to be continued)…


(see link at end)…In the prerevolutionary era of l’Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut (first published in 1731), love was opposed to mere lust as the transcendent to the worldly. Yet were there no interference between these two domains, there would be no story. Manon’s penchant for luxury is not a mere psychological quirk; it is a recognition of her market value. If the evaluation of Manon’s beauty in the marketplace guarantees a love that transcends the marketplace, Manon herself shares this evaluation. The crux of the novel, and of Manon’s character, is the revelation that the Chevalier’s absolute love is dependent on the vulgar fact of his beloved’s market value. “Since his true love exists only in response to the sexual marketplace,” a more reflective Manon might say, “there is no real contradiction between true love and the market.”

But the true lover cannot accept sharing his beloved with another; his love in such circumstances would no longer be absolute but market-driven. Manon’s participation in the sexual market can only be excused as a revelatory gesture if, within the love-relationship itself, it is presented as naive and susceptible to correction.

Hence the moral movement of the novel is no mere artifice of the plot. In contrast with the myth, the “real” Manon is physically unfaithful to her beloved only in a single case, the first, where she goes off with the rich M. de B… and betrays the poor Chevalier to his family. After she returns to him, she uses her beauty as an instrument of seduction on two occasions, but flees each time before delivering the goods. Unfortunately, this attempt to reconcile market activity with the exclusive relationship of love is itself naive; Manon’s market position depends precisely on the delivery of the “goods” in question. She cannot expect her potential customers to treat her with the absolute devotion of the Chevalier or of Nana’s pathetic lover Count Muffat.Read More:

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Literature/poetry/spoken word and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>