Summer Reading List: Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour
The UC Berkeley Summer Reading List is an annual compilation of recommended (though not required) readings suggested by Cal faculty, staff, and students as a welcome to incoming freshmen and transfer students.

Madame de Pompadour

This biography tells the story of King Louis XV’s first bourgeoise mistress, Madame d’Etioles, née Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson. The book is a lovely, history-filled character study of this unique 18th century Frenchwoman. At age nine, the future Madame de Pompadour was nicknamed Reinette by her family after a fortune-teller predicted she would “reign over the heart of a king.” She grew up becoming accomplished in useful, interesting, and elegant ways, with good taste and much charm.

Mitford richly and amusingly recounts how Madame de Pompadour was able to get introduced to the King even though she was a bourgeoise; how they loved each other; how the Queen was able to tolerate her; how she negotiated the feelings and machinations of the court and detractors; and how her dream ended. There is too much fascinating description and storytelling to do the book justice in a short paragraph; suffice to say that this is absolutely a work of literature, not just biography. (A particularly good edition of the book is the revised 1968 Harper & Row edition, with its many full-page color illustrations.)

JEAN DICKINSON Slavic Cataloging Librarian

Post contributed by:
Michael Larkin Lecturer, College Writing Programs
Tim Dilworth First Year Coordinator, Library