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Madame De Pompadour

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  928 ratings  ·  92 reviews
When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat, she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king, and had so many enemies that she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones. History has loved her little better.Nancy Mitf ...more
Published February 23rd 1995 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1954)
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"Nineteenth century historians, shocked by the contemplation of such a merry, pointless life, have been at great pains to emphasize the boredom from which, they say, the whole Court and the King suffered. No doubt a life devoted to pleasure must sometimes show the reverse side of the medal and it is quite true that boredom was the enemy, to be vanquished by fair means or foul. But the memoirs of the day and the accounts of the courtiers who lived through the Revolution .. do not suggest that it ...more
As well as her wonderful novels, Nancy Mitford also wrote four, less known, historical biographies- Madame de Pompadour in 1954, Voltaire in Love in 1957, The Sun King in 1966 and Frederick the Great in 1970. This is the first of her biographies and it tells the life story of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, who, despite her comparatively lowly beginnings, was told by a fortune teller when she was nine that she would rule over the heart of a King and believed this prophecy completely. Despite being ma ...more
Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour hold the center but are not always as interesting as the supporting players. Voltaire appears in his fascinating duality, flattering and satirical, unctuous and petulant, apt to bite the hands that feed him. Mitford describes the “laudatory poem” he penned after the victory over the English at Fontenoy in 1745:

Richelieu, a great friend of Voltaire’s, got even more praise than he deserved; and the cunning old poet mentioned a lot of other people who might be usef
☆ Carol ☆
 photo 2f6d95c8-7c14-4171-aa01-19b4d167a730.jpg

I've never posted an image before (other than book covers) so this is likely to be painful. & I don't know why I'm starting with La Pompadour, as her brother apparently said that none of the many portraits of her resembled her. But I have always loved this Boucher painting.

Mitford's style is conversational - I felt like I was was back in the 18th century having a good old gossip over a cup of tea . No doubt Nancy & I would have been whispering behind our hand painted fans. Mitford's wri
Biographies are my kind of book. I've probably said it before, but if they're well written they're an instant 4 star read for me. This one I rated 3 stars. Looking back, that's probably harsh, but while I liked it, I didn't really like it. Sometimes Nancy's writing got a little confused, jumping around in chronological order and made a lot of assumptions about our knowledge of French life and courts, as well as being able to read passages in French. There was a lot to like though. Nancy has an i ...more
Let's get this out here first: if I wanted to bring back one 20th century British person to go to tea and just hang out, it would be Nancy Mitford (sorry, Jessica, you are my go to girl for rallies and being snide about people, I promise). Nancy Mitford's account of the life of Madame de Pompadour is immensely readable and well presented. From her beginnings as Jeanne Antoinette Poisson to the cultural curator of the French court, Nancy Mitford chronicles the rise and death of the most famous Fr ...more
Kate Sherrod
Reading Nancy Mitford's biography of "Reinette" Poisson, whom history knows as Madame de Pompadour, is like sidling up to a knowledgeable guest at a vast party full of strangers and asking her what's what. She's happy to tell you, but being Mitford, a Jazz Age aristocrat, a Bright Young Thing, she'll assume you know who all the people are already, and that you have a passing command of French, and focus on how they relate to the one she came to admire, La Pompadour.

In other words, it's a shame
I've wanted to read a biography about Madame du Pompadour ever since I saw her on a Doctor Who episode. Yes, I am a dork. When I found out that one of the Mitford sisters had written about the King's mistress, I couldn't wait to read the book. Even though it was published in the '40s, the book was still highly enjoyable. The book was centered around Madame du Pompadour but also included the major players like King Louis and his wife. I don't know the history well enough to know how well research ...more
Louis XV & Mme explain for us the French sexyouall sensibility : after 5-6 years the pash is over (we all know that ) and love deepens while outsider sexercises play on. Yes, we know, but few have the French toleration & understanding.

I will NOT expand as Amazon doubles prices on books with good GR reviews. I discovered this when I went to buy a gift etc. Amazon also doubles prices on books that get well-reviewed on its site. ~~ This is far more disgusting than Censorship.
Feb 09, 2014 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susanna
Recommended to Laura by: Tisha
Her real name was Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour: she was the official mistress of the French King Louis XV.

It was quite interesting to learn that she a major patron of architecture - École Militaire and such decorative arts as porcelain - Manufacture national de Sèvres. She was the direct responsible by the purchase of the well-known Élysée Palace.

She was a patron of the philosophies of the Enlightenment , including Voltaire and Montesquieu.

The author wrote a magnificent portr
I love biographies that not only give a good historical overview (any history book can do that), but also somehow communicate the essence of the personalities involved. This biography is beautifully and engagingly written, but Mitford gives more: there a is a charming, humorous quality that I find completely engaging. She has a wonderful facility of language, of vocabulary, that is so intelligent if at times a bit flippant. I would (and have) read anything Nancy Mitford writes simply for her voi ...more
I am not very interested in Madame de Pompadour or Versailles court intrigues, so the fact that this biography of her is opinionated, unreferenced and probably neither complete or accurate does not matter one bit. The important thing is that Nancy is interested and I enjoy reading her books.
The court was snobbish, with courtiers vying for position and influence. When they were not busy having affairs with other people's spouses, they were gossiping about who else was (apart from one married coup
Prior to reading this book, all I knew about Madame de Pompadour came from an episode of "Doctor Who" (Which is to say, given the episode involved a space ship that opened into her fireplace, I knew next to nothing.) So I can't really comment on the historical accuracy of Nancy Mitford's "Madame de Pompadour."

I can say that I was delighted by the coffee-table style of the book and Mitford's ability to pick out little, insightful details (a hallmark of her fiction as well.) The book has an almost
Chris S.
Catty, chatty, naughty (for the times) account of Louis XV's influential mistress. I picked this up because 1] its a NYRB book and 2] Nancy Mitford was Oswald Mosely's sister-in-law and Walter Mosely's step-aunt. Also, this book provided a nice intellectual counterpoint to Duff Cooper's Talleyrand insofar as it is quite explicit in describing the strange unreality which permeated so much of the royal politics of the Ancien Regime, and how that sense of insular gamesmanship survived the Revolutio ...more
MADAME DE POMPADOUR. (1953). Nancy Mitford. ***.
Written before her book “Voltaire in Love,” this work focuses on the rise and fall of Louis XV and his mistress, known as Pompadour. This king’s reign began in 1715 on the death of his father, who had reigned for seventy-two years. Even at his advanced age, he was still too strong to die until his body was half eaten away by gangrene. Like many another person living at the time, Louis XIV was the victim of the then current medical practices. He and
Enjoyable, though a bit questionable. It's interesting reading a history that contains such a very different bias and assumptions from the ones we are likely to encounter in something written today. Mitford is completely in favor of aristocratic rule and will frequently chastise the French public for resenting the public expenditures made by the King on Mme de Pompadour, suggesting that they really that weren't that high or unreasonable, when she herself has just described some insane series of ...more
Haneen Amireh
I fortuitously came across the name Madame de Pompadour while reading the introduction of Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex, which I had to consequently abandon reading it for some time. Certain writers are trying to redress the existential genesis of prototypical women that were chunked out of the historical canon, and Madame du Pompadour happens to be one of those women. I am perplexed to realize that women like her were forced to ensconce their legacy from the illuminating paths of history. ...more
Lindsey Whipple
How to keep a King entertained. The pompadour was one hell of a woman. Woman who was truly in love and fought for the love of her king & country. She had amazing taste especially for Champagne! The history of her life with King Louie XV sets France up for its devastating revolution. She was BF's with Voltaire bet neither of them could have imagined the horrors their shared enlightened philosophy would build up too!
I'm torn because in parts I was really enjoying this book, but in the end, about 70% of the way through, I had to abandon it. Probably due to my ignorance and also my habit of skim reading, I found the lack of background confusing. Mitford assumes the reader knows more about 18th century French politics than I do.
Strangely absorbing. I would start a chapter feeling slightly nonplussed and then suddenly an hour had passed. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had a more solid knowledge of French history, but her ability to develop a compelling narrative is, nevertheless, outstanding.
I'm so glad I finally got round to reading this; after reading Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution I wanted to read more non-fiction about 18th century France, and since I had this book, I naturally went on to read this. I've had this book for about 7 or 8 years, and it's just been sitting on my bookshelf gathering dust, I bought it after the episode of Doctor Who aired which has Madame de Pompadour in it, "The Girl in the Fireplace". It's a great read for an overview ...more
Allyson Kramer
Not only a historical biography of a woman in a very different world than ours, but an interesting study of France in that time.
Chris Passingham
I suppose Nancy Mitford ,what with being a hedonistic, pleasure obsessed, jazz age aristo, also obsessed with all things French, is an ideal person to write a totally uncritical biography about this woman. This is not a poor book by any reckoning but the portrayal of Poisson as a kind, beautiful and clever person is ridiculous. She hastened the advent of the French Revolution by her constant meddling in politics and foreign affairs and she kept the king insulated from public opinion in France as ...more
Jaclyn Michelle

If you’re looking for a sterile, fact-forward, speculation-free, scholarly biography of Madame de Pompadour, this is not the book for you. With Nancy Mitford at the helm, Versailles of the eighteenth century comes back to life in all its glory and decadence. The entire biography reads like having a glass of wine with a very intelligent, very gossip-y confidant, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a world that Mitford, of all people, understands a
Ye gods, what a trial. Don't get me wrong — Mitford could write, and Reinette is a worthy subject. But charm simply does not counterbalance the strange sense of authority and entitlement so cautiously, thankfully absent from contemporary historical scholarship, but abundant in this brief biography. Nor does it preclude, well, boredom. For a short book, Madame de Pompadour took forever to read. And what have I taken from it? A few funny lines, (slightly dubious) respect for the Marquise (on accou ...more
My interest was held much more unevenly than the four stars would otherwise indicate, but the good parts were just that good.

Mitford makes no attempts to disguise her bias and interest, which makes for an eminently more readable biography than many. She's also far less meticulous with in-line sourcing than I've come to expect, which has the benefit of making things seem much more vivid and immediate while making it a bit harder to tease out where things came from and how much is Mitford's own o
Ian Ashley
Having slaved at the back of the class through interminable history lessons I realise now that had I had an aunt like Nancy Mitford, the past could indeed have been a very different country.

Right from the begining she makes her position clear - 'I'm a big Louis fan so there,'and do you know what? That's ok. It works. Yes I agree she does assume you have a greater knowledge of people places etc than you might have but that is part of the Mitford charm - she talks to you as if you are equals - mor
I enjoyed this biography even though I am disinclined to read biographies for pleasure. This was written in a casual form with descriptive text which helped bring the history to life. I had always wanted to know more about the extravagant life in Versailles and this was just the book to reveal it all. I especially enjoyed how the author emphasized events that would affect future outcomes in the history of France. This was quite a fascinating look into 18th century France.
Claudia Kralik
Madame de Pompadour

Interesting read, I think before embarking on reading this book you need to have a decent knowledge of France history;

What I liked?

The story of the Marquise, she is a beautiful lady inside out and her story is touching; she is clever, educated, warm, friendly and honest – she is also continuously growing as an individual and as the mistress of Louise XV , undoubtedly becoming as powerful as the King.

What I didn't like?

The vast amount of names mentioned in the book – everyone t
Lauren Albert
I found this fun in the same way I found parts of the Ladurie book on Saint Simon. The quirky rules about court life, the social rounds, adulterous affairs, etc. Mitford's own personality came out whenever she discussed art or interior design--she clearly had her own opinion on the matter.

Mitford's Pompadour is a loveable woman. She was the only one of the King's mistresses to attempt to please the Queen--some actually worked to make her miserable. The Queen finally realized this and was terrif
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Bright Young Things: December 2014- Madame de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford 37 21 Dec 30, 2014 01:42AM  
NYRB Classics: Madame de Pompadour, by Nancy Mitford 2 5 Oct 28, 2013 02:54PM  
  • Madame de Pompadour: A Life
  • Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France
  • Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson
  • Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832
  • Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution
  • Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King
  • Hons and Rebels
  • Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King
  • Talleyrand
  • Murder of a Medici Princess
  • Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
  • Nancy Mitford: A Biography
  • The Age of Conversation
  • The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace
  • A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
  • Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III
  • The House of Mitford
  • Mrs. Jordan's Profession: The Actress and the Prince
Nancy Mitford, CBE (28 November 1904, London – 30 June 1973, Versailles), styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Peter Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale and ...more
More about Nancy Mitford...
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“Madame de Pompadour excelled at an art which the majority of human beings thoroughly despise because it is unprofitable and ephemeral: the art of living.” 3 likes
“They could not help loving anything that made them laugh. The Lisbon earthquake was “embarrassing to the physicists and humiliating to theologians” (Barbier). It robbed Voltaire of his optimism. In the huge waves which engulfed the town, in the chasms which opened underneath it, in volcanic flames which raged for days in the outskirts, some 50,000 people perished. But to the courtiers of Louis XV it was an enormous joke. M. de Baschi, Madame de Pompadour’s brother-in-law, was French Ambassador there at the time. He saw the Spanish Ambassador killed by the arms of Spain, which toppled onto his head from the portico of his embassy; Baschi then dashed into the house and rescued his colleague’s little boy whom he took, with his own family, to the country. When he got back to Versailles he kept the whole Court in roars of laughter for a week with his account of it all. “Have you heard Baschi on the earthquake?” 1 likes
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