Madame De Pompadour
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Madame De Pompadour

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  760 ratings  ·  80 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
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
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.
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...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
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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.
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.
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...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...more
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...more
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...more
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...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!
This will always be my most favourite book. Nancy Mitford writes in a hugely attractive, winning style that instantly engages the reader. I read this book every year and never tire of it. I joined a monastery and was allowed to take only one book in with me; this was the book I instantly reached for. This is a 'must read!'
A quick, enjoyable read.

This is definitely like learning history from a gossipy old aunt and although she discusses the Seven Years War, there's much more about court life at Versailles in the time of Louis XV than political wrangling.

Broader brush strokes than modern biographies typically use. In a few generalities, she gives us the Marquise's childhood—-what would probably be several chapters of annotated anecdotes in a modern work.

Also, because she doesn't list her sources all the time, I had...more
Really very good

If you enjoy reading biographies this is one I'd strongly recommend. Nancy Mitford keeps a great pace. There was never a point were I was bored or overwhelmed with to many facts or foreign languages. She made it fun to read.
Nancy Mitford's biography, Madame de Pompadour, is written with a sparkle, vivacity, and wit which is perfectly suited to its subject. Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson was born in 1721 into a bourgeois family. She rose to be indisputably one of the most powerful women in Europe. She was the official mistress of the French king Louis XV, and the unofficial mistress of Versailles. She was adored by her circle of powerful friends, and reviled by countless enemies. Louis XV found in her more than just a se...more
Author has a lot of admiration for French Monarchy, much like the French nobles did themselves. Madame Pompadour appears to have been extraordinarily charming, but she certainly loved spending France's money. Some things never change-- if a celebrity is beautiful & people follow her tastes, no one minds very much about her principles.
A riveting tale of the life and times of the most powerful woman in 18th century France, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marchioness of Pompadour. An extraordinary woman that defines the term "power behind the throne". Very light and fast paced, no tedious details that will distract the less dedicated readers. However, some background knowledge of French history may be required as the writer tend to divulge into details about the whos and whats without sufficient or proper introduction on the subject...more
I liked this book because it taught me things I didn't know. I am not a big fan of historic novels, generally staying later than the first World War. However this was written well and mostly entertained as well as informed me. My biggest complaint was the French text included in the chapters without any explanation or translation. I found that arrogant on the part of the writer, Nancy Mitford, since she assumed that we could all translate for ourselves. If you are interested in this period and e...more
Leah  Lederman
I admit my inspiration for reading this comes from the Doctor Who episode, "The girl in the fireplace"

She brought the history to life in the same way Alison Weir and Alison Plowden bring the Tudors to life.

I'm new to French history, and struggled with some of the names/titles, not to mention just the difference in their culture (see the quotes I shared), but found the book engaging and enlightening. I will move on to the French Revolution, next.
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NYRB Classics: Madame de Pompadour, by Nancy Mitford 2 4 Oct 28, 2013 02:54PM  
  • Madame de Pompadour: A Life
  • Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France
  • Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution
  • Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson
  • Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832
  • Hons and Rebels
  • Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King
  • A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
  • Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
  • Versailles: A Biography of a Palace
  • Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King
  • Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen  Of France
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
  • When the World Spoke French
  • Selected Letters
  • The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters
  • Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
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...
The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate The Pursuit of Love Love in a Cold Climate and Other Novels Love in a Cold Climate The Blessing

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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.” 2 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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