(POMPADOUR, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de). Marianne-Agnès Pillement, dame de FAUQUES. ~ Histoire de Madame de Pompadour. [France, c. 1760s].
Manuscript on paper, 4to (225 × 170 mm), 2 parts in one, continuously paginated, pp. , 336 (the last 8 pages blank), emblematic general title in pen and wash, second part title (dated 1764) in ruled and wash border. Paper with ‘J Honig & Zo[nen]’ watermark (undated). Legible text in French throughout. Contemporary mottled calf, gilt panelled spine with red morocco label, red edges. Slightly rubbed. Early armorial bookplate to front pastdown (name effaced0.
An early manuscript version of a notorious libelle against the French royal mistress, which had been composed and published in London (1758-9) and suppressed on the instructions of the French government. A vicious satire, highlighting Madame de Pompadour’s humble origins, the Histoire articulates the familiar anxiety over the power and influence of a woman at court. While not overtly pornographic, its theme is the profound immorality surrounding the court of Louis XV.
The author, Marianne-Agnès Pillement, a defrocked nun, is a most interesting figure, publishing several novels in Paris before being forced to flee to London where she made a living as a tutor to the children of the wealthy. The purpose of Histoire de Madame de Pompadour seems to have been blackmail. English, French and German editions appeared in 1758 and 1759 (it is not clear which came first) with London imprints though they may well have been printed abroad (ESTC hazards Leipzig, Holland and the Low Countries as possibilities for the several early editions). French agents in London were charged with the purchase and destruction of copies, though the number of distinct issues and editions suggests the publishers outwitted them. As always with such clandestine works, manuscripts were also a tempting option. Our example contains the full text (with numerous minor variations) together with some additional materials, including a version of Madame Pompadour’s will.
Loosely inserted is a mildly-plausible forgery of a Pompadour autograph letter dated 1749, accompanied by a much later expertise by the Paris autograph dealer Charavay declaring it “fausse”.
The work and its reception is discussed at length by Simon Burrows in Blackmail, Scandal and Revolution: London's French Libellistes, 1758-1792.