Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, better known under the name of Madame de Sévigné.



  • Would Madame de Sévigné have known, more than 300 years ago, a period of confinement in the face of an epidemic similar to that of Covid-19?

  • This is what suggests a letter attributed to the famous letter writer, relayed on social networks.

  • However, this is a rather well done pastiche, as

    Cécile Lignereux

    explains to

    20 Minutes

    , lecturer at the University of Grenoble-Alpes and specialist in the author.

“Don't come to Paris!

No one leaves for fear of seeing this plague fall on us, it spreads like a dry wood fire.

The warning seems to have been given between March and May last, when France was confined to limit the spread of Covid-19.

However, it would have been written more than 300 years ago by Madame de Sévigné, the famous French letter writer, in a letter addressed to her daughter.

And if this introduction turns out to be surprising, the rest of this missive, supposedly dated "Thursday, April 30, 1687", contains many astonishing parallels with the health crisis experienced in recent months.

The false letter attributed to Madame de Sévigné.

- screenshot / Facebook

“The king and Mazarin confine us all in our apartments.

Mr. Vatel, who receives his tide charges, provides for our meals which he has delivered to us. It saddens me, I was delighted to go and attend the next performances of a comedy by Mr. Corneille "The Liar", which we says the greatest good, ”continues the viral text, published this week on Facebook.

Its last lines also evoke a measure that is now familiar to our daily life: “I am sending you two funny masks;

it is the big 'fashion.

everyone wears them at Versailles.

It is a nice air of cleanliness, which prevents contamination.


Many Internet users may relay this text - which began to circulate on social networks last May before resurfacing these days -, it is nonetheless purely invented.


"What is most striking in this letter are the anachronisms: the events mentioned do not correspond with its date of writing, and we see it quite quickly when we know a little about the context", explains

20 Minutes

Cécile Lignereux, lecturer at the University of Grenoble-Alpes and specialist of Madame de Sévigné.

“Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661, and the intendant Vatel in 1671. It is moreover to Madame de Sévigné that we owe the story of the latter's suicide in a letter of April 26, 1671, one of its most brilliant and well-known, very studied at school because it is a model of narrative construction ”, continues the specialist.

"She explained that, when the king, Louis XIV, invited to Chantilly, for a dinner at Fouquet's, of which François Vatel was the great steward, the latter was alarmed not to see the fish arrive (" the tidal load ") that he had ordered.

Fearing to be dishonored, he committed suicide with his sword, as Madame de Sévigné described it in a passage that has remained famous: "Vatel goes up to his room, puts his sword against the door, and passes it through his heart, but it was not until the third stroke, for two were given which were not fatal; he fell dead. The tide, however, is coming from all sides. "


"The letter is rather well done"

This explains the reference, in the pastiche, to “Mr. Vatel, who receives his tide charges”.

Because beyond its anachronisms, the text turns out to be quite convincing, according to Cécile Lignereux: "The letter is rather well done, probably by someone who is familiar with the themes of Madame de Sévigné's correspondence and its syntax, in particular the expressions "dear child" and "I embrace you, my good", which she used in her exchanges with her daughter.


“The mention of Le


, de Corneille, is also consistent because Madame de Sévigné often echoed the tragedies of Racine and the comedies of Molière, regularly using the expression" of which one says the greatest good ".

But there again, the date does not correspond, the part is well before 1687, since it dates from 1644. "

The notions of “confinement” and “contamination” are however completely absent from Madame de Sévigné's correspondence, assures Cécile Lignereux, after specific research on these two terms.

"On the other hand, on June 26, 1675, we find an interesting occurrence since she speaks of a" mask "to her daughter, to whom she writes:" The problem is the air of Grignan, on the contrary it would be necessary to moisten and refresh your complexion, and put on a mask when you go out in the air ", underlines the specialist.

“Madame de Sévigné's health advice to her sick daughter was very present in her letters,” concludes Cécile Lignereux.


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