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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Madame de Sévigné Writes to Her Daughter Sam Adams
Paris, February 1671

I am waiting. I haven’t any news from you –
nothing of your journey to Lyon and on into Provence.
No doubt you have written; no doubt a letter
will come. While I wait, I console and amuse myself
writing to you.

At three this morning I was awakened by cries:
Fire! Fire! And rising in haste and fear saw the house
of Guitaud alight, flames rising above the roofs
of neighbouring houses, confusion everywhere,
a terrible crashing of falling beams, and Guitaud,
steeled to plunge into the inferno to rescue his mother
on the third floor, struggling to free himself
from his wife’s grasp, and she five months’ pregnant.
When he found his mother was safe,
still he fought to retrieve some precious papers,
but couldn’t get near for the heat. At last,
about five, we thought of his wife’s delicate condition.
We had her bled, but still we feared she might go into labour.

If one could have laughed on such a sad occasion,
what pictures one could paint of the state we were all in:
Guitaud naked but for nightshirt and shoes, his wife
bare-legged, one foot slipperless; Madame Vauvineux
in short skirt without her negligée; everyone, servants
and all, wearing nightcaps. Thankfully, the Ambassador
from Venice with dressing-gown and wig, sustained
the gravity of la serenissima. But his secretary
was ...


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