The trouble with many biographies is that their authors have drawn on a stock pattern, the standard sort of thing for the class of subject they have in hand, whether pioneering scientist, maligned statesman, celebrated courtesan, or poet who died young. The result may be not exactly false but, for the particular human case in question, the accents do not fall in the right place, the structure of the narrative is not really meaningful; a story gets told, but it might be that of a dozen other people. It is a pleasure, then, to encounter a biography, like the present one, where the rhythm of a life has been pondered and caught and the shaping of the narrative is really expressive—in a word, where the subject has been allowed to breathe. There is something attractive, moreover, in the tone of this biography, a sort of grave bienséance or propriety. This is not pastiche. Craveri’s references to recent scholarship are unimpeachably post-Freudian and even, maybe, post-Foucauldian. Nevertheless she manages to convey a sense that leisurely and judicious “character-drawing” in the grand siècle manner—as practiced by Mme du Deffand herself, who was mad about it, but here with more human sympathy—is still an intellectually respectable pursuit.
Of the many famous salons in eighteenth-century France, Madame du Deffand’s is perhaps the best-known of all, partly because of a picturesque circumstance: that, by the time it entered its greatest period (roughly the middle years of the century), she was already blind. Contemporary memoirs abound in vignettes of her, in her apartment in the Convent of Saint Joseph, and the airy and nasal tones in which, sitting in her great hooded chair—her tonneau, or “tub of Diogenes”—fondling angora cats and defended by her ferocious pet dog Tonton, she would let fall cutting mots, the sting of which might not register till many moments later.
We here run up against a problem always facing the student of eighteenth-century salons: that though the memoirists are eloquent about the tone and the spectacle at these gatherings, they can rarely tell you what anybody actually said. This could be because the brilliances were too dragonfly-like and elusive, they depended too much on tone and manner, for preservation in print; but of course it might also mean that they were very vapid and are better forgotten. It is a question on which there often seems to be no firm ground for deciding.
However, the case of Mme du Deffand is better than most. For she was, after all, the author of the most famous of all eighteenth-century mots: the one about Saint Denis carrying his severed head for several leagues. On being told by a cardinal that he had done so, she replied, “Oh, Monseigneur, il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte.” (“It’s the first step that counts.”) Also another nice impromptu of hers is recorded: that supper was one of the four ends of Man. “I forget what the others are.” We know, as well, of one or two telling snap judgments, such as that a certain actress was “a demoniac without warmth.” Though against these there has to be weighed her extremely silly remark (playing upon the two senses of the word bête, i.e., “beast” and “stupid”) about the great naturalist Buffon. “Il ne s’occupe que des bêtes; il faut l’être un peu soi-même pour se dévouer à une telle occupation.” (“He’s only concerned with bêtes; he must be a bit of one himself to be devoted to such an occupation.”)
Fortunately we have her letters, of which Benedetta Craveri makes magnificent use, and these come near to conversation. All in all, with Craveri’s help, I think we can picture the Deffand salon more clearly than many others. Moreover, since this salon was, in a very special degree, Deffand’s lifeline, it is fascinating also to see it, as we do here, from behind the scenes, observing the ambition, and calculation and black desperation that lay behind the achievement.
The Marquise du Deffand, née Marie de Vichy-Champrond, was born in 1696, in the gloomy chateau of the ancient, but somewhat impoverished, Burgundian family of the Counts of Champrond. She received a convent education and, in 1718—not having set eyes on him till her wedding day—she married her distant cousin Jean-Baptiste-Jacques du Deffand, Marquis de la Lande. The marriage was fully as unsuccessful as might have been expected. It happened at the height of the Regency and the Mississippi “bubble.” Libertinism was all the fashion, and the marquise threw herself into it with great zest. For a fortnight she became the mistress of the Regent himself, and she parted more finally with respectability by accepting a pension from her royal lover and beginning an intrigue with one of his closest and shadiest cronies. It was all too much for her husband, a mild and country-loving gentleman, who insisted on a separation.
In 1723 the Regent died. Upon this, Deffand cultivated the friendship of Madame de Prie, mistress of the new first minister, the Duc de Bourbon, and upon the disgracing of the duke she followed her friend into exile. Why she did so is not clear; it could, as Craveri says, have been simple loyalty, or alternatively a sort of relish for defiance. In their forced retirement the two would entertain themselves by exchanging, every morning, the satirical couplets they had composed against each other overnight. From this “amusement of vipers,” as it seemed to her nineteenth-century biographer, it is plain that Deffand, having abandoned “reputation,” was hoping to make a career for herself as a wit.
Within a year or so, though, the hapless Mme de Prie had died—by poisoning, and possibly by her own hand. Shaken by the blow, Deffand took it into her head to attempt a reconciliation with her husband. For about six weeks the experiment was a great success, after which she began to dislike him more bitterly than ever and fell into such a state of sullen gloom that he quitted her in despair. The lover with whom she replaced him deserted her likewise, and for a moment her life seemed in mortal crisis. “She remains the laughing stock,” wrote her friend Mlle Aïssé, “blamed by everyone, despised by her lover, abandoned by her friends; she no longer knows how to untangle it all.” That in the space of the next ten years or so she contrived to restore order to her life and acquire a dominating position in fashionable society hints at her extraordinary qualities of character. It is this character, more than her mots and her prose style (though Sainte-Beuve praised her hyperbolically as “one of our classics in language”), that finally takes hold of our imagination.
According to Craveri, Deffand was helped to retrieve her position by Charles Hénault (commonly known as “President” Hénault), with whom she began an affair that would last, in some form or other, for the rest of her life. Hénault, born in 1685 of bourgeois origins, was a rich magistrate and academician and in later years a close friend and adviser of the royal family. Widowed in 1728, he was everyone’s pattern of the man born to please: cultivated, graceful, amusing, and, in his own detached way, a faithful friend and man of good will. He compiled a Chronological Abridgement of French history, of which he was excessively proud, and he was greatly aggrieved when d’Alembert, in his “Preliminary Discourse” to the Encyclopédie, refused to praise it as a masterpiece of thought.
Hénault sounds rather empty; but an exchange of letters between him and Deffand in the summer of 1742, when she was taking the waters at Forges, is actually very entertaining. The leading motif of their exchange (they are writing every other day) is a competition over who can be the more grudging in affection, and Hénault is not the loser. When she finally irks him by playing this withholding-affection game too viciously, he turns on her with great toughness. “I feel, or rather I see, that you have been doing your best for ten years to make me love you; but I declare I will have none of it. That is what I call talking!”
The early years of this liaison with Hénault took place against the background of the famous court at Sceaux of the Duchesse de Maine, granddaughter of the great Condé, and once imprisoned with her husband for attempting a coup against the Regent. This extravagant and legendary court (transmuted to such beauty by Watteau) was a rival to Versailles, and for some ten years Deffand made herself indispensable there—also, given the tyrannical tendencies of the Duchess, more or less a prisoner. In such time as she could steal from Sceaux, however, she began to put into action a longconcerted plan, that of setting up her own salon; and in 1747, with this in mind, she took a long lease on a handsome set of rooms, built originally by Mme de Montespan, in the Convent of Saint-Joseph in the Quartier de Saint-Germain. Her chosen circle was to be essentially worldly and fashionable; but, as with her famous contemporary Mme de Tencin, she also welcomed writers, on the tacit understanding that—to use Craveri’s words—all conversation should be conducted with “rigorous frivolity.”
As a hostess she was notably successful, and success led her in a year or two to another major crisis. The truth was, Deffand suffered intermittently from a serious psychic affliction. It was already in evidence in her affair with Hénault, and in 1762 she suffered a particularly severe attack. She termed it ennui (i.e., spleen), but it might be better described as clinical depression. Craveri is particularly perceptive and understanding here.
Now her star shone brightly in the firmament over Paris. No longer driven by necessity and ambition, however, she found she was indifferent to the ends she had achieved. The extraordinary energy which had driven her forward turned in on her and transformed itself into the unbearable pain of ennui. “Ennui” was to become the catchword of her existence.
The present attack was reinforced, or perhaps indeed brought on, by the fact that she appeared to be gradually losing her sight, and it decided her to adopt drastic measures—no less than to abandon Paris and retreat to the chateau of Champrond and to the disagreeable company of its master, her brother Gaspard. To the urban-minded Deffand the experience was every bit as desolating as she could have feared, but it provided one unexpected interest. Living in the household was a twenty-year-old young woman named Julie de Lespinasse. She was the illegitimate daughter of the Comtesse d’Albon, now deceased, and had been accepted into the household in virtue of the fact that a legitimate sister of hers had married Deffand’s brother. There was, however, a dark cloud over her. For the truth was (though of course the matter was kept a secret) her brother-in-law Gaspard was also her father. Moreover he was living in fear that she might one day try to assert her rights and a share in the family property. Meanwhile her situation, treated as a kind of poor retainer, was miserable, and she longed to escape. Mme du Deffand and she became very friendly, and the idea occurred to Deffand, as a solution to both their problems, to invite Julie to live with her in Paris as companion and helpmeet. There was intense opposition to the plan, not only from her brother but from Julie’s own hesitations, but Deffand overcame it with methodical and masterly skill.
The ten years which followed were the most brilliant in the history of her salon. Julie de Lespinasse was a most competent and considerate companion, intelligently helpful over all the problems of Deffand’s blindness and uncomplaining about the close confinement and impossible hours her situation entailed. What is more, she revealed a great talent as a hostess, managing skillfully to complement, without encroaching on, Deffand’s leading role.
One of the mainstays of the salon at this time was Deffand’s close friend and protégé the mathematician d’Alembert and—here was another piece of good fortune—Julie and he became warm friends, and later on lovers. Only one incident, in these early days, suggested that there might be dangers ahead. Deffand discovered an incipient affair between Julie and a visiting Irishman named Taafe and decided to interfere, inviting Taafe to state his intentions in writing. As a result, there was a furious altercation between the two women, and Julie, reacting with hysterical violence, came near to killing herself with an overdose of opium. After this, outwardly, things went on much as before; but Craveri, probably rightly, concludes that from then on the two regarded each other with fear and suspicion.
According to Julie’s biographer the Marquis de Ségur, Deffand also in time grew jealous of her relationship with d’Alembert. This does not altogether fit one’s picture of Deffand. At all events what is more to the point is that d’Alembert, at a certain stage (not without reason) turned violently against Deffand. The story is revealing. In a recent letter to Voltaire, Deffand had made some cruel witticisms about d’Alembert, and one evening the fancy took her, out of sheer mischief, to have this letter, and Voltaire’s reply, read out to the assembled company—not realizing, or pretending not to do so, that d’Alembert himself had entered the room. D’Alembert was a petulant man anyway and, though he pretended to make a joke of it, he was bitterly offended. Appearances between the two were kept up a year or two longer, but his language about her to other friends became blistering. When the Comédie Française staged a satirical comedy about him and his fellow philosophes, he said he was sure the author had been put up to it by “the old whore” Deffand.
No shortage, then, of reasons why the Lespinasse–Deffand partnership might eventually crash, and the story of how it did so is well known. Deffand did her sleeping, such as it was, during the day, never rising before 6 PM; and Julie fell into the habit of holding a sort of less formal salon in her own room, in the hour or two before her friend was ready to receive. Deffand was quite unaware of the fact, and when at last it reached her ears, she was overcome with fury. She regarded it as a complete betrayal and submitted Julie to a furious inquisition. Julie, in return, complained of all her sufferings and humiliations under Deffand’s tyrannical sway; and the upshot was that Deffand banished her from her life. D’Alembert took Julie’s side, breaking off all relations with his old benefactress, and so did some of Deffand’s other friends. Indeed, even among those who remained loyal to her, Deffand was thought to have come out badly from the episode. Before long, moreover, helped by Deffand’s great rival Mme Geoffrin, Julie had set up her own very successful salon less than a hundred yards from the Convent of Saint-Joseph.
On the Lespinasse–Deffand débâcle, Craveri takes a traditional line. Describing Julie’s behavior immediately following the quarrel, she writes that “moved no doubt by a generous feeling of pietas, Julie humbly held out an olive branch in the hope of placating her aunt’s anger.” Actually, this olivebranch letter strikes me as rather prim and self-righteous and Deffand’s reply seems much more impressive. Julie asks to be allowed to see her again, writes Deffand, but she cannot believe that it is out of any feeling of friendship.
What would you do with me today, of what use can I be to you: My presence would not be agreeable and would only remind you of the early days of our acquaintanceship, the years which followed and all that are best forgotten. However, if you later come to remember them with pleasure, and should this memory produce some kind of remorse in you, or regret, I do not pride myself in an austere or brutal determination, I am not insensitive and I can easily distinguish the truth. A sincere return might touch me and reawaken the liking and affection which I had for you; but meanwhile, Mademoiselle, let us remain as we are, and be content with my wishes for your happiness.
There is something significant at issue here, and it is worth pausing to examine it. When the original arrangement between Deffand and Julie was first concerted, Deffand drew up an extraordinary protocol, laying down in ruthless detail the exact nature of the relationship, duties, and painful sacrifices to which Julie would be committing herself, and giving particular emphasis to one clause: that the slightest falseness on Julie’s part would be cause to revoke their agreement. Now it was monstrous of her to make Julie sign such a treaty, and most unwise of Julie to do so. Nevertheless it was an altogether clear-cut and truthful document—in this, expressive of its author—and it is indisputable that Julie had violated it. She knew that Deffand’s salon was her whole life and raison d’être, she had ambitions to set up a salon herself, and on this all-important matter she acted falsely.
One begins to see what a truly remarkable figure Mme du Deffand really was. The imagination to devise an arrangement such as the one with Julie, the long-term planning and diplomacy by which she brought it about, the farsighted courage with which she combatted pathological depression, and the uncomplaining resourcefulness with which she came to terms with blindness (converting it, as it were, almost into a social asset), add up to something rare. A self-portrait which she composed in 1728, during her libertine days, asserts that “Madame la Marquise du Deffand…is the enemy of all falseness and affectation; her words and her face always interpret faithfully the sentiments of her soul,” and, with all the riders one might wish to add, it was not an empty claim.
Which is not to say that, in a strict sense, she always lived up to it. During the same period as we have been discussing, Deffand, who had known Voltaire from her youth, began a correspondence with the great man, in which it would be hard to say which proved the more outrageous flatterer. In this exchange, both had ulterior motives. To Voltaire, with his position on French soil still so much under threat, Deffand’s friendships with the great, and especially with the Duc de Choiseul, the king’s chief minister, and his wife, offered great advantages. As for Deffand, it was no doubt true, as Craveri says, that “desire for prestige, vanity and calculation” was not her sole motive in inviting the correspondence; nevertheless they certainly entered in, and part of the charm of the arrangement was that the letters, both his and hers, should be read aloud and passed around.
But to digress for a moment: Craveri says that what Deffand offered Voltaire, and what he especially valued, was privileged contacts “with the old aristocracy”—the more so that after the Lespinasse débâcle her salon had accentuated its “aristocratic” character, making it a refuge for “great aristocrats” and the “true connoisseurs of a gradually disappearing way of life.” Now, one cannot help remarking that the terms “aristocrat” and also “aristocratic” and “aristocracy” (as referring to a social group, as distinct from a form of government) are French-revolutionary coinages and anachronistic in the present context. (The word “aristocrat” does not appear in Johnson’s Dictionary.) The point is, I think, not just pedantic, and there is much to be gained by sticking to the historically correct terms noble,” “gentilhomme,” and “noblesse.” I do not mean that there were not plenty of exclusivenesses to be found in the French beau monde or among people of “the first fashion” (though not half so much as in Germany), or that certain of Deffand’s friends might not have been mournful lamenters of the decay of good taste and bon ton. But what creeps in with the words “aristocrat” and “aristocracy is something more: an anachronistic notion, anticipating the guillotine and the pathos that grew up round it in the nineteenth century, of “aristocrats” as a homogenous and beleaguered group.
In “taste,” style, and the good old days, Voltaire and Deffand certainly found a fruitful topic in common, and Voltaire was able to work off his indignation at the great actress Clairon who, in the third act of his Tancrède, wanted to introduce a scaffold on the stage! “Such abominable imagination is only good for the English theatre…. What a device for a polished nation, a gallows and the hangman’s lackeys!”
One is made aware, though, how extraordinarily narrow, that is to say, narrowly social, Deffand’s conception of literature is. It shocks Voltaire when she writes to him: “I do not at all like to feel that the author I am reading is thinking about making a book, I wish to imagine that he is talking to me.” He replies, reprovingly, that if by reading she means taking up a book, as if asking for the latest news, reading it and dropping it, taking up another book with no connection with the first, and quitting that for a third, it is not going to give her much pleasure. “To have pleasure, a little passion is needed. A great object of interest is required, a determined desire for instruction which occupies the soul continuously.”
The only things that Deffand asks from literature, or practices herself, is maxims and “characters.” (Being such a purist, she regards even the great Saint-Simon’s “characters” as “badly done.”) This is the “psychological virtuosity” that Craveri speaks of as characteristic of the eighteenth century; and it brings home to one that, by contrast, Voltaire is hardly at all interested in psychology, certainly not in his own psychology. His conception of character is not at all what we think of as the “classical” or Molieresque one. What obsesses him (it is a sort of Lockean theme running through his philosophical tales) is the purely arbitrary and accidental nature of the circumstances, usually grim, that stamp a “character” on a human tabula rasa. In a powerful passage, Voltaire asks Deffand: “Have you never considered what poor machines we are? I felt this truth as the result of continuous experience: feelings, passions, tastes, talent, way of thinking, of speaking, of walking, I do not know where they all come from, they are like the ideas we have in a dream.”
The difference between Voltaire and Deffand, it becomes clear, is an ethical one and very profound. As Craveri rightly says, “The marquise’s pessimism caused apathy and a mistrust of her kind, whereas in the author of Candide it inspired action and solidarity of the human race.” Voltaire comes out remarkably strongly and sympathetically in this correspondence. Tempted by his known pessimism, Deffand allows herself very extreme expressions of despair, insisting, angrily, that “there is no condition whatsoever which seems to be preferable to nothingness” and that the only lesson that philosophy can teach is that the greatest tragedy in life is being born. Her tone is sometimes very moving:
You do not know and you cannot know from personal experience, the condition of those who think, who reflect, who have some activity, and who are at the same time without talent, without passion, without occupation, without diversion; who have had friends but who have lost them without being able to replace then; add to that a delicacy of taste, a little discernment, a great love of truth; put out those people’s eyes, and place them in the middle of Paris, of Peking, in fact of anywhere you like and I maintain that it would be happier for them not to have been born.
Voltaire responds with great friendliness and feeling; nevertheless he will have none of it. It is not, he tells her, that “Nothingness” (néant) does not have much to be said for it; it is merely that it is not humanly possible to love nothingness, with all its good qualities. A human being is not master of himself to that degree. One curses one’s existence but one loves it too; one’s will is not one’s own.
It cannot be said that Deffand profited from Voltaire’s admirable advice, and when a new interest entered her life she was inclined to abuse him to her friends and speak of writing to him as “a drudgery from which I have spared myself.” The new interest I speak of was Horace Walpole, and a very absorbing and revitalizing one it was. The best twist to Deffand’s life comes at the end.
In September 1765, disgusted with political life, Walpole comes to Paris in search of pleasure, and he very quickly finds himself a brilliant social success, dining and supping at the most fashionable tables and enjoying the entrée to all the salons—that of Mme du Deffand and of her great rival and enemy Mme Geoffrin among them. On September 17 he notes being taken to visit Mme du Deffand, “a blind old lady of wit,” and on October 2 he gives his friend Conway a wry description of this “old blind débauchée of wit” at her supper-table, informing herself of what everyone has eaten and bawling the news into the deaf ears of the superannuated President Hénault. In a little while, though, his tone toward her is quite transformed. This amazing survivor of the Regency, he enthuses to Thomas Gray,
retains all vivacity, wit, memory, judgement, passions and agreeableness. She goes to operas, plays, suppers, and Versailles; gives suppers twice a week; has everything new read to her; makes new songs and epigrams, ay, admirably, and remembers every one that has been made these fourscore years. She corresponds with Voltaire, dictates charming letters to him, contradicts him, is no bigot to him or anybody, laughs both at the clergy and the philosophers. In a dispute, into which she easily falls, she is very warm, and yet scarce ever in the wrong: her judgement on every subject is as just as possible; in every point of conduct as wrong as possible: for she is all love and hatred, passionate for her friends to enthusiasm, still anxious to be loved, I don’t mean by lovers, and a vehement enemy, but openly.
Walpole and Deffand have, in fact, become ardent friends. One of the results of the quarrel with Julie de Lespinasse and d’Alembert was that, from then on, Deffand shut her door more firmly against those “prigs and pedants” the philosophes. She also declared an absolute “horror” of everything political:
The mandates, the protests, the petitions, etc. etc. arouse not the slightest curiosity in me; I am profoundly indifferent to the matters of which they treat and besides they are couched in such paltry verbiage and in such false fine thoughts as to make one sick to death.
No outlook could have better suited Walpole, who had encountered the philosophes at Mme Geoffrin’s and elsewhere and found then insufferable. To his real admiration for Deffand, moreover, must be added the fact that he made a cult of garrulous old ladies, listening happily for hours on end to their antediluvian gossip and regarding them as objects of the highest antiquarian interest. As for Deffand herself, so bitterly distrustful of human nature, it was as if, at the age of sixty-nine, she had discovered the blessed possibilities of friendship.
The result was that she fell madly in love with Walpole. Even before he had left French soil she was pursuing him with letters, in which she spoke of herself as the “little one” and Walpole as her “tutor,” and then with further letters, demanding to know why the earlier ones had not been answered. It was a regular siege, and Walpole, who was appalled at this turn of events, took tough measures, forbidding her to use the word “love” to him and sending her, every now and then, a crushing dressing-down. Most of these letters of his were destroyed after his death, but a few fragments remain. Here is one from March 16, 1770:
You measure friendship, probity, wit, everything in fact, according to the homage paid you. That is what decides your approbation and your judgement, which vary from one post to the next. Rid yourself, or at least pretend to rid yourself of this personal yardstick; and believe that one can have a good heart without having to be in your drawing-room. I have often told you that you are demanding beyond belief; you would like people to exist only for you; you poison your days with suspicion and mistrust and you rebuff your friends by making them feel the impossibility of pleasing you.
She would express amazement at these “insolent corrections” but wrote on unabashed.
People sometimes write rather strangely about this relationship, with respect to both of its actors. They say, for instance, that the trouble was that Walpole always went in mortal fear of ridicule. But if this is true, it was because he made a deliberate policy of risking it. A man who would stick sweet peas in his hair and sing to a roomful of dowagers at their card tables was not a shamefaced conformist. No doubt he had his large limitations, as Macaulay and others are fond of insisting, but they are not exhibited in the present instance. On the contrary, he strikes one as having handled the Deffand situation magnificently. The friendship survived and flourished, the two went on corresponding volubly till the end of her life, and, despite gout and increasing years, he made several further visits to Paris, mainly for the pleasure of seeing her. Craveri offers the further hypothesis that Walpole rediscovered his lost mother in Deffand and was prevented from breaking off the relationship by his inability to face this fact of his unconscious life; but then this implies that, otherwise, it was strange that he did not break with her, and I cannot quite see why one should think this.
Similarly, Walpole’s biographer R.W. Ketton-Cremer describes Deffand’s relationship with Walpole as “a prolonged and nerve-wracking tragedy.” This, it seems to me, could hardly be further from the truth. Being the woman Deffand was, if she decided to allow herself to fall in love, and to deny indignantly that she was doing anything of the kind, nothing was going to stop her; and if Walpole dealt her some very rough blows over the matter, so did President Hénault forty years before; she was used to such things. One tends to be misled by the fact that, in the nineteenth century, the “well-bred” went in for a cult of privacy, or at least paid much lipservice to it. This was not so in Deffand’s period. She felt no compunction in passing round some of Walpole’s most wounding letters, to ask advice on how to answer. Indeed, more generally, she was as eager as any reforming philosophe to make her mark on public opinion. One might say that this was her life’s project, her substitute for other forms of creation; and what is more, it succeeded.
In Deffand’s letters there are certain unforgettably desolate vignettes:
I am overflowing with disgust and ennui. I took the maréchale de Mirepoix back to her house; I stopped there and talked to her for an hour; I was not displeased. She hates the little I dole, she hates the maréchale de Luxembourg; in the end her hatred for all these people who displease me made me forgive her her indifference and perhaps the hatred she has for me. Admit what a pretty society it is, what delightful dealings….
No doubt such descriptions are an echo of her personal problems. Nevertheless, given such heroic honesty and clarity, we feel she is giving us a truth about at least one aspect of ancien régime high life. It warns us not to romanticize this life and its vaunted plaisir de vivre—a temptation the Goncourt brothers were inclined to, though certainly not Benedetta Craveri.
Her absorbing book, first published in Italian in 1982 and now admirably translated by Teresa Waugh, is completed by extensive and very helpful “Biographical Notes” on background figures—slightly, but not damagingly, curtailed in the present version. But what can the publishers have been thinking of, the original Italian one as well as the present one, in not giving the book an index?
November 3, 1994