Letters of Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend
- Author: Isabelle de Charrière
- Translators: Philip Stewart, Jean Vaché
- Pages: xxix & 42 pp.
- Published: 1993
- ISBN: 9780873527767 (Paperback)
“A work of startling modernity, which could become a curricular standard like ‘The Yellow Wall-Paper’ or The Awakening.”
Considered by many scholars to be among the most brilliant novels written in French during the eighteenth century, Letters of Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend was composed as a response to Samuel de Constant’s misogynist novel, The Sentimental Husband (1783). Charrière presents six letters penned by a Mistress Henley, who has chosen a decent and affectionate man as her life’s companion only to discover that she cannot bear sharing his life. An immediate success on its publication in 1784, Mistress Henley was greeted with acclaim and controversy: one reader called the book “literarily excellent” but “morally dangerous in various ways.” Remarkable for its empathy for both spouses, Mistress Henley is not only a moving work of fiction but also one of the most modern novels of its day.
Born in 1740 to a Dutch aristocratic family, Isabelle de Charrière (née van Zuylen) published her first novel, The Nobleman, in her early twenties. During the next four decades she wrote several important novels and lively correspondence. In 1771 she married her brothers’ former tutor and moved with him to Colombier, a small village in Switzerland, where she lived until her death in 1805.