ABSTRACT

Pierre de Bourdeille, Seigneur de Brantôme, was one of the most prolific memorialists and historians of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Of his enormous output, only the Recueil des dames is well known and readily available in twentiethcentury editions.1 Most of his numerous volumes are devoted to the lives of the illustrious noblemen of France, though the Recueil is dedicated to the country’s most noteworthy noble women and to the “gallant” ladies, such as the ones I will examine here, who “made love and cuckolded their husbands.” While most of Brantôme’s work described men and the quintessentially “masculine” activity of warfare, his texts have elicited attention in recent years in the United States primarily because of the documentary value of his writings about early-modern women, particularly concerning their sexuality. In France, in contrast, studies of Brantôme are focused more on the memorialist as a chronicler of the “grands personnages” of his historical period. For example, a recent volume of essays emphasizes the access to powerful relations granted to Brantôme by his acquaintance with the great women of his day, particularly Marguerite de Valois.2 These studies also insist that, as Sylvie Haaser writes, “Brantôme a grandi dans un milieu essentiellement féminin. C’est sous la bienveillante attention de plusieurs femmes que le jeune Pierre de Bourdeille fait son apprentissage.” [“Brantôme grew up in a milieu that was essentially feminine. It is under the benevolent attention of many women that the young Pierre de Bourdeille accomplished his apprenticeship.”]3 Despite this recognition that the memorialist’s writing and storytelling was greatly influenced by his contact with the great women of the Valois court, much of the critical attention paid to his work has been in terms of his activities as a man and a soldier, which dominated his career.4