This is the script of an event. The birth of a story founded on facts. A work of fiction, hemmed in by facts.
Scene: A University town in the north of France.
Professor. Flawlessly courteous, impeccable in spirit as in manners.
I. In two minds about all, mostly about myself.
Professor: “Have you in mind a particular subject concerning your PhD thesis, Miss?”
I: “I do, Sir. Mademoiselle de Scudéry.”
Professor: “I would not advise you to get involved in such an ambitious project, Miss. I’d suggest you take as the subject of your PhD a minor poet of the 17th century, Jean-François Sarasin, nowadays practically forgotten. He was a regular visitor of Madeleine de Scudéry’s literary salon. He will suit you perfectly. Let me give you some data about his life and literary merits.
Jean-François Sarasin was born in 1614 in Normandy considered in those days as the “land of poets”. According to his contemporaries, and confirmed by the archives of the city of Caen, he came from a highly respectable aristocratic family. His father, Roger Sarasin, was squire, counsellor to the King and paymaster of France in the city of Caen.
Jean-François got his basic education from his father, a reputable scholar, who generously shared his erudition with his son. Having completed his studies with distinction at the prestigious University of Caen, Jean-François Sarasin came to Paris in 1633. He brought with him a letter of recommendation from Le Fauconnier, a close friend of the family.
Some gossip even hinted that Le Fauconnier was his biological father. Let’s say no more about it. Anyway, the recommendation for the poet Vauquelin des Yvetaux proved useless. That was not the end of the world for our young man, smart and exceedingly handsome with it. No wonder that he soon became intimate friend of the attractive Angélique Paulet, King’s former mistress, woman notorious. It is most probable that it was she who arranged Sarasin’s entry into the salon of Madeleine de Scudéry where he soon became a sort of a poet-in-residence.
If you wish to tackle in your thesis Mademoiselle de Scudéry without drowning in the vast quantities of her prolific work, take this opportunity to do so.
Jean-François Sarasin died in 1654 at the age of forty. He left behind him only a few works. Another reason why I suggest him. Besides, you may rely on the excellent critical edition of Sarasin’s works by Paul Festugière.
Well, what do you think of my proposal?”
I: (Still very subdued by my recent adversities and for all that ready to take gladly a piece of advice) “Thank you, Sir. I’ll gladly accept your suggestion.”
Professor:“A very wise decision. I leave you now. My students are waiting. I hope that your choice will give you satisfaction. So long, Miss. Good luck.”
I: “Many thanks for your advice, Sir. Good bye.”