Short summary - The life of Marianne: or, the adventures of the Countess of *** - Pierre de Marivaux

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The life of Marianne: or, the adventures of the Countess of ***
Pierre de Marivaux

Marianne, moving away from the light, takes up the pen on the advice of her friend. True, she is afraid that her mind is not suitable for writing, and the syllable is not good enough, but believe me, she is just flirting.

The tragic event that happened when Marianne was no more than two years old leaves an imprint on her entire life. The mail carriage is attacked by robbers and killed all of its passengers, except for a small child, Marianne. Judging by the clothes, the girl is the daughter of a young noble couple, but no more accurate information can be found. Thus, Marianne's origins become a mystery. The child is sent to the house of a village priest, and his sister, a well-educated, reasonable and truly virtuous woman, brings up Marianne like her own daughter. Marianne with all her heart becomes attached to her patrons and considers the priest's sister the best person in the world. The girl grows up as a graceful, sweet, obedient child and promises to become a beauty. When Marianne turns fifteen, circumstances force the priest's sister to go to Paris, and she takes the girl with her. But after a while they receive news of the priest's illness, and soon the one who replaced the poor girl's mother dies. Her instructions for life will remain in the memory of Marianne, and although in the future she will often show indiscretion, her soul will forever remain full of virtue and honesty.

So, a fifteen-year-old girl, very pretty, is left alone in Paris and in the whole wide world, without a home and without money. In despair, Marianne begs the monk, who was leading the acquaintance with the deceased, to become her leader, and he decides to turn to one respectable person, known for his piety and good deeds. Mr. Klimal, a well-preserved man of about fifty or sixty, very rich, having learned the story of Marianna, is ready to help: send the girl to a seamstress to study and pay for the maintenance. Marianne feels grateful, but her heart is torn to pieces from shame, she feels unbearable humiliation, being the object of "mercy that does not observe spiritual delicacy." But, after parting with the monk, her benefactor becomes much more amiable, and, despite her inexperience, Marianne feels that there is something bad behind this courtesy. And so it happens. Very soon she realizes that de Klimal is in love with her. Marianne considers it dishonest to encourage his courtship, but accepts gifts, because in addition to virtue and decency, she is naturally endowed with coquetry and a desire to please, so natural for a pretty woman. She has no choice but to pretend that she is unaware of the ardent feelings of an elderly admirer.

One day, returning from church, Marianne twists her leg and ends up in the house of a noble young man, the very one with whom they exchanged glances in church that speaks so much to their hearts. She cannot admit to Valville either in her miserable position, or in her acquaintance with Monsieur de Climal, who turns out to be Valville's uncle and pretends not to know Marianne, although at the sight of her nephew at the feet of her ward she languishes with jealousy. When Marianne returns home, de Klimal comes to her. He speaks directly of his love, warns Marianne against being carried away by "young helipads" and offers her "a small contract for five hundred livres of rent." During this explanation, Valville suddenly appears in the room, and now the nephew sees his uncle kneeling in front of the same Marianne. What can he think of her? Only one. When a young man leaves, throwing a contemptuous look at an innocent girl, she asks de Klimal to go with her to her nephew and explain everything to him, and he, throwing off the mask of decency, reproaches her for ingratitude, says that from now on he stops his giving , and disappears, fearing a scandal. And Marianne, who was deprived of all prudence by offended pride and love for Valville, thinks only about how to make Valville regret the separation and repent of bad thoughts. Only in the morning does she realize the depth of her plight. She tells about all her sorrows to the abbess of the monastery, and during this conversation there is a lady who is imbued with warm sympathy for the girl. She offers the abbess to take Marianne to the monastery boarding house and is going to pay for her upkeep. Marianne, in an enthusiastic impulse, sprinkles the benefactress's hand with "the most tender and sweetest tears."

So Marianne finds a new patroness and finds a second mother in her. True kindness, naturalness, generosity, lack of vanity, clarity of thought - this is what constitutes the character of a fifty-year-old lady. She admires Marianne and treats her like her own daughter. But soon Marianne, who adores her benefactress, learns that she is none other than Valleville's mother, who learned of Marianne's innocence, inflamed with even more passionate love and has already handed her a letter to the monastery, disguised as a lackey. When Madame de Miran complains that her son began to neglect a rich and noble bride, carried away by some accidentally met young girl, Marianne recognizes herself in the description of the adventurer and without hesitation confesses everything to Madame de Miran, including her love for her son ... Madame de Miran asks for help from Marianne, she knows that Marianne is worthy of love like no one else, that she has everything - “beauty, virtue, intelligence, and a beautiful heart”, but society will never forgive a young man of noble family marrying a girl of unknown origin who has neither title nor fortune. For the sake of love for Madame de Miran, Marianne decides to abandon Valleville's love and begs him to forget about her. But Madame de Miran (who hears this conversation), shocked by the nobility of her pupil, agrees to the marriage of her son with Marianne. She is ready to courageously resist the attacks of relatives and protect the happiness of children from the whole world.

Madame de Miran's brother, de Climal, dies. Before his death, he, full of remorse, admits his guilt towards Marianne in the presence of his sister and nephew and leaves her a small fortune. Marianne still lives in the convent boarding house, and Madame de Miran introduces her as the daughter of one of her friends, but gradually rumors about the upcoming wedding and the dubious past of the bride spread more and more and reach the ears of Madame de Miran's numerous and arrogant relatives. Marianne is kidnapped and taken to another monastery. The abbess explains that this is an order from above, and Marianne is given a choice: either to take a haircut as a nun, or to marry another person. On the same evening, Marianne is put into a carriage and taken to a house, where she meets with a man whom she is predicted to be her husband. This is the foster brother of the minister's wife, an unremarkable young man. Then, in the minister's office, a real trial takes place over a girl who has not done anything wrong. Her only crime is beauty and wonderful spiritual qualities, which attracted the heart of a young man from a noble family. The minister announces to Marianne that he will not allow her to marry Valville, and invites her to marry the "nice guy" with whom she just talked in the garden. But Marianne, with the firmness of despair, declares that her feelings are unchanged, and refuses to marry. At that moment, Madame de Miran and Valville appear. Full of noble sacrifice, Marianne's speech, her appearance, manners and devotion to her patroness pull the scales on her side. All those present, even the relatives of Madame de Miran, admire Marianne, and the minister announces that he is not going to interfere in this matter anymore, because no one can prevent “virtue from being dear to the human heart,” and returns Marianne to her “mother” ...

But Marianne's misfortunes don't end there. A new boarder arrives at the monastery, a girl of noble birth, half English, Mademoiselle Wharton. It so happens that this sensitive girl faints in the presence of Valleville, and this is enough for the windy youth to see in her a new ideal. He stops visiting sick Marianne and secretly sees Mademoiselle Varton, who falls in love with him. Upon learning of the betrayal of her lover, Marianne becomes desperate, and Madame de Miran hopes that her son's blinding will someday pass. Marianne realizes that her lover is not so guilty, he just belongs to the type of people for whom "obstacles have an irresistible attractive force," and the mother's consent to his marriage to Marianne ruined everything, and "his love fell asleep." Marianne is already known in the world, many admire her, and almost simultaneously she receives two proposals - from a fifty-year-old count, a man of outstanding dignity, and from a young marquis. Self-love, which Marianne considers the main mover of human actions, makes her behave with Valville as if she does not suffer at all, and she wins a brilliant victory: Valville is again at her feet. But Marianne decides not to meet with him again, although she still loves him.

At this, Marianne's notes end. From individual phrases, for example, when she mentions her secular successes or calls herself a countess, one can understand that there were still many adventures in her life that we, alas, were not destined to learn about.