Definition of a Précieuse
The word “Précieuse” is in this case a very abstract term indicating mainly an inner feeling which takes the form of a reaction to the distasteful manners commonly used in the social circles of the 17th century. The ladies of the movement did not want to be considered objects used by men, even in marriage, which they tried to postpone as long as they could, therefore avoiding such consequences as childbearing. Hence, in this respect at least, we can see them as ancestors of certain tendencies in modern feminism. Their “preciosite” was spread first at the salon of the Marquise de Rambouillet, who wanted to create a cradle of manners where more polished and proper language would also be developed and spread.
For almost fifty years the Hotel de Rambouillet and the famous Chambre bleue (1630-1645 are to be considered its best years) was the place to be for such ladies such as the Duchesse de Longueville, Mme de la Fayette, Mme de Sevigne, the Grande Demoiselle, Mme de Sable and Mlle de Scudery, to whom we owe the
Portrait of a Précieuse
, a portrait modeled on the personality of Mme de Rambouillet. Mme de Rambouillet is also mentioned in the Grand Cyrus where she is disguised under the name of Anacrise, with the following traits: few things and people bring her satisfaction or happiness; she herself does not like people too much, but she is polite and refined; she is, however, so excessively sensitive to the language and the behavior of some gentlemen that they will avoid going where they know she will be present, knowing that she will faint at the sound of an unpleasant word. To fully understand such behavior, we must go back to its causes.