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  • Susan Stoderl

Women Writers Through History | Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni | 18th Century French Actress and Novelist


Portrait of Riccoboni
Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni | Actress and Novelist

In the category of 18th-century women writers, Jeanne-Marie Riccoboni stands out because she was not of the aristocracy, but of the bourgeoisie.


She was born Marie-Jeanne Laboras de Mézières in 1713, and the daughter of a Parisian shopkeeper. She married Antoine François Riccoboni, an Italian actor and dramatist, in 1735, but the marriage was short-lived. She pursued a career in acting and was moderately successful. However, her theater experience later influenced her literary works.


Riccoboni’s debut novel was Les Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd (1757). It explores how the public sphere women excludes women. Other notable works include Lettres de Juliette Catesby (1759), Histoire de Miss Jenny (1762), and Ernestine (1765). Riccoboni wrote in the epistolary style and featured strong female protagonists. This style tells the story through the character's letters, diary entries, or other forms of written correspondence. The readers experience the narrative from the characters’ perspectives, allowing a more intimate view of their events and emotions.


Riccoboni received admiration for her works for their perceptive descriptions of love and friendship. She corresponded with noted figures such as Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, David Hume, and David Garrick. Choderlos de Laclos wrote the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (1782). She was also friends with David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, and David Garrick, the English actor, playwright, theater manager and producer. Garrick influenced all aspects of European theatrical practice throughout the 18th century.


Although a successful writer, Riccoboni died in poverty in 1792, partially because the crown stopped her small pension after the French Revolution.


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