Anne-Marie de Fauques de La Cépèdes de Vaucluse de Starck (17201804)



  • Author
  • Copyist
  • Translator
  • Tutor


  • Anne-Marie de Fauques de La Cépèdes de Vaucluse de Starck
  • Marianne-Agnès Pillement Fauques
  • Mademoiselle de Fauques‏
  • Marianne-Agnès‏ Falques

Isabelle Tremblay, Royal Military College of Canada
July 2023

Born in Avignon in 1720, Mlle de Fauques was well known in France and in England for her literary work. A novelist, fabulist, storyteller, copyist, translator and tutor who spent most of her life in England, Mlle de Fauques knew Mme de Tencin, Mme de Bellevaux, the Comte de Caylus, Mme Leprince de Beaumont, Elizabeth Montagu, Edmund Burke, John Cleland, Georges Saville and William Jones Junior, among others. Although she is often listed as “Marianne Agnès Pillement, Mlle. de Falque(s),” her name was Anne-Marie de Fauques de La Cépèdes de Vaucluse de Starck according to the latest biographical research conducted by Julia Gasper, based largely on the Beckford fonds of the Bodleian Library, the Vaucluse archives, Joseph d'Hémery's police reports, and the Mémoire de Madame de F de la C vs. CM de la R de G (1758).[1] Mlle de Fauques’ forced religious vocation, the controversial reception of her first novels in France, the police surveillance of which she was the object in Paris, her liaison with Charles Edward Stewart publicized in the “avertissement” of Oriental Anecdotes (1764),[2] her imprisonment in a London jail and her eventful relationship with Pietro-Paolo Celesia, Minister of the Republic of Genoa in London, painted a rocky picture of her life. In 1780, she married a Prussian officer, Henry Saville de Starck, who wrote about her work and her life in Memoirs of Mme de Starck (1804).

While Raymonde Robert affirms that she “knew neither Arabic nor Turkish,[3]” Mlle de Fauques had a perfect command of English, as well as Latin and Italian since she had to present numerous documents in those languages in order to petition for the release of the vows she was forced to pronounce at the Augustinian convent of Saint-Ursule in 1738. Her knowledge of oriental culture[4] was remarkable and earned her the respect of the Comte de Caylus and William Jones Junior, her pupil. Her friend William Thomas Beckford, author of the famous oriental novel Vathek (1786), benefited from her erudition. While pseudo-translation legitimized her critical view of the Ancien Régime in Le Triomphe de l'amitié: ouvrage traduit du grec (1751),[5] Contes du serrail, traduits du turc (1753) and Histoire de Mme de Pompadour traduite de l'anglais (1759),[6] the Orientalist perspective authorized the dissenting views she put forward in Abbassaï, Histoire orientale (1753),[7] Oriental Anecdotes: or the History of Haroun Alrachid (1764) and The Vizirs: or, the Enchanted Labyrinth. An Oriental Tale (1774).[8] By using such legitimizing strategies, she contributed to establishing the novel as a genre in France and participated in the debates of ideas on socio-political topics dear to the philosophes. In fact, in the novel Les Préjugés trop bravés et trop suivis, ou les Mémoires de Mlle d’Oran (1755),[9] Mlle de Fauques questions female education, as well as relations between men and women, and paints an original portrait of an accomplished heroine. Her novels record new ideas likely to transform the social, political and religious foundations that underlie France’s Ancien Régime. Moreover, Mlle de Fauques stands out with a political satire on the Seven Years’ War—La Dernière Guerre des bêtes (1758) —and with a work that criticizes French morals: Les Zélindiens (1762). Fascinated by the subject of metempsychosis, she published Les Transmigrations d'Hermès (1768). In order to voice her ideas on controversial subjects such as freedom, justice, and happiness, she turned to the fable in Nouvelles fables, avec une traduction de quelques sonnets choisis de Pétrarque et une romance (1772). She continued her political reflection on current issues in Dialogues in the shades, between General Wolfe, General Montgomery, David Hume, George Grenville and Charles Townshend (1777). Since she worked as a tutor[10] and published didactic works, including The English Belle Assemblée (1774), The Temple of Cythnos, or the Oracles of Fortune and Wisdom for the Four Seasons of Life, Translated from the Greek (1778), and the bilingual work Moral and Entertaining Dialogues, in English and French. For the Improvement of Youth (1777), Mlle de Fauques deserves to be considered as an “éducatrice” of the Enlightenment. In 1793, she lamented the fate of France and reiterated her allegiance to England in the versified work L’Apparition ou l’égoïsme (1793). At the end of her life, she travelled to Prussia where she visited the residence of Frederick the Great whom she admired and in whose honour she had written an allegorical work: Frédéric le Grand, au temple de l’immortalité (1758).[11] In the “avertissement” of Oriental Anecdotes (1764), Mlle de Fauques claims that the King of Prussia admired her talent: “the King of Prussia himself, in the midst of all the occupations of a war, in which he was making head singly against an union of the greatest powers in Europe, vouchsafed to express, by letter to [me], his sense of [my] merit.”[12] She also affirms that Fontenelle had praised her intellectual ability: “M. Fontenelle, and many other great judges, admired and praiſed [my] genius.”[13]

As a space of ideological experimentation, her work testifies to an original attempt to envision the future. While Antoine Sabatier de Castres publishes an eulogistic epistle about her in the Mercure de France (1751),[14] the editor of the Cabinet des fées considers that “Mlle. Fauques is, among the women known in literature, the one who has shown more spirit and talent.”[15] The reception of her work by English readers is quite favourable. In Sketches of the Lives and Writings of the Ladies of France (1781), Ann Thicknesse praises her first novel, Triomphe de l’amitié (1751).[16] In her Memoirs, her most faithful friend, Elizabeth Craven, writes: “Madame Fauques de Vaucluse was singular in the history of her life. She had been forced by her mother to take the veil, in order to provide for an elder sister who was handsome: she herself had the misfortune not to be beautiful. […] Madame de Vaucluse had one fault common to great geniuses,—she had every sense but common sense.”[17]


[1] Julia Gasper, Anne-Marie Fauques de Vaucluse, a Tiger among the Bluestockings (Lulu Books, 2021).

[2] “It was there [Avignon] that she casually became acquainted with the young Chevalier, by whom, it is said, she had a son, lately dead. Without warranting the truth of this report, it is not at least unfair to observe that she has touched on the incident of her knowledge of him, with great delicacy, in her memorial against Mr. Celesia late minister to our court from the republic of Genoa.” Oriental Anecdotes or The History of Haroun Alrachid vol. 1 (London, W. Nicoll and T. Durham, 1764), pp. v–vi.

[3] Raymonde Robert, “Lectures croisées d’un conte oriental. Pétis de la Croix (Les Mille et Un Jours, 1710), Mlle Falques (Contes du sérail, 1753),” Féeries vol. 2 (2005), p. 2.

[4] Abbassaï (1753) and the Contes du sérrail, traduits du turc (1755) confirm her erudition and her access to a Turkish tale translated into French, “La détente après l’affliction” (“al-faraj ba'd al-shidda”). Raymonde Robert, “Lectures croisées d’un conte oriental,” Ibid., p. 2. Mlle de Fauques had certainly been able to consult Bathélemy d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque orientale (1697) as she states in the preface of The Vizirs: or, the Enchanted Labyrinth. An Oriental Tale (1774): “I Hope the following historical explanation will be agreeable to those of my readers who are not conversant with the Persian authors. I have taken it from D’HERBELOT, and from the introduction to the history of Nader Shah.”  (London: G. Riley, 1774), p. 1.

[5] The novel was translated into German in 1752 under the title Der Triumph der Freundschaft and into English in 1759 under the title Agenor and Ismena; or, the War of the Tender Passions. The reference to the Greek translation appears only in the French title.

[6] First published in English, then in French and in German, the text was re-edited a dozen times until 1770, as well a century later in 1879. The Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la Marquise de Pompadour traduites de l’anglais are published anonymously in 1763 in London by S. Hooper. Moreover, Mlle de Fauques continued her biographical inquiry in 1766 with The Life of the Marchioness de Pompadour. The Fourth edition revised and enlarged with a continuation from 1757 to her death.

[7] While the English translation of 1759 is entitled Abbassai; an Eastern Novel, that of 1764 is entitled Abbassai; an Eastern Tale.

[8] The Vizirs: or, the Enchanted Labyrinth. An Oriental Tale was translated into German and Russian.

[9] Les Préjugés trop bravés et trop suivis, ou les Mémoires de Mlle d'Oran was reedited in 1774 under the title Le Danger des Préjugés, ou Les Mémoires de Mlle d’Oran.

[10] She became the tutor of Elizabeth Craven’s daughters.

[11] Frédéric le Grand, au temple de l’immortalité was translated into English in 1758: The Inauguration of Frederic the Great, in the Temple of Immortality; or the Triumph of Glory.

[12] Mlle de Fauques, Oriental Anecdotes or The History of Haroun Alrachid vol. 1 (London: W. Nicoll and T. Durham, 1764), p. v.

[13] Ibid., p. viii.

[14] Mercure de France vol. 2 (December 1751), pp. 58–62.

[15] Le Cabinet des fées vol. 37 (Genève, Barde, Manget & Compagnie et se trouve à Paris chez Cuchet, 1786), p. 118.

[16] “This she gave on her first quitting the convent, and was no doubt, a child born within those religious walls: this is a sort of proof, of what we have often observed, that there is a kind of mediocrity of understanding only, which can bear to live in such durance; and that when a real genius is caught in one of those priest-traps, (a convent) the genius will be too strong for the convent doors, and either break out, or let in more than the father confessor approves.” Ann Thicknesse, “Mademoiselle Fauques,” in Sketches of the Lives and Writings of the Ladies of France vol. 3 (London, Dodsley, 1781), p. 151.

[17] Élizabeth Craven, The Original Memoirs of Elizabeth Baroness Craven afterwards Margravine of Anspach and Bayreuth and Princess Berkeley of the Holy Roman Empire (1750–1828) Edited with Notes and a Biographical and Historical Introduction containing much unpublished matter by A. M. Broadley & Lewis Melville with 48 illustrations in two volumes vol. 2 (London, New York & Toronto: John Lane, 1914), p. 112.