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The women of the French Salons

put so much into
so small a space, perhaps there is some compensation in
the opportunity
of comparing, in one gallery, the women who exercised
the greatest power
in France for a period of more than two hundred years.
The impossibility
of entering into the details of so many lives in a
single volume is
clearly apparent. Only the most salient points can be
considered. Many
who would amply repay a careful study have simply been
glanced at, and
others have been omitted altogether. As it would be out
of the question
in a few pages to make an adequate portrait of women who
occupy so
conspicuous a place in history as Mme. De Maintenon and
Mme. De Stael,
the former has been reluctantly passed with a simple
allusion, and
the latter outlined in a brief resume not at all
proportional to the
relative interest or importance of the subject.
I do not claim to present a complete picture of French
society, and
without wishing to give too rose-colored a view, it has
not seemed to
me necessary to dwell upon its corrupt phases. If truth
compels one
sometimes to state unpleasant facts in portraying
historic characters,
it is as needless and unjust as in private life to
repeat idle and
unproved tales, or to draw imaginary conclusions from
questionable data.
The conflict of contemporary opinion on the simplest
matters leads
one often to the suspicion that all personal history is
more or less
disguised fiction. The best one can do in default of
direct records
is to accept authorities that are generally regarded as
the most