Stéphanie de Genlis, ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’

Edited by Mary S. Trouille

Critical Texts 21

Modern Humanities Research Association

1 October 2010  •  216pp

ISBN: 978-0-947623-95-1 (paperback)  •  RRP £14.99, $19.99, €17.99

Sample: Google Books


A Gothic tale embedded in Genlis's 1782 novel Adèle et Théodore, the Histoire de la duchesse de C*** tells the story of an Italian duchess secretly imprisoned by her husband for nine years in a dungeon under his palace after he drugs her, simulates her death, and buries a waxen figure in her place.

In a footnote to the 1804 edition of the novel, Genlis explains that the story is based on the experiences of the Italian Duchess of Cerifalco, whom Genlis met in Rome in 1776. The duchess’s tale quickly became so popular that Genlis published it in a separate edition in 1783; as Genlis’s fame as a writer and educator spread, both the novella and the novel from which it was drawn were reprinted numerous times and published in translation in England where they enjoyed considerable success as well.

The Histoire de la Duchesse de C*** is a masterful blend of the sentimental and the Gothic genres and, as such, provides students with an excellent introduction to both literary traditions. Genlis's subtle analysis of the power relations between husband and wife shows keen psychological insight and constitutes the most compelling aspect of the duchess's story.

This critical edition is accompanied by an introduction to the text and author, a selected bibliography, and an original modern English translation of the text.

Mary S. Trouille is Professor of French at Illinois State University.


  • ‘This fine edition would be a welcome addition to undergraduate and graduate courses on the Gothic novel, alongside now more familiar English authors ... Trouille has done those of us who focus on women’s writing in the pre-Revolutionary period a great service.’ — Gillian Dow, Modern Language Review 107.3, 2012, 944-45 (full text online)

Bibliography entry:

Trouille, Mary S. (ed.), Stéphanie de Genlis, ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’, Critical Texts, 21 (MHRA, 2010)

First footnote reference: 35 Stéphanie de Genlis, ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’, ed. by Mary S. Trouille, Critical Texts, 21 (MHRA, 2010), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Trouille, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Trouille, Mary S. (ed.). 2010. Stéphanie de Genlis, ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’, Critical Texts, 21 (MHRA)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Trouille 2010: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Trouille 2010: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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