Out of the dregs of seventeenth-century french culture, the bride of a mediocre marquis invented the unlikely prototype of the literary salon.
Paris in 1600 was not exactly a city of lights. Only two years earlier, King Henri IV—a swaggerer and philanderer of questionable hygiene—had finally ended the thirty-seven years of brutal sectarian strife known as the Wars of Religion by converting to Catholicism (for the second time) and adopting the Edict of Nantes, giving a circumscribed freedom of worship to the Protestant Huguenots. But Parisians still remembered the bitter sieges they had been subjected to by the man who now ruled them and to whom they had reluctantly submitted only six years before. The country remained a mass of smoldering resentments and grudges, led by a coterie of nobles raised on warfare and sedition whose potential for rekindled conflagration was very real. The entire new generation of leadership was coarse, abysmally under
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