The Hurlyburly’s Husband

Written by Alison Anderson (trans.) Jean Teulé

The Marquis de Montespan and his wife, Athénaïs, have a passionate and loving relationship. They live in a style much larger than the Marquis can afford.  His attempts to earn money through military action amount to nothing, so when Athénaïs has a chance to become a lady-in-waiting to the queen, they both feel lucky.  However, when Athénaïs goes to court, her beauty and wit attract the attention of King Louis XIV, who makes her his mistress.  Most men of the time would be happy with the money and gifts that come to the family of the king’s mistress, but the Marquis de Montespan does not accept the situation. He continues to love his adulterous wife and vows revenge on the king.

I found the telling of this story absurd.  I recognized the names in the court of Louis XIV, and in the author’s notes, Teulé speaks of the authenticity of the story.  However, The Hurlyburly’s Husband reads more like Voltaire’s Candide than modern historical fiction. The characters seem like metaphors more than real people. Once I made that shift in my way of reading, I enjoyed the story a great deal.  Before that shift, I found the story both unbelievable and depressing.