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The Torments of Love

1996
Author:

Hélisenne de Crenne
Lisa Neal, editor
Translated by Lisa Neal and Rendall Steven
Introduction by Lisa Neal

The Torments of Love

This autobiographical novel of a married woman’s passion for a younger man is the first translation into English of a landmark text. Originally published in 1538, The Torments of Love tells a colorful tale of adulterous love and romantic adventure from a woman's point of view.

This autobiographical novel of a married woman’s passion for a younger man is the first translation into English of a landmark text. Originally published in 1538, The Torments of Love tells a colorful tale of adulterous love and romantic adventure from a woman's point of view.

“The Torments of Love is an important text in the canon of early European women writers. Hélisenne de Crenne’s narrative provides intriguing evidence about the position of the woman writer in Renaissance France and explicitly questions the kind of stories conventionally told about women. This expertly translated work will be a rich resource for the study of women’s literary production, of the development of the novel, of generic continuation betweens between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and of evolving representations of romantic love.” Peggy McCracken, University of Illinois, Chicago

This autobiographical novel of a married woman’s passion for a younger man is the first translation into English of a landmark text. Originally published in 1538, The Torments of Love tells a colorful tale of adulterous love and romantic adventure from a woman's point of view.

The novel tells the story of the ill-starred love affair of the heroine, Hélisenne, and her paramour, Guenelic. The first part relates the tale of Hélisenne's happy marriage and her sudden adulterous desire for Guenelic, a desire so overwhelming that her husband, in desperation, imprisons her in a tower. Hélisenne writes The Torments of Love as a missive to her lover, hoping it will fall into his hands and he will come to her rescue. Part two tells the story of Guenelic’s adventures as he and his partner in derring-do, Quezinstra, search across Europe for Hélisenne’s prison. The novel concludes with Quezinstra’s narration of the fate of Hélisenne and Guenelic.

Not only an exciting story vividly told, The Torments of Love is also one of the most important sixteenth-century works by a woman author, a harbinger of the development of the sentimental novel as well as a continuation of the medieval romance tradition. This edition is the first English translation and the only complete version of this lost masterwork currently in print in any language.


Excerpt:

“‘Truly I do love him, passionately and with all my heart, and with such great constancy that nothing short of death can ever keep me from loving him. So come then with your sword: make my soul transmigrate out of this unhappy corporeal prison, I beg you; for I prefer to die by a violent death rather than by continual langour; it would be better to be strangled than to be always hanging. And so do not delay any longer. Pierce through my changeable heart, and draw back your stained and bloody sword.’”


The Torments of Love

Hélisenne de Crenne is the pseudonym of Marguerite Briet (circa 1515-1550), now widely regarded as one of the principal early woman writers in France. In addition to The Torments of Love, she wrote an epistolary novel, Personal and Invective Letters (1539), and an allegorical fable, Dream (1540). She also produced the first French translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (Books I-IV).

Lisa Neal is assistant professor of French at the University of Puget Sound.

Steven Rendall is professor of Romance languages at the University of Oregon and editor of Comparative Literature.

The Torments of Love

“The Torments of Love is an important text in the canon of early European women writers. Hélisenne de Crenne’s narrative provides intriguing evidence about the position of the woman writer in Renaissance France and explicitly questions the kind of stories conventionally told about women. This expertly translated work will be a rich resource for the study of women’s literary production, of the development of the novel, of generic continuation betweens between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and of evolving representations of romantic love.” Peggy McCracken, University of Illinois, Chicago