A fiery reputation

Despite the sometimes bitter critiques of some of her plays, the public always supported Marie Desmares in all her appearances. The play Ariane by Thomas Corneille inspired Mme de Sévigné to write the following comment: I saw Ariane just because she [La Champmeslé] was in it. This play is dull, the actors are beastly, but when La Champmeslé appears you can hear the murmurs and we weep in desperation. Her fame as an actress equalled her fiery reputation as a libertine. Little known to today’s public, the dissolute life of the Champmeslés almost certainly contributed to their enduring unfavourable image. The 19th century was particularly savage for Mme Champmeslé, remembering her just for her role as Racine’s mistress and forgetting that she was one of his best actresses and largely responsible for the success of his plays.