The Aristrocrat and the Bad Little Girl

When I was a little girl, I loved reading a series of books written by a woman who was born in 1799 to a noble Russian family and was said to be descended from Genghis Khan. Her name is Rostopchine Comtesse de Segur.

She received an aristocratic education and spoke five languages including French. (Russian nobles found it fashionable to have French governesses for their children.) Exiled from Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, she married into the French family of the Count Eugene de Segur.

 

The Count

 

The Countess had eight children and many grandchildren to whom she frequently told morality-based stories that she made up on the spot. At age 58, encouraged by her family, the Countess began to put her beloved storytelling into storybooks for the wider world.

From an early book cover

 

She started by writing about simplistic characters representing good and evil. (“prince disguised as pauper” type of tales.) But her characters escaped from those restrictions and acquired a life of their own. I loved her stories about a donkey named Cadichon who was ill- treated by his family, rebelled and grew wise in the process. Other stories were about General Dourakine (Dourak means “imbecile” in Russian).

 

 

The Model Girls

Then her fans requested stories about “model little girls” to serve as role models for aristocratic girls. So she created “Les petites filles modeles,” Camille and Madeleine. She also invented their foil in what became her most famous work, “Les Malheurs de Sophie.” Sophie was to be the negative role model who fell into one scrape after another.

 

But the readers had little interest in Camille and Madeleine, and perversely the misbehaving Sophie became a great literary favorite.

Didn’t the Countess know that misadventures are always more fun than exemplary lives? I doubt that any of the children who read her became little “Goody Two Shoes.”

 

 

Oh boy, how I loved that rebellious little girl.

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HENRY SLUCKI
HENRY SLUCKI
3 months ago

I remember attempting to read “Les Malheurs de Sophie.” My cousin, Berthe, who was 4 years older than I, and lived with us, was reading the book and I picked it up (I must have been 7 at the time!” It was considered a “girl’s book” and was a challenge for me and I soon gave it up!

Libby
Libby
3 months ago

Simone, I have to agree that people who are less than well behaved, are very interesting!

The actress, Bette Davis, was never afraid to play the role of a difficult character. I always admired her for that.

Jay Voss
Jay Voss
3 months ago

Ah Simone it makes sense to me that you have always been a rebel too and and not a “Goody Two Shoes” who lets life sweep her along!

(Ms.) Dale Davis
(Ms.) Dale Davis
3 months ago

Simone, you always provide interesting tidbits from your life and experiences. What fun to wait and see what your next eclectic topic will be!

Zac
Zac
3 months ago

wonderful, I had no idea!