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18.5.05

Alas, Poor Yorick

Letters of Madame de SévignéAn article (Le crâne de la marquise de Sévigné découvert à Grignan, May 19) in Le Monde informed me of an interesting pseudo-literary discovery (my translation):

A skull, discovered during restoration work on the collegiate church of Grignan (in the Drôme), is that of the Marquise de Sévigné, as we learned on Wednesday, May 18, from Bruno Durieux, Mayor of Grignan. Madame de Sévigné, symbol of the French epistolary tradition and the mother of the Comtesse de Grignan, was buried on April 17, 1696, in the noble tomb, where a sawed-up skull was discovered on Friday, May 13, among other remains, Mr. Durieux explained. This discovery "confirms without a doubt" the theory that, in 1793, revolutionaries, looking for lead to use for weapons and opening aristocratic tombs, had discovered the remains of Madame de Sévigné and had had the skull sawed apart, for an examination by a specialist, Mr. Durieux continued. According to this theory, the lower part of the skull was then resealed, "with the greatest respect," in the tomb, he added.
The only competing theory about the whereabouts of Madame de Sévigné's skull was that a priest had rescued the skull from the revolutionaries and hid it in a convent in Nancy. DNA analysis on that skull has proven it is not that of Madame de Sévigné, which appears to have solved the puzzle. Madame de Sévigné will be familiar to other readers of Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time), like the Hon. Terry Teachout, as the narrator's grandmother's favorite writer.

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