Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review: Madam Campan's Memoirs

If I mention Marie Antoinette in a post, I know that I will attract a lot of readers. She is a fashion icon, a history superstar! Everyone is fascinated by her, including me. I see a book about Marie Antoinette and I want it! But I've learned the hard way that not all such books are worthy of being in my library (or yours for that matter) and that is what this post is about.

Many history books mention Madam Campan's memoirs as a source of their material and so I ordered this book at But as soon as I opened the book, I realized it was a sham. The book does not indicate who translated these memoirs not does it list an editor. This is appalling to me because this information is very important for readers. How else can a reader judge the integrity with which these "memoirs" have been handled if no one is willing to stand behind their work and state their name. This book is "published" by

One of the first pages cites this book as being "the historic memoirs of Madam Campan, First Lady in Waiting to the Queen". My friend, Catherine Delors, of Versailles and More, informed me that Madam Campan was NOT first lady in waiting to the Queen but was, in fact, first chambermaid. This is not a trivial mistake!!

Catherine warned me to "Beware of English translations of memoirs of that time. They are either inaccurate, as in this case, or edited in many ways!". She recommends Mercure de France edition of Madam Campan's memoirs (written in French) as being accurate and informative.

I do not recommend buying the English translation of Madam Campan's Memoirs. Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that many publishers (and some bloggers too) are exploiting the public's fascination with Marie Antoinette. Buyer beware is the lesson of the day.