“Les Mémoires de Madame Ludovica” Inspires “Madame Bovary”


“Reducing Flaubert’s achievement to this outline, we can find factual sources such as the Delamare affair… But surely the most suggestive source is a curious manuscript entitled  ‘Mémoires de Madame Ludovica,’ a naive narrative of the adulterous loves and chilling debts of Louise Pradier, the sculptor’s estranged wife. In it there is even a judicial seizure of property, as in Madame Bovary; and when Ludovica’s confidant threatens to tell her husband about her debts, the erring spouse says she will kill herself. Ludovica’s story, put together by an unknown confidante, was among the manuscripts found in Flaubert’s possession after his death, together with his own notes on the techniques used by Ludovica to obtain money– many of which in turn became Emma Bovary’s techniques. Louise Pradier wrote Flaubert a letter offering information on how the property of ‘an easy lady’ was seized; she signed off with, ‘I gather up my energy and leap to [kiss] your neck.'”

Flaubert: A Biography, Herbert Lottman, Little, Brown and Company, 1989.

Photograph by Nadar, New York Public Library Archives