Rancé's Conduite chrétienne for Mme de Guise (1697)
The pious Élisabeth d'Orléans, Mme de Guise, had a vivid correspondence with Armand-Jean de Rancé, abbot of the Cistercian abbey of La Trappe in Normandy. Rancé was considered a champion of unconditional isolation from the world by his contemporaries, but in fact he recommended quite diverse forms and degrees of religious retreat in his letters to men and women, lay and religious. His guidelines to Mme de Guise are a substantial example of this calibration. In his letters to her and in the assemblage of directions published after her death in the Conduite chrétienne (1697), the abbot explains in remarkable detail how the Duchess should balance her obligations to God and human beings by being a model of withdrawal. To this end she must constantly, in action and demeanour, display to the world her withdrawal from the world. Rancé's spiritual advice to Mme de Guise throws new light on the devotional horizon of Gaston d'Orléans's daughter and the pastoral practice of the abbot of La Trappe. Above all, it shows the intricacies and modulations of the withdrawal from the world prescribed to late seventeenth-century aristocratic dévots and, especially, dévotes.
Early Modern French Studies, 2017, Vol 39, Issue 1, p. 57-74