Marie-Françoise Gay

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Entry by Hedwig Friederich, 2012

Marie-Françoise Gay was born in Lyon in 1765 and died on the 8th of January 1821. She was the daughter of Marie-Claudine Louise Galy and Joseph Gay. Her father, a merchant from Lyon, was financially ruined by the Revolution. She was the elder sister of Jean-Sigismond Gay (1768-1822), whose wife Marie-Françoise-Sophie Nicault de la Valette and daughter Delphine, wife of Emile de Girardin, were known during their lifetimes for their literary talents. The author, who married businessman Nicolas-Gabriel Allart, translated English novels into French and devoted herself to writing fiction under the English nom de plume Mary Gay. She was actively engaged in local community life during the Revolution –she was the President of the Women’s Philanthropic Society of Chambéry. Gay also travelled a lot with her husband, who was sent on missions across countries that had been conquered by France. In Milan, she gave birth to her eldest daughter Hortense (1801-1879), who would become known as Hortense Allart de Méritens or as Mme Allart de Therase and would become a famous novelist and essayist. Her second daughter Sophie, born in Paris in 1804, won fame as a painter. Travelling a lot like her mother, Sophie married a merchant named Gabriac in Rome.

In the literary field, Marie Allart is much less well-known than her daughter, her sister-in-law or her niece. She only published two translations. Firstly, in 1797, came a new French translation of Ann Radcliffe’s novel The Italian (Eléonore de Rosalba, ou le Confessional des penitents noirs), which had been translated by André Morellet under the title L’Italien, ou le Confessional des penitents noirs the year before. Secondly, in 1802, the author translated the five-volume novel by Samuel Jackson Pratt, Les secrets de famille. Finally, three years before her death, Mme Allart wrote Albertine de Saint-Albe, an autobiographical novel in two volumes which was published by Renard in Paris.

The comments on Mme Allart’s works, both during her lifetime and after her death, are few and far between. Only Henri Malo talks about her in 1924 in Delphine Gay de Girardin (Une muse et sa mère), a novel that featured Marie Allart’s sister-in-law and niece. More up-to-date dictionaries only acknowledge her daughter Hortense, who was widely published, and had fought for women’s rights and in favour of their role in society. Even if Marie-Joseph Chenier highly praised her translations in his Tableau historique de l’état et des progrès de la littérature française depuis 1789 (1816), the character and the works of Marie Allart have been of little interest to researchers until recently.

(translated by Dominique Mason)


  • 1818 : Albertine de Saint-Albe, Paris, Renard, 2 vol.


  • 1797 : Eléonore de Rosalba, ou le Confessional des pénitents noirs, trad. de l’angl. Anne Radcliffe, Paris, Lepetit, 7 vol.
  • 1802 : Les Secrets de famille, trad. de l’angl. M. Pratt, Paris, Lepetit, 5 vol.

Selected bibliography

  • Grente, Georges, « Allart, Marie-Françoise», dans Dictionnaire des Lettres Françaises. Le XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Fayard, 2e éd., 1995, p. 34-35.
  • Malo, Henri, Une Muse et sa Mère, Delphine Gay de Girardin, Paris, Emile Paul Frères, 1924.
  • Roman d’Amat, Jean-Charles et al., « Allart, Marie-Françoise », dans Dictionnaire de biographie française, t. II, 1936, col. 138-139.
  • Quérard, Joseph M., « Allart (M Mary) », dans La France littéraire ou Dictionnaire bibliographique, t. 1, Paris, F. Didot, 1827, p. 36.

Marie-Françoise Gay
Spouses Nicolas-Gabriel Allart
Also known as Nicolas-Gabriel Allart
Birth date 1765
Death 8 January 1821
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