Science Fiction, ‘The Decameron’ and Other Letters to the Editor

Numerous renowned biographies and histories – including by Hilaire Belloc (1909), André Castelot (1957), Stanley Loomis (1972), Claude Manceron (1974), Desmond Seward (1981), Simon Schama (1989), Evelyne Lever (2000), Antonia Fraser (2001), Munro Price (2014) and John Hardman (2019) — have examined the evidence for an affair and, while they have different theories about the extent and nature of the couple’s relationship, all admit it was historical record no definitive inference. Contrary to Goldstone’s claims, the recent decipherment by a team of French researchers of eight correspondence between Marie Antoinette and Fersen does not change this fact. As Le Monde reported in June 2020, these letters “confirm the long-invoked thesis of an emotional relationship” [relation sentimentale], but without making an earth-shattering revelation [révélation fracassante] on the subject.” The paper then quoted a curator at the French National Archives as saying: “These new documents do not constitute an erotic correspondence, not even, actually speaking, an amorous one.”

There is one new study that is directly related to Goldstone’s claim about the paternity of the dauphin, but I didn’t learn of it until after writing my review. This is a study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Sciences by French scientists who compared the DNA on a lock of Louis-Charles’ hair with DNA from Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. In conclusion, the researchers write: “Many rumours, since the beginning, doubted Louis XVI’s paternity of his children. We show here that Louis-Charles (Louis XVII) is really the son of Louis XVI.”

As for the charge that I wanted to “humiliate” Dr. Linda Gray, the Connecticut pediatrician, whose answers to Goldstone’s questions about Louis XVI’s eccentricities became proof in Goldstone’s analysis that the king was autistic, I would only To repeat the point I made in my review, that is Gray’s reactions cannot be taken as an accurate professional diagnosis, as Louis XVI died nearly 230 years ago and was never personally examined by Gray.

To the editors:

Oh my! Why didn’t Dana Spiotta mention “The Decameron” in her glowing review of Gary Shteyngart’s new book, “Our Country Friends” (November 14)? It seems like an obvious reference for a book about a group of young people who leave for the countryside during a plague. Shteyngart must be familiar with it.

Claudia Carr-Levy
New York

A December 5 review of “Magritte: A Life” by Alex Danchev and Sarah Whitfield, using information from the book, misrepresented René Magritte’s age at the time of his death. He was 68, not 69.

Last Sunday’s Editors’ Choice column misrepresented Greta Garbo’s age when she arrived in Hollywood. She was 19, not 22.

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