The Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and of Manon Lescaut


Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and of Manon Lescaut), more commonly known as Manon Lescaut, is a novel by the Abbé Prévost (1697‒1763), first published in Paris in 1731. Considered scandalous at the time, it was immediately banned. The novel tells the story of Chevalier des Grieux and his lover, the amoral courtesan Manon Lescaut. Des Grieux is from a noble family, but he forfeits his inheritance when he displeases his father and runs away with Manon. The two live together in Paris for a time, but des Grieux begins a downward descent into poverty and criminality. Manon is eventually deported as a prostitute to New Orleans, where des Grieux follows her. After a series of misadventures, the couple flees into the wilderness of Louisiana, where Manon dies of exposure and exhaustion. Des Grieux returns to France. This novel originally formed the last part of a seven-volume series called Mémoires et aventures d'un homme de qualité (Memoirs and adventures of a man of quality). Presented here is the two-volume edition of the novel published in Amsterdam in 1753, which was revised and corrected by the author. The book is illustrated with engravings, including one that depicts the deportation of Manon Lescaut to Louisiana (after page 182 of volume two) and another showing her death in “a savage American land” (after page 240 of the same volume). The story was later adopted for the operas Manon (1884) by Jules Massenet (1842‒1912) and Manon Lescaut (1893) by Giacomo Puccini (1858‒1924).

Last updated: November 20, 2015