Contrary to the traditional interpretation that Louis XIV's cultural absolutism included the establishment of provincial academies under the direction of the Academie Francaise, this article argues that men of letters in Caen, Soissons, Angers, Aries, and Nimes spontaneously founded independent academies to satisfy their own interests in scholarship. These academies offered members a chance to exchange ideas, criticize each other's work, and share their contacts with other men of letters outside their city. The provincial academicians struggled to define their institutions in ways that would combine their enjoyment of private intellectual camaraderie with their desire to enhance the social value of their talents in the local political arena. Provincial men of letters shared a common intellectual formation from their years in local colleges where they studied the ancient authors and developed a taste for rhetoric. They created a provincial cultural style which supported a greater diversity of literary genres, embraced the use of Latin, and continued the pursuit of scholarship in contrast to Parisian patterns of cultural activity. Provincial academicians negotiated with the crown on their own terms, and at different moments in their history, in order to formalize the place of their institutions in the realm of Louis XIV.