Jean Jacques Rousseau on Subject of Women

Jean Jacques Rousseau on Subject of Women

Rousseau’s attitude to women is somewhat surprising given that he is seen as a leader of Enlightenment thought.Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on 28 June 1712. He was a philosopher, writer, and composer and his writing had a profound effect on the development of the Enlightenment in France and across Europe. Rousseau’s novel Emile, or On Education is claimed to be a treatise on the education of the whole person for citizenship. His sentimental novel Julie, or the New Heloise was of importance to the development of pre-romanticism and romanticism in fiction. Rousseau’s autobiographical writings—his Confessions, which initiated the modern autobiography, and his Reveries of a Solitary Walker—exemplified the late 18th-century movement known as the Age of Sensibility. His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought and his writing was popular among members of the Jacobin Club, so much so that his body was re-interred as a national hero in the Panthéon in Paris, in 1794, 16 years after his death

However, his attitude to women wasn’t the best and there were certainly philosophers who were his contemporaries such as Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (September 17, 1743–March 28, 1794) whose attitude to women was far more enlightened. Modern scholars of Rousseau have three views on him:The first involves reading Rousseau as being sympathetic to women’s concerns as he is to all issues of human development albeit within the context of traditional social arrangements. This maybe said to be “taking-Rousseau-at-face-value.”  In his writings Rousseau viewed women’s options in life as entirely limited to the roles of wife and mother. In his work on education, Emile, he says, “What need would there be to allow her to determine for herself when nature had already physiologically dictated her destiny?  …. she will always be in subjection to a man and she will never be free to set her own opinion above his.” For Rousseau the education of men should be one that develops a man’s corporeal powers; and for  women one that developed their personal charms, a view that was totally in keeping with the received view of women and their natural inferiority to men in eighteenth century European society.

More recently however a second view on his work and attitudes has developed that says Rousseau compromises his intellectual integrity by relegating women to a segregated domestic sphere where the height of women’s achievement consists of nurturing the future male citizens of the politically authentic State. This second view has prompted a third view which contends that to apply our 2Oth-century criteria of equality to Rousseau’s 18th-century writings is to (deliberately) misconstrue the importance of his work and that is important to point out that Rousseau was not advocating sexual segregation and misogyny when he says that men are dependent on women for the satisfaction of their desires and that  women are dependent on men for the satisfaction of their material needs as well as their desires. Perhaps, say scholars like Joel Schwartz, he is describing “sexual interdependence.” Feminist writers largely reject this third approach but that does not mean they dispute the importance of Rousseau’s contribution to the development of political thought and literature.

So, it seems that Rousseau was a man of his time when it came to his attitudes to women and it has to be said that his relationships with women were a little strange; in Confessions we learn that he found being whipped by his governess, Mademoiselle Lambercier, sexually exciting; and in other publications we learn that he had a relationship with a rich woman, Madame de Warens, when he was only sixteen whom he referred to as ‘maman’. Later he had a relationship a twenty-three year old servant girl, Therese Levasseur, whom the philosopher David Hume described as, “so limited that she knows neither the year, the month, nor the day of the week; she is unaware of the value of money and in spite of all that, she has on Jean Jacques the empire of a nurse over her charge.”

So, perhaps the history of philosophy and politics and women’s place in them would have been somewhat different had Jean-Jacques’ been attracted to and had a more equal relationship with a clever and ambitious woman of his age.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Sources:

Illustrations: Madame de Warens, Jean Jacques Rousseau Wikipedia

Rousseau and Criticism edited by Lorraine Clark and Guy Lafrance

http://rousseauassociation.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/publications/PDF/PL5/PL5-Morgenstern.pdf

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/histfem-condorcet/

http://www.bacdefrancais.net/mmewarens.php

The King of England’s Secret Wife

The King of England’s Secret Wife

A clandestine or illicit marriage is a great plot line for a story but they were a fact of life for women from all social classes in 18th Century Britain.

On May 11, 1786 the Coachmakers’ Hall, Debating Society debated the following proposition: “Are not the Restraints contained in the Marriage Act, and every other Restriction on the Matrimonial Contract, contrary to the natural Rights of Mankind, and injurious to Conjugal Felicity?”

The Marriage Act 1753, popularly known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. The Act came into force on 25 March 1754 and made compulsory the reading of banns, registration of a marriage and witnesses for the first time.

Before the Act, the legal requirements for a valid marriage in England and Wales had been governed by the canon law of the Church of England. This had stipulated that banns should be called or a marriage licence should be obtained before a marriage and that the marriage should be celebrated in the parish where at least one of the parties was resident. However, these requirements were not mandatory and the absence of banns or a licence – or even the fact that the marriage was not celebrated in a church – did not render the marriage void. The only indispensable requirement was that the marriage be celebrated by an Anglican clergyman. So this left a lot of scope for clandestine marriages and the marriage of those who were technically under the age of legal consent which was 21 at the time.

Maria Fitzherbert (26 July 1756 – 27 March 1837) was the secret wife of George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV. Maria came from a respectable Roman Catholic family and educated in France and she had been married twice before. She married Edward Weld, 16 years her senior, a rich Catholic landowner of Lulworth Castle in July 1775 but Weld died just three months later after a fall from his horse and having failed to sign his new will so his estate went to his younger brother Thomas. Maria, now a widow was left effectively destitute, had little or no financial support from the Weld family and was obliged to remarry as soon as she could. Her second marriage was three years later, to Thomas Fitzherbert of Swynnerton, Staffordshire. She was ten years younger than him. They had a son who died young and then she was widowed again in 1781 but this time she got an annuity of £1000 and a town house in Park Street, Mayfair.

In 1783 George, Prince of Wales became infatuated with her, wanting her to become his mistress but Maria’s devout Catholic beliefs would not allow it. So on 15 December 1785 they were married in a secret ceremony conducted by Robert Burt, an impoverished curate who set aside his scruples for the £500 fee.The marriage was not legal. It not only contravened the 1753 Marriage Act it was also in breach of the Act of Settlement of 1701, preventing a Roman Catholic from ascending the British throne and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772. George and Maria spent much of their time in Brighton where Mrs Fitzherbert was treated as queen. Whether she was ignorant or deluded concerning her position is unknown.

The couple separated when George’s affections turned to Frances, Countess of Jersey in 1794 and he position was finally put asunder when he married his cousin Caroline of Brunswick in 1795. The couple were briefly reunited in 1800. By 1807, the prince’s affections were wandering again, this time towards Lady Hertford. Unable to bear any further humiliation, on 18 December 1809, Maria sent George a farewell letter and after 1811, she did not return to the Brighton until after George’s death. However, she was more fortunate than many of George’s other mistresses; she received financial provision by way of a pension.

Following the death of George IV on 26 June 1830, it was discovered that he had kept all of Fitzherbert’s letters, and steps were taken to destroy them. Fitzherbert told George IV’s brother, King William IV, about their marriage and showed him the document in her possession. He asked Fitzherbert to accept a dukedom, but she refused, asking only permission to wear widow’s weeds, and to dress her servants in royal livery. Architect William Porden designed Steine House, on the west side of Old Steine in Brighton, for Fitzherbert. She lived there from 1804 until her death in 1837. She was buried at St John the Baptist’s Church in the Kemp Town area of Brighton.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Voltaire in Love

Voltaire in Love

Voltaire, the great rationalist, was always falling in love and had numerous love affairs. His love life began with great passion when he was just seventeen years old.

‘Voltaire in Love‘ is perhaps the best known work about his love life. It is a popular history of the sixteen-year relationship between Voltaire and the Émilie, the Marquise du Châtelet. I wrote about Emilie last month, she was a great physicist who died tragically young giving birth to her lover’s child (not Voltaire’s their affair was long since over). The book was written by Nancy Mitford and first published in 1957. As well as telling the story of Voltaire’s love for Emilie it explores the French Enlightenment.

A musical featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein with contributions from the greatest lyricists of the 20th century, Stephen Sondheim to Dorothy Parker, is an outrageous musical satire that tells the story of Voltaire’s character, the naïve Candide, who is banished for romancing the Baron’s daughter only to be plagued by a series of absurd hardships that challenge his optimistic outlook of life and love. Candide will leave you enchanted. As you will see from the letter below the story is somewhat based on his own experience.

In my novel Sinclair, Voltaire (1694-1778), the French philosopher is one of my eponymous hero’s favourite authors. He takes a copy of Candide to India with him and loses it when the ship goes down but once he’s established himself in Tooley Street he’s quick to buy himself another copy.

“Knowing there was no going back, he made himself comfortable. He lit his lamp, took out a battered copy of ‘Candide’, his favourite book, and checked the hour with his treasured pocket watch. Like the book, it was French, and the most beautiful thing he had ever owned. He cradled it in his palm. The warmth of its golden body reminded him of the smoothness of a woman’s skin; its pearly white face was elegantly marked with Roman numerals; and the back, the part that he loved most of all, was made of cobalt blue enamel and shimmered like the silk of Iona McNeal’s ballgown the night they had danced at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms. He turned it in his hand and kissed it then he put it back in his waistcoat pocket and started to read.

He chose the scene where Candide, the hero of the story, and his professor friend, Dr Pangloss, are nearly drowned in Lisbon harbour along with a sailor called Jacques. Candide and Pangloss survive, but Jacques dies attempting to save a fellow sailor. To explain how this is all part of God’s harmonious plan, Pangloss says that Lisbon harbour was created specifically so that Jacques could drown there and fulfil God’s divine plan for him. This was an idea so preposterous, like so many in the book, that it made Sinclair laugh out loud.”

Voltaire was incarcerated in the local prison for his own good to keep him away from the girl he had fallen in love with,Olympe Dunove.  Olympe’s mother and the French ambassador disapproved of their relationship. Such was the power of French aristocrats before the Revolution. Shortly after he wrote the letter below, he managed to escape by climbing out of the window.

Voltaire to Olympe Dunover, written in 1713 while in prison in the Hague.

“I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you. Yes, my adorable mistress, to-night I shall see you, and if I had to put my head on the block to do it.

For heaven’s sake, do not speak to me in such disastrous terms as you write; you must live and be cautious; beware of madame your mother as of your worst enemy. What do I say? Beware of everybody; trust no one; keep yourself in readiness, as soon as the moon is visible; I shall leave the hotel incognito, take a carriage or a chaise, we shall drive like the wind to Sheveningen; I shall take paper and ink with me; we shall write our letters.

If you love me, reassure yourself; and call all your strength and presence of mind to your aid; do not let your mother notice anything, try to have your pictures, and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you. No, nothing has the power to part me from you; our love is based upon virtue, and will last as long as our lives. Adieu, there is nothing that I will not brave for your sake; you deserve much more than that. Adieu, my dear heart!”

Arout, (Voltaire)

According to Victor Hugo: “To name Voltaire is to characterize the entire eighteenth century.” Goethe regarded Voltaire to be the greatest literary figure in modern times, and possibly of all times. According to Diderot, Voltaire’s influence on posterity would extend far into the future.

Napoleon commented that till he was sixteen he “would have fought for Rousseau against the friends of Voltaire, today it is the opposite…The more I read Voltaire the more I love him. He is a man always reasonable, never a charlatan, never a fanatic.”

Frederick the Great commented on his good fortune for having lived in the age of Voltaire.

Catherine the Great had been reading Voltaire for sixteen years prior to becoming Empress of Russia in 1762. In October 1763, she began a correspondence with the philosopher that continued till his death. The content of these letters has been described as being akin to a student writing to a teacher.Upon Voltaire’s death, the Empress purchased his library, which was then transported and placed in The Hermitage.

In England, Voltaire’s views influenced Godwin, Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Byron, and Shelley.[195] Macaulay made note of the fear that Voltaire’s very name incited in tyrants and fanatics. Voltaire was a man of reason and passion just like my character Sinclair. You can read about his escapades in my novel – see below.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Liberté – but not for girls

Liberté – but not for girls

We’re now into the second series of the BBC’s block buster drama Versailles and it’s hot stuff. The court which is so glamours from the outside is imploding with the intrigue and corruption that will see its end a century later in the Revolution where Liberté, Egalité, et Fraternité will replace the divine right of kings.

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (September 17, 1743–March 28, 1794)

Whilst the Revolution created modern France little is spoken of in terms of its effects on women. Shockingly women were barred from political rights even as they were being proclaimed to be universal and inalienable and in 1793 because they were deemed to lack sufficient education to participate in the nation’s political life and by the autumn of that year women were also barred from participating in clubs and societies.

But not all Frenchmen and revolutionaries were against women’s rights. Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (September 17, 1743–March 28, 1794) was one such man. In 1786 at the age forty-two, he married the twenty-two year old Sophie de Grouchy (1764–1822), with whom he forged a loving relationship. The pair shared similar political convictions and developed a solid intellectual partnership.

Like her husband, de Grouchy was committed to bringing about major judicial and political reforms in France; and her own experiences of convent schooling had left her with fierce dislike of the Church and a commitment to secular values. They both dreamed and worked towards a liberal, rational and democratic France.

In 1790 as the French Revolution was well under way her husband called for “the admission of women to the rights of citizenship” but he was widely opposed on the grounds that women were innately inferior and destined to only to be wives and mothers.

In 1791, along with Thomas Paine, the Condorcets founded la Société républicaine [the Republican Society], sometimes credited as the first republican society in France; and Mme de Condorcet translated Paine’s writings for the journal of the Society, La Républicain ou défenseur du gouvernement représentatif [The Republican or defender of representative government].

In the autumn of 1792, the Marquis was elected to the National Convention of the newly constituted first French Republic, and became chairman of the Committee on a Constitution. He proposed what became known as, “La Girondine” a constitution that was rejected in favour of the Jacobin Constitution, in June 1793 and his impassioned defence of La Girondine led to an order for his arrest and he was forced to flee from his beloved France.Separated from one another de Condorcet wrote until he was found dead in prison cell under suspicious circumstances while his wife worked on her own text known as Lettres à Cabanis sur la sympathie [Letters to Cabanis on Sympathy], in which she sets forth her own ideas on achieving “a society of happiness” and struggles with the question of what holds society together while her own life and the life of the nation was being rent asunder under in the Terror.

Rendered penniless by her husband’s proscription then death Sophie needed to work to support herself, her child and her sister so she opened a shop and put aside her writing and translation work for years until she eventually published a translation of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) in 1798, adding eight letters, Lettres sur la Sympathie, commenting upon this work. This became the standard French translation for the next two centuries. Her eight letters on sympathy were however ignored by historians of economic thought, and were only recently (2008) translated into English.

In the French Revolution gender becomes a condition for the possession of political rights for the first time and it is a sad irony that it was used to bar the women of France from the ballot until 1944. During the revolution which was supposed to free the French people men used their power to take what power women had gained in its early days away from them as well as many of the advancements in civil law passed in the euphoria of the 1790s which were withdrawn by Napoleon, and not again fully secured until the latter half of the twentieth century.

The Marquis de Condorcet was symbolically re- interred in the Panthéon in 1989, in honour of the bicentennial of the French Revolution and Condorcet’s role as a central figure in the Enlightenment. He started his academic life as a mathematician then transferred those skills into social and political affairs developing a model he called “social arithmetic”. He could be called the ‘father of statistics’ because he advocated the use of statistics and probability theory, to the financial reforms, the reform of hospital care, jury decision-making and voting procedures.

Sophie’s contribution to modern political and economic thought is now being properly evaluated and recognised particularly in the United States where her contribution to the discussion on the nature of liberty is now being widely acknowledged. In a world of political and social turmoil she advocates that educators and social reformers should nurture ‘sympathy’ the feeling for others induced by imagining yourself in another’s place and imagining how you would feel. In this way, people would be led to strive to maintain good relations with their fellows and provide the basis both for specific benevolent acts and for the general social order. Sympathy may be an old idea but I think its a good one and many of our politicians and economists would do well to consider it once more.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

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Sources:

Illustrations: Sophie de Grouchy (1764–1822)

The Status of Women in Classical Economic Thought edited by Robert William Dimand, Chris Nyland

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/histfem-condorcet/

http://forums.philosophyforums.com/threads/rousseaus-theory-of-sentiments-57752.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_de_Condorcet
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquis_de_Condorcet

 

The Apothecary Poet

The Apothecary Poet

Like my hero Sinclair, the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) studied to become doctor but unlike Sinclair’s his heart was not really in it. Keats’s letters to Fanny Brawne are among the most famous love letters ever written. As next-door neighbours, they exchanged numerous short notes, and occasionally more passionate letters.

Fanny Brawne

Keats trained as an apothecary at Guy’s Hospital from 1815 to 1816 and attended lectures on the principles and practice of surgery by the famous surgeon Sir Astley Cooper who also makes a brief appearance in my novel. In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence, which made him eligible to practise as an apothecary, physician, and surgeon.

Keats’s desire to become a poet led him to abandon medicine soon after he completed his training. In his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ recalls his experience of caring for the dying:

The weariness, the fever and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows spectre-thin, and dies.

Ironically, it was his medical training that made him such a good carer for his brother Tom when he died from tuberculosis. In giving that care Keats became infected with the disease himself; there was no inoculation at the time, the now well-know BCG vaccine was first used in humans in 1921. Infection for Keats meant certain death but not before, he fell in love and wrote some of the world’s greatest poetry and love letters. Here is one of them.

“25 College Street, London

My dearest Girl,
This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my Mind for ever so short a time. Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else – The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you again[s]t the unpromising morning of my Life – My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love – You note came in just here – I cannot be happier away from you – ‘T is richer than an Argosy of Pearles. Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet – You have ravish’d me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often “to reason against the reasons of my Love.” I can do that no more – the pain would be too great – My Love is selfish – I cannot breathe without you.  Yours for ever, John Keats

Their love story was made into a film – Bright Star in 2009. It stars Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny. It was directed by Jane Campion, who wrote the screenplay inspired by Andrew Motion’s biography of Keats; Motion served as a script consultant on the film. The film was in the main competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, and was first shown to the public on 15 May 2009.The film’s title is a reference to a sonnet by Keats titled “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art”, which he wrote while he was with Brawne.

For more see: http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/love-letter-to-fanny-brawne-13-october-1819/

Julia Herdman writes #historical #fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Amazon Canada

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