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              Enfin, songez, mon cher Porphire, qu'il n'est qu'un temps de la vie pour ecrire & pour travailler, & que ce temps s'ecoule avec une extreme rapidite [remember there is only one time in life for writing, for working within, and it flows away oh so swiftly, relentlessly], Adele et Theodore, Felicite de Genlis

Rosalba Carriera, Venetian 18th century pastel:  a young girl

Dear friends and readers,

Mistress to Philippe Egalite, beloved mother-tutor to Louis-Philippe (the citizen king from 1830-46), and a female Talleyrand.  This is a blog dedicated to (as she used to be called) Madame de Genlis, her life, her educational writings, the gothic, and her connections to Austen.

As I wrote last time, I'm embarked on a reading product for a shortish paper on the lesser-known gothic sources of Northanger Abbey, its fuller intertextuality (to use fashionable phraseology).  Sade's La Marquise de Ganges is one of these; another is Genlis's Adele et Theodore ou Lettres sur l'education (1782), especially the embedded three novels. As I've done before, I'd like to share and work out some of my ideas here.

Felicite de Genlis, circa 1780s, by George Romney

As she is no longer well-known outside of scholarly, French and women's studies cirlces, I thought I'd start with a biography:  Caroline-Stéphanie Félicité de Genlis was born Jan 25, 1746 and remarkably long lived (died 1830), considering her fame as an aristocrat and connections to various internecine parties of the French revolution, including Philippe Egalite (d'Orleans, heir to the throne) whose mistress she was.  She rose through using sex and marriage, writing, governessing and politicking as a high servant in a house (and manipulating scams), salons and in later life kept her head and provided herself with a roof through keeping on the right side of great men (e.g., Napoleon) and fleeing at the right time to the right place (e.g., Switzerland in 1793).

She had five children.  Three by her husband, Charles Alexis, Count of Genlis, later Sillery:  Caroline, the first, by Genlis (later La Wolestine); 1766, Pulcherie, her second (later de Valence), 1768, a son, Casimir, who died at age 5 in 1773; she gave an adopted son this name years later.  Her children by the Duke of Orleans were Pamela Seymour (so called Nancy Syms, in 1780 she was 6) and Hermine Compton. 

She brought up many more: There was also Henriette de Sercy (referred to as orphaned niece).  She also brought up the children of the Duke by the Duchess:  Adelaide (twin sister had died), and Louis Philippe who became King of France in 1830.  Other children:  Genlis's nephew, Ceasar Ducrest, and three aristocratic children:  Victorine de Chastenay [translator of Radcliffe] and her brother, and Josephine de Montault-Navailles, future duchess of Gontault).

She was a kind of poor relation of the very wealthy and well-connected (a fringe person, pseudo-gentry, not all that different from Austen say in connections).   She was brought up mostly by her mother, came to Paris, and with the help of her aunt (or close older female kin)'s rich lover, introduced at court where she played the harp and was obviously witty.  The limit of family love is seen when her husband (before they married) rescued her father from prison (captured after an unsuccessful attempt to restore their fortune in the military); then Felicite's mother, Madame Du Crest asked her her half-sister, Mme de Montesson to help them financially; the sister refused  and Felicite's father died in debtor's prison. 

In the teeth of intense opposition from his family, she married a the Count of Genlis, this wealthy young man (called Sillery at the time), when she was 16: she had no property and her connections were not worth much. She was enormously talented and one of the areas she shone in was theatrics; she was a musical prodigy too.  Imagine a Mary Crawford on the harp. 

Super at the Prince de Condi's (said to be recognizable individuals): note the harp player (Talleyran said the ancien regime provided a sweet sweet life for the privileged few).

She would play parts in amateur theaters, and she dressed very well -- she was very pretty it's said. She managed to overcome the objections of the husband's family by diplomacy (it might be called -- a talent she shared with Talleyrand who she's very like); she then through her aunt (also made it by being someone powerful's mistress) weasled her way into the household of the Prince de Chartres, later d'Orleans, later Egalite, whose mistress she became; she was governess to his children (thus mortifying the wife) and thus taught the Citizen King.  Both her husband (by this time Genlis) and d'Orleans were guillotined.  She escaped to Switzerland and hung on and returned to become a favorite of Napoleon. She was more consistent than people admit:  like de Stael, she was a constitutional monarchist all her life.

Genlis wrote a great deal.  Plays for children to act out. Important educational treatises:  Adele et Theodore was her answer to Rousseau's Emile.  Wollstonecraft studied A&T; Austen used it in Emma.  It was almost immediately translated by Maria Edgeworth (who however destroyed her work, among her first) and the copy published by Gillian Dow is by at least three women translators.

Now the morality  of these books is not ours -- and it is not Mary Wollstonecraft's. Among other things Madame de Genlis counsels women to control and manipulate their daughters and shows them how.  Emotional blackmail on behalf of worldly prudence. At the time some people saw her as producing a version of Rousseau perverted.  But 19th century novelists often refer casually to the way women know how to train their daughters so as to make them submissive. Wollstonecraft said of Genlis she is an enemy to truth and sincerity of heart, a teacher of hypocrisy out of desperation.  It's hard to say whose teachings Wollstonecraft deplored more:  Rousseau's or Genlis's?

Lancret, Blindman's Bluff
Genlis was advising worldly accommodation, still accepted as a goal of education, but we define worldly accommodation as teaching children how to make a career, fit in with people, get money and make friends and connections. Among other things Madame de Genlis was specific about was that a girl must be kept near her mother, never go to a public school.  This of course gives ultimate control to the parent -- if the parent is a controller.  If not, then of course the child has a free childhood -- as the Austens mostly did.  She is determined to control and manipulate and the way she using lying is very troubling. But I now realize her insistence a girl be kept near the mother and controlled by her is repeated by Barbauld and kept up in the 19th century. The goal is to produce a censored mind - May Welland in Age of Innocence is a good example of what was wanted.

Austen said there was much wisdom in Madame de Genlis and I can't tell from her usually enigmatic tone in her letters how I am to take that: seriously or ironically or both.  At any rate Austen was strongly influenced by her as was Edgeworth and Fanny Burney.

Madame de Genlis was mocked and called a hypocrite for her ostentatious piety.  She continually argues for rigorous chastity:  yet we can't count her lovers (by which I mean she was discreet).  Her daughter, Pamela, she married off to Edward Fitzgerald (who tried to lead a real revolt in Ireland) of the Lennox clan; she would  not permit Pulcherie to divorce a brutal husband she had sold the girl to. 

I've disliked her since I read an important book on Isabelle Montolieu whose friend Genlis was:  Berthoud, Dorette. Le Général et La Romancière: 1792-1798, Épisodes de L'Émigration Française en Suisse, d'Après les Lettres du Général de Montesquiou à Mme de Montolieu. (Neuchatel: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1959.  She and her son-in-law (Pulcherie's husband) and another friend have basically stolen some jewels and won't give them up; they want to sell them and they succeed in getting away it. It shows Genlis was a low level crook, creating a scam with a thug (the son-in-law)  -- and this is true of many of the ancien regime; many of the court cases Sarah Maza discusses in her Private Lives and Public Affairs are ultimately fights for money and property where one person has broken the law in a way hard to prove or egregious or somewhere inbetween. In Genlis we can see the perniciousness of behaviors this corrupt society led to on lower levels.

A second girl (the niece?) Henrietta, she managed to marry off richly to a French clan; the Chateau de Claremont shows what she bought for her by selling her.

Chateau Carlepoint

She would say how else is she to get money and live in luxury. But then she turns round and writes these pious books pretending to such tender concern over intangibles. 

The hypocrisy is unusually grating because of the distance between what she teaches, claims for herself and what was reality..

Napoleon saw her as writing propaganda for and his praise of her too reads oddly:  there is this ironic condescension.  She was also  much admired for her learning -- and still is.  Thia woman spent her life among books and in writing.   Late in life she wrote a 10 volume memoir rich with information about the period she lived through, her Mémoires inédits sur le XVIII e siècle et la Révolution française.  It reveals a world whose outward unsavoury behavior is fairly close to what we see in La Clos's Les Liasions Dangereuses.  Until recently this was the one book that she lived on through. She was also a survivor, a female Tallyrand in that.  She kept coming back.

She has a great short novel of the kind Joan Stewart Hinde discusses in her Gynographs.  It's called  Mademoiselle de Clermont.  (Stewart does not discuss this one but it is the sort of thing she covers: she discusses the gothic novel inset to Adele et Theodore, Duchess de C******* and The Rivals Mothers.)   I'm not alone in thinking Mademoiselle de Clermont the closest any other writer ever came to Madame de Lafayette's Princess de Cleves.  

Another popular educational work which was influential was Les  Veillées du Château (commented on twice by Austen in her letters).  I could cite a slew of novels:  they are psychologically astute.  She wrote gothics, historical novels, novels which are women centered and about bringing up children out of wedlock. One of her best historical novels is based on the life of the morganatic wife of Louis XIV:  Madame de  Maintenon.  Genlis identified with Maintenon.

A large theme in her books is motherhood. Governessing. She again and again says there is more than one kind of love, erotic love is just a small part of life, and for her it's obvious being a mother was central. She says erotic love is only one part of her: her Rival Mothers is said to be a powerfully engaged book about how wonderful and painful it is to be a mother. She wants contorl over her daughters so they will never leave her.

She is discussed in Ellen Moers's Literary Women - under a chapter on heroic teachers.  You find Isak Dinesen there and books whose major theme is education.  Many novels really have this as their theme, from Austen's Mansfield Park and Emma to Anne Bronte's Tenant of Wildfell Hall (miseducation of men). Her heir today is Azar Nafisi, in her Reading Lolita in Teheran, the heroic teacher. Genlis also liked to call herself a Scheherazade.

Adele et Theodore; ou Sur l'education

Genlis with two of her daughters, Pamela and Henriette

There are different ways of describing this book in order to try to convey its quality. On one level, it's an epistolary novel with a large group of characters, the older ones educating the younger; they travel and it turns into a travelogue; they themselves have entangled passionate stories. It ends happily for the main characters, in a wedding that resembles Harriet Byron and Sir Charles Grandison's.

I find it hard to convey what is interesting about Genlis's Adele et Theodore. For one thing it's well-written and occasional passage soar, but then you have to read them in French so for French readers, the Esprit de Genlis does bring out what is within her.  In the later 19th century a fan and popular book-maker (making books), Alexander Main created an anthology of "beauties" taken across Eliot's novels, published and made a huge success of it.  He worshipped at her shrine, but also published such anthologies from other famous Victorians.

Well in 1806, long before she died, such a book was produced from Felicite de Genlis's oeuvre called Esprit de Madame de Genlis by one M. Demoncaux, avocat.  I don't know who he was, only that Elibron published a facsimile of it which sold cheaply and I bought it (around the time I got my 1785 copy of Adele et Theodore and a nineteenth century copy of Genlis's biographical novel, Madame de Maintenon). It's not just short beauties, poetical passages, but long stretches from this or that novel placed under topic heading, many of them moral, but also seasonal and topics like "female authors."  What such anthologies do is rip something out of context and encourage reading against a plot, ignoring the story.  And they do often bring out the best in an author, what one might read him or her for, a kind of Matthew Arnold "touchstone" point of view gone mad. The epigraph for this blog is taken from Esprit de. And the feeling of the lines is that of Adele et Theodore in French.

In a way Adele et Theodore is a book about home-schooling taken to an extreme position: all is education for the daughter by this controlled devoted mother.  One article I've now read says that the governess-mother, Madame D'Almane controls and shapes her daughter, through a kind of school of terror. Yes. This does not make the book sound appetizing.  The terror is done through subterfuge and thus I find that Eva Figes's book on women's novels from the 18th through mid-19th century (Sex and Subterfuge) is the right word.  Surely in Austen we find so much subterfuge and her characters who are the good ones dislike this so but can't get round it.  But much very good advice and it makes me think about when I was younger and myself and my two daughters. Surely that was something of what other women readers felt reading it.  Ideas like the Importance of reflection and thought in gaining happiness. Education leads to control over self -- enormous importance in happiness -- and how to teach a book to get this across. As a teacher I find it piquant.

Adele et Theodore is about mother-love too, mother love trumping all; mother- and father-hood not at all on the margins, for Baron d'Almane and his friend, a tutor of a prince, exchanges letters on teaching Theodore and a prince -- these are fewer but they highlight how gendered education was even in a woman who values girls in and for themselves. Genlis's book is of course a corrective of Rousseau's Emile where Sophie is brought up to be toy, sex mate, mother, wife to Emile and that's it.

Here's what our Baroness's woman friend says about how she feels as she watches her daughter marry:  " "terrible and affecting day a mother conducts her child to the altar to put her into the hands of a stranger, and give her a master who perhaps knows only the right he has over her to make an ill use of it." 

Nonetheless, it's also often very sentimental :   the sentimental depiction of the nun Cecilia's father reminds me of how Sutherland played Mr Bennet in Wright's P&P  == and why it's all wrong.

At the same time, it does have so much in it analogous to what one finds in Austen; Austen is continually more like numbers of these later 18th century French women than anyone else of her time.  She will analyze a book or human event in a way which defends the Elinor Dashwood outlook in S&S; or Jane Fairfax trying to wrest herself from Frank Churchill, her problem is that she needs Churchill to stave off governessing. 

It might interest anyone else who has read The Princess de Cleves how often Genlis refers to it and how she provides analyses. Basically her take is not about the mother (maybe for her it was so obvious) but rather she see it as a book where the heroine discovers her lover was no such thing as she imagined (that she deluded herself) and she does not love him and has destroyed her life by her delusions. Not a bad take.  That's how Genlis presumably would have regarded Anna Karenina.  The first adult books given Adelaide are Mme de Sevigne's letters (ideal mother) and the English Clarissa:  "beauties of Mme de Sevigne's style and deeply touched by the sublime Clarissa .. struck with the black character of Lovelace, and shuddered at his arts of hypocrisy: This is what I wished. It is very important for young women early on to distrust men in general. No book is better calculated for that wide purpose than Clarissa (letter 47): more comments on superiority of Richardson and why: sensibility not sexuality her aim

And there is overt modern feminism too:  In Adele et Theodore Baroness d'Almane  says she has not seen "female artists draw landscapes from Nature, or make good and correct likenesses in their portraits." Connect that to her Tales of the Castle: there is a striking defense of Angelica Kauffman and Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Genlis says a painter
"never conceives the project of making her [his daughter, the artist he is training] a painter of history but will continually repeat she should attempt to paint portrait, miniatures, or flower-pieces. Thus is she discouraged, and thus is the fire of fancy stifled: she paints roses; she was born, perhaps to  paint heroes."


Genlis at 50 by Pulcherie (or Caroline?), her daughter by Sillery-Genlis (her husband)

I was surprised at how engaged I became while reading it, occasionally feeling passionate over this or that issue. I'm reading it for the inset gothic novels, but what interests me is are the many letters, meditations, scenes about education. This is a central theme for novels of the era, and women especially were involved and wrote.  Wollstonecraft's Rights of Woman is 3/4s a diatribe against several books, among them Genlis's. Both Wollstonecraft and Genlis have written books animated by real care and concern for girl children, awareness of them as different beings, that they are susceptible to permanent damage (English, I, p 85: "Bad impressions difficult to destroy")  Educational treatises were popular in an era where there was no mass education.  Genlis quotes quite a number, critiquing and evaluating them. She means to situate herself and does in the context of many educational treatises and does and she is very insightful.

Adele et Theodore also contains inset gothic, epistolary and sentimental novels.  One is a story very like (but much poorer) Diderot's Nun in that it's intended to expose and critique the coercion of girls into nunneries. She shows the great cruelties perpetrated - by such nunneries too which were often impoverished places for those without a big dowry. You went hungry.

Another is a story of a younger brother whose life is destroyed by primogeniture in effect.  He is thrown in prison by lettre de cachet when he marries out of his class and won't obey by conforming to accepting a life he doesn't want -- again of relative poverty and hardship either in India or a monastery.

The most famous is a gothic novel, very powerful which begins in Volume II and goes on for quite a while. It was published separately and in English translation too -- and today exists in a modern separate edition in French.  I will treat of that centrally here.

Histoire du Duchess de C*****************  Ecrite par elle-meme

It's the textual experience on offer that makes this novella extraordinary.  What we have is this fragmentary kind of long manuscript of the type found in the center say of Romance of the Forest or (recently) Nuala O'Faolain's My Dream of You, only here the person is not dead but a survivor.  The story is, as I've suggested, about a young girl who is coerced into marriage with a very rich, Italian (important) man who has castle far away in Italy.  He is extremely domineering and passionate and he is mean and cold and cruel to people.  Our heroine soon learns to detest him and he knows it.  She makes the mistake of writing a letter to her friend to tell her about this. In this letter she also remembers a young man this friend introduced her to who she fell in love with -- at first sight. She longs for him still -- the Count de Belmire, related to her husband, and an ideal Grandison or St Preux type.

Well the husband goes wild with rage and jealousy.  Our heroine has just given birth, and he removes her and baby to a castle in Italy where he proceeds to terrify her and browbeat her in isolation. Only a very few servants around. He rips the child away.  He tells her he will forgive her if she tells him the name of her "lover."  She suspects if he does he will not keep his word and punish her anyway.  If you have read roman noirs or Jacobean plays, you will know she is probably right.  When she keeps refusing, in a really chilling long scary scene he gives her a drug, she looks like she's dead for a day or so, and he claims she died. He has people visit her, and makes a wax figure (so here is a source of Mysteries of Udolpho) buried. Then he puts her in a dungeon for 9 years.

We are only at the beginning of the tale at this point.  Maybe 10 or 15 pages in. Many many more to go.  And here is the book's greatness:  Genlis really imagine what it might be like to be a hostage.  She takes on the values of her keeper, the husband who must stay in the castle to bring her food.  A brilliant book by Judith Herman is on psychology of hostages and Diderot's Nun is explicated by this -- only Diderot knows his moral is how horrible the church institution is being used, and how vicious human nature can be.  Genlis does know this for she has a tale about a girl coerced into a nunnery in Adele and Theodore where there is no happy ending.  She also has the husband give our heroine food using a "wheel" which was used in these nunneries to provide food for girls in isolation without seeing or talking to them or them having any recourse to you.  People may recall that General Tilney according to Catherine faked his wife's death, faked the scenes Henry and His brother were at, and now in the dead of night brings her food.

Our heroine is left in the dark, alone, in solitude.   We in the US have prisons filled with people who endure these conditions for years on end; Atul Gawande has written a  fine essay proving this is torture. Some of what he says happens to US prisoners happens to our heroine. She loses it, goes mad. There are long passages, pages and pages telling of how she feels and thinks. What it's like to live in darkness. When he doesn't bring food for a while, she gets frightened she will starve.

She has periods where she wants to die, but religion stops her when she comes close to starving herself to death.

It's in the long slow minutiae of this ordeal the novella shines. No frantic language like Lewis, no evasions like Radcliffe.  The husband thinks he is right, she is an adulteress. The moral is how people can do terrible things while thinking themselves fine people. Well, here not quite. . Extraordinary intuitions about how people behave in such cases.  Sometimes I thought of  Robinson Crusoe -- the loneliness of it.

The husband sickens and grows remorseful and guilty and lo and behold he confesses in part to the very man his wife loved -- naturally, it was his cousin and an heir, a younger male relative.  This lover rescues her. Her husband has died so apparently there's no use discussing the horror he was and no punishment.  Her parents are rejoiced to find her alive again and the ending as I described it ensues.

She does describe herself as in a shattered state and cannot easily recover. In fact she doesn't quite recover, we are shown that such an ordeal is not recoverable from.

On Italy: Marie Mancini (niece to Mazarin) was married off to a Colonna prince; when she began to refuse to have sex with him because she didn't want any more children, he became incensed and managed to have his thugs put her in  castle prison for a number of years in the Pyrenees. It was not as bad as with the duchess, but it was terrifying and she left a memoir now in print.  Men could and occasionally did put their wives away with impunity.  Castle Rackrent is said to be based on a real incident. Certainly they could put them in madhouses in the 19th century and did.

So that's why Austen hedges in NA and says certainly in southeastern England we do not have such things going on. She can't say for sure outside that area.

Don't rush out and buy Adelaide and Theodore because the book is no La Religieuse (Nun) like Diderot's. Some of Genlis's drawn morals seem laughable at first and so inadequate, self-berating: we are to learn to obey our mothers, and not keep secrets from them; we see how dangerous it is to rely on friends who are shallow and not our mothers (I'm not kidding), how religion helps us through life, and even if it was her father who drove her to marrying a vicious man, it was our heroine's fault for falling in love with another man first. 

All is at first said to end in bliss when she is taken from the dungeon and after several years of recuperation her daughter marries the man she really loved, Count Belmire.  (This happens in some of these 18th century women's books: the mother marries her lover off to her daughter; in other words, our heroine at the end does not marry the hero, but prefers to give him to her daughter, she having had quite enough thank you of love, sex, marriage, "the world."  The daughter is of course glad to marry this older man -- a la Marianne Dashwood who is an more oblique revenant.  The closest Austen comes to the Duchess of C************* is Eliza Brandon, though we are given some reasons to infer that General Tilney was no easy man to live with; his bullying ways could have made a miserable existence for Mrs Tilney. But like Eliza Brandon, Mrs Tilney is dead before the book opens.

But there is one moral which is brought up now and again which is to the point to some extent: how dangerous is erotic love and enthrallment for women, how risky sex. This is a theme that does underlie all Genlis's work; it's the justification for her teaching methods: she represses a girl and makes her scared rather than allow her to be destroyed by the system then which coerced girls into marriage, gave them no property rights, no rights of custom over their children if the husband was really displeased (husbands could and did send the children to what school he wanted over the wife's head).  Beyond pragmaticism, there is also a running kind of awareness of great danger from violence, and emotional destruction.

There is something significant for the era also in the second "lesson" Genlis wants us to draw from the catastrophe the Duchess of C******* endures:  "fortitude."  I looked up some of the English reprints of the Story of the Duchess and discovered they were given the subtitle: "Fortitude."  It's true she survives in a shattered state.  The point is made she cannot recover for real or fully ever from such terrorizing inhumanity -- nor do people who spend time in concentration camps, undergo torture, are hostages. It's not uncommon for them to kill themselves sometime later, and our duchess goes into retirement where our Baron d'Almane (mother-governess) and daughter (Adele) find her.

For Genlis, on the other hand, an important inference from the tale is the daughter must trust and turn to her mother.  The whole point of Adelaide and Theodore (English title) is this mother gives up her existence to teach her daughter.  Whatever one may think of the morals to be drawn or methods used, the Baroness loves her daughter dearly and when she thinks it's okay to do so, showers affection on her.  I was led to see this by going on to read Charlotte Smith's Montalbert and thinking further on The Princess de Cleves, Austen's Lady Russell and her bad advice and obliviousness to Anne Elliot's haggard state and wretched 8 years, and pressure on Anne to marry Mr Elliot, a cold-hearted mean unjust man (which 8 years ago Anne might not have withstood). I read The Princess of Cleves as also about a well-meaning mother who nonetheless gives her daughter bad advice drawn out of the illegitimate and oppresive norms of the era.

Now in Montalbert -- as in Radcliffe's Udolpho and Sicilian Romance -- we get the harrassed near-destroyed mothers who cannot help their daughters. The generations go like this:   Mrs Vyvian (Miss Montalbert that was) gets pregnant out of wedlock because of "an affection cherished in secret" (Vol I, p 253) for an unacceptable (lower class) man.   Miss Montalbert lived somewhat secluded while father ill; a doctor or physican or family servant, Ormesby helps him get better; she and Ormsby fall in love, sex happens, and she gets pregnant so Mr Vyvian married her pregnant.  He knew she didn't love him, but unlike Trollope's Plantagenet Palliser who also married after Lady Glen separated from engaged man (though not pregnant) he did not make any attempt to win Mrs Vyvian's heart; if father knew she was pregnant by Ormesby he'd stab her to the heart to death.  She thinks he killed Ormesby at first.  Rosalie, the child, has now married in secret too -- partly for lack of advice from a good mother.

The absent or powerless mother is the black hole at the center of these gothics. In her preface to Marchmont Smith wrote that her "purpose is to enforce the virtue of fortitude." In an era when women had to endure coerced marriages, had little control over their property until they were much older (if then), fortitude is what is needed to survive. And the gothics while stories of males regarding women as their possessions to fight and tyrannize over (as Sade does too - he was sexually very possessive and jealous over Constance late in life), they are also stories of mothering -- of the loss and discovery of who is your true or good mother figure. In Udolpho, at the end of the book you discover a blighted thwarted but good mother. In Montalbert we have the capitulation of three mothers to unworthy and dangerous (destructive of the heroine) demands.

This mother/daughter axis as well as female friendship is very important in the feminist perspectives and women's studies courses. It makes for quarrels and fault-lines, for some women readers read as daughters (rebels) and others as mothers (advocating the older woman's point of view). A brilliant book on how this political slant is really the one that counts is Marianne Hirsh's The Mother/Daughter plot.

A sign a book is by a man is often the slighting of mothers or making their role not important with the good-man hero becoming a mothering figure. Juhasz's book on Reading from the Heart goes so far as to say the mark of popular heterosexual romances is the man who is a mother in disguise: Rhett Butler, Mr Knightley, and (pit-a-pat goes my heart) I'd add Ross Poldark (especially as played by Robin Ellis) in Winston Graham's historical novels set in Cornwall in the 18th century.


Genlis and children by the father's tomb, by Hubert Robert

Finally some direct Connections to Austen:

In Adele et Theodore there's a visit to a beautiful chateau which is reminiscent of Austen's Elizabeth at Pemberley. Genlis present this as an emblem of peace, order, prosperity and virtue, teaching virtuous values to visitors as they contemplate it (seen in the recent movies). Austen's Mrs Gardener knew what it was all about: a little phaeton to go round the park in each day, just the thing, Elizabeth dear. Money, pleasure, power too.  The Duchess of C********** husband is a man who once you lose his good opinion, it's lost forever. In French the word implacable is use by him about himself. So there's a possible memory that lies behind Darcy's hard remark.

It's plain to me that Genlis's Adele et Theodore is a central influential source/paradigm in Emma, though when I come to try to work out what Austen's stance was towards this work, how Emma is a surrogate say for Madame D'Ostalis and Mrs Western for Baroness d'Almane, I'm all at sea.  One of the particular attributes of those allusions and references we find in Austen when they are explicit is how unexplained they often remain, suggestive that's all.  There's a long essay by Susan Allen Ford in Persuasions 21 (1999) explicating what she finds of the parallels (many).

I do agree with her. I remain firm also with Samuel Johnson (one of the first close reading critics in English) that the way to recognize a source is something idiosyncratic in the work not found elsewhere. If you patiently read the reviews of Jocelyn Harris's latest book, you will find for all the praise for her readings of the novels, except when the reviewer is an acolyte, the last paragraphs express scepticism that the particular source she has used is a source.

So, yes, In Adele et Theodore, Madame D'Almane's older adopted daughter, Madame d'Ostalis does a portrait drawing of Flora, Madame de Limoges faulty daughter (cold, manipulative, amoral) with Charles watching by; Madamde d'Ostalis thinks he is in love with Flora or falling in love with her; no such thing, he loves Madame d'Ostalis.  He has to be taught to give them both up and take Adele. Here is Emma drawing Harriet in front of Elton and thinking he loves Harriet when he loves her.

We are told the Duchess of C****************

la fortune & la nature sembloient avoir tout fait pour moi ... J'atteignis ma quinzieme annee sans avoir, jusqu'a cette epoque, eprouve un seul chagrin, sans avoir eu de maladie, sans avoir verse d'autres larmes que celles que l'attendrissement ou la joie font repandre .. " so she expects only good in her future. (French 2, 330, English 2, 197]

Rough translation:  fortune and nature seemed united to have made everything for me.  ... I attained my 15th year without having, until that time, experienced a single [real] sorrow [chagrin], without having had a serious illness [that includes mental distress], without having poured out any more tear than tenderness or joy could expand [could make a happy thing] ...

This is the opening of Emma.

1996 A&E/Meridian Emma (Davies the writer, Beckinsale and Morton, Emma and Harriet)

However, the texture of the incidents in Emma surrounding the painting are pure Austen, e.g., Emma is "detected in the design of drawing:"  If you look at the patterns of use of "dessiner" in the contemporary French women and line them up with Austen's, you come out with exquisite mockery of Emma's pretensions --- which fit into a portrait of an egoist. (This is not at all Genlis's point.)   Emma improves on Harriet in her "design" as she wants to make Harriet to be something she's not -- to flatter herself as well as give herself something to do in her ennui -- and in so doing endangers the real Harriet. Isabella's dislike of Emma's portfolio also does not meant quite that Isabella is seeing her beloved John clearly (we are given lots of evidence she does not), but that her preconceived self-centered self-feeding notions are not flattered by Emma's image of John Knightley

I may have found one such source for NA too:  in NA Catherine imagines that General Tilney actaully faked Mrs Tilney's death before secreting her away in a dungeon. He just didn't shove her there.  Now in the famous Duchess de C************ in Adele et Theodore there's a strikingly long and memorable scene of the Duke faking his wife's death -- how he lures her into the room, makes her take a drug, brings people in to say goodbye, and then when she awakens, secrets her away .. &c&c.  I can't find any such scene of faking someone's death in this way in The Monk, Radcliffe's Sicilian Romance or Smith's Montalbert, all novels with the motif of the wife shoved in the dungeon or secreted away, brought food too for years etc.  It's the dwelling on this that's striking.  Maybe I've found the source for this specific idea of Catherine's.

But then how are we to take it?  how far is this parodic?  how far are we to sympathize with Catherine's taking gothics seriously, for Mrs Tilney had a bad time with her husband.  And it's not the only detail in Catherine's nightmare.  Another appears to come from Sophia Lee's Recess; though it is one found elsewhere, the names are striking (Ellinor as well as Matilda), and another clearly from Radcliffe's Romance of the Forest.

2007 Northanger Abbey (Eleanor mounting the stairs to her father, Catherine flees, Davies plays suggestively with fear, but does not develop it)

More "idiosyncratic" detail found in Duchess of C********** and NA:  The Duke sets up a pious monument just the way there is one for Mrs Tilney in which he asserts his pious love for his wife.

I've looked in two places for the faked death with children coming to the bedside and this seems to be just in Duchess of C and NADuchess of C was by the way translated into English very quickly and published separately. But I've only looked at two.

As for the monument, yes monuments for dead parents turn up in these fictions, often the occasion of the pious son or daughter going over in the dead of night to grieve.  Quite like Mary Shelley did over her mother's grave in real life. Oscar Wilde would be amused -- but this is heartless; rather it shows that people are influenced by what they read.  But a monument built by a husband who elaborately faked the death asserting his piety I don't not know another example of beyond NA and Duchess of C.



( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
From Nancy:

"I found this exposition on those novels quite fascnating, Ellen. Thanks. I do appreciate the insight into the novels you discussed.
Jul. 29th, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
De Genis a Lucy Steele ...
From Arnie:

"The key to understanding JA's attitude toward de Genlis is to see that the above description you've given shows her to be a synthesis of the best parts of Lucy Steele, Charlotte Lucas, and Mary Crawford, and a discarding of their various weaknesses--these are the Austen female characters who quietly gamed the system that was rigged against them (well, Mary was ultimately too undisciplined to be successful at her game-playing). De Genlis's greatest assets (not in a moral, but in a pragmatic, sense) were her infinite resourcefulness in manipulating others more powerful than she, PLUS her utterly pragmatic willingness to play any part in the moral comedy of society, and sell it successfully to her "audience". The proof was in the pudding, she survived while those closest to her were losing their heads (all puns intended).

De Genlis was a HUGE figure in the imagination of JA, for JA's overt AND shadow stories. It's no accident that de Genlis rated a very explicit and detailed allusion at the climactic moment of the shadow story of Emma"
Jul. 29th, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Perhaps Austen's Lady Susan closest
Yes, Arnie, I'd say Austen might think of her Lucy Steele as a sort of Genlis: surviving as best she can; also Mrs Clay, Lady Susan (very much), perhaps Mary Crawford could have become this way.

At the same we do see how Austen will not go into certain "darker" territory in her books by the comparison. Genlis was not just mistress to one man and her husband was a complicit cuckold (not unusual in the world).

She was also a deceitful crook who did not stay on the right side of the law. Austen's limitations again emerge: she does not treat of people close to real power as Genlis was, so there is no female Talleyrand in Austen. I'd call Genlis a female Talleyrand. Utterly untrustworthy, and since she was willing to lie about anything at any time you could never know where she really stood, what she cared about most at any point. A person to keep well away from as they say.

Jul. 29th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
Like Grace Dalrymple Elliot?
From Linda:

"Genlis sounds like a most fascinating person. I see certain parallels with Grace Dalrymple Elliot--or am I perhaps misreading her?

Did they both have an affair with Phillip d"Orleans?


My reply:

"I'd say Elliot was not in the same league of crookery and knowledge of how to take and hold power. Genlis had two children by Orleans and married both off. Elliot failed to hold onto hers. Elliot died alone and in relative poverty; Genlis died in comfort and respected, and published a 10 volume memoirs.

But there are parallels and as people I much prefer Grace. See my blog:


Jul. 30th, 2010 12:03 pm (UTC)
So interesting the way you are gathering the context about you: it's a new way (for me) into Austen, to see what influences she had from the French. And I had no idea Wollstonecraft wrote partly as a reaction to de Genlis! I'd like to know more about that; I can't make the connection myself.
I particularly loved seeing some of these illustrations that festoon this piece - especially the Rosalba Carrera, and the fabulous unsparing drawing of the too-intelligent-by-half, hard looking de Genlis at fifty. Wonderful.

Jul. 31st, 2010 11:30 am (UTC)
Breast-feeding; good book
Dear all,

I've got my hands on Bonnie Arden Robb's book on Genlis, both biographical and critical: Motherhood in the Margins. I read Janeites this morning and their conversation reminded me of how sensible Genlis is on breast-feeding: a rare voice today. It's nonsense to say a woman must breast-feed (gentry and above hired wet-nurses, alas no formula until the 1890s) as well as unjust for anyone to forbid her. She must consult her circumstances (women did have jobs: at court, keeping the home, if they have other children and no or few servants); if breast-feeding is done under pressure, there is no joy here nor boniding. As to getting persmission from her husband, in 18th century French Genlis implies it's not her husband's body, but hers and the child her responsibility primarily in its first years.

A refreshing moment,
Jul. 31st, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
More on breast-feeding
My editing function for the comments has vanished! So here's an additional thought:

She neither overpraises and gushes nor avoids realities.

It's this sort of thing I meant when I said I found myself directly engaged. Adelaide and Theodore is available in an English edition by Gillian Dow (the translation is actually not that good).

Jul. 31st, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
Duchess of C*********
I should have mentioned the Duchess of C******** story is based on a real life incident. See Mary Trouille, Wife Abuse in Mid-18th century France:


Jul. 31st, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
From Jim Chevalier:

"We should not forget that among her many accomplishments is a very useful phrase book from 1799 for emigres in German-speaking countries:

:Manuel du voyageur, ou Recueil de dialogues, de lettres, etc. , suivi d'un itinéraire raisonné, à l'usage des François en Allemagne et des Allemands en France, par Mme de Genlis. Avec la traduction allemande par S.-H. Catel. Pour servir de suite ou de tome II aux "Exercices de prononciation, de grammaire et de construction"

The choice of subjects gives a rich insight into the minutiae of daily life (not to mention a certain Gallic bellyaching - several times she tells the emigre how to complain about things like the food). I found it very useful when writing my paper on breakfast in the period.

Otherwise, there's a whole subject (and I'm sure it's been addressed) around women like Genlis and Pompadour who used sex to climb to somewhat more enduring accomplishments. It struck me some time back that in the same period many men were using war in a similar way to establish their own reputations, so I think it's important to bear in mind what options each gender had at the time - and to consider whether sleeping with a few unsavory but powerful men is worse than slaughtering a few villagers on your way to the top.

Whatever the answer, the use she made of her position once attained was really memorable.

Jim Chevallier:
Jul. 31st, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
To reply briefly: I cannot think of a more centrally 18th century than Genlis in the sense that important writers and figures born in our period are central.

Also I hope in my blog I did not suggest that it was merely or even primarily sex that gave Genlis what power and influence she had. She started that way -- except of course she married, so she began not as a mistress but a wife of a male in an ancient family. The comparative example of a woman who in the end was cast off is Grace Dalrymple Elliot.

I'd say as or more important than her time with Orleans was her becoming his children's governess, tutor to the king, and her writing as a social capital. And not just governess, because like Maintenon (who is the parallel and not Pompadour and about whom Genlis wrote a biographical novel), it was who she was governess to and the relationships she formed and then her relationships through her writing. Adelaide and Theodore was then another machine for success.

You can see all these other angles by the way she survived the terror when she went to Switzerland. Both her males had been beheaded and she didn't need them. I cited the important book on that era: Berthoud, Dorette. Le Général et La Romancière: 1792-1798, Épisodes de L'Émigration Française en Suisse.

Aug. 1st, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
From Chevalier:

"Depends on the angle you take. For one thing, Maintenon married (it is believed) her alpha male, whereas Pompadour and Genlis found their greatest success as mistresses. But more flatteringly for both, they made their own marks once they had reached certain heights. Maintenon had her accomplishments, but nothing like Pompadour's influence on fashion and design or Genlis' relentless literary output."

To which I replied:

My point was Genlis did not make her greatest success as mistress (actually a brief period in her life). And I see you acknowledge her literary work. I'll leave it at that. Ellen

Aug. 1st, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
Genlis on Duchess of C***********
It's in her 10 volume memoir (she had time in later life) that Genlis retells of how the Duchess of C******* was based on a true life story she came across while travelling in Italy. I have a 2 volume redaction (abridgement) of this memoir (in French, later 19th century edition) I picked up somewhere: a raggedy pair of volumes which look like they are falling apart, and would do so were I to try to read them. I don't remember where I picked them up.

Mary Trouille has apparently read the 10 volumes and reports that Genlis saw this woman while in Rome. The statements are worth repeating: Genlis describes her as someone who was 46 but looked 70, who spoke so slowly, moved so slowly and had such hestitant speech patterns it was distressing to pay too careful attention to her. She also says (and I find this as impressive and important as the evidence of this woman who had undergone this kind of torture) that she understood that such stories were cliched tropes (in a way) in her era. People at a table where she told of her source said this to her:

"ils me repondirent qu'ils avoient vu mille fois, dans les romans, des femmes enfermees dans les souterrains, et que cette histoire fort singuliere formeroit un roman tres-commun."

She agrees and then says since she knew that she decided what she would do would be to very carefully, minute-by-minute imaginatively truly experience what a woman might feel left in a dungeon dependent on one man (cruel and nasty) to bring her food, not permitted any light or exercise:

"Je repliquai qu'on renderait le subject tout neuf, en s'attachant a decrire les idees et les sentiments [I had typed mouvements, a Freudian slip] que l'on peut successivement eprouver pendant neuf ans dans un souterrain."

If we had anything as perspicuous about her technique in Austen as this startling understanding and insight and control into what she was doing Genlis provides, people would be ga-ga and never tire of quoting it.

It's worth saying once again this is what we do to male prisoners (often black) and literally for years in US prisons. The Poldark novels have at least two episodes where Ross defies the law and pulls a person out of a dungeon, once his tenant put there for poaching when he was starving and now dying of disease, and a second time in France, and when he pulls Dr Enys out (very sick too, dying) he and his group are almost murdered by a counter-revolutionary group busying executing people



Aug. 8th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Bonnie Arden Robb's Felicite de Genlis, Motherhood in the Margins
I've begun reading this recent literary criticism of Genlis; it's prefaced by a one chapter biography and has a coda to one of the chapters where Robb retells the stories of how Genlis married off her biological and 'adopted' daughters.

Robb is of the school of thought where she doesn't believe anyone had illicit sex unless there's evidence or proof; so (in effect) she doesn't believe anyone's children are their own unless there's a photo of them giving birth. Short of the latter it's true we cannot know. I'm sure she'd not believe Eliza de Feuillide biological daughter of Hastings.

So Pamela and Hermine are adopted daughters even if their birth coincides with two periods where Genlis became ill and disappeared for four months, even if at five both show up with preposterous stories to account for their appearance, even if thereafter she treats them with the same devotion as the does her two daughters by Sillery (Caroline and Pulcherie). Genlis's "shady dealings" are skimmed over. Gillian Dow's introduction to Adele et Theodore does the same thing: stilted language. I suppose this is the way one rises high in academic hierarchies, rock no boats

Despite the bias and refusal Robb won't ignore facts and she repeats enough so you can get the real story underlying her refusals to credit the truth she puts before us. What an act. Genlis would congratulate her.

So corrections: Genlis had five not four children. A boy by Sillery-Genlis died young. She educated 15 children altogether at Bellechase. Genlis's mother's cousin was mistress to the man who was married to Pompadour and it was through this connection Genlis and her mother managed to hang on, for Genlis's father early on did not hang around his family very much. He went to war and gambled, fled creditors.

I begin to see Genlis's obsession with motherhood comes from her own mother's deprivation. Apparently her mother's mother or maternal grandmother put her mother in a convent short after she remarried a second time. The only time the maternal grandmother visited Genlis's mother was to bully her into taking her vows so the grandmother (presumably) would never had to see or hear from her daughter again. When Genlis's mother married a man who was as much a fringe person as herself, she ignored her daughter too: Genlis and her brother were farmed out to a village schoolmistress and her brother sent to Paris to continue his education.

Genlis's mother took her up again when she saw how talented the child was an that she could use and exploit her to get into society. They were continually on the move. Robb skims over what were probably scams going on and does not specify how Genlis herself managed to get Sillery-Genlis to marry rather than merely bed her. It was this marriage that began her career for it gave her a base of respectability.

I am really reminded of Lucy Steele here (Arnie is right here). For two years Genlis's husband would have nothing to do with her, only a long train of abject sycophancy and endless humiliations won them over -- plus they saw what an operator she was.

The description of her first two childbirths, of Caroline and then Pulcherie (both by the husband) and the recorded delight of this young woman and her persistent devotion to them is a beautiful thing. It was the one meaningful thing she clung to. I am really moved by what she wrote.

That she married them off so badly (sheerly for money, property, status and the men she chose were not decent people with characters) is in accordance with the vile values that sustained her own mother and this world and herself too. Pamela she married off to Edward Fitzgerald -- quite a coup.

What she was fundamentally was a reading and writing women. She kept diaries all her life, wrote and wrote and wrote, and educated. A heroic teacher :) And she's very eloquent in her diaries, never abject. She did pretend to have read far more than she had: we have that from Louis-Philippe, Orleans's son who she educated and became king, later in life spent a long three hours with Victor Hugo and went on at length about Genlis who had really been the only mother he ever knew. She saved his life in Switzerland by her quick-witted abilities --a kind of female Odysseus.

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
Fascination with smart woman
Genlis is a fascinating woman. She is, and I think it's because she is smart and in her way candid, and endlessly reasoning about norms and philosophical points of view. She brings truths and assumptions out. She means to reform education and that's such a central area. She is this heroic teacher as in the film I saw yesterday, Agora about Hypatia: Genlis escaping the equivalent of stoning in her time, the guillotine (only just by fleeing just in time). She also survived to write and publish a 10 volume memoir in comfort. Napoleon left her alone - he exiled Stael.

We are not alone in being fascinated. There are quite a number of articles about her even recently; over this century there have been several books, one a huge investment in original research and time, Gabriel Broglie's Madame de Genlis, which I never did get more than half way through. It's very long and dense and you can learn a lot about the world of the ancien regime in it.

In reading more of Genlis and about her (she has a number of novels) it seems to me that not only did she write gothic novels, but her presentation of mothers as so important and in such positive (if utterly conventional and demanding way) she is other side of gothic: she is tenderly loving powerful mother who is respected. At the core of all these gothic fictions is a women who is a mother parted from her child and punished; a transgressive mother (often having the same name, as in the two Rosalies in Montalbert and the two Elizas in S&S) whose fate is almost repeated in her daughters: in some cases the daughter is totally rescued, in some partially from sexual rape, seduction, abandonment, abuse. In her teaching her daughters are to be caref for intensely and educated. Whatever we may think of the norms and behaviors inculcated, here is one place she is sincere.

What I'm impressed by (to use fancy language) is she seeks to de-traumatize problematic events by telling and/or assigning stories which imply how or how not to handle such events. If what you need to use to teach doesn't exist, then you must make your materials yourself.

Also that she's very smart, p 73 (this from Adele et Theodore):

N'exigez jamais les attentions, les soins qui tiennent de la passion; recevez-les avec grace, avec plaisir, mais n'y comptez point, et paraissez plus touchee d'une marque d'estime que d'une prevue d'amour.

which I translate:

Never insist on attentions that are marks of passion; receive them with grace, with pleasure, but don't count on them, and appear more touched by a mark of esteem than by a proof of love

Her great granddaughter, Lucy Ellis, together with a scholar wrote a book trying for once and for all to show that Pamela and Hemine were the Genlis's children by Orleans, La Belle Pamela, published in English as Lady Edward Fitzgerald -- because she was married off to this Lennox sion who tried to overthrow the conservative order in Ireland). Ellis was distressed and embarrassed by the obvious hypocrisies and all the acceptance of Genlis's improbable stories. Alas, she went overboard and argued the school was an entire front, Genlis had no particular desire to be a teacher; it was a power grab. So what happens is their book can be dismissed as character assassination. What's interesting to me is how several generations later family members are still intensely hot and distressed about someone they are biologically related to from the past. I've come to realize how common this is.

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
Obsession with illegitimate motherhood
Genlis did have an obsession to conceal her maternity and paradoxically never stopped talking aboutt it: Barone d'Almane has no less than two adopted daughters in Adele et Theodore; Madame d'Ostalis who we meet grown up and Emma is likened to (in Emma) and Hermine who is adopted so that Adele can play exemplary mother.

Here surely is one area where Genlis's insight into herself failed (p 77); she couldn't see how she was giving herself away? Or did she think people knew and the only thing one had to do was keep up a pretense of lies. There is some truth to the idea that the school was a front because it was after Genlis set it up that she brought her two illegitimate daughters by Orleans over from the UK: Pamela and later Hermine. In reality apparently when Genlis brought Hermine over to Bellechasse, she did give her to Pulcherie to pretend to be mother to (as a way of teaching mothering? or making Pulcherie behave strictly and orderly?). In the fiction, Adele et Theodore, this happens too, and when Adele behaves badly, Hermine is withdrawn. This does seem overdone: Hermine is used as a tool or thing or prize. Also Pulcherie was her legitimate daughter by Sillery-Genlis and Hermine, the illegitimate one by Orleans -- this reinforces the high status of one and the base status of the other.

At this school were a number of powerful people's children beyond Genlis's two by her husband and two by Orleans. Louis Philippe the oldest son of thh king's younger brother, in line for the throne This was not the kind of detail people were inclined to ignore.

Genlis also wrote about adopted and illegitimate children in her novels repeatedly. In one, Alphone, le fils naturel, she was vociferously attacked because she argued that in a given family illegitimate and legitimate children ought to be treated the same -- a very lenient law. This was regarded as breaking down the family and deeply immoral. It shows me how she really had this tendency to think what would favor her and her interests was moral. That she could be so egoistic was perhaps part of her driving strength in life. It would be hard to reach her and dominate such a person; they can't see beyond their ego.


Edited at 2010-08-12 12:22 pm (UTC)
Aug. 12th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
Her hypocrisy and Madame de Maintenon
Robb in her book professes herself surprised at the accusations of hypocrisy since surely most writers may be accused of this to some texts. This is disingenuous: Robb knows that Genlis presented herself as impeccably moral and above reproach and demands that she be seen as an exemplar and writes punitively of women who don't come up to the mark. She also knows the appalling history of three of Genlis's daughters after marriage, marriages arranged by Genlis. George Eliot is accused of presenting as moral fates for women she didn't have to endure and is accused of hypocrisy and this is much less obvious; Eliot simply tries to erase herself.

She identified in type with madame de Maintenon; I really did intend at one point to type it as the third French novel I'd put on mywebsite. I was stopped by change in software when I replaced my old computer: I found I could no longer put accents in.

More later on her historical novel on Maintenon.

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
On a few of the other novels
Motherhood marginalized; parallels with Top Girls and Mia Farrow

This will be my last on this female Talleyrand for a little while. I don't place these under Austen subgroup because, like Moers, I find what she writes and the place she held and how influential or widely read at any case she was important for women who want to know their "usable past" in books. To be fair to her, she was herself trying to create a usable past, was very conscious of the difference between history and the imagination and for women's way of writing history (understood it) and smart.

But she was also worse than Talleyrand for she fooled herself and used those around her. Sometimes I think she loved teaching and having children around her because she loved bullying.
This last one consists of some sumamries and remarks on a few more of her books, and an account of how she ruthlessly married her two biological and legitimate daughters off horribly (though I admit that in ancien regime terms they would not have done well with her as a mother anyway, unless they escaped her which she was not going to let happen). I've sent away for a book on "La Belle Pamela" (Pamela Fitzgerland as she came) and then will be able to tell of how she married her biological illegimate daughter by Orleans off to one of the Lennox sisters's sons.

Much of this comes from Genlis: Robb's Mortherhood marginalized; not all as I remember Broglie's biography a bit and have the facsimile from Elibron called "Esprit de Genlis":

I've carried on reading this book and am almost at the end. Like Eileen Fausset on Julia Kavanagh, Robb does discuss Genlis's books in a way that brings out what's important in them and their quality, in this case ambiguous. One has to realize that Austen followed this woman's career; I'm convinced she read the novels as they came out. She admired Genlis though how much she took her at surface value I don't know. It was Alphonsine by Genlis (another on illegitimate motherhood) that she stopped reading in her circle as it was too "indelicate".

A few highlights:

In _Alphone, or le fils naturel_, Genlis makes the argument that while families must continue to ostracize illegimate children, the state should not. By bringing out how the state then disfavors such children, she shows how the state operates as the arm of the family in sexual arrangements, p 83

Psychologically she brings out why a bastard child might hate society, p 82: it's impossible for someone who has been unjustly degraded to think well of others. I agree! As an adjunct I do feel hatred or at least strong bitterness.

Her statements often are so true about emotions: This dissimulation is awful with people one loves but costs little with those one doesn't trust or respect; seeing them grips the heart, and one fnids a sort of consolation in deceiving them as to one's feeling, knowing that they would enjoy the distress that one is hiding. p 85

Mothers abound, all kinds of arrangements, with emphatic numbers of them hidden -- they hide they have a child in some way. They pretend it's adopted or is someone else's close to them.

Suddenly I remember that we have a hidden mother in Top Girls: the woman interviewer, Marlene, in the office, cold and mean, is actually the mother of Angie, the mentally slow girl that Joyce, the Ipswich housewife-cleaning woman jack of all menial trades, is bringing up.


In Robb's study of Genlis's life writing and letters, we do learn her biological and legitimate daughters by Sillery-Genlis, Pulcherie and Caroline were far from thrilled or happy at the arrival of Pamela, her biological illegimate daughter by Orleans. We see that Genlis liked her because she was so submissive and also how Genlis bullied her (mercilessly), pp. 111-12 If anyone is interested, I can scan in the scene. Genlis herself wrote it out. She thinks what she did was just fine.

When Hermine, the second illegimate biological daughter by Orleans arrived, she was given to the Duchess of Orleans's child Adelaide (after whom the famous book was named) as a daughter to love and pet -- and discipline.

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
Life writing
On her letters and memoirs, one does see how Genlis perpetually lied: she said she adopted Casimir (a later adopted child) from the landlady in Berlin: the boy visited her, she found him handsome, and also he learned quickly. But Louis Philippe told Victor Hugo that the boy was her doorman's; one day she saw the doorman beating the boy and offered to take him, and that was that, p 115; her real letters to boy overbearing, his destroyed and we have hers where she complains of dearth of letters from him; in later life what he did was extract money from her, p 117; she tried to script his life. Puts me in mind of Chesterfield's letters to his son. She did adopt or bring into her purview lots of children. This reminded me of Mia Farrow.

This one make me think about what happened to Hester Thrale Piozzi's adoption of an Italian son late in life; also the book Mansfield Park, about education with three poor mothers (Lady B, Mrs Price) and a vicious aunt (Mrs Norris). Also that Tom is an adopted son and only at the end revealed to be biological nephew as deserving as Blifil by biological/familial ties, only illegitimate

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
Marrying Caroline off
Caroline, her biological and legitimate daughter by Sillery-Genlis, at age 14, is married to, but stays at Bellechase, and then goes off with wealthy Belgian marquis de La Woestine.

Grimm tells us that Genlis's husband found his mistress, Mlle Justine in bed with this marquis, and (losing it) upbraided her, to which she replied she was working at getting this man as a husband for his daughter. Several months later the marriage announced and Justine continued to share favors with father- and son-in-law, p 166.

Her daughter, Caroline died in childbirth 1786 and marquis returned her notebooks unread: one had columns on one side of which listed the marquis's infidelties for each year, and on the other, Carolines. For him 21, for her 0. Bottom words; "Total: Satisfaction!' This is "the artificial affected tone ... " that became Genlis's second nature" and inculcated into her daughter." Genlis's statement in reaction; "et elle aimait veritablement son mari!" So is this a case of a daughter happy with mother-love and self-respect? asks Robb.

Genlis wrote a commentary on what she found in these diaries and announced it "will reveal her character and her natural disposition for making little jokes." Robb says this seems hardly "fit material for a joke," perhaps "Genlis sincerely admired her daughter's courageously playful and imaginative way of 'summing up' the indignities of her marriage." p 167 Genlis also wrote: "There is something of the sublime in the grace, the purity, the true philosophy of this joke."

It seems to me here we have evidence of how this woman could refuse to take in what was in front of her and exculpate herself.

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:28 pm (UTC)
Marrying Pulcherie off
Pulcherie was married on June 3, 1784 to the Vicomte de Valence, 27, lover of Madame de Montesson, her mother's aunt, who was the lover of Valence even though he was 19 years younger than her. Of course she knew about this.

May 16, 1984 Pulcherie adopted by Montesson and Pulcherie and Valence go to live with Montesson and her husband, father of Genlis's Orleans, another duc d'Orleans, in sumptuous hotel. This is not blatant disregard for the probable outcome of what will happen next?

In four days before marriage Genlis tells Pulcherie she had to give Woestine the father's position at the Palace Royal, the apartment they lived in, and a regiment in order to get him to marry Caroline. Genlis casually drops information that Caroline is deaf. What? this is first admission anywhere. How much deaf? We don't know.

Genlis says she had little left. Her plan had been late marriage for Pulcherie and position as dame d'honneur when Adelaide (Orleans's daughter by his duchess) grew old enough. In letter she insists on Pulcherie's necessary gratitude to Madame de Montesson: Valence, she is told, has today income of 25 thousand pounds, assurance of 80 in future, Montesson guarantees Pulcherie 600 thousand francs and will provide lodging. So Pulcherie must give her "all the devotion of the tenderest daughter." She says when mother gives all things is only acting naturally and not doing anything worthy admiration, but this woman who owed you nothing to do all this. She denies she could be envious at all [who said she was?] Ends reminding daughter of father's love for her, remember how her uncle, Charles-Louis du Crest giving up his room so Pulcherie and her husband can live there.

Goes on about her and Caroline's love, urges her to love Pamela. Keep up her Italian and English, Genlis will send her extracts, also Maxims of la Rochefoucauld. She is well educated in duties; urges discretion and they will talk only of what concerns Pulcherie individually.

Robb says this letter meant to be seen by Montesson and meant to try to make her live up to portrait. Robb tells us that she wrote she gave both daughters all her jewelry and porcelain pottery.

Apparently Genlis wrote again to tell her daughter how she has all she wants, that she is asked to do nothing, that she is indolent by nature, and is loved because of her "attractive character" (gentle, cheerful). Broglie says that Pulcherie was a like a child and had learned to take advantage of pleasures on offer but not to seek anything; her passivity disappointed her ambitious husband.

1st year: Montesson treats her well; 2nd Montesson retires to convent after husband's death, but 3rd she returns, kicks Pulcherie's father out of house for gambling and resumes liaison with Valence. Revolution Valence went into exile, Pulcherie lived with Montesson and tried to intervene for friends in danger and then imprisoned herself.

In her journal Robb discovers she had passionate love for an unfaithful lover; she detests and abhors her husband. I know from the book I read about Genlis in Switzerland that Pulcherie tried to take advantage of the new divorce law to rid herself of Valence, and because of her mother was thwarted.

Pulcherie did not follow mother's advice and in a journal she kept (here we see the mother's influence) shows her children what she is, and "I will make myself known to you my children, I won't take advantage of your ignorance and your love for me to deceive you into thinking that I was better than I actually am." She berates herself for being passionate so what she took in made her guilty.

Genlis writes much later about this marriage that "I reassured myself, without fooling myself entirely...." Much later Genlis admitted Montesson was incapable of being a good mentor, never would be able to love Pulcherie.

Robb says how this marriage produced an empowered woman in Pulcherie (did it? really?). Pulcherie followed a "carriere galante" including "stealing a lover from Stael who had "stole" one from her. When older and her mother came to stay with her (1819) Pulcherie writes her mother did not need her children and her love was dispassionate; it's "her mind that is active, that speaks and never the heart."

Aug. 12th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
Edward Fitzgerald
From Nancy:

Was this the Pamela who married Lord Edward Fitzgerald? Lord Edward was the son of the Duke of Leincester. HIs mother was one of the Lennox girls who had 21 kids and then married the tutor when her husband died.
Lord Edward was passionate about freeing Ireland from English rule-- though the union had only been effected in 1800-- and was injured in an uprising. he died in prison. His goods wre forfeited and his wife and children left destitute. The wife did not receive as much sympathy and help from the numerous in-laws as I would have thought she would, but if she wwere French and illegitimate, that might help explain part of it. Lady Edward was later given money to live on by the government.
A very interesting bit of history, Ellen about Genlis even though I have zero interest in her.

To which I replied:

Yes. it was that Pamela. You can read a very good history of Edward Fitzgerald in which Pamela makes an appearance by Stella Tillyard:

* Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 (1995) ISBN 978-0374524470
* Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald, 1763-98 (1997) ISBN 978-0374525897

Both must reads

You're wrong to have zero interest. I think you'd be fascinated by Adelaide and Theodore. And it's important for Austen's MP and Emma.

Aug. 12th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Top Girls and Genlis

"I've almost forgotten Top Girls by now, but I did remember Ellen commenting a while ago that the play was unique, because the emphasis was on women as mothers or non-mothers--and I agreed. I had wanted to comment at the time but got distracted and never did.

Here is a paragraph from Ellen's July 5 posting:

"The perspective I felt was that all the stories of the historical top girls seem to include having children and giving them up, or an obsessive from not having them (Isabella). Even Pope Joan we are told slipped one baby out during a road side scene. Joyce had a miscarriage, and Marlene two abortions. They had continual pregnancies and continually gave up the children. This is not a theme we've seen thus far. The third act reverses this misery to show how much a burden keeping the child is, the second how the child gets in the way of solvency. Instead of marriage making for the misery and yet being intensely sought and needed, it's motherhood."

Yes, I agree that it was an interesting twist to focus on motherhood rather than marriage as being intensely sought and needed. And yet, of course, it is the desire and need for motherhood that drives many women to seek marriage. Still,
literary plots often don't delve that deep, and the action and drama all revolves about getting the man. why they want him is often not explored.

There does seem to be a connection here to Genlis with her obsessions of motherhood and non-motherhood. In her case, it seems to be not acknowledging her biological children because they are not legitimate but being closely tied to them anyway

Aug. 12th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
Top Girls and Genlis
It seems to me very important that Marlene is Angie's real mother. It shows that Marlene's much boasted-about strength is a put up. It is Joyce who holds body and soul together by 4 cleaning jobs, and finding some meaning and solace in life by bringing up Angie, who on the surface seems singularly ungrateful.

Not that Angie is all that bright: the most moving part of the play is in the final lines by Marlene where Marlene says the "stupid, lazy and frightened" do not deserve a good life and she's not going to anything for them. Thatcher's England is about letting such dispensable people go to the wall, be dismissed. And that's what's happening here in the US in this year 2010.

Marlene stands up for Thatcherite values based on hiding herself, ripping away her emotions. She cannot let herself be a mother at all, not even as a role in a healthy way. She's ashamed of the girl's illegitimacy too. She can't bear the child is disabled in some way.
She asks, why are we all so miserable?

Some of the women in the first part are also very encumbered by children and the travelling woman, Isabel Bell (is it?) is afraid of them.

Genlis's stubborn and relentless saying that familial love, mother love is as important as erotic is then important and central.
I was thinking the reason that cannot be allowed is men want their roles as sexual beings to be first and foremost and if it was allowed that mothers be seen as important this would cut across ties to the father and his freedom to do as he wishes wherever and whenever.

What Genlis's novels continually bring out is brings out is that the mother as a figure is devalued in order to make the man as sexual and paternal figure most powerful. We cannot value the mother if we are to make the tie with the man for the girl everything and that's what's wanted. Genlis does not mean to make this statement but as you read her exclamnations and examples of all ther mothers do and feel, you are led to ask, why are they not valued? why is this childhood emotion not valued? mother's day doesn't cut it. Take her to a restaurant, buy her a card. A Scam to support Hallmark hall of fame cards.

Some women really are fulfilled from having children and I think this is actually not allowed, it makes people uncomfortable. Such a woman is Mia Farrow.

Sep. 15th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
Reading Emma in the light of the allusions
Since there is such austere irony and a distance from the consciousness the book is seen from (Emma's) and what we can see, that people have very different responses to the book.

I read the essay on the uses of Genlis's Adele et Theodore in _Emma_ yesterday (it's in Persuasions on line 1999 by Susan Allen Ford) and she actually characterizes Emma's behavior as "endearing" when discussing the section where Emma is inventing whole-hog the nonsense about Elton and misunderstanding how he is using that picture altogether. Only later does Emma begin to see what a hypocrite he is, though never quite acknowledges what she could have done to Harriet.

Endearing. This could be Mr Woodhouse talking.

A non-sequitor: I did find an idiosyncratic detail of the type I look for to demonstrate specific allusion. Now in the case of Adelaide and Theodore (to give the book its English title), we have the downright open reference at the end of the book. But what else? parallels in characters are there too, but I found this:

In Adele et Theodore, Madame D'Almane's older adopted daughter, Madame d'Ostalis does a portrait drawing of Flora, Madame de Limoges faulty daughter (cold, manipulative, amoral) with Charles watching by; Madamde d'Ostalis thinks he is in love with Flora or falling in love with her; no such thing, he loves Madame d'Ostalis. He has to be taught to give them both up and take Adele. Here is Emma drawing Harriet in front of Elton and thinking he loves Harriet when he loves her.

It's really close and striking. How shall we take the parallel? WEll, in the novel Flora is no Harriet, and Madame d'Ostalis is a character whose elevated lovely nature is closer to Anne Elliot than any one else in Austen. The personalities are utterly different.
While in the reference Emma sees herself as a Madame d'Ostalis (who is adopted by Baron d'Almane who becomes her governess) yet I see Emma as also being very like Adele. Now I think Austen did too -- and so does Susan Allen Ford.

Adele can be very spiteful, is a liar, says things that hurt people's feelings badly (in one open instance like Emma insulting Miss Bates).
Yet Charles is to take her as she is appropriate in rank and type. So Madame D'Almane is educating Adele to be good, better in behavior than nature intended.

One way to take this would be to say Mrs Weston did not achieve what Madame d'Almane does because she never had the power over Emma nor did she have the heart to be as rough and cold as Madame d'Almane.

Honestly I don't know. But I do know that Emma is not endearing to me.

So we have our gut reactions and this is a book where we are not given much guidance -- much much less than MP.

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