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Stephanie-Felicite de Genlis, writer, educator, mother (1746-1830)

              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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ellen
Tags: french writers, jane austen novels, women's art, women's novels
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