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Constance de Salm, Her Influence and Her Circle in the Aftermath of the French Revolution

«A Mind of No Common Order»


Ellen McNiven Hine

Largely forgotten during the second half of the nineteenth century and throughout most of the twentieth century, Constance de Salm (Constance-Marie de Théis, Mme Pipelet de Leury, later Princess de Salm-Reifferscheid-Dyck,) finally attracted the attention of such scholars as Elizabeth Colwill, Geneviève Fraisse, Huguette Krief, and Christine Planté in the early twenty-first century. However, there has to date been no comprehensive study of her published works, her vast correspondence, and the importance of her cultural exchanges. In this book, Ellen McNiven Hine contributes to the recent upsurge of interest in the literature of this particularly turbulent period in French history. This book considers not only her literary aspirations and claim to fame but also such topics as her contribution to the scientific culture of the period, the extent of the political involvement of a «non-activist» woman, her challenge to what she saw as inequitable provisions in the Civil Code, her championing of women’s progress in literature and the arts, and the role that networking and patronage played in her personal and professional life. Moreover, the study highlights the similarities and differences between her life, writing, and influence and those of other postrevolutionary women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Germaine de Staël, Margaret Somerville, and Louise Colet.
Constance de Salm uses a variety of genres to address issues of particular importance to women, such as equal access to educational opportunities, the cost to women’s health of reproduction, and lack of economic resources for single and widowed women. She displays a surprising modernity in her awareness of the difficulty of resolving relationship, career, and motherhood problems that continue to plague women in the twenty-first century and points to a future in which women will have access to educational and employment opportunities.


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1. A LIFEINCONTEXT: Setting the Historical Stage 13


The world into which Constance de Salm was thrust was one of the most excit- ing periods of French history. From her debut as a writer prior to the French Revolution to her death during the reign of Louis Philippe and the July Monarchy she was a witness to, and participant in, major cultural changes to the national social, literary and political landscape. She not only contributed to, and was shaped by, the Enlightenment and the momentous events of the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period, but she was also part of what Carla Hesse refers to as ‘the other Enlightenment.’1 Like Janus, women such as Germaine de Staël, Olympe de Gouges, Etta Palm Aelders, Anne Marie Beaufort d’Hautpoul, Amélie Julie Candeille, Isabelle de Charrière, Albertine Hémery Clément, Adélaïde Dufrénoy, Marie-Armande Gacon-Dufour, Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis, Marie Emilie de Montanclos, Madame Marie Jeanne Roland, Fanny Raoul, and Constance Pipelet (later Princesse de Salm- Reifferscheid-Dyck) looked back towards their formation in the eighteenth century and forward towards the promise of cultural renewal in the nine- teenth century, culminating eventually in increased educational and occupa- tional opportunities for women. All of the above activists and writers touched directly or tangentially on Constance de Salm’s life and figure in one way or another in her story. · 1 · A LIFE IN CONTEXT Setting the Historical Stage Hine Intro thru 6_T3.qxd 11/28/2011 1:16 PM Page 13 All of these women used their pens to enter the...

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