Contributor: Helene Grøn
Location: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
Description: Amid commotion, two hands meet in the handing over of a pamphlet. One belongs to playwright and social reformer Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), the other to La Reine, the queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). The title of the engraving is given variously as Louis xvi à son peuple (Louis XVI to his people) and ‘Olympe de Gouges remettant sa Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne à Marie-Antoinette’ (Olympe de Gouges delivering her Rights of Woman to Marie-Antoinette). One title focuses on the king, reclining somewhat nonchalantly a carriage drawn by a ‘regal cock and a docile ewe’ (Cole 2011, 47), where the other places the women centre stage. De Gouges’ Déclaration is written in response to the French Assembly’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man. While its main aim is to make women equal citizens, de Gouges also tackles the question of love more directly by opposing religious marriage and calling the institution ‘the tomb of trust and love’ (2012, 254). The second title underscores that for de Gouges, there is little separation of the public and the private spheres when ‘the publicly protected rights of women reach into the household and the bedroom’ (Cole 2011, 141).
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Contributor: Gillian Dow
Location: Private collection
Description: The town of Joigny sits on the banks of the river Yonne, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. An hour and a half south of Paris, Joigny is a pretty town, which markets itself modestly as one of a hundred ‘plus beaux detours de France.’ The town’s interest, for a scholar of Romanticism, lies in its connections to Frances Burney (1752-1840), author of Evelina (1778), Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796). Her husband General d’Arblay was born in Joigny (1). In late 1800, seven years after he married Burney, d’Arblay learned that he had been removed from the proscribed list of French emigrés. He was hopeful that he would be able to recover £1,000 from his French property near Joigny, as well as secure a military pension. He left England – where he had been living in exile since 1792 – for Paris. Somewhat against her better judgement, on the 14 April 1802, Burney followed. She was accompanied by their son Alex, then seven, and by six-year-old Adrienne de Chavagnac, a ward of the Lockes of Norbury Park, who was returning to France to be reunited with her émigré parents. Burney did not return to England for over a decade, but when she did, in August 1812, she had the manuscript of what was to become her last, markedly European, novel The Wanderer (1814) in her possession.
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Contributor: Alice Rhodes
Location: The British Museum, London, UK
Description: In the 1790s, Britain was quite literally short on change. Insufficient supply of official coinage from the Royal Mint, combined with high levels of counterfeit money, led many business owners to issue their own coins, in order to pay increasingly large workforces. These private tokens, also known as commercial coins or Conder tokens, quickly became far more than currency. Free from official regulation, capable of being stamped with almost any design, and specifically intended to be circulated locally, they were soon used to advertise almost everything, from menageries to lawyers. And it was these same qualities which made them apt to carry political messages. This 1796 token, minted by Thomas Spence in the wake of the 1795 “Gagging Acts” features an image of radical orator John Thelwall on one side and an image of a “Free-born Englishman”, with shackled limbs and padlocked mouth on the other. But what can this coin say in 1796 that a “free-born Englishman” can’t?
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