Update — Autumn 2023

I. EE Edition of Correspondence

This autumn, EE has extended its collection of letters and documents relating to Francoise Paulet de Graffigny, Madame de Graffigny, by adding 173 letters from Volume 9 of The Correspondence of Madame de Graffigny, edited by English Showalter, bringing the total number of her letters published in EE over 1350.

These letters document the period of March 1748 to April 1749, covering a highly significant period in Madame de Graffigny’s life. Her most significant literary work, the epistolary novel, Lettres D’Une Peruvienne, was published anonymously in late 1747. Lettres is a sentimental novel about a Peruvian princess kidnapped by Spanish conquistadors before being brought to 18th century Paris, where she is confronted by the cultural norms of duplicitousness, suppression of women, and fashionable hypocrisy. While the period of the book’s initial publication is not covered by her letters as her primary correspondent and confidante, Francois Antoine Devaux was staying with her in Paris at the time, we pick up the story in March 1748, with the success of the book, which its author initially refers to as ‘Zilia’, elevating Graffigny into a whole new social circle. She can be seen picking up friends and connections across the aristocracy and intelligentsia. Primary among these were the family of Jules-Nicolas Du Vaucel, treasurer of the king’s gifts, who invited Graffigny on several trips to his estate at La Norville. While a valuable connection, Graffigny disliked his haughty attitude with his household staff, dismissively nicknaming him ‘ugly Plutus’ (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Tuesday, 27 August 1748). She also made the much more welcome acquaintances of Madame de Montigny, widow to the maitre d’hotel of the Duc ‘Orleans (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Sunday, 17 March 1748) and Marc-Antoine Turgot (1668-1748), both of whom she praises for hospitality and gentility (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Monday, 8 July 1748). Her circle also extended to include the academician Charles Pinot Duclos, whom she nicknamed ‘Gormas’ (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Monday, 27 May 1748) and fellow novelist François Augustin Paradis de Moncrif whom Graffigny reports praising her creation (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Sunday, 28 July 1748). She also makes the acquaintances of art critic Étienne La Font de Saint-Yenne (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Thursday, 2 May 1748) and journalist-historian, the abbé Raynal, with whom she discusses projects such as his planned translation of Pope (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Thursday, 2 May 1748) and whose own memoirs intersect with Graffigny’s letters as a key resource for scholars engaging with their intellectual scene. These letters also naturally cover Graffigny’s own reflections on the aftermath of Lettres Peruviennes, including discussions with Devaux about its reception (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Saturday, 27 April 1748) and response to a planned theatrical adaptation, less than a year after its release. (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Saturday, 13 April 1748). Not all of Graffigny’s projects were as successful as Lettres, however, and the letters here also attest to several failed commercial ventures, including purchasing and maintaining a vineyard in Tuscany (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Monday, 22 April 1748), which remained at the level of speculation and discussion. Another, ultimately more successful, endeavour which underpins Graffigny’s life at this point is her attempt to secure a partner for her companion, Anne Catherine de Ligniville. As we know, Ligniville would ultimately marry the philosopher Claude Adrien Helvetius in 1751 and establish a significant intellectual salon of her own, but the process was not a simple one, with Graffigny despairing at Helvetius’ reluctance towards the match (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Sunday, 6 April 1749), and reflecting that it might be an impossible endeavour (Françoise Paule Huguet de Graffigny to François Antoine Devaux, Tuesday, 22 April 1749).

II. New Biographies

This update has added the biography of Felix-Yves Toussaint (born before 1710–died after 1736), French Financier and Courtier — Son of Joseph Toussaint (born c. 1680) and Antoinette Hennesienne (born c. 1685). Married (1735) Barbe Mangoin (born 1706), with issue: François-Emmanuel Toussaint and Joseph-Félix Toussaint. After a serving as director of the saltworks in Nancy, Lorraine until 1736, Félix-Yves took a role as Treasury advisor to Emperor Francis I, following the intercession of his brother, fellow imperial advisor, Francois-Joseph Toussaint (1689-1762), who secured him an ennoblement in 1736.

III. New Articles

Françoise de Graffigny, volume 9, 1748–1749

Olivia Russell, DPhil student in Modern Languages at Oxford, with a research focus on 18th century French biography, takes through the key themes, events, and relationships which Madame de Graffigny describes in her letters in 1748 and 1749, as the success of her most famous publication, the Lettres Peruviennes pushes her into a whole new social and intellectual millieu. read more…

Electronic Enlightenment Threads: Chess

In the newest entry in our ‘Threads’ series, tracing ephemeral or unusual topics across the letters in the Electronic Enlightenment collection, Content Editor Jack Orchard looks at discussions of the game of chess, how the game itself changed over the period covered by the collection, how different thinkers used it in metaphor and discussion, and how it was tied in with philosophical discussions of epistemology and modernity. read more...

IV. Technical changes

We have added over 3,500 links from our manuscript instances to the recently launched Manuscripts and Archives at Oxford University.

V. News

Friday Coffee Gathering at the Weston Library

On 18 August 2023, Electronic Enlightenment gave a talk at the Bodleian Libraries’ Friday Coffee Gathering series at the Weston Library, talking about some of the materials from their Special Collections which we have published in EE. read more...

Bodleian Staff Conference

We were delighted to be given an opportunity to speak at the Bodleian Libraries Staff Conference on 13–14 September 2023. This annual event provides staff in the various projects and institutions that live under the banner of ‘Bodleian Libraries’ with an opportunity to learn about one another’s work, and the larger scale strategies and developments at our library. This year featured keynotes from Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden and Director for Academic Library Services Ant Brewerton focusing on future strategy and the connection between staff, goals, and the success of the organisation. Electronic Enlightenment presented on both days of the conference, showcasing the project, explaining our innovative approaches to epistolary metadata, and outlining some of our future plans. The talk was well–received and we are excited to be collaborating more with our Bodleian colleagues moving forward, working with the Imaging Studio and metadata specialists in the Bodleian Digital Library.

Electronic Enlightenment at the British Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies Annual Conference, 2024

Electronic Enlightenment has been given the opportunity to deliver a workshop to delegates at the British Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies Annual Conference, at 11.30 on the 6th of January (Session 63) — in keeping with the conference theme of ‘Work and Play’, we will be inviting workshop participants to explore our resource both through the lens of directed research questions, and as the world of esoteric, witty, and human relationships with which it can reward an idle peruse. After introducing our collection and sharing some insights on the way we adapt our printed sources into database-ready documents and biographies, we will split attendees into two groups. The first will be given a set of research questions to answer, which highlight some of the key themes of our collection like the histories of science, political communities, and the business of writing. The second will be given a series of loose themes or topics, like those discussed in our ‘Threads’ series, like sports, coffee, or hats, and invited to see how looking at Electronic Enlightenment as a whole can let us see the personalities and interests of our correspondents in new and interesting ways.

See BSECS 53rd Annual Conference “Work and Play” for the full programme and details on how to register.

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