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Alicia Montoya

Private versus public virtue
Miss R. Roberts’s writings, between British and French models of femininity

From her first major publication, a translation of Select Moral Tales by Marmontel (1763), which she dedicated to Elizabeth Montagu, to her own Sermons by a Lady (1770) and her continuation of Françoise de Graffigny’s Letters by a Peruvian Princess (1774), Miss R. Roberts presented herself explicitly as a woman author who sought to “facilitate the accomplishment of her sex”. In doing so, she not only created links with fellow British authors, but she also drew inspiration from women writers on the continent, most prominent among them Jeanne Leprince de Beaumont (whose Triomphe de la vérité she translated in 1775). In espousing a pedagogical programme clearly inspired by Leprince de Beaumont’s works, she sought to create texts worthy “to be put into the hands of young ladies at school”, but was ever careful to confine her efforts to “private virtue”, leaving the realm of “public virtue” to others. This may explain in part her critical attitude toward another woman author, Françoise de Graffigny, whose work she sought to rewrite on a number of critical points. Thus, close study of Roberts’s translations reveals the fault lines in transnational female networks which, despite their general unity of purpose, nonetheless display (national) differences in their conception of the role to be played by the woman author in “facilitating the accomplishment of her sex”.

SvD, April 2008

  • Conferences > NEWW international conferences > Chawton 2008 > Montoya

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