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Isabelle de Charrière et son contexte historique


This conference, organised to mark the bicentenary of the death of Belle de Zuylen, took place within the framework of a research project financed by NWO (Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research) “The International Reception of Women’s Writing, 1700-1900”, which has been underway at the University of Utrecht since September 2004.
Belle de Zuylen is one among hundreds of contemporary women who took up the pen not only to correspond with friends and family, but also to get non-private writings published and thus reach a wider readership. Most of these women are little known today, but we must not forget that not so long ago the same could be said of Belle de Zuylen, and that it is owing to the tenacity of Simone and Pierre Dubois and the co-operation of Geert van Oorschot that her Œuvres complètes have succeeded in reaching a very wide public.
Among all these female authors, Belle de Zuylen is one of those who reveal the existence of links between one woman writer and another: she not only read and reread La Fontaine, Molière, Voltaire and Rousseau, but also, and with special interest, women writers such as Mme de Sévigné, Mme de Staal-Delaunay, Elizabeth Inchbald and Betje Wolff. Incidentally, she did not hesitate to severely criticise some of them, such as Mme de Genlis, Mme de Staël and Fanny Burney.
She herself was not admired only by female readers. But one cannot help but be struck by the fact that before Simone Dubois, it was Marie Loke, first woman to be assistant professor at a Dutch university in the early twentieth century, who introduced Belle de Zuylen’s œuvre during her inaugural lecture at Groningen. Conversely, Sainte-Beuve apparently failed to convince his contemporary and emulator, the celebrated Dutch critic Conrad Busken Huet, of the excellence of his former countrywoman.

SvD, July 2008

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Isabelle de Charrière > Suzan van Dijk

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