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Des gouverneurs et gouvernantes suisses


A study of the Swiss educative presence in the Netherlands of the eighteenth century entails a focus on domestic education, which most often escapes observation. Being obliged to adopt an empirical approach, we have drawn from the entourage of Belle van Zuylen and from the Livre du Recteur de l’Académie de Genève. This has yielded a limited sample of male and female educators: few women, many more men.
Jeanne-Louise Prevost’s correspondence with her pupil, following her service in the Van Tuyll family, provides an exceptional portrait of a governess acting as mentor from a distance. Additional material confirms that the intellectual training of some young girls bears comparison with that of boys. The biographical notes found the Livre du Recteur make it possible to list twenty or so tutors and compile a reliable profile.
These sons of commoners, from the Pays de Vaud and from Geneva, three quarters of whom were former Protestant theological students, seem hardly interested in the teaching profession. They nevertheless contributed to the education and the relative frenchification of the Dutch elite, but their epistolary exchanges rather display their thirst for social recognition. If most of them wished to transform this lay novitiate into a fixed income, the most gifted of them also played a significant role in the Europe in the Age of the Enlightenment, and through their works, tried to gain recognition as members of the Republic of Letters.

SvD, July 2008

  • Publications > Volumes WomenWriters > Isabelle de Charrière > André Bandelier

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