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Laurence Vanoflen

Rousseau, Charrière… et Fiévée :
l’économie des alliances. Regards croisés sur l’inégalité sociale


In the history of ideas, Isabelle de Charrière is still too often catalogued among the conservative readers of Rousseau. This article focuses on her Eloge de Jean-Jacques Rousseau in order to challenge this view as well as it questions the usual notion that her knowledge of Rousseau was superficial. The novels she wrote during the revolutionary era show, if it were necessary, how consistently she was involved in the issues that were central to Rousseau’s thinking: his rejection of an “extreme inequality” (cf. his article about “Economie politique” from 1755), for instance, such as Julie articulates it in the utopia of Clarens reappears, rather unexpectedly, at the beginning of Henriette et Richard [1792-93] through the words of the old Giroud. Charrière’s insistence on moderation during the years 1789-1792 still informs the unfinished (and long lost) Victoire ou la vertu sans bruit [1803?], in which one can detect an ironic rewriting of another novel, La Dot de Suzette (1798) by Joseph Fiévée, a journalist in favour of monarchy. Charrière’s two novels locate within the sentiments she endeavours to promote – sympathy and pity versus Fiévée’s emphasis on gratitude – the deep kinship that unites her to the author of the Contrat Social.

SvD, December 2012

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