Wife-abuse in eighteenth-century France


SVEC, 2009, Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1, xiv + 378p., 12 ill., £65 / €75 (hors taxe) / $110ISBN 978 0 7294 0955

In this interdisciplinary study, Trouille closely examines a wide range of texts on spousal abuse to show how lawyers and novelists adopted each other’s rhetorical strategies to present competing versions of the truth. These texts brought the traditionally private matter of wife-abuse into the public arena, and consequently served as an impetus for legal reform in the early years of the French Revolution.

Part I. Socio-historical and legal contexts
– Introduction: Scorned, battered and bruised: marriage and wife-abuse in eighteenth-century French fiction and society
– 1. Moderate correction, rule of thumb: the norms of spousal abuse in eighteenth-century France

Part II. Wife-abuse in the courts: separation cases from Des Essart’s Causes célèbres’ and Bellart’s ‘Mémoires’
– 2. For better or worse? Veneral disease as grounds for marital separation in the case of Mme Blé (Reims, 1757 and Paris, 1771)
– 3. A victim of her own naivety? The separation suit of the marquise de Mézières (Paris, 1775)
– 4. Battered wife or clever opportunist’ The separation case of Mme Rouches (Toulouse, 1782)
– 5. Challenging male violence and the double standard in the courts: the separation case of Mme Aubailly de La Berge (Paris, 1788)
– 6. Bellart’s critique of the 1792 divorce law in his defence of Mme de L’Orme (Paris, 1803) and M. Mandonnet (Troyes, 1805) Part III. Wife-abuse in eighteenth-century French fiction
– 7. ‘Until death do us part’: fact and fiction in Sade’sMarquise de Gange

– 8
. Buried alive: Genlis’s Gothic tale of marital violence in ‘Histoire de la duchesse de C***’
– 9. Truth stranger than fiction: wife-abuse in Rétif de la Bretonne’sIngénue Saxancour
Conclusion: Intersections of literature, law and life experience in accounts of wife-abuse