When I work on a new historical author, I like to look for inspiration in fiction, art or cultural artefacts. To get in the mood for Christine de Pizan I watched Dreyer's 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc and spent ages poring through medieval recipes in Le Menagier de Paris.
When it comes to Olympe, there are several fictionalised biographies, but they are, to be honest, all a bit dreary. Catel and Bocquet's graphic novel, Olympe de Gouges, on the other hand, is truly inspirational. The history is detailed and as accurate as can be expected in a fiction, the character of Olympe is likeable and really fits the tone of her writings. The black ink drawings which become darker and less detailed as the story gets bleaker, really bring Paris, especially, to life. Also, it's a long book (488 pages) so you can really get stuck into it!
Biographers, father and son
Sophie de Grouchy's first biographer was the civil servant, part-time historian Antoine Guillois. His book, La Marquise de Condorcet, sa famille, son salon, ses amis, portrays Sophie as a 'superior woman' praised for her beauty, her virtue and her intellect. Guillois dedicates his work to Sophie's grand nephew, the Vicomte de Grouchy.
Olympe de Gouges also had a biographer named Guillois, a young medical student who chose to write his thesis on women's psychology during the revolution, focusing on one case, a woman clearly suffering from paranoid delusions, according to his expert diagnostic.
Would it be too much of a coincidence if the two Guillois were related? It's by no means an uncommon name. In fact, in my searches, I discovered some Guillois of that period based in Turkey! But as it turns out, they are father and son, and here's the evidence on Guillois Junior's birth certificate (courtesy of a Guillois descendant , Jacques le Normand.
This is where I live blog about my new book project, an intellectual biography of three French Revolutionary women philosophers.