The Letters on Sympathy were published in 1798 as an appendix to Sophie de Grouchy's translation of the final edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and of On the Origins of Language. However, we have good evidence that the Letters on Sympathy were drafted earlier, in 1792 as she sent copies of them to her friend Etienne Dumont in the spring 1792, and her husband, Nicolas de Condorcet refers to them in his 1793 ‘Advice to his Daughter’.
These may, however have been early drafts, and it is likely that Grouchy would have wanted to revise them somewhat before publication six years later. But did the Letters exist even before hand? Pierre Louis Roederer, idelogue and member of Grouchy's circle after the Revolution notes, in his Memoirs and in a review of the Letters published on 14 July 1798, the existence of an earlier manuscript which he had seen in the hands of Sieyes in 1789 or 1790. Although it's possible that a draft existed then, the fact that Roederer himself cannot remember the exact date (1789, or 1790?), that his testimony occurs nine years after the fact (and they were a busy nine years!) and that we have a dated letter from Grouchy to Dumont about her writing the manuscript, 1792 is a more reliable date.
Roederer, although he mostly praises the Letters in his review does have some criticism. She ought not, he says, to have addressed the Letters to Condorcet and taken the tone of an instructor, as Condorcet would already have known and understood everything she could possibly write! (But in fact, we have good reasons to think that the C*** of the Letters was Cabanis, not Condorcet). On the other hand, Roederer does not accept another criticism, namely that Grouchy's style lacks the gracefulness of a woman's writing or the authority of a man's. Her style, he says, is adapted to her subject. He points out that sentiment and frivolity is not conducive to a clear discussion of thorny subjects. Madame du Chatelet, he adds, did not write her Physics using the stylistic 'tricks' of Madame de Sévigné, and Sévigné herself did not use these 'tricks' when she wrote about human understanding and moral sentiments. He concludes that Grouchy's style, although not always 'pure' is clear, simple and without pretensions.
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