Eudora (1781-1858) was born one year after Manon married Roland de la Platiere. The pregnancy and birth were reasonably straightforward and Manon elected to feed the baby herself, following Rousseau’s advice in Emile. When she thought her milk had dried, she turned to her husband for advice. He visited an orphanage and reported that infants there were fed beef stock mixed with cow’s milk, dripped through a sponge. Fortunately for Eudora, her mother’s milk had not in fact dried.
Once she was a little older, her parents decided that it was safe for her mother to travel – she had family business to attend to in Versailles – and to leave Eudora in the care of her father. In a letter he reported that he let her play on the floor of his study while he worked, and that she had somehow gotten hold of a pair of scissors and some of his socks, which resulted in pretty red ribbons.
By the time they moved to Le clos in the mid 80s, the couple devised an educational program for their daughter based on Rousseau’s works. Conveniently, they must have forgot that Rousseau’s educational precepts only really applied to boys!
In any case, Manon was not impressed with her daughter’s intellect and she wrote to her husband:
We mustn’t pretend, your daughter is sensitive, she loves me, she will be sweet, but she does not have a single idea... [...] no promise of any wit. She embroidered a pretty work box for me and she seems good with a needle, but she doesn’t appear to have any taste, and I am starting to believe that we should not expect too much of her.
When Manon was taken to l’Abbaye, in May 1793, her daughter stayed behind with the family’s servant, Marguerite. While in prison, her mother arranged for their friend, Bosc, to be her guardian in the event of hers and her husband’s death. And the even did come a few months later.
Bosc took charge of the twelve year old’s education. A year and a half later, they were considering marriage. Bosc, in a letter to a friend, represents it as her idea, but one he is considering as he finds so ‘promising’ and ‘interesting’. Nonetheless the marriage does not happen and Eudora is adopted by another friend of her mother’s Champagneux. The latter, a family man, cannot take the child for himself, but he married her off to one of his son. Eudora was 15 and he husband, Pierre-Leon, 20.
The couple had two daugthers, Zelia (1799-1880) who had herself had three daughters and one son and Malvina (1800-1834). It is likely that there are descendants of Zelia still alive, but I have not been able to trace them.
When Malvina died suddenly at the age of 34, her mother turned to religion and became a recluse.
Bosc gave Eudora her mother’s papers around that time. but it was Zelia and her children who later re-discovered Manon’s life, works and correspondence. They collaborated with Faugere to publish a new edition of the Memoirs, and donated the manuscripts to the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. Many of these can now be read on Gallica.
This is where I live blog about my new book project, an intellectual biography of three French Revolutionary women philosophers.