Silence and the women
Manon Roland, we saw, did not like to write in her own name. Her reasons were as follows:
"Never have I had the slightest temptation of becoming an author; very early, I saw that any woman who would earn this title lost much more than she gained. Men do not like her, and her own sex criticize her: if her works are bad, she is mocked, and quite rightly. If they are good, they are taken from her. If one is forced to recognize that she did produce the best part of it, her character, her morals, her behavior and her talents are dissected to the extent that her wit’s repute can be balanced against the weight given to her weaknesses."
And she made it clear to others that she knew just how inappropriate it would be for her to become a published author in her own name:
“I know full well, Sir, that silence is woman’s ornament; the Greeks thought so and Mrs. Dacier wrote it, and despite our century’s general opposition to this sort of morality, three quarters of sensible men, husbands especially, still live by it.”
(Manon Roland, 21 March 1789, letter to Varenne de Fenille),
The anecdote Roland alludes to is reported as follows: Mrs Dacier, when asked to autograph the album of a learned German traveller, seeing the names of some very famous writers and scientists above hers, chose to copy this verse from Sophocles out of modesty. (Encyclopediana, Paris: Panckoucke, 1741.)
Anne Dacier was in fact a classical scholar of some note, who worked first with her father, and then with her husband on a number of translation of Greek and Roman texts. She became famous for her translation of Homer, and for her preface to it, which was translated into English. She also wrote on aesthetics.
Madame Roland was well aware of Dacier's success as an author. When, as a child, she'd read Plutarch's Parallel Lives she used the nine-volume integral translation produced by Anne and Andre Dacier in 1721. (Note, however, that only Andre Dacier is acknowledged as author on the title page).
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This is where I live blog about my new book project, an intellectual biography of three French Revolutionary women philosophers.