Isabelle de Charrière
|Isabelle de Charrière|
Portrait of Isabelle de Charrière by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, 1771.
20 October 1740|
Castle Zuylen, Utrecht Netherlands
|Died||27 December 1805
Le Pontet, Colombier, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
|Pen name||Belle van Zuylen, Belle de Zuylen, Zélide, Abbé de la Tour|
|Occupation||Novelist, poet, playwright|
Isabelle de Charrière (20 October 1740 – 27 December 1805), known as Belle van Zuylen in the Netherlands, née Isabella Agneta Elisabeth van Tuyll van Serooskerken, and [Madame] Isabelle de Charrière elsewhere, was a Dutch writer of the Enlightenment who lived the latter half of her life in Switzerland. She is now best known for her letters and novels, although she also wrote pamphlets, music and plays. She took a keen interest in the society and politics of her age, and her work around the time of the French Revolution is regarded as being of particular interest.
Isabelle van Tuyll van Serooskerken was born in Castle Zuylen near Utrecht in the Netherlands, to Diederik Jacob van Tuyll van Serooskerken (1707–1776), and Helena Jacoba de Vicq (1724–1768). She was the eldest of seven children. Her parents were described by the Scots author James Boswell, then a student in law in Utrecht and one of her suitors, as "one of the most ancient noblemen in the Seven Provinces" and "an Amsterdam lady, with a great deal of money." In winter they lived in their house in the city of Utrecht.
In 1750, Isabelle was sent to Geneva and travelled through Switzerland and France. Having spoken only French for a year, she had to relearn Dutch on returning home to the Netherlands. However, French would remain her preferred language for the rest of her life, which helps to explain why, for a long time, her work was not as well known in her country of birth as it otherwise might have been.
Isabelle enjoyed a much broader education than was usual for girls at that time, thanks to the liberal views of her parents who also let her study subjects like mathematics. By all accounts, she was a gifted student. Always interested in music, in 1785 she began studying with composer Niccolò Zingarelli.
At the age of 14 years she fell in love with the Roman Catholic Polish count Peter Donhöff. He was not interested in her. Disappointed, she left Utrecht for 18 months. As she grew older, various suitors appeared on the scene only to be rejected because they promised to visit her, but did not, or to withdraw themselves because she was superior. She saw marriage as a way to gain freedom but she also wanted to marry for love.
Invited specially by Anne Pollexfen Drake and also her husband lieutenant general George Eliott to come to their London home in Curzon Street, Mayfair, Isabelle did come by boat from Hellevoetsluis to Harwich 7 November 1766 accompanied by her brother Ditie, her maid Doortje and her valet Vitel.
Eventually, in 1771, she married Charles-Emmanuel de Charrière de Penthaz (1735–1808), the former tutor of her brother Willem René abroad from 1763 to 1766. Subsequently she was known as Isabelle de Charrière. They settled at Le Pontet in Colombier (near Neuchâtel) in Switzerland with her father-in-law François (1697–1780) and her two unmarried sisters-in-law Louise (1731–1810) and Henriette (1740–1814). The couple also spent significant amounts of time in Geneva and Paris.
Isabelle de Charrière kept up an extensive correspondence with numerous people, including intellectuals like David-Louis Constant d'Hermenches, James Boswell, Benjamin Constant and her German translator Ludwig Ferdinand Huber.
In 1760, Isabelle met David-Louis Constant d'Hermenches (1722–1785), a married Swiss officer regarded in society as a Don Juan. After much hesitation, Isabelle's need for self-expression overcame her scruples and, after a second meeting two years later, she began an intimate and secret correspondence with him for about 15 years. Constant d'Hermenches was to be one of her most important correspondents.
The Scottish writer James Boswell met her frequently in Utrecht and in Castle Zuylen in 1763-1764, when he studied law in Utrecht. He became a regular correspondent for several years after leaving the Netherlands, going on Grand Tour. He wrote her that he was not in love with her. She replied: "We agree, because I have no talent for subordination". In 1766 he did send a conditional proposal to her father after meeting her brother in Paris, but the fathers did not agree to a marriage.
In 1786, Mme de Charrière met Constant d'Hermenches' nephew, the writer Benjamin Constant, in Paris. He visited her in Colombier several times. There they wrote a epistolary novel together, and an exchange of letters began that would last until the end of her life. She had also an interesting correspondence with her German translator Ludwig Ferdinand Huber.
Isabelle de Charrière wrote novels, pamphlets and plays, and composed music. Her most productive period came only after she had been living in Colombier for a number of years. Themes included her religious doubts, the nobility and the upbringing of women.
Her first novel, Le Noble, was published in 1762. It was a satire against the nobility and although it was published anonymously, her identity was soon discovered and her parents withdrew the work from sale. Then she wrote a portrait of herself for her friends: Portrait de Mll de Z., sous le nom de Zélide, fait par elle-même. 1762. In 1784 she published two novels, Lettres neuchâteloises and Lettres de Mistress Henley publiée par son amie. Both were epistolaries, a form she continued to favour. In 1788, she published her first pamphlets about the political situation in the Netherlands, in France and Switzerland.
The French Revolution caused a number of nobles to flee to Neuchâtel and Mme de Charrière befriended some of them. But she also published works criticising the attitudes of the aristocratic refugees, most of whom she felt had learned nothing from the Revolution.
She wrote or at least planned words and music for several musical works, but none survive beyond fragments. She sent a libretto of Les Phéniciennes to Mozart, hoping that he would set it, but no reply is known. All of her musical works are included in volume 10 of her Œuvres complètes; these include six minuets for string quartet, nine piano sonatas, and ten airs and romances.
Critical publications of the original texts
- Œuvres complètes, critical edition by J-D. Candaux, C.P. Courtney, P. Dubois, S. Dubois, P. Thompson, J. Vercruysse, D.M. Wood. Amsterdam, G.A. van Oorschot, 1979–1984. 10 vols. 8190 p. ISBN 9789028205000
- Die wiedergefundene Handschrift: Victoire ou la vertu sans bruit. Hrsg. Magdalene Heuser. In: Editio. Internationales Jahrbuch für Editionswissenschaft. 11 (1997), p. 178–204.
- Early writings. New material from Dutch archives. Ed. Kees van Strien, Leuven, Éditions Peeters, 2005. VI-338 p. ISBN 978-90-429-1646-3
- Correspondances et textes inédits. Ed. Guillemette Samson, J-D. Candaux, J. Vercruysse et D. Wood. Paris, Honoré Champion, 2006 423 p. ISBN 978-2-7453-1310-2
- Letters written from Lausanne. Translated from the French. Bath, printed by R. Cruttwell and sold by C. Dilly, Poultry, London, 1799. 2 vols. viii, 175 p. + 200 p. Print On Demand by Gale Ecco, Print Editions, 2010.
- Four tales by Zélide. Translated and abridged by S[ybil]. M[arjory]. S[cott-Cutting] with an introduction by Geoffrey Scott. [The Nobleman, Mistress Henley, Letters from Lausanne, Letters from Lausanne-Caliste]. London, Constable, 1925. xxix, 263 p. Reprint by Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, NY, 1970. Reprint by Turtle Point Press, Chappaqua, NY, 1997. 304 p. ISBN 978-1-933527-17-8
- Letters from Mistress Henley published by her friend. Translation Philip Stewart and Jean Vaché. New York, The Modern Language Association of America, 1993. xxix, 42 p. ISBN 9780873527767
- Letters from Switzerland. [Letters from Neuchatel, Letters from Mistress Henley, Letters from Lausanne, Letters from Lausanne-Caliste]. Ed., translation and biography James Chesterman. Cambridge U.K., Carole Green Publishing, 2001. xii, 276 p. ISBN 9781903479032
- Three women. A novel by the abbé de la Tour. Translation Emma Rooksby. New York, The Modern Language Association of America, 2007. xii, 176 p. ISBN 9780873529419
- The Nobleman and Other Romances. [The Nobleman; Letters from Neuchâtel; Letters from Mistress Henley Published by Her Friend; Letters from Lausanne: Cécile; Eaglonette and Suggestina, or, On Pliancy; Émigré Letters; Fragments of Two Novels Written in English: A Correspondence, Letters from Peter and William; Constance's Story; Saint Anne], Translated, introduction and notes Caroline Warman. Cover ill. Joanna Walsh. New York, Penguin Classics, 2012. XXXIII, 439 p. ISBN 978-0-14-310660-9
- Honorine d'Userche [a novella by Abbé de la Tour], translator Caroline Omolesky, e-book, Messidor Press, 2013.
- Boswell in Holland, including his correspondence with Belle de Zuylen (Zélide). Ed. Frederick Pottle. 428 p. London: William Heinemann, 1952.
- Letter of Isabelle de Charrière to James Boswell 27 March 1768. Published in The General Correspondence of James Boswell (1766–1769), ed. Richard Cole, Peter Baker, Edinburgh University Press, 1993, vol.2, p. 40-41.
- There are no letters like yours. The correspondence of Isabelle de Charrière and Constant d'Hermences. Translated, with an introduction and annotations by Janet Whatley and Malcolm Whatley. Lincoln NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2000. xxxv, 549 p.
- The asteroid 9604 Bellevanzuylen was named in her honour in 1991 by Eric Walter Elst.
- The film Belle van Zuylen - Madame de Charrière was directed by Digna Sinke in 1993.
- The Belle van Zuylen Chair of Utrecht University, Netherlands, was held by Cecil Courtney (1995), Monique Moser-Verrey (April 2005), Nicole Pellegrin-Postel (October 2005)
- The annual Belle van Zuylen Lecture, on themes relating to literature and society, is part of the International Literature Festival City2Cities in Utrecht, delivered by contemporary authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger (2006), Jeanette Winterson (2007), Azar Nafisi (2009) and Paul Auster (2012).
- Philippe Godet: Madame de Charrière et ses amis. Genève, A. Jullien, 1906 (xiii,519 p. + 448 p.). Genève, Slatkine Reprints, 1973. Print-on-demand by Nabu Press, U.S.A., 2010.
- Geoffrey Scott. The portrait of Zélide. London, Constable, 1925. xiii, 215 p. Scott on Zélide : the portrait of Zélide. Introduction by Richard Holmes. London, Flamingo, 2002. Reprint by Turtle Point Press, New York, 2010. 256 p. with an introduction by Shirley Hazzard, afterword by Richard Dunn.
- Constance Thompson Pasquali, Madame de Charrière à Colombier : iconographie, Neuchâtel, Bibliothèque de la Ville, 1979
- C.P. Courtney. A preliminary bibliography of Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen). Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1980. 157 p.
- C.P. Courtney. Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen). A secondary bibliography. Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1982. 50 p.
- C.P. Courtney. Isabelle de Charrière and the 'Character of H.B. Constant'. A false attribution. In: French Studies (Oxford), 36 (1982), no. 3, p. 282-289.
- C.P. Courtney, Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen). A biography. Oxford, Voltaire Foundation, 1993. 810 p. ISBN 9780729404396
- Kathleen M. Jaeger, Male and Female Roles in the Eighteenth Century. The Challenge to Replacement and Displacement in the Novels of Isabelle de Charrière, New York, Peter Lang, 1994. XI, 241 pp. ISBN 978-0-8204-2179-7
- C.P. Courtney, Belle van Zuylen and Philosophy. Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht, 1995. 32 p.
- Jacquline Letzter, Intellectual tacking. Questions of education in the works of Isabelle de Charrière. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1998. 217 p. ISBN 978-9042002906
- Jacquline Letzter and Robert Adelson, Women Writing Opera: Creativity and Controversy in the Age of the French Revolution. Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001. xvii, 341 p. ISBN 978-0520226531
- Carla Alison Hesse, The other enlightenment: how French women became modern. Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2001. - XVI, 233p. ISBN 978-0691114804
- Vincent Giroud and Janet Whatley, Isabelle de Charrière. Proceedings of the international conference held at Yale University, 2002. New Haven CT. The Beinecke rare book and manuscript library, 2004. v, 151 p. ISBN 978-0845731604
- Jelka Samsom, Individuation and attachment in the works of Isabelle de Charrière New York, Peter Lang, 2005. ISBN 978-3039101870
- Monique Moser-Verrey, Isabelle de Charrière and the Novel in the 18th century. Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht, 2005. 32 p.
- Nicole Pellegrin, Useless or pleasant? Women and the writing of history at the time of Belle van Zuylen (1740–1805). Utrecht, University Utrecht, 2005. 32 p.
- Suzan van Dijk, Valérie Cossy, Monique Moser, Madeleine van Strien, Belle de Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière: Education, Creation, Reception. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2006, 343 p. ISBN 978-90-420-1998-0
- Gillian E. Dow, Translators, interpreters, mediators: women writers 1700-1900. [Mary Wollstonecraft, Isabelle de Charrière, Therese Huber, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Fatma Aliye, Anna Jameson, Anne Gilchrist] Oxford, Peter Lang, 2007. 268 p. ISBN 978-3-03911-055-1
- Heidi Bostic, The fiction of enlightenment: women of reason in the French eighteenth century [Francoise de Graffigny, Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, Isabelle de Charrière]. Newark DE, University of Delaware Press, 2010. 270 p. ISBN 978-1611491302
- Lettre de Zuylen et du Pontet 1976-2005
- Cahiers ISABELLE DE CHARRIÈRE / BELLE DE ZUYLEN Papers 2006-
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Isabelle de Charrière.|
- Madame de Charrière website (in Dutch and French)
- Belle van Zuylen website (in Dutch, site of the Genootschap Belle van Zuylen)
- Bibliographic database 1: by name to 2007
- Complementary bibliografic database 2: by year, with additions before 2007
- Compositions of Isabelle de Charrière
- Womenwriters database Isabelle de Charrière
- Letters of the young Isabelle de Charrière in the Utrecht archive Netherlands
- Four letters to her nephew Charles Louis van Tuyll van Serooskerken 1797-1799 in the National Archive of the Netherlands
- Works of Isabelle de Charrière
- Revised thesis of Dennis Wood 1998 The novels of isabelle de Charrière
- SIEFAR Dictionary 2002
- RNW broadcast The Goddess of the Netherlands
- RNW broadcast Passport to literature: Belle de Zuylen
- Works by Isabelle de Charrière at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Isabelle de Charrière at Internet Archive