Letters Written in France

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Letters Written in France
AuthorHelen Maria Williams
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreTravel literature, novel
Publication date

Letters Written in France is a series of letters written by English writer Helen Maria Williams, first published in 1790. The considerably longer title under which it was originally published is Letters written in France: in the summer 1790, to a friend in England: containing various anecdotes relative to the French revolution; and memoirs of Mons. and Madame du F---- (Fossé). The twenty-six letters cover Williams' visits to various locations associated with the Revolution, a true history of the du Fossé family and her own personal views alongside sociological observations.


The structure of Letters can be roughly divided into three unequal parts:

The Fête de la Fédération, on the eve of which the Letters begins
  • Letters I–XV: Williams' narrative begins at a Mass at Notre Dame de Paris on the eve of the Fête de la Fédération, a celebration to commemorate the first anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille. From here the letters describe figures of the Revolution; they also chart her visits to sites that include the ruins of the Bastille, the National Assembly and the Palace of Versailles. It finishes several weeks later with a journey from Paris to Rouen.
  • Letter XVI–XXII: Williams offers the history of the du Fossé family. It chronicles the younger du Fossé's decision to go against the will of his father in his choice of who to marry, and the various abuses he suffers by him thereafter as he tries to escape his strict control. A true history with the 'air of romance', it serves as a fable for the Revolution.
  • Letters XXIII–XXVI: The narrative returns to the eyewitness epistolary form with a focus on England, to which Williams prepares to return, and then does.[1]


  1. ^ Kelly, Gary. Women, Writing and Revolution: 17901827. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 35.



Williams, Helen Maria (2001). Neil Fraistat, Susan S. Lanser (ed.). Letters Written in France. Broadview Press.