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Sophie de Condorcet

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Sophie de Grouchy
Sophie de Condorcet
Marie-Louise-Sophie de Grouchy

(1764-04-08)8 April 1764
Died8 September 1822(1822-09-08) (aged 58)
Paris, France
Other namesMadame de Condorcet
Known forsalon hostess
(m. 1786; died 1794)

Sophie de Condorcet (1764 in Meulan – 8 September 1822 in Paris), also known as Sophie de Grouchy and best known as Madame de Condorcet, was a prominent French salon hostess from 1789 to the Reign of Terror, and again from 1799 until her death in 1822. She was also a philosopher[1] and the wife of the mathematician and philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet, who died during the Reign of Terror. Despite his death and the exile of her brother, Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy, between 1815 and 1821, she maintained her own identity and was well-connected and influential before, during, and after the French Revolution.

As a hostess, Madame de Condorcet was popular for her kind heart, beauty, and indifference to a person's class or social origins. Unlike that of her fellow-Girondist hostess Madame Roland, Madame de Condorcet's salon always included other women, notably Olympe de Gouges. Condorcet was also a writer and a translator, being highly educated for her day, and was fluent in English and Italian.[2] Her most important philosophical writing is The Letters on Sympathy, which was published in 1798.[3] She was also an influential translator of and commenter on works by Thomas Paine and Adam Smith.



Marie-Louise-Sophie de Grouchy was the daughter of François-Jacques de Grouchy, 1st Marquis de Grouchy (born 1715), a former page of Louis XV, and his wife Marie-Gilberte-Henriette Fréteau de Pény,[4] daughter of Michel Louis Fréteau de Pény, Seigneur de Vaux-le-Pénil. She was the elder sister of the Napoleonic Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy.

In 1786 Sophie de Grouchy married the famous mathematician and philosopher Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (17 September 1743 – 29 March 1794).[5][6] Then 21 or 22, she was an acknowledged beauty; he was 42 and Inspector-General of the Mint and a prominent French Academician. Although there was a twenty-year age difference, the two shared many intellectual interests, and had a strong and happy marriage.

The salon


After her marriage, Madame de Condorcet started a famous salon at Hôtel des Monnaies in Paris, opposite the Louvre, and later at the Rue de Lille in Paris, that[clarification needed] was attended by, among many others, many foreign visitors including Thomas Jefferson,[7] British aristocrats Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope, David Murray, 7th Viscount Stormont (later 2nd Earl of Mansfield), the economist Adam Smith, the Marquis de Beccaria, Turgot, the writer Pierre Beaumarchais, the pamphleteer Olympe de Gouges, the writer and hostess Germaine de Staël and many French philosophers. This salon played an important role in the rise of the Girondin movement that stressed the rights of women.

Sophie de Condorcet allowed the Cercle Social — an association with the goal of equal political and legal rights for women — to meet at her house. Its members included women's rights advocate Olympe de Gouges who had published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen (1791). It has been argued that Sophie de Condorcet's own interest in women's rights were responsible for her husband's arguments for greater rights for women in the ten-page essay "Sur l’admission des femmes au droit de cité" (3 July 1790). Unfortunately, this essay had little influence in its day, being overshadowed by the more passionate essays by British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (who visited Paris from 1791 to 1793) and de Gouges; the latter for certain attended Madame de Condorcet's salons.

Proscription and death of the Marquis de Condorcet


Claire Tomalin's The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft mentions their sad history. The Marquis de Condorcet denounced the new Jacobin constitution which had no safeguards of the kind envisaged by him and the Girondins, and then went into hiding for eight months. His wife visited him secretly. Along with his friends, she encouraged de Condorcet to continue to write while in hiding. During this period, 1793–1794, he composed his most famous work— Esquisse d'un Tableau Historique des Progrès de l'Esprit Humain[8] (Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind). He also wrote Avis d'un Proscrit à sa Fille[8] for his young daughter.

While the Marquis was in hiding, his wife filed for divorce, with his secret consent. Their relationship remained strong, but due to laws allowing the government to confiscate the property of proscribed citizens, a divorce would enable his wife and daughter to keep their family assets.

The Marquis, hearing of a coming raid, lost his nerve and fled his friend's roof, believing that his presence had been detected. He approached the country home of the Suards hoping they would shelter him, but Suard refused him shelter, claiming that a patriot servant in their home would betray Condorcet. Mme. Suard, with whom Condorcet had once been in love and had exchanged letters with for many years, wrote afterwards in a very sentimental tone (probably falsely, as she had been upset with him ever since his marriage to Sophie) of her guilt and wishes that she could have protected him.[citation needed] He was discovered shortly afterwards in a tavern at the edge of the city.[9] The suspicious peasants there handed him over to the authorities, and he was found dead after the first night in prison.

Although he might have died of hardship, an embolism, or other natural causes, most historians today believe that he poisoned himself, possibly with the help of his sister-in-law's lover Cabanis.[6][10] According to Tomalin, Sophie de Condorcet was not informed about his death until several months later.[clarification needed]

Madame de Condorcet had his last works published posthumously, starting with the Sketch or Equisse in 1795.[11]

Translations and the revival of the salon


Sophie de Condorcet was rendered penniless by her husband's proscription and his death which came before their divorce. Her financial circumstances compelled to support not only herself and her then four-year-old daughter Eliza, but also her younger sister, Charlotte de Grouchy.[8] Madame de Condorcet was obliged to open a shop[clarification needed] to survive, and put aside her writing and translation work.

After the end of the Jacobin Terror a few months later in Thermidor of the year II (July 1794), de Condorcet published a translation of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments[8] (1759) in 1798, adding eight letters, Lettres sur la Sympathie, commenting upon this work. This became the standard French translation for the next two centuries. De Condorcet's eight letters on sympathy[12] were however ignored by historians of economic thought, and were just recently translated into English (Brown, 2008). In 1799, de Condorcet also arranged to publish her husband's Éloges des Academiciens, and was finally able to revive her salon at the former home of another salon hostess Madame Helvétius at Auteuil (Guillois 1897, pp. 94, 177).

De Condorcet worked with her brother-in-law, the philosopher and doctor Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis (who had married her sister[8] Charlotte some time between 1794 and 1800), and with Joseph Garat to publish her husband's complete works in 21 volumes between 1801 and 1804.[11] She adhered to the end to her husband's political views, and under the Consulate and Empire, her salon became a meeting place for those opposed to the autocratic regime.[8] Sophie de Condorcet survived the French Revolution, the Directory, and the era of Napoleon, to witness the revival of reaction under the restored Bourbons.[clarification needed]

Life during the Napoleonic regime


De Condorcet remained active as a salon hostess, and in promoting her late husband's political views.

Sophie de Condorcet died in Paris on 8 September 1822.[5] Even at the end, she was determined to preserve Condorcet's memory through his works, and was preparing to bring out a new edition.[11]

Eliza Condorcet-O'Connor


The de Condorcets had one daughter Alexandrine Louise Sophie de Caritat de Condorcet (b 1790/1-1859), who was called Eliza (or Liza, or Elisa) for short. She survived to marry on 4 July 1807 an exiled Irish revolutionary, Arthur O'Connor (1763/5-1852, born in Mitchelstown, in County Cork).[13][14] At 44 (more than twice her age), he was almost as old as Eliza's mother.[15][unreliable source?][16]

He was later called General Condorcet-O'Connor, and achieved some standing with Napoleon. By a strange coincidence, Eliza's maternal uncle, Grouchy, had commanded the army forces in the abortive invasion of Ireland of 1796–1797.

Eliza and Arthur Condorcet-O'Connor's efforts took over where Eliza's mother had left off,[11] publishing Eliza's father's works in twelve volumes in 1847–1849.

Eliza (or Elisa) and Arthur had five children, including three sons, all of whom died before their father in 1852.[16] Only one son Daniel (1810–1851) married and left posterity.[17]

Children of Arthur O'Connor and Elisa de Condorcet:

  • Daniel O'Connor (1810–1851) He married 1843 Ernestine Duval du Fraville (1820–1877, who died at Cannes[18]), and had two sons, Arthur O'Connor, and Fernand O'Connor.[19] Arthur served in the French army, married and had two daughters. The elder daughter Arthur's younger daughter Brigitte O'Connor (1880–1948) was the mother of the French poet Patrice de la Tour du Pin (1911–1975). Arthur's younger daughter has many living descendants through both sons.
    • Arthur O'Connor (1844–1909) md 1878 Marguerite de Ganay (1859–1940), 2 daughters
      • Elisabeth O’Connor, called Jane by her uncle Fernand;[20] she married Alexandre de La Taulotte
      • Brigitte Emilie Fernande O'Connor (1880–1948) married 1904 comte (Rene Thomas Ernest) François de La Tour du Pin (1878–1914, killed at the Battle of the Marne). They had two sons and one daughter.
        • Aymar de la Tour du Pin. Marquis de la Tour du Pin-Chambly (1906–1979) md Pss Maximilienne de Croy (1909–2001), and had children.
        • Patrice de La Tour du Pin (1911–1975), who married and left children.
        • Philis de la Tour du Pin
    • Fernand O'Connor (1847–1905) who was a brigade general and served in Africa. He was a Knight of the Legion of Honour.
  • two other sons, two daughters

Daniel's descendants served as officers in the French army.[21] According to Clifford D. Conner (biographer of Arthur O'Connor), the O'Connor descendants still live at Chateau du Bignon.[22]


  1. ^ Berges, Sandrine (2019), "Sophie de Grouchy", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 8 March 2022
  2. ^ Vicki Kondelik (1997). "Review of "City of Darkness, City of Light" by Marge Piercy". www-personal.umich.edu.[better source needed]
  3. ^ "The Letters on Sympathy" (PDF). earlymoderntexts.com. 1798.
  4. ^ Robinet, Jean-François. Condorcet, sa vie, son œuvre (in French). Paris. p. 332.
  5. ^ a b "Marquis de Condorcet". Nndb.com. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de CARITAT, marquis de CONDORCET". www.academie-francaise.fr. Archived from the original on 14 June 2007.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e f Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 852.
  9. ^ Manuel, Frank Edward (1979). Utopian Thought in the Western World. Harvard University Press. pp. 487–491.
  10. ^ "Sophie de Grouchy, marquise de Condorcet | List of political and feminist economists | Political & Feminist Economists". Politicalandfeministeconomists.com. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d de Lagrave, Jean-Paul (2004). "Sophie de Condorcet, l'égérie du bonheur" [Sophie de condorcet, the muse of happiness]. Dix-Huitième Siècle (in French). 36 (1): 87–98. doi:10.3406/dhs.2004.2597. INIST 17200149.
  12. ^ here [1][dead link][full citation needed]
  13. ^ "SEARC'S WEB GUIDE - Arthur O'Connor (1763-1852)". Archived from the original on 14 July 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Clifford D. Conner. Arthur O'Connor: The Most Important Irish Revolutionary You May Never Have Heard Of, iUniverse, 2009 – 340 pages. See p. 182 for marriage date and ages of bride and groom
  16. ^ a b "Arthur O'Connor" Archived 11 September 2020 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  17. ^ "- Un peu d'histoire". Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012. "The O'Connor-Condorcet couple had five children, only one of whom, Daniel O'Connor, left a posterity: two sons, including General Arthur O'Connor, who married Marguerite Elizabeth de Ganay in 1878. From this union, two daughters were born: the first, Elizabeth O'Connor, married Alexandre de La Taulotte; the second, Brigitte O'Connor, to Count François de La Tour du Pin who gave her three children: Philis, Aymar and François de La Tour du Pin."
  18. ^ NEWS BY THE SAN FRANCISCO MAIL. New Zealand Tablet, Rōrahi V, Putanga 218, 29 Pipiri 1877, Page 7]
  19. ^ "Daniel O'Connor". Geni.com. 19 August 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  20. ^ Newspaper report in the Pittsburgh Press, 21 June 1903
  21. ^ "Irish historical portraits". Gaelart.net. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  22. ^ Clifford D. Conner. Arthur O'Connor: The Most Important Irish Revolutionary You May Never Have Heard Of p. 185

In French

  • Madeleine Arnold-Tétard, Sophie de Grouchy, marquise de Condorcet : la dame de cœur, Paris, Christian, 2003
  • M. d’Arvor, Les femmes illustres de la France : Madame de Condorcet (1764–1822), Paris, P. Boulinier, Librairie Moderne, 1897
  • Thierry Boissel, Sophie de Condorcet, femme des Lumières, 1764–1822, Paris, Presses de la Renaissance, 1988
  • Antoine Guillois, La marquise de Condorcet: sa famille, son salon, ses amis, 1764–1822, Paris, P. Ollendorff, 1897
  • Charles Léger, Captives de l'amour, d'après des documents inédits; lettres intimes de Sophie de Condorcet, d'Aimée de Coigny et de quelques autres cœurs sensibles, Paris, C. Gaillandre, 1933
  • Jules Michelet, Les Femmes de la Révolution available from Project Gutenberg
  • Henri Valentino, Madame de Condorcet; ses amis et ses amours, 1764–1822, Paris, Perrin, 1950

In English

  • Barbara Brookes, The Feminism of Condorcet and Sophie de Grouchy, 189 Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 297–361 (1980).
  • Karin Brown, "Sophie Grouchy de Condorcet on Moral Sympathy and Social Progress" (Dissertation, City University of New York, 1997).
  • Steven Kale, French Salons: High Society and Political Sociability from the Old Regime to the Revolution of 1848. The Johns Hopkins University Press (8 March 2004)
  • Karin Brown, "Sophie de Grouchy, Letters on Sympathy (1798)." Letters translated by James McClellan. American Philosophical Society 98, pt. 4.

Sophie de Condorcet




Cultural references