The Politics of Intimacy: Marriage and Citizenship in the French Revolution
Among the many newspapers springing to life in the early years of the French Revolution, one, entitled the Courrier de l’Hymen, the ‘Marriage Gazette’, offered an unusual format: side-by-side with political news summaries and witty editorials critiquing marriage practices, it featured what could only be called personal ads, quite detailed paid announcements by individuals who hoped to engage in that matrimonial institution that the rest of the journal seemed bent on reforming. Among the hottest candidates were deputies, members of the National Assembly. One representative from the Antilles advertised for a fiancée in Paris: he hoped she would have ‘a gentle character and an agreeable face’, and concluded, ‘Although I am a member of the legislative body, I don’t need her to have strong opinions on politics and would even prefer that she leans neither to the right nor to the left but rather maintains a judicious moderation.’ A later issue printed a scathing reply from one woman who declared that there could be no marriage without politics and that even though she was 25, ‘forgotten for seven years in an Ursuline Convent’ (in other words even though she was desperate), she ‘would not take him even though he was a deputy and even if he owned all the 660,000 unhappy beings who paid with their liberty and their blood for the wealth and pleasure of 40,000 Europeans. I hate tyrants and executioners … and I don’t want anything to do with someone who does not cherish with his whole heart this happy Revolution which has restored the rights of man.’1 Soundly rebuked, the deputy probably slunk off to find a less vocal wife from a procolonial town like Nantes or Bordeaux.
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