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|French literary history|
Marie de Gournay (French pronunciation: [maʁi də ɡuʁnɛ] ( listen); 6 October 1565, Paris – 13 July 1645) was a French writer, who wrote a novel and a number of other literary compositions, including two works, The Equality of Men and Women (1622) and The Ladies' Grievance (Les femmes et Grief des dames, 1626). She insisted that women should be educated. Gournay was also an editor and commentator of Michel de Montaigne. After Montaigne's death, Gournay edited and published his Essays.
She was born in Paris in 1565. Her father, Guillaume Le Jars, was treasurer to King Henry III of France. In 1568 he obtained feudal rights to the Gournay estate in Picardy, and in 1573, after he purchased the Neufvy estate, he became Seigneur de Neufvy et de Gournay. The family moved to Gournay-sur-Aronde after her father's sudden death in 1577.
Gournay was an autodidact. She studied the humanities and taught herself Latin. Her studies led her to discover the works of Michel de Montaigne. She met him 1588 by chance in Paris and became his "adopted daughter". She published her first book in 1594, Le Proumenoir de Monsieur de Montaigne.
After her mother's death in 1591, Marie moved to Paris, leaving the family home to her brother Charles, who was forced to sell it in 1608. Montaigne died the following year, and his widow, Françoise de la Chassaigne, provided Gournay with a copy of the Essays and charged her with its publication. In 1595 Gournay published the first posthumous edition of his Essays and in 1598 she published a revised edition. She settled in Paris, determined to earn a living from writing. She published a timely discussion on the education of children in 1608, Bienvenue à Monseigneur le Duc d'Anjou. This work brought her to wider attention among Paris intellectuals. Her 1610 work Adieu de l'ame du Roy de France et de Navarre caused a scandal because it defended Jesuits, who were suspected of having conspired to assassinate King Henry IV. Gournay was attacked in the satirical pamphlet The Anti-Gournay and was pictured as an old shrew.
In Paris, Marie de Gournay met Henri Louis Habert de Montmor and the scholar Justus Lipsius presented her to Europe as a woman of letters. Gournay found herself protectors by writing for Queen Margo, Henry IV of France, Marie de Médicis, Louis XIII, the marquise de Guercheville, the ministers Villeroy and Jeannin. Queen Margo became her patron. Gournay was invited to the Queen's royal salon and received financial support on a quarterly basis.
She translated works by Sallust, Ovid, Virgil, and Tacitus. Gournay also wrote verses about her cat Léonore (also the name of Montaigne's daughter) and Joan of Arc, adapted Ronsard, wrote on the instruction of princes, and criticized the Précieuses. In 1619 she published the translation Versions de quelques pièces de Virgile, Tacite, Salluste with a preface in which she opposed François de Malherbe's view that the French language had to be purged. Gournay was accused of being ridiculous, past-orientated, and of being an old maid. In turn, Gournay published a fierce defense of women's rights in 1622, Égalité des Hommes et des Femmes which she dedicated to Queen Anne d'Autriche. In 1624 she published a bold revision of Pierre de Ronsard's poem Remerciement, au Roy.
In her 1626 novel Le Promenoir de M. de Montaigne qui traite de l’amour dans l’œuvre de Plutarque she explored the dangers women face when they become dependent on men. A collection of her works was published in 1626 entitled L'ombre de la damoiselle de Gournay. She moved to an apartment on the rue Saint Honoré and helped to establish the French Academy. The small pension granted to her by Cardinal Richelieu allowed her to publish a 1635 edition of Montaigne's Essays. In 1641 she published another collection of her own works Les Advis, ou les Presens de la Demoiselle de Gournay. She died in 1645, aged 79, and is buried at the Saint-Eustache Church in Paris. Marie de Gournay is now recognized as the first woman in France to contribute to literary criticism and one of the first to argue forcibly on the equality of men and women. Her final collected works ran to nearly 1,000 pages.
Gournay's arguments for women's right to education had a religious underpinning. Gournay was Roman Catholic and known as an opponent of the Protestant movement in the French wars of religion. She advocated for women's education in two treatises, Égalité des Hommes et des Femmes (The Equality of Men and Women) published 1622, and Grief des Dames (The Ladies' Grievance) published 1626. She argued that men and women were equal because "the virtue of men and virtue of women are the same thing, since God bestowed on them the same creation and the same honor".
"Happy are you, reader, if you do not belong to this sex to which all good is forbidden"
In The Equality of Men and Women Gournay structured her argument similarly to Christine de Pizan, and started by profiling great women of the past to demonstrate the ability of women to learn. She avoided the discussion on superiority of one sex over the other by stressing the equality of men and women. But she attacked the notion that great women simply resembled great men. She argued that it was no surprise that women were perceived as incompetent, ignorant, and focused on their bodies, given that women received little education. Gournay argued that given the same opportunities, privileges, and education as men, women could equal men's accomplishments. In The Ladies' Grievance Gournay complained that women did not own property, exercise freedom, or have access to public office. She argued that educated women had the right to be heard, just as educated men do. Like René Descartes she separated the mind from the body, and argued that women were as capable as men.
De l'éducation des Enfans de France - Naissance des Enfans de France - Exclamation sur l'assassinat deplorable de l'année 1610 - Adieu de l'ame du Roy à la Reyne Regente son espouse - Priere pour l'ame du mesme Roy, escrite à son trépas - Gratification à Venise sur une victoire - Institution du Prince - Du langage François - De la medisance - Des fausses devotions, Si la vangeance est licite - Antipathie des ames basses et hautes - Consideration sur quelques contes de Cour - Advis à quelques gens d'Église - Que les grands esprits et les gens de bien s'entrecherchent - De la neantise de la commune vaillance de ce temps et du peu de prix de la qualité de Noblesse - Que l'integrité suit la vraye suffisance - Sur la version des Poètes antiques, ou des Metaphores - Égalité des hommes et des femmes - Chrysante, ou convalescence d'une petite fille - Des Vertus vicieuses - Des Rymes - Des diminutifs François - Des grimaces mondaines - De l'impertinente amitié - Des sottes ou presomptives finesses - Grief des Dames - Défense de la Poësie et du langage des Poètes - Advis sur la nouvelle edition du Promenoir - Promenoir - Apologie pour celle qui escrit - Lettre sur l'art de traduire les Orateurs - Version d'une Oraison de Tacite - Version d'une Oraison de Salluste - Epistre de Laodamie traduicte d'Ovide - Seconde Philippique de Ciceron traduicte - De la façon d'escrire de Messieurs du Perron et Bertault, qui sert d'Advertissement sur les Poesies de ce volume - Partie du Premier de l'Æneide, commençant où monsieur le Cardinal du Perron acheve de le traduire - Second de l'Æneide traduict - Partie du Quatriesme de l'Æneide, commençant comme dessus après monsieur le Cardinal, Bouquet de Pynde, composé de fleurs diverses - Si ce Livre me survit…