Les conversations maternelles. Adelaïde-Gillette Billet Dufrenoy.
Les conversations maternelles.
Les conversations maternelles.

Les conversations maternelles.

Paris: A la Librairi e d’Education d’ A. Eymery, 1818. First edition of a scarce book by Madame Dufrénoy, intended as an aid to mothers educating their children, especially young adolescents, at home. Twelve engraved plates. Labels with minor chipping, some offsetting to edges of endpapers. A very good, attractive copy. Contemporary sprinkled calf, gilt spine with black morocco labels, marbled edges. Two volumes, twelvemo. 221, [1], [2, index with verso blank; 236, [2, index with verso blank] pp. Item #16812

Madame Dufrenoy (1765-1825) was a Britanny-born poet, and the daughter of a jeweler for the Crown of Poland. She had a fine education and was proficient in Latin. Her husband, Simon Petit-Dufrenoy, was a wealthy prosecutor, and their home became a meeting place for authors. She published her first poems in 1787, and later wrote plays. She and her husband suffered during the French Revolution. Her home was set on fire, and her husband filed for bankruptcy and suffered in health, eventually going blind. They fared better under Napoleon, whom she supported completely. She started to write erotic poetry, and her Elegies were published to acclaim in 1807. The fall of the French Empire brought further problems for her family, but she continued to prosper by her writing, producing many children's books and editing la Minerve littéraire, l'Almanach des Dames, and l'Hommage aux Demoiselles. She also translated novels from the English, and wrote novels and poems of her own. She was awarded a prize by the Académie Françcaise for her poem Les Moments de Bayard.

The introduction describes the narrator as a young widow who decided to educate her children at home after the heroic death of her husband in the Napoleonic wars. Each chapter gives a moral lesson on such subjects as beauty, courage, curiosity, avarice, etc. The format of the book suggests it was intended to be presented to a child. All the stories have a heroic quality to them, and the dramatic illustrations would encourage reader interest. The lessons are clearly intended for both sexes. Dufrenoy argues that boys should not go to school before the age of twelve, and girls should not be expected to have a formal education, but should at least have the access to education. Dufrenoy was something of a bluestocking in an era when education opportunities for girls were slim, and would doubtless have been happy to see girls afforded the educational opportunities that she received.
OCLC lists three copies in North America.

Price: $1,500.00