Making Sex Public:
Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse
and the Lewd Novel
"If a man had written [it] one could have reproached him the disclosure of his moral weakness, but when such scenes are painted by a woman, pity and disgust prevent further comment." 1 Thus did one contemporary critic, Eusèbe Girault de St.Fargeau, condemn Amelie de St. Far and with it its author, the countess Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse. Girault de St.Fargeau found Amelie de St. Far "disgusting" not because it was sexually explicit (though it certainly was) but because it was written by a woman, an obscure but prolific author who wrote a dozen novels between 1807 and 1822. Two of these books— Julie ou j'ai sauvé ma rose ( 1807) and Amélie de St. Far ( 1808)— are the first sexually explicit novels to be signed by a woman. 2 Not all of Choiseul-Meuse's books were equally licentious; but three were banned, one was burned, and all bore the stigma of having been produced by the author of Julie ou j'ai sauvé ma rose. The author in turn had the dishonor of being not only a woman but a woman who had chosen the most dangerous of genres with which to "go public."
As such, Choiseul-Meuse has a lot to tell us about the price paid by women who published. To see her work in print, Choiseul-Meuse had to live quietly, without fame or scandal. To make her views public, she had to____________________