Devoted Companions or Surrogate Spouses?
Sibling Relations in Eighteenth-Century France
On 11 January 1763, Marie de Lamothe wrote to her brother Victor in Paris concerning her activities during the previous month, noting, "I stayed with the family [at Goulards] until our return to Bordeaux, where I have been since then. I left them for four days to go to our dear Muscadet in the company of my fidel époux [or faithful spouse]."1 An unremarkable letter, except that Marie was referring not to a spouse (she was unmarried) but rather, to her elder brother Delphin. Marie's word choice suggests that she was well aware of the fact that she had established a quasi-marital relationship with her brother, and that on a number of levels, she filled the role of wife for him.
In eighteenth-century France, and indeed throughout Europe, the presence of both a man and a woman was generally considered crucial to the____________________