Women of the French Revolution. By R. McNair Wilson. (Hutchinson. 18s.) Reviewed by J. J. DWYER
Mr. McNair Wilson, whose Mind of Napoleon proclaimed its author a determined partisan of the economic interpretation of history in general and of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic epoch in particular, now provides a thoroughly economic explanation of some women who were prominent before, during and after the Revolution. The first on the list is Pompadour, who is described as being carefully selected by a group of bankers and moneylenders for the purpose of betraying Louis XV into their hands. This she is represented as doing very effectively by drawing him into the disastrous Seven Years' War, from the effects of which the royal treasury never recovered. True, she had Frederick's gibes and insults to avenge; but she "never acted without the advice and approval of her own people." "Her own people" were bankers in Paris, "who were in close touch with the bankers in Amsterdam and London."
Suzanne Curchod, Necker's wife, and Germaine de Stael, Necker's daughter, are brought in for the purpose of supporting the thesis. About the character and objects of the Swiss financier, Mr. Wilson has no doubts at all, and it is only right to point out that his view is fully endorsed by many writers in France to-day who have studied these matters very closely.
Sophie Monnier in these pages performs the same service for Mirabeau, while Josephine (whom Mr. Wilson pedantically calls Rose Beauharnais—her exact name was Rose Josephe) and Marie Louise help him to say some of the things he wants to say about the Continental system and the war. More interesting because less -hackneyed is the account of Napoleon's Polish mistress, Marie Walewska.
Mr. Wilson is mistaken in supposing that there has been no earlier attempt to tell in historical sequence the story of the women of the French Revolution. It was done in 1930, for instance, when an English translation of the Princesses Dames et Republicaines of Mme. Louis-Latour was published; while essays on Marie Antoinette, Madame Roland and Charlotte Corday are very numerous. Nevertheless the present volume will be for many readers an interesting and effective introduction to the period.
Peter F. Anson has submitted five suggestions (in sketch form with explanations) for the completion of the famous Pugin "unfinished symphony" abbey church of St. Augustine, Ramsgate.—The Thanet Catholic Review, Spring quarter.