Condorcet, Sophie Marie Louise, Marquise de (1764–1822)

views updated

Condorcet, Sophie Marie Louise, Marquise de (1764–1822)

French salonnière. Name variations: Mademoiselle de Grouchy; Sophie de Grouchy; also known as Grouchette. Born Sophie Marie Louise de Grouchy at the Château Villette, near Meulan, France, in the spring of 1764; died in Paris on September 8, 1822; married Marie Jean Antoine de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet (a mathematician), in 1778 (died March 29, 1794); children: at least one daughter.

The philosopher Marie Jean de Caritat , marquis de Condorcet, fell in love with Sophie de Grouchy, known as Grouchette, while watching as she attended an infant suffering from rabies. In 1778, she married the marquis, a world renowned mathematician, reformer, and adviser of Turgot, who was 20 years her senior. Known as virtuous people, the Marquis and Marquise Condorcet were fierce defenders of Protestants, slaves, and women.

Sophie opened a salon shortly after her marriage. Located at the Quai di Conti in the Hôtel des Monnaies (her husband was the director there), her group drew many foreigners, particularly the English, whose language Condorcet spoke fluently. Her salon became the "center of an enlightened Europe." Completely self-taught, the thin, delicate Sophie had observed her brothers' tutoring and, while canoness at the convent of Neuville, read an entire encyclopedia.

In turbulent 18th-century France, the Condorcets were republicans, radical social reformers who called for the monarchy's end and the start of a constitutional government. To impugn the Condorcets' reputation, in July 1791 Royalists began a salacious press campaign against them, which insinuated that Sophie was a prostitute. In one edition of their propaganda sheet, there was a nude drawing of her with the caption: res publica (public property).

The Marquis Condorcet's pamphlet attacking the Constitution led to his impeachment by the Assembly. He was facing arrest when he fled his home on July 8, 1793, and was secretly sheltered by Madame Vernet at the Rue des Fossoyeurs, near Saint Sulpice. In an effort to safeguard her daughter's inheritance from the possible seizure of her husband's assets, Sophie filed for divorce from her absent husband in January 1794. Even though she had advised him of her intent to have the decree annulled on his return, the move pained Sophie.

But on the day the decree was finally granted in May 1794, she was unaware that her husband had been dead for two months. His body had been found on March 29 in his cell at Bourg Egaliè prison in a town formerly known as Burgh la Reine, but the authorities did not know his identity. Upon being arrested as a suspected fugitive, he had given a false name to protect Madame Vernet.

Sophie purchased a lingerie shop but lived in poverty until 1799 when she was able to recover some of her property. Reopening her salon, she continued to maintain her republican views and alienate imperial authorities. From 1801 to 1804, she published her husband's writings. Sophie died in 1822 and was buried at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris without a religious ceremony.

About this article

Condorcet, Sophie Marie Louise, Marquise de (1764–1822)

Updated About content Print Article