An invitation arrived to Thomas Jefferson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Marie Antoinette, and a certain few others to come visit the garden at Voltaire’s chateau: “The garden is looking rather handsome and I should be charmed to show you around the little palace.
” Voltaire had bought the estate back in 1758, a considerable property located at Ferney and nearby the soil of Geneva. It was here at this chateau that Voltaire threw his continentally esteemed dinner parties in which he employed many individuals well-versed in the subjects of the time to spend a day or even a weekend. What was to await his guests at the establishment? I had heard that theatre, discussion, and debate took place quite often to name a few. Voltaire always laid provisions and instructed his guests to come with clothes, “not too dressed up. Country dresses for the ladies and frock coats for the men will make due for our midday activities.
” Walks in the forest and afternoons spent on gardening flowers and vegetables were not uncommon pastimes and were often quite pleasures to his visitors. It was on the eve of New Year’s Day in that the much awaited dinner took place. The room was decorated with Venetian glass filled with so many winter wildflowers that its fragrance replaced the heavy smell of any perfume. The circular table of the dining room was covered in a silky, cream coloured cloth and laid on it were platters of boiled and roasted meat, fishes, an array of cheeses, light colored bread unlike the dark ones much of France lived on.
There were also beautiful selections of citrus fruits and vegetables, some freshly picked from the garden. Set aside for later hours included plates of macaroons, fondant-filled pastries, and cakes as well as the luxuries of tea and coffee. Not to forget hot chocolate for the Queen, Marie Antoinette.
The party had enjoyed an afternoon out in the gardens and had begun to dine – Marie Antoinette adorned in a muslin dress took immediately for the champagne while the French peasant looked around, overwhelmed with eyes sparkling like the champagne the Queen was drinking at the immense presence of unfamiliar foods that were very unlike and much more luxurious than what she ate daily. Thomas Jefferson having coming from America talked on his observations of France as he pleased himself with a rather large plate of macaroni and cheese. “I am rather surprised,” he said, “at the manner in how some French women solicit in their husband’s or persons of office’s affairs.
They could be a threatening political influence but I am glad most do not have the cleverness to interfere with affairs beyond their domestic duty. In that sense, I find American women to lead a much more tranquil and enjoyable life. I must confess that it is a comparison of Amazons and Angels (George W, Albert G..)”. He chuckled, amused at his last remark while taking a sip of wine.
I raised an eyebrow but decided it was in my best interest to not comment. While Marie Antoinette simply nodded at these statements, they did not sit well with the British writer, Mary Wollstonecraft. “As a man, you would not understand”, she started, “but I believe that it is in all’s, including in men’s best interest to allow women representation in government positions rather than not. That way, with better education virtue and human knowledge can be better developed in our society as well as in marital relationships(107, 264, 260 VRW)” she refuted angrily.
Thomas Jefferson thought upon her comment and then nonchalantly replied, “A plan for female education has never been much of a thought to me (Nathaniel Burwell). I’d say that women rather take part in lessons like dancing, playing harpsichord, and drawing that’ll prepare her for domestic life(Mary J). Oh, and attending to her dress always, of course. (Martha J)”.Mary Wollstonecraft slammed her hands on the table, causing the French peasant’s bread to fall in her spoup.
“It’s never human nature for us women to only care for the beauties of our face. (138) It is the lack of the opportunity of an equally rational education that render woman to seemingly be ignorant by men like Rousseau (66-67,71) and render themselves to judging one another by beauty and dress (151). The divine right of men and husbands, like the divine right of kings in this enlightened age is quite a tyrannical contradiction to whatever morality and pursuit of liberty you claim.
(67)”Jonathan Swift another inventée, and an Anglo-Irish writer and cleric in the midst of this quarrel laughed at Jeffersons’ prior comments. “I find it almost hilarious how men are disillusioned by their idealisations of women. Women, especially all those rich, upper class ones go to such extensive measures to please men that although being they human, it’s quite disgusting what some do (Prior, Dressing room).” Voltaire nodded and offered some input on the issue.
“Women seem to hold the idea that their virtue is linked to sexuality and modesty (31 and my, do men buy on this to commit rather vulgar acts they seem to uphold as normal, even noble (13,105). ” He pondered some more as the others quieted to listen. “It is a wonder to me how we men often forget to recognise that the knowledge and experience of a woman is so rich. (38-39)”As the table silenced, I looked over to the Queen who had a natural distaste for conflict had been quietly taking sips of her champagne as she looked over to meet my eyes.She put down her glass. “I’ve thought rather about my femininity recently.
These libelles, or rather these miserable gazettes making stories of my follies and behavior! They call me ‘l’Autrichienne’ and ‘Madame Deficit’, the French people(146-8)” she shrugged off, laughing rather disdainfully. “But I do believe that the people are rather volatile and express things with their pens and their tongues that aren’t actually in their hearts.”