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- Object: Hail! Thou Production most uncommon...
Two figures stand joined together back to back in profile, each with one leg and one arm; to left the Chevalier d'Eon is shown as a man, with a military uniform, hat, jack-boot and sabre; to right, shown as a woman, wearing a gown, feathered hat and holding a fan; frontispiece to "An Epistle from Mademoiselle D'Eon to the Right Honorable L[or]d M[ansfiel]d" [1778, London: M. Smith]. 1778
- Production date
Height: 178 millimetres
Width: 135 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is the frontispiece of "An Epistle from Mademoiselle D'Eon to the Right Honorable L--d M-------d, L--d C----f J-----e of the C----t of K--g's B----h [Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench] on his Determination in regard to her Sex", which was published in 1778, 'printed for M. Smith; and sold by the booksellers in the Strand and Paternoster Row'. For a full copy of the Epistle, see the British Library (General Reference Collection 1562/290). It relates to Lord Mansfield's judgement in July 1777 that the Chevalier d'Eon was a woman, a judgement rendered necessary by the many gambling policies that had been taken out on this issue since early 1771.
The image uses a very similar concept to that published in the London Magazine in 1777 (see 1837,0513.57), in which the Chevalier d'Eon is shown as half female and half male. While the London Magazine illustration shows d'Eon split vertically in half, this frontispiece instead shows d'Eon as two figures standing back to back, who have between them two heads but only two arms and legs, the left side dressed in military costumes, the right in female dress.
According to the introduction, the Epistle is a translation into English of a poem originally written in French by the Chevalier, who had left London for France in August 1777. It explains the purported circumstances of its publication as follows. It was on Lord Mansfield's account that the Chevalier 'was obliged to leave England and fly to France. From that country this letter was intended to have been sent, as a just tribute to his Lordship's wisdom and precision, and at the same time to conciliate his patronage on the Chevalier's intended return to England. After it had been shewn to many of the Chevalier's acquaintance and much admired at Paris, it fell into the hands of the Editor... In some places [the Editor] had indeed taken the liberty of deviating a little from the original, especially in some of the concluding stanzas, where Mademoiselle, in her address to his Lordship, and in the warmth of her imagination, had indulged a vein rather too luxuriant. In short, she seemed to have forgotten that she was now in petticoats'.
The Epistle is a playfully flirtatious poem recounting the Chevalier's supposed girlhood, perhaps based upon the first memoir issued on the latter's return to France. At the end the author offers to become Mansfield's lover in place of his wife (to whom the Editor had mischievously dedicated the Epistle). Whether there is any truth in the Chevalier's purported authorship is unclear: the tone of the Epistle is entirely at odds with d'Eon's quiet, virtuous female character and it is most likely that the Epistle was fabricated by the alleged 'editor' - an attempt to capitalise on the enduring interest that the Chevalier held for British audiences, even during d'Eon's absence in France.
- Not on display
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