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1900, december 10 Women and Education In which Rachilde’s mother is admitted to the asylum of Charenton and some deficiencies in Rachilde’s education become apparent On July 27, 1900, Doctor Albert Prieur was called to the side of Gabrielle Eymery. In his report, the doctor later declared “que cette dame est atteinte d’idées délirantes manifestes entretenues par des hallucinations auditives presque constantes pendant lesquelles elle se croit en communication directe avec une foule de personnages absolument inconnus d’elle qui lui donnent de cette façon des conseils et des ordres auxquels elle obéit avec une scrupuleuse exactitude.” The report is dated October 25; it was the eleventh birthday of Gabrielle Eymery’s granddaughter , Gabrielle Vallette. In his next report, on December 8, the doctor confirmed not only that Gabrielle Eymery’s state had not improved, but that it was in fact deteriorating. Her hallucinations had become more or less constant, leaving her no free will, and putting her “à la merci de telle ou telle suggestion délirante qu’on ne saurait prévenir et contre laquelle on ne peut protéger la malade et son entourage qu’en la mettant en observation dans un établissement spécial.”1 The “special establishment” turned out to be the asylum at Charenton , made famous by its most infamous inmate, the marquis de Sade. The irony could not have been lost on Rachilde. She had already claimed her allegiance to this almost mythical figure in La Marquise de Sade, published thirteen years earlier, and she had also adopted his coat of arms as her justification de tirage at the Mercure,2 but that she should literally be the daughter of one who shared the address of the mad marquis must have seemed both completely inevitable and totally unforeseeable. Gabrielle Eymery was admitted to the asylum on December 10, 1900, according to the hospital records. Her profession was given as “renti ère” and her address as 14 rue du Presbytère, Thiviers (Dordogne). Perhaps the most significant detail of this part of her record, however, is the name of the person who requested the admission: M. Alfred Vallette, director of the “Mercure Français,” of 15 rue de l’EchaudéSt .-Germain, Paris, son-in-law. Whatever Rachilde’s difficulties in cop- ing with her mother’s madness, she was not the one officially to initiate her confinement, voluntary though it was. Once admitted, Gabrielle Eymery was treated by the asylum’s director , Doctor Antoine Ritti, who composed his initial diagnosis the following day (December 11): Madame Eymery “paraît atteinte d’une aliénation mentale caractérisée par du délire de persécution des hallucinations multiples, de fausses interprétations, etc.” She is described as a “malade réticente, dissimulée.” Except for her husband, Rachilde was alone in confronting this chapter of her mother’s life. Her parents had been leading separate lives for many years, and Joseph Eymery had died on April 6, 1892, in his country home of Chamarat. Gabrielle Feytaud Eymery had been dividing her time between Thiviers and Paris.3 In any case, Joseph Eymery’s influence had waned long before his death (Rachilde claimed that she was not even notified about his funeral [qjj 170]). While Chamarat was just “une gentilhommière qui tombe en ruine, et qu’il faudrait faire réparer” (qjj 168), Rachilde later learned that Gabrielle had taken even this small residence back, despite the fact that she already had “le Cros, le vieil hôtel de Thiviers et un somptueux mobilier qui aurait suffi à combler tous les salons de la préfecture” (169). Joseph, meanwhile, had only his army pension to live on, just enough to support himself and his hunting dogs. But, no matter how small his sphere of influence, when he died, Rachilde’s last family ally against her increasingly mad mother was gone. Joseph had tried to protect Rachilde from her mother. While his attempt to marry her off had been misguided , it had been motivated by the desire to “[l]’éloigner d’une famille un peu originale” (166). And Joseph’s attitudes toward his daughter’s writing softened over the years so that, despite his hatred of “plumitifs,” when Rachilde finally went off to make a name for herself in Paris, father and daughter parted on good terms: he sold his hunting pack to raise money for her (170; see...


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