This essay analyzes protofeminism related to Marie Jeanne Riccoboni's (1713-1792) Histoire de monsieur lemarquis de Cressy(1758) not so much in its oftentimes discussed and controversial ending, a female suicide, but rather in its contemporary reception. The analysis will focus on the hitherto unnoticed and unexamined public defense of that female suicide. I argue that Riccoboni herself sent a letter to the Mercure de France in response to its review. In it she defends her choice and thus successfully enters the public debate about suicide in patriarchal Enlightenment France as a woman by presenting to readers an unlikely heroine who claims the right to commit suicide when, how, where and by whose hand she desires, as a reaction to male betrayal. In 1758 this constituted a bold, revolutionary and protofeminist move, executed well before her male philosopher friends reached similar conclusions and also before suicide became more secularized and decriminalized in eighteenth-century French society.


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