The creator of Miss Sparkes, of course, was none other than the indefatigable (not to say obsessive) Hannah More, in her didactic novel Coelebs in Search of a Wife -- the same Hannah More who had brought to Garrick's mind the Chevalier D'Eon
, who had induced him to conjure up precisely such images of women riders, warriors, knights and voters, and who had evoked for him the analogy with an Amazon.(62) While it might seem by now that this article has resorted to More as a device for illustrating change once too often, it can be said in its defence that this repetition was dictated by More herself, who in her post-Percy incarnation came back relentlessly to the same themes, attacking them time and again from every possible angle.
Of those agents the most colorful was surely the chevalier d'Eon
, a master swordsman and captain of the dragoons, who nonetheless was so effeminate in manner that he once managed to infiltrate the court of St.
Jonathan Conlin is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Southampton and co-editor, with Simon Burrows, Russell Goulbourne and Valerie Mainz of The Chevalier d'Eon and His Worlds: Gender, Espionage and Politics in the 18th Century (Continuum, 2010).
As Beaumarchais noted in 1774, concerning the Chevalier d'Eon, much remains that 'can only be guessed at rather than truly perceived'.
Champagne, Nina Ekstein and Gary Kates, trans, and eds., The Malden of Tonnerre: the Vicissitudes of the Chevalier and Chevaliere d'Eon (Johns Hopkins University Press 2001); Jonathan Conlin, 'Wilkes, the Chevalier d'Eon and "the dregs of liberty": an Anglo-French perspective on ministerial despotism, 1762-1771', English Historical Review, 120, (2005), 1251-88.; Gary Kates, Monsieur d'Eon is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade (Basic Books, 1995); Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Harvard University Press, 1990).
Why did the Chevalier d'Eon accept Louis XVI's demand that he dress as a woman?
Caption: Opposite page, bottom: Nil Yalter, Le Chevalier d'Eon (detail), 1978, Polaroids, gelatin silver prints, acrylic paintings on canvas, video (black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes 7 seconds), dimensions variable.
Caption: Below: Nil Yalter, Le Chevalier d'Eon, 1978, still from the video component (black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes 7 seconds) of a mixed-media installation with Polaroids, gelatin silver prints, and acrylic paintings on canvas.
Le Chevalier d'Eon unbuckles these proscriptive tropes, along with those that govern what it means to be a man or a woman.
Caption: Opposite page, top: Nil Yalter, Le Chevalier d'Eon, 1978, still from the video component (black-and-white, sound, 15 minutes 7 seconds) of a mixed-media installation with Polaroids, gelatin silver prints, and acrylic paintings on canvas.