Near the end of Jane Austen’s Emma, the heroine alludes to a novel by a prolific French writer who is scarcely known today. It is Adèle et Théodore by Mme. de Genlis (1746–1830). Jane Austen’s comments on the French novelist’s work often have an ironic undertone, but she was indebted to it. When Emma was published in December 1815, Mme. de Genlis was alive and well in Paris, immensely famous throughout Europe as a playwright and novelist, and as a writer on education. She was also reviled in certain quarters for her involvement in revolutionary politics. She had been presented at the court of Louis XV; she had visited Voltaire (as who of consequence had not?). She lived through the Revolution, the Directory, the First Consulate and Empire of Napoleon, and the Restoration of the Bourbons; and she was to witness the ascent of her pupil, Louis-Philippe, to the throne of France as...

 
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