Jane Osborn

Léonie d’Aunet, edited by Wendy Mercer, and introduction by Wendy Mercer
1 January 1994
229 × 152 mm
87 pp
Formats:
Paperback: 978-1-899042-01-2
Six years after achieving fame as the first woman ever to reach the unexplored Arctic islands of Spitzbergen, Léonie d'Aunet's distinction was transformed into notoriety when she was found in the act of adultery with Victor Hugo. In the 1840s, adultery was, for women at least, a criminal act, and Léonie d'Aunet was committed to prison and then to a period of confinement in a convent. Having lost children, friends, and financial support, she turned, on her release, to writing as a means of making a living. Perhaps reflecting her own experiences, the status of women in society is a theme central to all her work. Jane Osborn was first staged in Paris in 1855. Although it received favourable reviews in the press, it is clear that the critics of the time failed - or refused - to perceive the strong element of social criticism in the play. Jane Osborn transgresses the social code of the day by giving birth to an illegitimate baby girl. The subsequent fate of mother and child in a hypocritical and patriarchal society constitutes both a vehement criticism of contemporary values, and a defiant celebration of maternity, irrespective of the civil status of the mother.