The dangers of falling for a Frenchman

Posted on 7th February 2013 by simonbeattie

I am always drawn to 18th-century foreign novels with some kind of connection to Britain.  (For another, read this earlier blog post.)  Here’s a French one I had a while ago, ‘The Dangers of loving a Foreigner’ from 1783, written by an otherwise unknown author called Witart de Bézu.  Written in epistolary form, it tells how Lady Chester, an independent young English widow, falls for the villainous duc de Durcé, with fatal consequences.  Her initial concerns as to his faithfulness, which are explicitly put down to his being French, are proved all too true when he drugs and rapes her and then flees back across the Channel (and immediately transfers his affections to another), while his victim dies, emotionally destroyed and socially abandoned.  This is a cautionary tale, aimed at young readers who may be seduced by the idea of a liaison abroad: ‘les Jeunes-gens qui voyagent dans les Pays étrangers ne font pas assez d’attention: C’est qu’il est toujours préjudiciable au bonheur & à l’intérêt de l’Homme d’épouser une Etrangére; & pour les Femmes, de s’attacher à un Etranger’ (I, vii–viii).  Watch out, any would-be Shirley Valentines out there.

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