Belle van Zuylen: schrijfster van adel, over de adel. Haar correspondentie digitaal beschikbaar


  • Suzan van Dijk



The Dutch-Swiss writer Belle de Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière (1740-1805) was born in the Dutch noble family Van Tuyll van Serooskerken, but married (in 1771) outside of nobility. As a child she had a Swiss gouvernante, like so many children of the European elites, and in spite of being quite familiar also with the Dutch language, she would continue using French all her life, both for private correspondence and for her literary works. Most of these were published in Switzerland. Indeed, once she had married Charles-Emmanuel de Charrière, former tutor of her brothers, she went to live with him in his family house near Neuchâtel. This is where she started publishing and found recognition with her contemporary readers. In her novels and plays, she tends to confront characters representing different social classes – the reasons of which are often formulated in exchanges of letters with family members or friends who either helped her copying the texts, or were enthusiastic readers. As she wrote to her German translator, in these fictions she could illustrate the potential ‘nobility’ of the ‘so-called lower classes’. This is what she considered ‘her own democracy’.