Letters of Lady Rondeau: Russia as Seen by an Englishwoman in the Age of Enlightenment
This paper explores the problems of perception of Russia and the Russian court in the English female travelogue. The author analyses Letters from a Lady, who Resided Some Years in Russia, to her Friend in England and Eleven Additional Letters from Russia, under the Reign of Peter II by Jane Vigor (Lady Rondeau), covering the period from 1728 to 1739. The Letters are informal and contain various episodes related to the court of Peter II and Anna Ioannovna, whose social life Mrs. Vigor participated in over the years. The Letters reflect the facets of the “common” and “special” in the cultural code of the British and Russians as a complex of stereotypes of public consciousness in Britain and Russia, and a view of gender roles in the British and Russian societies of the eighteenth century. In her writings, Jane Vigor acts as a guide for a new culture of politeness, serving as a basis for the articulation of social relations between the various cultural groups at court united in post-Petrine Russia. Vigor fixes the space of change in the Russian court when a new culture of politeness replaces the old forms of ceremonial communication. The development in Letters of the social paradigm of the feeling of politeness testifies both to the universality of this cultural vocabulary for Vigor herself, and to its identification of Russia as a place where European values are shared at the elite level. Methodologically, this study relies on the gender approach. In the case of Jane Vigor, it was gender that represented a significant form of privilege. Referring to Jane Vigor, the author demonstrates that in a certain period, a woman had more opportunities to participate in the private and public life of the Russian court than a man.
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