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Supplementing the autobiography of Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova: the Russian diaries of Martha and Katherine Wilmot

Supplementing the autobiography of Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova: the Russian diaries of Martha and Katherine Wilmot

Byrne, Angela (2010) Supplementing the autobiography of Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova: the Russian diaries of Martha and Katherine Wilmot. Irish Slavonic Studies, 23. pp. 17-26. ISSN 0260-2067

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Abstract

Princess Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova (1743–1810) was one of the most remarkable women of her time. Among her numerous achievements is her distinction as the first European woman to hold public office, as director of St Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences and president of the Russian Academy. She was a close friend of Catherine II, and at the age of nineteen participated in the coup of June 1762. Dashkova’s life has been said to have been more representative of a man’s than a woman’s; as well as her public achievements she ably resolved the finances of her late husband’s estate, managed her son’s education with determination (in Russia and abroad), ran two estates with military precision and corresponded with the greatest thinkers of the age. Her domestic and stately obligations were punctuated by lengthy periods of foreign travel and residence. However, her exile under Pavel and the bad press she received by association with Catherine II were a cloud over her later years; her self-representation attempted to counteract this. As well as composing a textual record (her Memoirs), she regularly regaled all in her company with tales of the court and its personalities, emphasizing her past glories and proximity to power. It was just such stories that enthralled Martha Wilmot (1775–1873) while she lived with Dashkova on her rural estate, Troitskoe, about 100km west of Moscow. Encouraged, perhaps even inspired, by her young Anglo-Irish friend and companion, Dashkova wrote and completed her Memoirs five years before her death. Martha Wilmot and her sister Katherine (1773–1824) translated the memoirs from French into English while living with Dashkova; Katherine then brought a copy to Ireland in 1807. It is from this copy that Martha Wilmot (Bradford) had the Memoirs published in 1840, thirty years after the princess’s death – she had been forced to burn her own copy when she departed Russia in 1808, in fear of it being seized by hostile customs officers who suspected her of spying. This paper is concerned with three main questions: Dashkova’s motivations for writing her autobiography; the potential of the Wilmot papers to fill in any blanks in her story and self-representation; and the reception of the published memoir.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] This paper forms part of a collection of papers that were presented at the IARCEES annual conference on Private Lives, Public Personas: Memoirs, Diaries, Biography and Personal Narrative under Communism, University College Dublin, April 2010, organized by Susan Grant, James Ryan and Geoff Roberts, with the support of the Department of History, University College Dublin.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Russia, Ekaterina Romanovna Dashkova
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Social, Political & Cultural Studies
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:25
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/10409

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