The eighteenth century can exhibit many pictures of women who, directly and in particular indirectly, are occupied with their own literary creation, and the stage-management of the creative woman in these portraits has been very carefully thought through and is sometimes extremely detailed.
The Swedish press became an established medium during the eighteenth century. The second half of the century produced a number of periodicals expressly designed for a female readership; Frustugo Bibliothek, Fruntimmers-Tidningar (the Women’s News), Blad för Fruntimer (Magazine for Women), and many more. A number of these periodicals address the reader in what sounds like a female voice.The publishers and writers were, however, on the whole anonymous, hidden behind signatures and pseudonyms; games with a gender-crossing play on names were legion at the time. Male writers often adopted a female identity with a woman’s name, or wrote from a female position as woman’s intimate and best friend. Conversely, the legal and social circumstances were such that, in those cases where it actually was a woman wielding the pen, she was seldom able to sign the text in her own name.At the time of the launch of a literature that invited intimacy, addressed specifically to women readers, the female voice was thus often still disguised.
The Danish authors Charlotte Dorothea Biehl and Sophia Lovisa Charlotte Baden, along with a number of anonymous women, wrote prose that was both moralising and emotionally instructive. Biehl in her moral tales. Baden in her moral epistolary tales.Family issues and scheming love stories are key to a protracted plot, the mainspring of which is often a dispute concerning a contract of marriage. The major role models were Richardson, his French disciple Marmontel, and the German writer Gellert.
Our archives contain surviving sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish friendship albums. It is as a source of information about acquaintances and friends, the circles in which the owner of the book at any given dated entry moved, that the friendship albums are of greatest interest. The poetry quotations and the maxims also reflect the cultural history and ideals of the times.The friendship albums and family history books might also manifest a pattern clearly indicating some gender differences. The seventeenth-century friendship albums primarily reflect the men’s travels, their journeys out into a Europe of scholarship and warfare. The women focus on genealogy, parents, husband, siblings, and children. They reflect life and death in their own family, the network that ties them to the past and to the future, and in which they themselves, through their children, or their childlessness, constitute an important unifying junction.