Françoise Marguerite Janiçon was an eighteenth-century cultural ambassador in Sweden. She was also the only female, political writer to engage in a discussion regarding the national economy.
Françoise Marguerite Janiçon was born in the Netherlands in 1711, although she was of French ancestry. Her family belonged to the relatively sizable group of Huguenots who ended up in the Netherlands after fleeing religious persecution in France at the end of the seventeenth century. After moving to Sweden Françoise Marguerite Janiçon joined the reformed congregation in Stockholm. Her mother was Marguerite-Anne-Marie de Ville and her father, François Michel Janiçon, was a writer whose output included historical works, translations, and who also worked as a newspaper and journal publisher. Towards the end of his life he was appointed Hessen-Cassel’s minister to the Dutch Estates (an institution similar to the Swedish parliament).
Françoise Marguerite Janiçon was brought up within a French-speaking, intellectual home where politics doubtlessly also came up for discussion. Françoise Marguerite Janiçon came from a bourgeois background and brought an element of wealth to her own marriage, celebrated in 1741 with the Swedish-born Carl Gustaf Warmholtz. He was the son of an apothecary and had spent a long time living in the Netherlands. On his return to Sweden Warmholtz benefited from social promotion: in 1742 King Fredrik I appointed him privy councillor to Hesse. Warmholtz was subsequently ennobled in 1756, although the family was never introduced into the Swedish House of Nobility. Following the move to Sweden the couple eventually settled at the Christineholm estate where Carl Gustaf Warmholtz could tend to his land in peace and quiet whilst still expanding his already extensive personal library. The Christineholm library contained a sizeable collection of historical manuscripts. Further, he carried on working on his magisterial historical and bibliographical work entitled Bibliotheca historica sueo-gothica, eventually published posthumously. Of the couple’s two daughters only Marianne Warmholtz survived into adulthood and helped her father with his library. The Warmholtz couple were members of an intellectual circle which included Johan Henric Lidén, C. G. Gjörwell, Carl Reinhold Berch, and Johan Arckenholtz, amongst others. These individuals shared interests in historiography, book-collecting and older, primarily Swedish, manuscripts.
Françoise Marguerite Janiçon belonged to a relatively small group of eighteenth-century female writers who had their political thoughts published. She was also a regular letter-writer but, sadly, following her husband’s death, she had a fair amount of their correspondence burnt. Nevertheless, the few surviving letters reveal that they used the letter-writing style introduced by Madame de Sévigné and that Françoise Marguerite Janiçon wrote in an elegant and free-flowing French, moving at ease between various subjects. Indeed, the literary quality of her letters meant that they were circulated within a semi-official circle, as was the norm at that time. The surviving letters reflect Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s interest in newly-released literary works, in politics, and in art, as well as in the latest social news – or, more plainly, gossip. Included amongst her correspondents was Johan Arckenholtz, a Swedish government official who often spent time on the Continent. She was often able to order newly-published books through him. Her letters are a testament to the important role women could play as cultural mediators. Indeed, C. G. Gjörwell, a close friend of the family, was prompted to describe Françoise Marguerite Janiçon as “the most educated woman in Sweden” based on her letters.
In addition to their cultural pursuits the Warmholtz couple also played a part in contemporary political developments. They supported the so-called “Hat party” which was loyal to the Swedish Crown and campaigned in favour of a protectionist economic policy. Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s 24-page polemical piece, entitled Tankar i anledning af sista öfwerflöds-förordningen och dez wärkställighet; fattade i pennan, och dedicerade til malcontenterne, af en fri svensk, published in 1767, should be read in the light of this perspective. She was not, however, the only woman to publish her views on Swedish financial matters. The central issue for these writers was often how Sweden’s economy, its domestic finances, should be run and how best to exploit the country’s resources both in terms of individual households and in terms of the nation as a whole. National economics at this time comprised both the so-called “oeconomia privata” (private finances) and “oeconomia publica” (public finances) and it also encompassed practical elements as well as theory. This was reflected in the newly-established professorship of economy set up in 1741. Indeed, Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s correspondence also includes a number of letters written to Carl Reinhold Berch, head of Antikvitetsarkivet and brother of Anders Berch, the first person to hold the same professorship. Those female writers who contributed to this field often approached it from a practical position and thus their output indirectly touches on the importance of supporting domestic production and consumption. Female cookbook writers, for example, impart advice on the best way to deal with raw goods, how to make your own cleaning solutions, or how to prepare home remedies for livestock, as seen in the works of Cajsa Warg, Anna Maria Rückerschöld, and Maria Elzberg. Other female writers, such as Eva Ekeblad who wrote about using new-fangled potatoes or Charlotta Frölich’s publications on farming efforts, also made contributions to the national economy.
Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s aforenoted work, Tankar i anledning af sista öfwerflöds-förordningen, also engaged from a more theoretical standpoint with issues relevant to general households – in this regard Françoise Marguerite Janiçon is relatively unique as a female writer. Her work became one of many contributions to the polemical debate, undertaken in pamphlet form, on the import and consumption of foreign goods – sumptuary goods – and its impact on the national economy. The fact that these political publications multiplied after 1766 was also down to the newly adopted freedom of the press rules which had massively reduced censorship. The eighteenth century saw a series of so-called sumptuary decrees, intended to regulate the import and consumption of foreign luxury items and thereby protect domestic production. Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s text makes the case for the “Hat” party’s adoption in 1766 of a sumptuary decree using a series of arguments not only related to the national economy but also to morality and Sweden’s position as a nation. The 1766 decree is considered to be one of the most detailed, given its inclusion of a range of restrictions and bans: certain food items, such as coffee, tea, some wines, liqueurs and more, are forbidden; only desserts involving native plants and non-preserved fruits were permitted, whilst furnishings and equipment was to be kept simple. Clothing was treated at length: it should be simple and luxury materials – particularly silk – were to be restricted to the upper social classes.
According to some sources Françoise Marguerite Janiçon had written her anonymously published text in French, after which it was translated into Swedish, incorporating a defence of the “Hat” party economic policies as well as the 1766 decree. On its publication the text immediately generated a series of responses and contemporary periodicals contain references to the ensuing pamphlet debate. From one perspective Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s reasoning can come across as dense and impenetrable but it belongs to a long-established tradition of so-called essay press, containing similar stylistic and thematic elements and familiar characters. Her text is comparable to works printed in Olof Dalin’s journal Then Swänska Argus, or Margareta Momma’s Samtal. Some of the reasoning relies on both historical and contemporary examples. In terms of the latter the examples used are provocative: vain women, effeminate men, so-called gentlemen rogues, and greedy merchants are set against model types – honest, industrious citizens who understand the value of working hard and Spartan living. The core of the text lies in the revelation that over-consumption causes damaging effects on morality, religion and society. Similarly, Montesquieu’s climate studies and Gothic historiography are also referenced in the claim that the cold Nordic climate has since ancient times generated a seriousness, thoughtfulness, and a sense of decorum amongst its populations. Anti-French and anti-Catholic elements are also obvious. The emotive aspect increases towards the end of the text and the piece ends in a religiously-charged crescendo. The stated conclusion was that Swedish men and women should consume goods according to their civic position – that is, in accordance with their social standing, Swedish customs, and the Swedish climate.
One learns from Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s daughter Marianne’s letters, and others, that following the death of Françoise Marguerite Janiçon’s husband in 1785 she suffered such deep sorrow that she sometimes came across as confused. Four years later, then aged 78, Françoise Marguerite Janiçon herself died at Christineholm.