24 October 2020

Fanny Martin (Marie Françoise Bertrand) versus Claude Bernard

Oddly, there seems to be as much if not more information on Fanny Martin (Marie Françoise Bernard (1819-1901)) in English than there does in French. She was a militant animal rights defender in strong support of the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) and in time established an anti-vivisection society. Her daughters, Marie-Claude (1849-1922) and Jeanne Henriette (1847-1923) never married and espoused the animal rights cause.

The problem: her marriage of convenience (in 1845, the same year as the foundation of SPA) was to Claude Bernard (1813-78), who would become the father of experimental medecine and whose ideas would influence Émile Zola, who wrote Le Roman expérimental in 1878. And not only did Fanny's father's money go towards Bernard's experiments on the vivisection of animals, particularly dogs, but he carried out some of his experiments in the family home. Fanny tried her best to counter this by rescuing stray dogs. The very strained marriage came to an end in 1868, and they were officially separated the following year.

Poor before his marriage, Bernard originally went to Lyon to work in a chemist's and had the idea that his vocation lay in writing. At twenty he'd written a play, Arthur de Bretagne, although it wasn't published until 1887, some years after his death. It contains a truly awful and heavily biased Preface by a certain Georges Barral, who accuses Fanny and her daughters of deserting Bernard. Needless to say, the above shows that their attempts to destroy the book were fruitless, although the latest publication appears to omit the Preface. No, I haven't read the play, and certainly never will.

It would be interesting to see what the Musée Claude Bernard in his native town of Saint-Julien-en-Beaujolais says about Fanny Martin, who has become a recent martyr to the animal rights cause.

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