The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret

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Catherine Hewitt's The Mistress of Paris is a fantastically readable biography of a nineteenth-century Parisian courtesan who harbored an incredible secret.

“A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.”The New York Times Book Review

Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was painted by Édouard Manet and inspired Émile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel Nana. Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future King Edward VII kept gossip columns full. But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no comtesse.

Valtesse was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid backstreet among the dregs of Parisian society. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art the envy of connoisseurs across Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life—and even her death—remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more.

Spectacularly evoking the sights and sounds of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris in all its hedonistic glory, Catherine Hewitt’s biography tells, for the first time ever in English, the forgotten story of a remarkable woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.

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About the author

Catherine Hewitt studied French literature and art history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her proposal for The Mistress of Paris was awarded the runner-up prize in the 2012 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Competition for the best proposal by an uncommissioned, first-time biographer. She lives in a village in Surrey, England.
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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Jan 24, 2017
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781250120670
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Women
History / Europe / France
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, born a Creole on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies, became one of the best known and most envied women who ever lived. Sent to France to make an advantageous marriage to a young aristocrat, her naivete and lack of education left her ill prepared to deal with the sophisticated - if decadent - world of pre-Revolutionary Paris. Treated cruelly by her shallow young husband, her life had become a nightmare during the Terror, in which she was imprisoned and almost lost her life. It was during this period that she honed the skills of manipulation and seduction that would lead her from the dungeons of the terror into the beds of the post-Revolutionary powerbrokers, including the Corsican corporal who would conquer Europe.

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