Before Ayn Rand and Nietzsche was La Païva

Most 19th century courtesans looked rather tame by our standards

Esther Pauline Thérèse Lachmann, Mme Villoing, Mme la Marquise de Païva, Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck

Grandes Horizontales, Virginia Rounding, Bloomsbury, 2003

Pages from the Goncourt Journals, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt (tr. Baldick), NYRB, 2007

At table she expounded a frightening theory of will-power, saying that everything was the result of an effort of the will, that there were no such things as fortuitous circumstances, that one created one’s own circumstances, and that unfortunate people were so only because they did not want to stop being unfortunate….She spoke of a woman who, in order to attain some unspecified aim, shut herself up for three years, completely cut off from the world, scarcely eating anything and often forgetting about food, walled up within herself and entirely given over to the plan she was developing. And then she concluded: “I was that woman”.

Goncourt Journals, January 3, 1868 (p. 134)

La Païva (Esther Pauline Thérèse Lachmann, Mme Villoing, Mme la Marquise de Païva, Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck) was one of the most famous courtesans of decadent Second Empire France — famous for bleeding her lovers dry. In those days marriages were expected to be loveless and there was no such thing as a relationship, and men who had the wherewithal satisfied their needs for sex, romance, fantasy, ego-gratification, etc. through a variety of more or less openly commercial arrangements. A few of the courtesans became the objects of bidding wars and were able do very well for themselves, and La Païva married several aristocrats and spent the last years of her life in her final husband’s castle. (more…)

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 10:41 pm  Comments (6)  

The Lemur of your ancestor is a jealous Lemur

When you fled to Lemuria, I bet you didn't expect us

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Thanks for nothing, Jesus

Struggling against a 20-mph wind under the hot sun, I glanced up and saw a hawk soaring effortlessly fifty feet above. Apparently I’d been recruited into some kind of goddamn parable.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm  Comments (2)  

19th century marital studies

My studies of 19th century French literature have led me to the following question: did 19th century Frenchmen have sex with their wives? My researches so far have not turned up any evidence that they did. They seem to have preferred house servants, tubercular working girls, prostitutes, courtesans, opera singers, actresses, other men’s wives, and 17 year old virgins.

It may be, however, that the Frenchman of that era did have sex with their wives, at least occasionally, but either were ashamed to admit it, or else believed that marital sex is not a suitable topic for decent conversation.

Published in: on June 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm  Comments (9)