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Maupin Sources: Oscar Paul Gilbert

Women In Men's Guise

by Gilbert, Oscar Paul
London, John Lane, 1932


In the month of March 1691(1691-fire), a mysterious fire occurred at the Convent of the Visitandines at Avignon. In the general panic, two young women escaped; at the moment no one paid any particular attention to them, but, when order was restored and a inquiry was instituted into the causes of the disaster, one of them was formally accused of setting fire to the sacred edifice and of a horrible crime into the bargain.

In the first edition of Madame Dunoyer's letters published in 1705, there is one of them that reads as follows:

"A nun who had become enamored of a gentleman who had whispered his love for her at the grille, resolved to scale the convent walls and rejoin the swain. Love, they say, burns fiercely beneath the nun's veil and the monk's habit. Thus did the nun make every attempt she could think of to gain her freedom. She told her lover of a plan, but he thought it would be very difficult to carry it out. Yet, whatever the obstacles, Love, they say, will always find out a way.

"And now what do you think our nun thought of? You shall hear. She told her lover to be next right at a certain spot, and all she wanted him to bring with him was a pair of good horses. She told him she had not only got hold of a scheme that would enable her to get away, but that no one would ever know anything about it. She told him not to ask her to go into details, but just to see that everything needful for the journey was got ready. She then left him, in order to put her plan into execution, and I think you will agree it was a pretty bold one.

"That day there had been a funeral in the community. One of the Sisters had been buried and the grave had not yet been sealed. When all was quiet in the convent, she got into the place of sepulture, bore the dead nun to her cell and laid the corpse on her bed. Then she set fire to the cell. By means of a ladder which she had managed to obtain, and which she contrived to drag up after her, she scaled the garden wall and flung herself into the arms of her lover, who was waiting for her burning with impatience. They lost no time in putting as much distance between themselves and the convent as they possibly could and their journey was the happiest imaginable. When the alarm of fire was raised in the convent all the nuns had hurried to the burning cell, and as the dead nun was attired in her habit and was already half consumed by the flames, they never had the slightest doubt that she who was now the runaway was really the victim of the disaster. While the poor souls were bewailing her lot and saying prayers for the repose of her soul, the object of all these lamentations was occupied with a very different sort of business.

"So you see that this scheme not only enabled her to go clear away, but preserved her reputation from all blemish.

"As soon as the lovers were beyond the reach of pursuit, they duly entered into the bond of matrimony, but not under their own names. The gentleman took up some sort of business career and amassed a lot of money. They had several children who would have been very rich if their mother's scruples had not exposed them to ruin by reason of the legal proceedings which are now in question. The woman's husband died, and she was so grief-stricken at losing him, that she also resolved to die to the world. She therefore withdrew to a convent, where remorse for the iniquities of her past life led her to make a confession which her children would have been better without, for by proclaiming herself a nun, she proclaimed them bastards and, therefore, debarred from inheriting the money. The dead man's relatives, when all this came to their ears, put in a claim to the estate, which the children are naturally exceedingly loath to part with. What the result of the litigation will be depends on the verdict of the Parliament of Toulouse. Suppose the case is adjourned, as some say it will be, well, we shall hear all about that after the holidays, for we are now about to start getting ready to go into the country."

In 1705, Mademoiselle Maupin was one of the leading singers at the Paris Opera. As she was known to be as sharp with the women as she was cruel with the men, and as the sting of her repartee was no less feared than the power of her arm, which could wield a sword with deadly effect, we may be sure that Madame Dunoyer, though she found it impossible to hold her tongue, fully realized that, when referring to la Maupin's early adventures at Avignon, it would be prudent, if not necessary, to conceal the name and quality of her dramatis personae.

In 1702, a Chevalier de Mailly published the story of a certain female captain well known in Paris by the blue riband she wore as a sash and by the extraordinary costume with which she was bedizened. The book, however, was no sooner out than it was pounced upon, probably by the friends of Mademoiselle Maupin.

Letters, anecdotes, lampoons, songs poured forth pell-mell regarding this celebrated actress, but always and everywhere she was spoken of by a pseudonym and no one ever dared to refer to her by her real name.

Madame Dunoyer's story, though lacking in some interesting details, seems on the whole an authentic account of one of la Maupin's numerous adventures.

This remarkable woman, who bore off all the prizes that fall to the prettiest of women and the smartest of men, scintillates with extraordinary vivacity among the minor actors in the history of France.

[Birth:] Monsieur d'Aubigny, the father of Mademoiselle Maupin was secretary to the Comte d'Armagnac.

He was, according to all accounts, a dashing fellow, "as brave as steel," as the saying goes, an adept with the cards, with the rapier and with women, a ruffler that snapped his fingers alike at God and the Devil.

Mademoiselle Maupin was born in 1670.

[Training:] From her very tenderest years, M. d'Aubigny gave his daughter a manly education, in which a taste for literature, for ancient history, noble feats of arms and manly exercises was harmoniously encouraged. His position as secretary to the Comte d'Armagnac afforded M. d'Aubigny many valuable facilities for the education of his daughter, who counted among her professors some of the most famous men of her time both in literature and the art of horsemanship.

By the time she was twelve, Mademoiselle d'Aubigny knew all there was to know about the art of fencing. Jean and François Rousseau, André Vernesson de Liancourt, maître d'armes, had instructed her in their most dazzling passes.

[1stAffair:] When she was fourteen, Mademoiselle d'Aubigny, a tall, strong, strapping girl, as skilled in seduction as in the art of attack and defense, conquered the affections of Monsieur d'Armagnac, to whom her father could scarcely refuse her.

[Marriage:] M. d'Armagnac, having launched the young woman in town and Court, soon found himself constrained by the disabilities of advancing age(d'Armagnac) to find a husband for his protégée.

Alas, on his very wedding night, Monsieur Maupin, a man of peaceable and gentle disposition, had to endure a sample of his wife's ungovernable temper and no less ungovernable tongue. [Position:] That day, and for many a subsequent one, he did his utmost, by pandering to her every whim, to conciliate his wife's good graces. It was love's labor lost. Mademoiselle Maupin, while thanking him for his troubles, did all she knew to be rid of him. She was thinking she would have to poison him when, luckily for the hapless husband, some influential friends procured him a berth as a "deputy" something or other in the provinces. With all speed he was bundled into a carriage and, for some time to come, was heard of no more.

The Comte d'Armagnac considered that Mademoiselle Maupin had been in a great hurry to be rid of a very accommodating husband — an attentive yet admirably blind custodian. He therefore gave his protegee a terrific dressing-down and she returned him tit for tat by declaring that the meager emoluments she enjoyed did not suffice for keeping up an establishment.

M. d'Armagnac argued, pleaded, stormed. It was no good. The banished husband remained where he was.

Once more a free woman, Mademoiselle Maupin tore back to her riding-schools and her fencing saloons. Her bellicose disposition developed to such an extent that she would stop people in the street, slap their faces if they were shopkeepers or servants, and make them draw if they wore the garb of gentlemen.

[Serannes:] It was about this time that la Maupin encountered a southern fencing-master named Serannes whose talents and graces so bedazzled the danseuse that she decided to go into partnership with him in organizing a series of fencing bouts for which the public would have to pay for admission. But these plans were all upset by M. de la Reynie, lieutenant of police, who loathed swashbucklers with a bitter loathing. A big gun in the police can always put a spoke into honest folks' business, and M. de la Reynie proceeded to put the closure on Serannes. [Marseilles:] He accused him of complicity in some shady affair or other and the duelist had to say good-bye to Paris.

Serannes, however, won the rubber, for he took Mademoiselle Maupin with him. M. d'Armagnac, who had been at the back of M. de la Reynie's intervention, never dreamt that things would take this turn and flew into a terrible rage.

At Dijon the couple, discovering that some persons in the Comte d'Armagnac's pay were on their track, promptly clapped on a disguise; he gummed on a beard and moustache, she slipped into doublet and hose.

A few months later we meet them again at Marseilles. The lady, most skillfully disguising her sex, was carrying all before her in this ancient city of the sea; winning the men by her talents with the foil and the women by her elegant appearance and engaging address.

Serannes had told la Maupin all sorts of tales about his fine estates in the sunny South. Alas, they all turned out to be the merest castles in Spain.

Funds were getting low, and to fill the void in the money-bags the young woman redoubled the number of fencing displays. They were marvelous exhibitions, and Marseilles has not forgotten them yet.

"Go on with you; that's no woman," said some.

"She is, I tell you," would come the reply.

And they would make bets on the matter.

[Heckler:] One day, put off her stroke by the people in the room shouting out that she was a man, she was pinked again and again. At once she stopped the bout and kicking off her clothes gave the company ocular evidence of her veritable sex.

After that their stock went up sly-high and the couple raked in the money.

[Gaultier:] On the 28th June 1685, Pierre Gaultier a friend of Lulli's, opened an Academy of Music at Marseilles.

Mademoiselle Maupin at once resolved to lay aside the sword and make her bow on the boards of the new theater. She went through a sort of competitive audition before Gaultier and some local musicians. Her contralto impressed them very considerably. At that time contralto parts were taken exclusively by castrated males. It was a revelation to find that a real woman could fulfill a role in opera till then reserved for those who were delicately called "the maimed ones."

The public debut of Mademoiselle Maupin took place under the name of Mademoiselle d'Aubigny. Both in serious and comic roles she was an enormous success. And her companion also, who had been taken on by Gaultier, acquitted himself with credit in the parts allotted to him. For some months the couple enjoyed a halcyon calm to which they had not always been accustomed. Not only did Mademoiselle Maupin forget her bachelor education and play the soft and tender yoke-fellow towards Serannes, but the money flowed into the treasury in amazing abundance.

[Novice:] Unfortunately the Maupin was endowed with a dual personality, and held very definite views concerning male and female beauty. One day she decided she was sick of men in general and of Serannes in particular. What a piquant contrast it would be if a virile woman like herself were to show herself about town in company with some blond-tressed maiden. How it would show up her dark-hued charms. This dubious idea the Maupin was for putting into immediate execution.

It was in the first tier of boxes at the theater where she was singing that Mademoiselle Maupin discovered the ideal, the faultless blonde of whom she was in search.

This was a young lady who went to the theater with her father and mother and was to be seen several times a week in the costliest boxes of the Opera. She seemed to look at la Maupin with an expression in which admiration and passionate affection were equally intermingled.

Mademoiselle Maupin quickly sensed the promptings of love which began to ferment within her and immediately the masculine attributes slumbering in her female breast were aroused to activity.

After a while she succeeded in discovering the fair one's address, schemed to get a word with her, obtained an interview and bewildered the poor child with her passionate declarations. The parents soon discovered the unwholesome flame which was consuming their child, and accordingly put sudden stop to her theater-going. That troubled la Maupin but little, for she arranged to meet the young woman at a friend's house.

However, the parents deemed it advisable to cut the whole connection, and all possibility of its renewal, by taking the young person to Avignon and placing her in a convent there.

Two days later Mademoiselle Maupin had found out the road which her beloved had taken, thrown up her appointment at the Academy of Music and, dressed in men's clothes, was galloping along the banks of the Rhone, making post-haste for Avignon.

Once in the City of the Popes, la Maupin readily discovered her inamorata's retreat. She was in safe keeping at the Visitandines, a very rigid order to whose house there was no admission save for the unquestionably devout.

La Maupin knocked at the gate of the Visitandines and convinced them of her piety. With this object she had discarded her male attire and donned the modest raiment of the pious devotee.

She told the prioress a most touching story, in which was not a word of truth, said that she was a young orphan, and that she had come to Avignon there to await the arrival of an uncle of hers who was to take her to Burgundy. Fearful of the snares and pitfalls of life in a great city, she had come to ask the prioress to be so kind as to let her wait for her uncle in the peace and quietude of her holy house.

The good sister was deeply moved by all this candor and humility, and taking the penitent's clasped hands in hers, drew her to her bosom, imprinted a kiss upon her chaste brow and promised her aid and succor as long as she remained in the City of the Popes.

Thereupon the Maupin was led away to a whitewashed cell, in which she lived for a whole week betraying every sign of ardent devotion.

Our heroine's virtues were the one topic of conversation among the Sisters. She lay low, embalmed in litanies, incense and holy water.

But the wolf was soon to awaken. Indeed he had awakened, but in secret, and no one knew anything about it. The wolf had found out the sheep once more, but within their lay-sisters' habit, their gestures were so edifying and their attitude so modest that the most knowing among them would never have divined the storms that were raging within those two bosoms. Alas, the Maupin soon began to feel a longing to get away. This love-making in a convent somehow seemed to lack a tang. That is how it was she conceived the idea of burning the place down.

A young nun having died, the Maupin carried the corpse into her friend's cell, and having despoiled her of her habit, destroyed all trace of her profanation. She put it in the bed of her "lover" and set fire to the bedding.

In a very short time the cell was in flames as well as the passage that led to it, and a little later the whole place was in an uproar, nothing but screaming, shouting, running hither and thither. While panic thus reigned in the convent, la Maupin and her friend were scouring along the king's highway.

When the fire had been put out at the Visitandines, the nuns discovered the cruel trick that had been played on them.

It is not recorded where the two women went to hide their shameful passion, but we know that la Maupin was condemned to be burned alive on a contumacy.

But who would have recognized in the brilliant cavalier who rode alone one fine morning into Paris, the pious orphan of the Visitandines of Avignon. Her accomplice had disappeared, abandoned by her seducer, and in pitiable plight was compelled to creep back to the bosom of her family.

Such was the adventure which befell the fair Maupin at Avignon, the adventure to which allusion was made in the letter quoted at the beginning of our story which we owe to the pen of the loquacious, but very cautious, Madame Dunoyer.

Mademoiselle Maupin was not to remain very long in Paris. Her outrageous conduct at Avignon might any moment get to the ears of the Paris police, and the singing bird reflected that in the absence of her protector, the Comte d'Armagnac, she would run a great risk of being sent to rot on a bed of prison straw. Once more therefore she took the highway and before long we come across her in Orleans and then at other towns along the Loire. Her position, so far as money was concerned, was anything but brilliant, and she herself confesses later on that so desperate and pitiable was her plight that she was compelled to go about singing in hostelries and taverns to get her daily bread. But so fond was she of masquerading now in this dress, now in that, that she always carried about with her the wherewithal to enable her to appear now as woman, now as man.

Her triumphs at the Marseilles Academy of Music now belonged to the dim and distant past. Her public now consisted mainly of vagabonds and tipplers, who assuredly never suspected that in the singer or the songstress whom they applauded, they were listening to one of the most amazing personalities of their generation.

Ill luck continued to dog her footsteps and the Maupin was reduced to the degradation of begging her bread.

[Marechal:] Happily her star still shone with watchful eye. At Poitiers she fell in with a hoary old drunkard who, instinctively divining her genius as an actress and paying due homage to her talents as a singer, guided her steps in a new direction.

"I happened," she writes, "to find myself, in the course of my wanderings, at Poitiers. One evening when I was dining in a rather inferior sort of cabaret, I somehow felt rather pleased with myself and my singing was a great success. Among the audience was a man of fifty or thereabouts with a remarkably intelligent expression but with a countenance so flushed and bloated that you could have seen he was a drunkard a mile off. What drew my attention to him all the more was the strange fashion in which he was attired. His shabby coat was unbuttoned enough to allow a glimpse of a sort of ancient vest or waistcoat of rusty blue velvet on which were traces of some kind of antique embroidery. This individual, who thus used up in ordinary life the discarded fineries of the theater, was an old comedian of the provinces. Recently his inveterate indulgence in the bottle had brought about his expulsion from the local theater. His name was Maréchal.

"His disposition being naturally gay and genial, his company was greatly in demand among the moneyed idlers of the place, and thus it came about that he was always more or less mellow, when, that is to say, he was not completely drunk.

"Maréchal having listened to me with great attention, did not clap when I had finished but came straight over to me and said:

'I am an old comedian; I know something about singing, and when anyone has got talent. If you liked, ma petite, before four or five years are up you could be the foremost artist at the Paris Opera. I'll give you some lessons. I've got nothing to do.... It will amuse me.'

"I gratefully accepted his offer.

"As a musician Maréchal was good; as a comedian he was superb. No one was ever more thoroughly acquainted with the innumerable resources of his art. The broadest farce, the loftiest flights of the higher drama all came within his compass.

"How it came about that a man of his extraordinary gifts and intelligence should have never become anything more or less than a middling operatic singer passes my comprehension. It is one of those paradoxes which are as startling as they are inexplicable. Well then, I accepted Maréchal's offer. When he was giving me my lessons he was stern, harsh, almost brutal; but when the drunken fit was not upon him, the things he taught me were an absolute revelation.

"Unfortunately these priceless lessons had to come to an end. His drunkenness gained an ever-increasing hold on him and he at length relapsed into a sort of torpor that was not far short of idiocy.

"Time after time he had urged me to go to Paris and try to get taken on at some little theater, no matter how small the pay, for he was certain, he said, that once in a job, no matter where, I should, provided I stuck at my work, finish up as a star.

"So I left Poitiers in order to get to Paris, still singing for my daily bread as I went my way."

La Maupin, on her way to Paris, journeyed by short stages.

[dAlbert:] One night, when she was putting up at the New Crown at Villeperdue, not far from Tours, she dressed — of course as a man — found herself in the company of some youthful lords of very merry disposition. She had just finished her song when one of them, guessing the secret which her clothes concealed, said:

"Come now, my bonny bird, I've heard you a-chirping, but what is your plumage like ?"

That was enough to put la Maupin in a towering passion. Crimson with fury, she answered:

"My chirruping and my plumage are all of a piece, you insolent coxcomb." So saying she unsheathed her weapon, put herself in a fighting posture and pressed her adversary with such swift and lively thrusts that the latter, unable to parry them quickly enough, was wounded in the chest and collapsed in a pool of blood. Disdainfully, our heroine turned her back on him and went up to her room in the inn, while the friends of the wounded man carried their burden into a house hard by.

The man whom la Maupin had just wounded was fated to play no inconsiderable part in her career. Had she, shut up there in her room, some obscure presentiment of what the future had in store? Whether that was so or not; certain it is that she could not sleep and that a sort of remorse tortured her all night long. She was continually conjuring up her adversary's visage, his soft blue eyes, his youth, his noble bearing. Although she had decided to quit the inn next morning, she knew perfectly well that she would be unable to go. For the first time in her life she was feeling anxious about the fate of an adversary. She even went to inquire of the barber of the village whether his wounds were grave or not.

That man of skill answered her with words of comfort. Then she went about trying to find out the name of the young man she had so grievously mishandled. It was Louis Joseph d'Albert, of Luynes, son of the Duc de Luynes and of Anne de Rohan-Monbazon.

When the day was drawing to a close, la Maupin was visited by a young man who had come on d'Albert's behalf to seek her out and beg his generous adversary graciously to pardon him for the insulting words which, in a moment of intoxication, he had so thoughtlessly let slip.

"I will go and deliver my reply in person," said la Maupin to the messenger.

An idea had just come to life in the adventuress's fertile brain. At night, shortly before curfew, a mysterious visitant was ushered into the presence of the interesting sufferer. The visitant in question was enveloped in a long and voluminous cloak which concealed the entire figure.

"Monsieur —" began the Comte d'Albert, and stopped short. "What means this masquerade?" he went on.

"Masquerade you think it ?"

"Oh, no, madame, you are right. It is no masquerade; you are beautiful!"

"Think you now, monsieur, that my song and my feathers might accord?"

"Will you ever forgive me?"


It was the beginning of a great passion.

Anyone who, up to then, had only known la Maupin in the guise of a strapping cavalier would certainly not have recognized her in the silent, gentle-handed woman who watched, with such tender solicitude, over young d'Albert's progress back to health and strength.

As soon as he was well again the young man was commanded to quit Villeperdue and proceed to Paris, where orders from the King awaited him enjoining him to report at his camp in Germany.

Weeping, the two lovers took their leave of one another, swearing eternal fidelity and vowing they would meet again, in Paris or in Germany, with the briefest possible delay.

[Thevenard:] Howbeit la Maupin could not proceed immediately to Paris. She was compelled to make a détour by way of Rouen, where she encountered yet another who was likewise to exert an important influence on her career.

Gabriel Vincent Thévenard, ex-scullion in his father's cookshop at Orleans, endowed with a soaring voice and a still more soaring ambition, had decided he would make all Paris fall at his feet. Meanwhile, until he was able to appear at the Opera, he was tuning up about the country.

It was now the year 1691(1691-Thevenard). Maupin was twenty-one, and Gabriel Vincent Thévenard, just four years her senior, showed unmistakable symptoms of a violent passion for his new acquaintance.

Shoulder to shoulder the two singers set their faces towards Paris, determined to take the shortest route to the metropolis. Nevertheless, when they arrived at the gates of the capital, la Maupin's apprehensions took possession of her anew. She was still a fugitive from justice. After the fire at Avignon, the Parliament of Aix had issued an edict of condemnation against her, and that edict was still enforceable in any part of France, in Paris especially.

[Intercession:] There was only one man who could ensure her safety, and that man was d'Armagnac. But was he not still away on his estates? She would see. With great pluck la Maupin, disguising herself and taking every care to avoid the Myrmidons of the lieutenant of police, made her way to Le Marais, her late protector's abode. Luckily for her he was at home, having returned but the night before. He did not conceal his joy at beholding once again the woman for whom, in days gone by, he had burned with so ardent a passion.

He took in hand the Avignon business, and three days later the Roi Soleil, amused, though he would not confess it, at our heroine's boldness and temerity, issued an order annulling the verdict of the Parliament of Aix.

Free now from all anxiety, Mademoiselle de Maupin devoted all her thoughts to the Opera.

"When," writes Monsieur G. Letainturier-Fradin, "Lulli by dint of intrigues, no less than by the favor of the King, had supplanted Cambert and Perrin the directors of the Opéra Français, he obtained new Letters Patent conferring upon him the control and privileges of the Royal Academy of Music. Once in possession of this exclusive prerogative, he did not let the grass grow under his feet. The first thing he did was to have a hall built in the Rue de Vaugirard and made an arrangement with the poet Quinault whereby the latter was to write the libretto of his operas.

"On the 15th November 1672, Lulli formally opened his theater. The performance there given so delighted the King that His Majesty that year was pleased to enact that the Profession of Singer at the Royal Academy of Music should be duly 'recognized' and any lady or gentleman could sing at the said Opera without derogating from their title of nobility or forfeiting their privileges, rights and immunities."

In 1673, when Moliere died, Lulli was clever enough to get the King to offer him the hall at the Palais Royal, which the author of "L'Avare" had occupied until then. The musician established his theater in the very heart of Paris, two paces from the Louvre, in the most favorable situation possible, all of which was highly pleasing to the Duc d'Orleans, who could go along on the level from his apartments into the hall itself, which was one of the most beautiful of its day.

Lulli then had three houses built in which rehearsals of his performances were held.

At his death, the Opéra underwent a terrible crisis. Then his sons, Louis and Jean-Louis de Lulli, inherited his appointment and began their management in 1686.

Their term of office did not last long. On the death of one of the sons, the privilege passed into the hands of Jean Nicolas Francin, the King's maître d'hotel, who had married Lulli's daughter. He took over the duties in 1688.

This ex-maître d'hotel was a past-master in the art of intrigue. It would be impossible to record the adventures in which he was involved, or the countless songs, lampoons and pamphlets which went the round about him.

It was at this time that it became the thing for a man of fashion to choose his paid mistress from among the dancers and singers at the Opéra.

The Opera already boasted a great number of pretty women, and Maupin, the loveliest of them all, was destined to make herself an incredible number of enemies.

She had not had an opportunity immediately of displaying her talents as an actress, singer and dancer. Nevertheless she had some powerful friends. There was the Comte d'Armagnac, for example, and, in another category, her comrade Thévenard, who had obtained an engagement at the Royal Academy of Music the very day after his arrival in Paris.

Jean Nicolas Francin, in order to conciliate the other artists, gave the cold shoulder to our heroine. That unfriendly attitude had to be got over somehow. And the Maupin got over it. She went and unearthed a certain Bouvard, who had been a famous singer in his day but who had been compelled by age and infirmity to retire from the boards.

[Debut:] Bouvard, who was very thick with Francin, intervened with great tact and persuaded him to grant Mademoiselle Maupin an audition.

It was an easy victory for her. The Master of the King's Music though at first inclined to treat her with coldness, ended by being carried away by la Maupin's impetuosity, and had to confess that, over and above her purely physical attributes, she possessed unquestionable artistic gifts. Her voice, with its warm, rich tones, and excellent control, brought our heroine an engagement worth three thousand pounds a year.

The rehearsals began in the house that belonged to Francin at the Buttes Saint Roch, which was then the busy and fashionable part of Paris.

La Maupin had been given the role of Pallas, which she played alongside of the actor Ardouin, who took the part of Cadmus. Hermione was played by a Mademoiselle Rochois, a lively little person who, on the very first day, won a place in the all-accommodating heart of la Maupin.

This predilection for Mademoiselle Rochois, which she was unable to conceal, completely embroiled her with those who, until now, had only borne her a mild grudge for her belated but brilliant conquest of Francin. [Dumeni:] One of these enemies, the actor Dumeni, a sort of vainglorious peacock who was always strutting about and showing off before the women, had from the very outset taken an ineradicable dislike to her. This personage, who had formerly been cook to M. Foucault and had achieved his position as a singer owing to rather a fine natural voice, betrayed, beneath all the present magnificence of his outward equipment, the unmistakable fruits of his training in the servants' hall. It was given out that he had at one time been Mademoiselle Rochois' lover.

It is said that Duméni, whose love-affairs defy enumeration, not only rifled the purses of his conquests but robbed them of their pearls, ribbons and all manner of such belongings, of everything, in a word, which came to his hand. Of these interesting kleptomaniacal activities he was very vain, and had a carpet made out of all the bits of wool and silk he had filched from the alcoves of his amorous adventures.

One rehearsal night Duméni went up to Mademoiselle Maupin and spoke to her in language of so filthy a character that she, stung to fury by the insult, was for wreaking vengeance on the gentleman then and there. However, the others intervened, and at length our heroine consented to remain quiet, only murmuring under her breath:

"He shall pay for that."

Pay for it he did, in very truth, and very promptly — that same night in fact — and for many a following day. As soon as she got home, Mademoiselle Maupin flung off her dress and petticoats and put on man's clothes. About ten o'clock she went, her sword hanging at her hip, and took her stand at the corner of the Rue d'Aubusson and the Rue de la Feuillade, in the Place des Victoires. Even then Paris by night was one of the darkest places you could possibly imagine. Seeing how dark it was, no one could possibly recognize the indignant cantatrice in this well-accoutered, dashing cavalier.

Very soon Dumeni came on the scene. He was walking heavily, replete with over-much food and liquor. Suddenly a dark form loomed up in front of him and to his utter amazement he received one of the most formidable smashes in the jaw that could possibly have been dealt him.

La Maupin then drew her sword from its scabbard and called on the hapless wretch to stand to. The other was as big a coward as he was a braggart. In piteous tones he implored his adversary to spare him, saying that he was no swordsman, only a poor and honest citizen, and that he was quite at a loss to know how he had managed to offend the "noble lord." The "noble lord" made answer:

"Since you insult women and have not the courage to defend yourself against men, I am going to give myself the satisfaction of castigating a ruffian and humiliating a poltroon."

And returning her sword to its sheath Mademoiselle Maupin, according to the ballads of the day, brought it down more than a hundred times on the unfortunate creature's back.

Her wrath somewhat appeased, the singer was about to let the poor devil go, when Satan put a knavish idea into her head. She again went up to Dumeni, who was already beginning to offer his back in expectation of a further ration of correctives, but she was content merely to abstract his watch and the chain attached to it. Then she left him.

Next day, when Mademoiselle came in to rehearsal, she saw the miserable Duméni limping woefully but cackling away loudly to a bevy of fair ones.

"Last night, let me tell you [thus he was holding forth] I ran into a pretty nice snare. As I was crossing the Place des Victoires, three robbers flung themselves upon me."

"Three robbers!" they all cried.

"Three — there were at least three of them. Realizing that I was in a tight corner, I determined to make a fight for it and went for them like a lion (the beggars won't have forgotten yet the weight of my arm), and in spite of the odds against me, I made them take to their heels."

"Bravo," shouted his listeners.

"Only," he added, "in the heat of the struggle the brigands managed to snatch my watch and chain."

Mademoiselle de Maupin was waiting for that announcement. Swiftly she broke through the group of dainty listeners, and holding out the articles to their owner she exclaimed:

"You liar ! You're nothing but a coward and a craven."

And she recounted what had really passed.

The story brought the house down. La Maupin's colleagues, even those who were most loath to forgive her rapid success, became, from that day forth, a great deal more careful in the criticisms which they passed, according to their wont, on their envied rival.

"Cadmus and Hermione," by Quinault and Lulli was a great success for Mademoiselle de Maupin. Her renown as a ruffler and her adventures in the lists of Love, gave her the entrée in numerous directions. Fashionable society at the end of the seventeenth century flung itself into a vortex of unbridled debauchery. Men and women, over and above the other things, drank, smoked and chewed in reckless rivalry.

[CrossDress:] La Maupin was not the only woman of her day to wear men's dress. A good number of women did as she did. Duels among females became quite common towards the end of Louis XIV's reign.

It is on record that one woman wrote to another as follows: "I invert the order of the times and, contrary to female custom, send to tell you that I am on the pavement sword in hand to do battle with you for the possession of Philemon." This duel took place, and the two Amazons fought with such fury, and dealt each other so many sword-thrusts, that neither the one nor the other came out alive from the combat.

No one therefore saw anything strange in the masculine clothes and conduct of our heroine.

[Reunion:] Mademoiselle de Maupin had apparently quite forgotten the Comte d'Albert, when the latter gave her a very tragic reminder of his existence. He was attacked in the middle of the night and was left on the pavement for dead. Forthwith la Maupin came again and, at the bedside of the man whom she had never ceased to love, fulfilled yet once again the role of sister of charity, for which her virile nature was so little fitted. After he recovered, the Comte d'Albert was so often involved in duels on account of affairs of the heart that the King ordered him to get back to the army with the least possible delay. He rejoined his regiment at the siege of Namur (Namur) and covered himself with glory beside the Maréchal de Boufflers and the Comte de Hornes.

La Maupin, when she heard of the brilliant exploits of the Comte grew daily more in love with him than ever. However, since the absent ones always come off second best, she searched about in Paris for consolations that did not take much seeking.

[Ball:] The youth of Monsieur the King's brother had been particularly tumultuous. But after the death of his wife, Henrietta of England, he had a fit of religious enthusiasm which had lasted some little time. Now, however, in 1692, he was beginning to return once more to the sort of existence he liked best.

It is well known that in his young days he, together with his friend the Abbe de Choisy, took a delight in dressing up as a woman, and gossiping in the middle of a bevy of fair ones full of tenderness and indulgence for his foibles.

His marriage had compelled him to abandon a mode of life so little consonant with his high position, but when he was a widower, and even when he had remarried, he returned to his childish amusements. In his apartments at the Palais Royal, Monsieur was very fond of entertaining, and in 1692 his Court shone with a brilliance that put even the King's into the shade.

For a long time la Maupin had been desirous of taking part in the magnificent festivities that were held in the palace of Philippe d'Orléans.

Masquerades and disguises being there quite the right thing, she appeared in a male costume which straightaway won her the admiration of all the women, who took her for a man, and the jealousy of all the men.

All through the dancing, la Maupin played her part to perfection, and once she went so far as to declare an overflowing passion for one of the prettiest women present. Immediately certain gentlemen came up to her and requested that she would come and explain her conduct in some sequestered spot.

"At your service, gentlemen," replied the actress. "I will wait upon you in a moment in the Rue Saint Thomas du Louvre."

Half an hour later, three young men were lying in that street in a pool of their own blood.

La Maupin went back quite calmly to the Palais Royal, sought for Monsieur in the throng and said to him:

"Monseigneur, in the Rue Saint-Thomas du Louvre three gentlemen lie stretched on the pavement, who have need of prompt assistance. Less than an hour ago they were excessively hot in the head, but the night air might perhaps cool them a little over-much. Kindly give orders that they may be taken to their homes."

This rash announcement, when the King had set his face sternly against duels, might have got la Maupin into terrible hot water. Perhaps the King's brother divined the true sex of the daring "cavalier"; anyhow his anger was more assumed than real.

"What, another duel?" said he.

"Nay, there are three of them, Monseigneur, but without desiring in anyway to mitigate Your Royal Highness's wrath by endeavoring to amuse you, I must inform you that the three gentlemen who are stretched out close to this place with the pavement for their pillows have been wounded by a woman."

"A woman?"

"Yes, the woman that has the honour to make Your Highness acquainted with the fact."

"Who are you then?"

"Mademoiselle de Maupin."

If Monsieur the King's brother displayed some measure of indulgence in this affair, the King himself, when he heard of it next day, flew into a violent rage, and Mademoiselle Maupin deemed it prudent to put the leagues that sunder Paris and Brussels between her royal master and herself.

Brussels in 1698, under the reign of the Elector of Bavaria, was a very peaceful city where adventures and pleasures all went attired in very sober guise.

Theaters did not exist. Just a single troop of players under the name of "Theatre de la Cour," or the Court mummers, had the right to perform from time to time before the Elector.

La Maupin succeeded pretty readily in finding a place in the company of comedians, singers and dancers that performed before the Prince.

Maximilian Marie Emmanuel, Elector of Bavaria, a seasoned and experienced gallant, evinced at first sight a lively affection for our heroine, who, it must be confessed, offered a very feeble resistance to His Highness's advances.

This morganatic liaison was not of long duration. Very soon the adventuress found herself obliged to fight inch by inch in order to keep a hold on the over-fickle heart of Maximilian Marie Emmanuel. To retain possession of what was already slipping through her fingers, she conceived a stratagem whose too realistic execution filled the Prince's mind at once with horror and compassion.

Playing the Aeneas of Jean Wolfgang Franck, she stabbed herself in very truth upon the actual stage. The wound was a terrible one, but it was not mortal. For a time Maximilian gave back his affections to la Maupin, whom, however, he finally abandoned, after a few months, for sundry blond and bulky Belgians whose stolid placidity he found a restful change after the actress's all too orgiastic embraces.

A kind-hearted prince, the Elector, before taking his final leave, granted a pension of two thousand livres to our heroine, who then set out for Spain.

[Spain:]Little is known about la Maupin's peregrinations in Spain. It is on record, however, that she passed through some particularly painful experiences in the Iberian peninsula.

At first, seeing that her purse was well lined, she lived if not comfortably (comfort we know has ever been banished from Spanish hostelries) at least unharassed by care.

On the subject of Spanish inns Madame d'Aulnay in her "Narrative of a Journey in Spain" has left us the amusing notes which we quote below:

"When you arrive in these hostelries very tired and worn-out, grilled by the sun's heat, or frozen by the snow, you are not given so much as even a clean plate. You go into the stable and from there you go upstairs. The stable is generally full of mules and muleteers who by night make use of their beasts' saddles as bed, and by day as tables. They take their meals in a spirit of good comradeship with their mules and freely fraternize with them.

"The staircase by which you ascend is very narrow and like a rickety ladder. The mistress of the house receive you in a draggle-tail dress with rumpled sleeves. She has time to take out her Sunday clothes while you go downstairs, for they are poor and glorious. Then you are ushered into a bedroom with fairly white walls, beds without curtains, cotton counterpanes and towels about as big as pocket-handkerchiefs, and it must be a big and important town if you find more than two or three. Sometimes there are none at all. In all these houses there is but one single table, and if the muleteers get hold of it first, which they can always do if they like, for they are treated with much greater respect than the people who hire them, you have simply got to wait until they have done with it, or drink out of a pitcher. You cannot warm yourself without getting choked, for chimneys are unknown. It is like this in all the houses you come to on the road. They make a hole in the ceiling, and the smoke goes out through that.

"The fire is in the middle of the kitchen. They put what they want to roast on the cinders on the ground, and when it is done on one side, they turn it over on to the other.

"When it is a big joint they tie it to the end of a cord, hang it over the fire and twist it round by hand, so that the smoke makes it so black that it is disagreeable even to look at.

"I don't think there could be any better way of giving you an idea of what sort of people they are than by showing you these kitchens and the sort of people you find in them, for, not to mention this horrible smoke which blinds and suffocates you, there will be a dozen men and as many women, blacker than devils, dirty as pigs, all dressed like beggars. There is always someone who thrums interminably on an old guitar and sings like an asthmatic cat. The women's hair is always loose and disheveled; you would take them for wandering beggars; they wear necklaces of glass beads as big as walnuts. They twist them five or six times round, and thus do something to hide the ugliest skins the world can show. They are greater thieves than owls and they only show anxiety to serve you in order to filch something from you, were it only a pin. 'You may take what you like if only you take it from a Frenchwoman ' is their motto.

"The first thing the landlady does is to show you her little children, who go about with nothing on their heads even in the depth of winter, and if they're only a day old. They make them touch your clothes and rub their hands, their cheeks, their throats and their eyes with them. You apparently become a relic with power to cure diseases.

"Those ceremonies over, they ask you if you want anything to eat; and, even if it were midnight, they must needs send to the butcher's, the market, the wine-shop, the baker's, in short everywhere in the town, to collect the elements of a very indifferent repast."

La Maupin found in her journey from San Sebastian to Madrid an experience at once painful and exceedingly original. She traveled in man's clothes in the company of bandoleros, or robbers, regularly organized bands who find their prey alike in the Sierras and the lowlands.

Nevertheless, fond of fighting as she was, she was at a loss to understand how it was the Spaniards liked to employ the knife so freely.

When she arrived in Madrid, she put up in a miserable inn, resumed her female attire and made inquiries concerning the theaters with a view to obtaining an engagement.

Alas, the Spanish theaters kept their doors rigidly closed against her, and her status as ex-principal contralto at the Paris Opera merely availed to get her a place in a troop of gitanas, but as she knew neither the "cachucha" nor the "bolero" nor the "fandango" nor any of the popular Spanish dances and songs, her services were quickly dispensed with.

Being totally without funds she was obliged to take a post as chambermaid with the Countess Marino. That occupation did not please her a little bit, and henceforth all her thoughts were directed towards one aim, and that was to get back to France as soon as she could collect the wherewithal for the journey.

However, this took several dreary months, and all that time she had to stay on with the Countess, an intolerably exacting individual on whom la Maupin vowed she would one day get her revenge.

At last she found herself in possession of a sum —painfully amassed sou by sou — that would suffice to get her back to Paris. But before she took her leave, our heroine thought of a splendid means of holding up her detestable mistress to ridicule.

The lady was to go to a ball, and of course her hair had to be specially done for the occasion. All sugar and honey, la Maupin adorned her coiffure with half a dozen radishes stuck in the net of her chignon behind, so that everyone in the ball-room would see them, except, of course, the unfortunate Countess herself.

Madame de Marino, only looking at herself in front, found herself so absolutely beautiful that she so far forgot herself as to compliment her maid.

"Señora," answered la Maupin with her most innocent air, "you won't really be able to tell how splendid you look till you get there."

That night, when the Countess returned home, filled with shame and confusion, Mademoiselle Maupin, mounted on her mule, was trotting along on the road to France.

La Maupin was not long in getting back to Paris. There she found the Comte d'Albert, somewhat older indeed, but more manly, more interesting, too, by reason of the pallor which the numerous wounds he had received in duels or in the field, had imparted to his countenance.

Our heroine, who was duly re-engaged at the Opera, played during 1699 the role of Minerva in Quinault and Lulli's "Thésée" and Cidippe in the "Thétys et Pelée" of Fontenelle and Colasse. Then came the following: Quinault and Lulli's "Proserpine," before the king at Fontainebleau, de la Motte and Destouches' "Marthésie," Queen of the Amazons; Lulli's "Cérès"; and "Le Triomphe des Arts" by de la Motte and Delabarre.

The Parisian audiences did not stint their admiration, and before long la Maupin shone forth with a new luster.

Unfortunately her uncertain temper became more difficult to put up with than ever, and Thévenard, although he had backed her up when she first appeared at the Opera, had to bear most of the brunt of the intractable comédienne's pugnacious proclivities.

La Maupin and Thévenard began by quarreling, and then descended to insults. The actress called upon her ex-comrade to measure swords with her; but he, who all his life long had never managed to hold a sword out straight, refused to comply. For three whole weeks la Maupin besieged his box, and only desisted when all Paris took to humming satirical songs about the Amazon Maid and the King of the Cravens.

Thévenard sent la Maupin a piteous appeal:

"My dear Julie [why he called her Julie no one knows], everyone in this world has his good points and his bad. I am quite ready to admit that you handle a sword a great deal better than I do. And you must agree that I sing better than you do. Well, then, that being so, you must please recognize that if you only ran me through the breast three times, my voice, supposing I did not die, might be very seriously impaired, and I am bound to think of what my voice means to me, not to mention the bliss of gazing into your eyes when we play together and you don't fire off those ferocious retorts which rob your expression so completely of its sweetness.

"So let us make peace. I come to you bound hand and foot (in writing however, for an interview with you might be dangerous). Forgive me for a jest for which I am unfeignedly contrite, and be merciful."

To this la Maupin replied:

"Since Monsieur Thévenard admits with so good a grace his disinclination for a duel even with a woman, nothing remains for me but to compliment him on his prudence and I agree to forgive him his offense; but I desire that since I have promised him my pardon, he should ask me for it in the presence of those who were witnesses of the insult to which it refers. Let him assemble those witnesses together and I will keep my word."

And Thévenard, who was emphatically averse to fighting, publicly apologized to the aggrieved lady in the foyer of the Opera.

Maupin becoming more and more notorious someone published some rhymes about her, which did not mince matters, either for her or for the other ladies of the staffs. This was the kind of thing that was going the round:

Voulez-vous savoir l'histoire
Des beautes de l'Opéra?
Un seul passage suffira
Pour vous remplir la mémoire.

Ce beau lieu fournit des belles
tous les gens d'à present:
La Florence pour des meubles,
La Ancais a tout venant,
La Denis pour des gants,
La Subligny reste seule,

Marianne veut contrat,
La Borgnon n'a pas un chat,
Perrin pour une rente,
Maupin pour un justaucorps, …


One day la Maupin came to the Opera dressed as a man and found there, in very dubious company, a certain Baron de Servan, a gentleman of Perigord who was in fact a finished ruffler, a shameless swashbuckler and probably, in his spare time, a quite considerable scoundrel.

The bravo's conversation struck la Maupin as so notably foul that she decided then and there to administer a corrective. As a little something on account she dug her nails into his face. Then, next morning, while the dawn was still gray, she riddled the hose and doublet of the bold, bad baron with such a number of sword thrusts, that the nobleman showed his face no more, either at the Opera or in the streets of Paris.

In 1700, la Maupin was living in some rather nice quarters in the Rue Centenary. Unfortunately she could not get on at all with her landlord.

One night, it was the 6th September 1700, she got home about nine o'clock and told her landlord she wanted supper. As he did not comply with sufficient alacrity for her liking, she seized a spit which was hanging against the chimney-piece and began to belabor the poor man's face with it. Menservants and maidservants tried to intervene, but in less than no time they were all out of action.

The magistrate was called to the scene of the conflict and drew up the following report:

"At half-past nine of the clock on the night of the 6th September in the year one thousand seven hundred, we, Jean Regnault, proceeded to a house in the Rue Centenary occupied by the Sieur Langlois, burgess of Paris, where, on having been ushered into the kitchen, we found Marguerite Foret, a servant of the said Langlois. She had been wounded and blood was flowing from her head above the right eye. Her white linen cap trimmed with lace had been torn in pieces; her dress of a gray material was stained with blood in several places down the front. She, being in this condition, did lodge with us a complaint against a woman named Maupin, a singer at the Opera, and deposed that the said Maupin had come down from her bedroom into the said kitchen and demanded supper, whereupon the Sieur Langlois, the deponent's employer, told her, the said Maupin, that he was no longer obliged to supply her with food, inasmuch as the arrangements made between them had now terminated. Then the said Maupin, in a state of great violence, and transported with fury, is said to have seized a sheep's pluck which the complainant was taking from the spit and to have belabored the face of the said Sieur Langlois therewith. Then taking God's name in vain she took the great key of the door and with that key struck a blow at the complainant's head, inflicting upon her a wound above the right eye. Then she rushed upon her and felled her to the stone floor of the said kitchen, kicked her and punched her, tore her cap and put her into the condition in which we now see her, wherefore she has lodged with us the present complaint."

Having drawn up his report, the man of law withdrew in order to lodge his precious rigmarole in the proper quarter. Next day the witnesses were called, servants and shopkeepers of the neighborhood, who all deposed that they had seen la Maupin, a singer at the Opera, lying on the kitchen floor struggling wildly with a maid servant. Finally a surgeon certified in writing that he had "visited, and given professional attention to Marguerite Foret, a servant in the establishment of the Sieur Langlois, and that she had a wound on the forehead as well as several contusions and abrasions on the forearm.

Things came to such a pass that, yet once again, la Maupin was compelled to have recourse to her protector-in-ordinary, owing to whose representations the action against her was withdrawn.

From 1700 to 170I Mademoiselle Maupin played in Lulli's "Carnaval" and de la Motte's "Canente"; in "Hesione," a tragedy by Dauchet with music by Camprat; "Arethuse," by the same author and composer; also in "Scylla," but that was hissed and was taken off after the first performance.

In 1701, no one knows why, our heroine suddenly remembered that back in the Dark Ages she had married a certain Monsieur Maupin, who had been sent, by the Comte d'Armagnac, heaven knows how long ago, into some distant part of the country, where perhaps the poor man was eating his heart out. Her husband came back to Paris and la Maupin led him a smooth and tranquil life, but it was on one express condition, and that was, that he should keep his eyes shut. On the 23rd February 1702, la Maupin sang in a performance, given before the King, of de la Motte's "Omphale," music by Destouches. Her interpretation came in for some lively criticisms and one doggerel rhymester produced the following:

La Maupin, dit-on, à Versailles
Comme ici n'a rien fait qui vaille.
La chose ne m'étonne pas
Elle se réglait sur Hercule;
Où le mulet ne passe pas,
Peut-on faire passer la mule ?

Rather cruel — but it caught on.

On the other hand, this is what we read in the Journal du Marquis de Dangeau, under date 27th February 1702: "They held a council all the morning and went for a walk in the afternoon. On returning from his walk he worked with Monsieur Pelletier and at seven o'clock he went up into his Royal Box and listened to the Opera "Omphale," which was very well performed and in which the King, who had not seen anything of the kind for some considerable time, seemed to take considerable pleasure. Madame de Maintenon was also present for a time and heard la Maupin, who has the loveliest voice in the world. Madame la Duchesse de Bourgogne, with her ladies, was in the Box with the King, while Monseigneur and the rest of the Court were downstairs."

If the nobles still applauded, the par terre did not, and when she appeared in "Médée," on the 23rd July 1702, she was severely hissed. But la Maupin was not to be upset by a thing like that and before long we come across her again singing in "Polymnie," "Iris" and "Valfrina." Then on the 7th November 1702, she played in "Tancrède" by Dauchet and Camprat. She came on as a warrior, in breastplate and helmet, and scored one of her last, but one of her greatest, triumphs.

During all this time the affairs of the Comte d'Albert were in as bad a way as they could be. The King, sick of his everlasting kicking over the traces, had him arrested and tried on a charge of repeated infractions of the law against dueling. The result was that Mademoiselle Maupin's friend spent two years in prison.

Scarcely had he regained his freedom when he found himself the object of a furious competition between the Duchesse de Luxembourg and la Maupin.

"The Comte d'Albert," writes a contemporary, "would give anything to get back the regiment he has lost. I don't know if you were here when that disaster overtook him. It was a little quarrel with a Danish gentleman that brought about his downfall. This squabble, for which the Duchesse de Luxembourg served as a pretext, they dignified by the name of a duel. The Comte d'Albert and the Comte d'Uzes, who was also in trouble, decided that the best course lay in flight, but Monsieur de Barbézian, who, as you know, was the Comte d'Uzes' brother-in-law, managed to give another turn to the affair and to compel these gentlemen to return to prison. They came out some little while afterwards, but it cost the Comte d'Albert his regiment, for which he had paid to the tune of 40,000 livres and which the King put an end to the very first thing. So at present he's rather at sea. The Comte d'Uzes got off cheaper and the Dane merely had to leave the country. Apparently he had no intention of remaining here. The Duchesse de Luxembourg did not get off any more lightly than these gentlemen, since she has fallen pretty deeply into the royal disfavor. This affair has involved her in another one none too pleasant. La Maupin, who likes to think she is deeply in love with the Comte d'Albert, has got a bee in her bonnet about it all. One day, when the Duchesse was attending Mass at St. Roch, she went up to her prie-Dieu and said in a threatening tone that if she continued carrying on with the Comte d'Albert, she might count on having her brains blown out with a pistol. Everybody who knows la Maupin are quite convinced that she would do as she said. This conduct of la Maupin set the Court and the town talking again, and all the time in connection with the unfortunate lady.

"There's an example of what you have to put up with when you've got looks and make up your mind to use them."

However, as it turned out, our heroine did not carry out her plan and did not blow her rival's brains out. She was diverted from that sinister intention by worry about her husband's death and the further misfortunes of Comte d'Albert. The latter, now quite done for in France, decided on the 2nd April 1703, to put his sword at the service of the Elector of Bavaria.

Immediately after his departure, Mademoiselle Maupin sent him a long letter in rhymed couplets. It is generally supposed that the poet Dauchet composed it for her. The Comte d'Albert sent her a reply also in verse.

A little while afterwards, d'Albert came back to Paris. He took his leave of la Maupin because, in the first place, he had fallen violently in love with a certain Madame de Mussy and because he knew, in the second, that the Elector Maximilian intended to assign to him in marriage a Demoiselle de Montigny, Canoness of Mons, who would bring him in an income of forty thousand écus.

Mademoiselle Maupin appeared to forget all about the inconstant swain, and gave herself up wholly to the theater. She played in "Ulysse et Pénelope" by Béchard, music by Rebel; in "Persée" by Quinault and Lulli, in "Psyché" by Corneille de l'Isle, music by Lulli; in the "Carnaval et la Folie" by de la Motte, music by Destouches; in "Ysis," a tragedy by Quinault, music by Lulli, in "Iphigenie en Thauride," etc.

Suddenly in 1705, just after she had appeared in "La Vénitienne," a comedy of de la Motte's with music by Delabarre, in which she sustained the role of Isabelle, Mademoiselle Maupin quitted the stage to return to it no more.

A new and unexpected event had occurred. Her life adventure, her travels, her duels, everything which went to make up the amazingly virile character of this astonishing woman, was in a trice forgotten, cast off forever, like the masculine attire?

According to the "Manuscrit des Frères Parfaict":

"Her retirement was occasioned by the death of Madame la Comtesse de Florensac, who honored Mademoiselle de Maupin with her friendship and her protection. Mademoiselle Maupin, after bitterly grieving for this lady's death, asked to be released from her engagements and retired to some sequestered and distant retreat."

Details are rather scanty concerning the Comtesse de Florensac (Marie-Therese Louise de Senneterre de Lestrange, born about the month of May 1671, married to the Marquis de Florensac according to the contract dated 22nd January 1688), who died at the age of 35. She was one of the loveliest women in France. She was a daughter of Saint Nectaire and of a sister of de Longueval, a lieutenant-general killed in Catalonia, and was born out of wedlock. Her mother had been maid to the Queen and very good looking.

By means of brains, influence and scheming she had "had the law" of her brother-in-law, who was put into prison and only got out of it after a considerable time and with a great deal of trouble, and never married. Thus Madame de Florensac was very rich. She had many admirers and was accused of not being invariably cruel. However, she was the best woman in the world, the gentlest and the most unaffected, for all her beauty.

"She was exiled by Monseigneur, whose attentions were beginning to be talked about. Her husband, a brother of the Duc d'Uzes, a companion to Monseigneur and the kindest man in France, never noticed anything, he loved her passionately. She died within two days and left one daughter, good-looking also, but not as good-looking as her mother. She prided herself on her knowledge and brains. She is now the Duchesse d'Aiguillon, God knows how, and Madame la Princesse de Conti also."

Saint-Simon only just touches on Madame de Florensac's affairs of the heart. Nevertheless, the some what malicious allusion to the beauty and easy virtue of the fair Marquise makes one suspect a variety of things.

Nevertheless, it seems certain that Madame de Maintenon had ordered Madame de Florensac's exile because she had displayed over-much affection towards the son of Louis XIV. Sent away to do penance at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Soissons, a ballad of the times celebrates her in these terms:

La Florensac arrive
Plus belle que le jour
Disant: quoi ! l'on me prive
Des plaisirs de la Cour,
Pour avoir, sous mes lois,
Mis les Princes de France
Je sejourne à Soissons,
Don, don
Fallait-il pour cela,
La la
Si rude pénitence?

Madame de Florensac reappeared at Court in April 1701, and lived, it appears, rather a gay life in the capital. It was apparently about this time that she heard la Maupin at the Opera, and an intimacy sprung up between the two women on which neither letters nor memoirs throw any light.

When Madame de Florensac died, she left behind her a husband so stricken with grief that he entered the Jesuit novitiate, and a friend, la Maupin, so inconsolable that she became a convert to religion, and turning, at this late hour, her thoughts upon the salvation of her soul, set her feet in the path of order and righteousness.

Everything in la Maupin's character seems to have been exaggerated. As soon as she had given up the breeches for the petticoat, and exchanged the secular for the religious life, she gave herself up to the most extravagant religious exercises. She gazes at the angels, she hears voices, she holds converse with God and the Blessed Virgin, she becomes possessed of a mystical love of Jesus, and, after some years spent in the solitude of a sequestered house, she questions sincerely whether, as many illustrious actors and actresses had done before her, she would not take the final and irrevocable vows.

In the uncertainty and distress which visited her in her lonely life, her thoughts turned for the last time to the Comte d'Albert, and she wrote to discuss with him her religious vocation. This was his reply [Here Gilbert is quoting Parfaict]:

"Think for a moment who it is you are addressing. Is it my religion, my heart, my willingness that you would put to the proof? And do you expect, in thus consulting me, that I shall have sufficient mastery over my own feelings to strengthen and support your own? Have you ceased to remember what I am to you? Is it not an insult to my misfortune to force me to acquiesce in it, and do you not deserve that, to punish you for your injustice, I should take sides with the world against you. I know you do not doubt the sincerity of my solicitude for your happiness, but do you not know that you cannot achieve the happiness to which you aspire, without shattering my own, without destroying my peace of mind?

"Is it wise of you to trust the counsel of a man who cannot act in good faith save to the detriment of his own interests. You must know that inasmuch as you are renouncing the world, my interests are very different from yours. How difficult you make it for me to act in a manner consistent with the good opinion you entertain of me, and what a price I am having to pay for having convinced you, once, of my sincerity. If I am conscientiously to do as you bid, I must cut myself off from myself. I must stifle all the promptings of my own heart. I must, in short, use words that are totally at variance with the promptings of my heart, and to serve you I must sacrifice myself. Never did reason exercise such a tyranny over nature. Set therefore upon this sacrifice the value which it merits. It is the greatest I have ever made, or ever could make, in all my life."

This letter, a monument of selfishness and hypocrisy, was perhaps anything but the sort of answer la Maupin desired to receive.

Sick at heart, having tasted of everything and despaired of everything, almost insane with her mystical hallucinations, our heroine, now sad and lonely, died we know not where: probably in some suburb of Paris. Her body was cast upon the rubbish heap.


The March 1691 date is not consistent with other accounts and chronologies of La Maupin's life. According to Letainturier-Fradin's chronology of her roles, she appear as Pallas in Cadmus et Hermoine 3 months before, in Dec 1690. All accounts, including Gilbert's place her affair with the novice before her Paris Opera debut, at the end of her time in Marseilles.

M. d'Armagnac was Louis de Lorraine; Duke of Lorraine-Harcourt; Count d'Armagnac, Charny, Brionne; Viscount Marsan; Knight of the Order of the King; Master of the Horse of France; Seneshal of Burgundy and Governor of Anjou.

He was born December 7, 1641 in Paris and died June 13, 1718 at the Abbey of Royaumont. He married Catherine de Neufville on October 7 1660.

His "advancing age", then was about 45, if La Maupin was born in 1670, and their affair started when she was 14.

As with the previous occurrence(1691-fire), the 1691 date isn't consistent with other chronologies. Like La Maupin, Thévenard is said to have debuted in 1690.
There were two sieges of Namur. Louis forces under Vauban laid seige to and captured Namur in 1692. Then in 1695 the French defended and lost Namur to William of Orange. The flow of the narative here would indicate that the first siege is the one in question. The mentioning of de Boufflers suggests that the refernce is to the second siege in 1695, when he defended Namur against William of Orange, but he was also at the first siege, so it is hard to be sure.