More La Maupin Sources
|The source material on this page was all sent to me by J. Nelson Smith. My wife, Selma, transcribed it, and I am enormously grateful to both of them. J. Nelson's e-mail detailing his researches is included at the bottom of the page, along with footnotes by me.
Not alone by virtue of a celebrated romance does this seventeenth-century French girl remain one of the most baffling figures in history, a gallant lady in whose character viciousness and virtue were so tumultuously active that in the end their curious internecine quarrel destroyed her. Gautier's dramatization of her life under a title that flattered his heroine with the particle, for the husband of La Maupin, though possibly of worthy antecedents, claimed no "de" before his name, does her memory an injustice, for the actual facts of her career are incomparably more lurid, infinitely more dramatic. The Great Romantic's spurred and booted beauty, ravishing perhaps as fiction, struts somewhat emptily beside her prototype, the vehicle of a literary faction's credo and of a corpuscular content less brilliantly red than faintly purple. Mademoiselle de Maupin and La Maupin are different beings, largely, perhaps, because in painting the latter's portrait, Gautier left much unredeemed from a polite chiaroscuro, and confounded the maenad with the pretty lady.
La Maupin was an "enfant du siècle" and the morals of her century in the particular society, city and nation into which she was born were not only free but markedly vicious. France, during the later years of the reign of her most pretentious Louis, scoffed privately at the defensive morality of his last mistress, a woman clever enough to have cozened him into marrying her, and publicly followed the fashion set by his younger brother, a middle-aged Lucullus whose vices, reproduced with embellishments in his son, have made perpetuate the astonishing infamy of the Regency. Aging, the Sun-king forgot La Vallière and De Montespan and a hundred lesser blossoms gathered by the way, wallowed in senescent content in the rancid domesticity created for him by the widow of a minor poet, issued peevish edicts against dueling and allowed society to drift in the wake of Philippe of France, Duke of Orléans, a prince of a curious wit and a passion for certain manners of antiquity. Noblemen who sought to obscure convention and the edicts of fashion, sinned gayly against nature while their ladies recreated in their boudoirs the boskage of Lesbos or fought duels one with another for the favors of pampered gallants. The world of society rolled in an orbit of frantic sexual aberration while the King, his rank maturity behind him, made complacent moan with his final indiscretion at the evils he pretended to see about him, Into such a time and such a mise in scène as this was La Maupin born and it were, therefore, as intelligent to condemn her vices as to make mock of one's great-grandmother for wearing crinoline or to attack the memory of Thomas Jefferson because he owned African slaves.
[RogersBirth:] Her father, secretary to the Count of Armagnac, a great nobleman who was one of the seven grand officers of the Crown, was one Gaston D'Aubigny, by all accounts the devil of a fellow who feared neither God not man nor devil and who, from dawn to eve, drank and diced and fought and from eve to dawn achieved further fracturing of the Decalogue. [RogersTraining:] D'Aubigny, a blade with no love for a home and hearthstone, was, it is very possible, annoyed by the birth of a daughter in 1670, but he was man enough to shoulder his responsibility and to give the child, as it grew older, the only education of which he was capable, and, indeed, the only one which he deemed at all worth while. This was, in point of fact, far from meager, since, in his capacity as secretary to his lord, he was able to secure the services of the teachers of the pages of the royal stables, D' Armagnac holding, as he did, among his offices, that of Grand Equerry to the King. Courses in writing, dancing, grammar, and drawing constituted a curriculum that he forced his daughter to observe while he himself undertook the vital training and development of her sward arm. In a day when, it was estimated, there were more than 10,000 professional duelists between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg St. Germain, it was D'Aubigny's opinion that one unversed in the use of foil or rapier was unlikely to survive one pedestrian hour upon the streets. He himself, a bravo of parts noted for a redoubtable style of fence, spent the majority of his days in salles d'armes, and was admirably fitted to impart his knowledge to his child. By the time she was sixteen the girl could hold her own not only with him but with the best of the steel-wristed adventurers who lounged or strutted in the big, high-ceiled rooms where the only sound was the deep breathing of the fencers, the brittle ring of steel and the occasional harsh "touché!" as one swordsman buttoned another upon his plastron. Mademoiselle D'Aubigny, slender, with firm muscles and breasted almost like a boy, went habitually clad as one, though vivid, delicate beauty of her face misled opponents who trifled to their undoing with the perfection of her technique. [Rogers1stAffair:] Her beauty and the growing legend of her extraordinary skill as a fencer was not long in reaching the ears of her father's master, a nobleman who, unlike some of his peers, was an amateur of women and a very personable magnifico into the bargain. D'Armagnac commanded her presence as an appetizer to his dinner one summer evening, examined her with pleasurable surprise, pinched her ear and nodded to her father. Not precisely an example of the operation of the "droit de cuissage," but a custom to which D'Aubigny and for less his daughter might take no exception. [RogersMarriage:] Mademoiselle remained at the Hôtel D'Armagnac and later was found a husband, a young man of impeccable if colorless character resident at St. Germain-en-Laye, a Monsieur Maupin whose occupation it was to lend respectability to the nocturnal absences of his girl-wife from his own snug home. [RogersPosition:] In this fashion matters progressed for a year, after which time D'Armagnac seems to have felt old age creeping upon him and his seventeen-year-old mistress was absent no more from home. Thus restricted, the passion of her nature threatened to explode her husband's roof from over his head and even to destroy an already unparalleled passivity of attitude. The poor man knew not where to turn, and when offered a small official position in the provinces he seems to have quitted Paris with thanksgivings that his wife forced him to depart alone. The spleen of his Lordship of Armagnac at this rupture of his planning affected La Maupin not at all. [RogersSeranne:] She replied to his demand for explanations to the effect that her husband's appointments did not suffice for two and threw herself into the arms of a young gentleman of the Midi named Séranne whose stalwart person and vigorous swordplay much pleased her. With him she frequented every salle d'armes in Paris, fencing like Bussy, beautiful as any Antinous in his slender 'teens, and exquisitely unmoral.
[RogersMarseilles:] She was eighteen when circumstances over which he had had too much control, a fatal duel behind the church of the Carmelites, forced Séranne to leave Paris for Marseilles. Boasting property and riches in his native South he persuaded his mistress to accompany him and the two set out with pockets precariously unlined, to seize fortune in safer pastures. Séranne's riches of course proved mythical but La Maupin, in whose utterly generous nature there existed no desire for anything save loyalty and love, made nothing of her lover's deceit. She proposed to pay their board by giving in the smoky taproom of their Marseilles tavern nightly exhibitions of fencing, a project that succeeded admirably, so superb was their play and so perfect in grace, so alluring, in lithe and vivid silhouette, the person of the younger swordsman. La Maupin, be it understood, dressed as a Cavalier though her audiences were informed of her sex. [RogersHeckler:] The astonishing strength and flawless technique of her assault, her parades, parries and ripostes, however, one night caused some cynic disbelief touching her womanhood to linger in the minds and on the tongues of the gentlemen who watched, a disbelief which the girl very promptly dispelled by flinging down her foil, and facing the audience with flashing eyes, tearing open her shirt so that all could determine the question for themselves. The returns that evening were very munificent indeed. But though the partners seasoned their exhibitions with songs and stories, the demand for their services did not always satisfy them, so that La Maupin sought other means of livelihood. [RogersGaultier:] As she possessed a very beautiful if untutored contralto voice, or as it was then called, "bas-dessus," she sought an interview with Pierre Gaultier, director of the Marseilles Academy, a well-known personage in the world of music, comparable in the sphere of his activities and in significance to Signor Gatti-Casazza of the Metropolitan Opera of today in New York. M. Gaultier gave her an audition, marked the notable volume and rich timbre of her voice, and despite its obvious uncultivation, engaged her at once. Her début proved a brilliant success, her notes entrancing critics to whom the "bas-dessus" was a new tone in French opera.
[RogersNovice:] With this new unfolding of her talents La Maupin, or Mlle. D'Aubigny as she was named upon the playbills, dissolved her alliance with her duelist lover. Séranne passes from the picture, the second of a long list of lovers but few of whom seem to have left more than a transient impression upon her heart. Though not yet twenty, La Maupin had become a confirmed coquette, less by choice or wanton viciousness than by instinct. Like the Spanish princesses of whom a Frenchman once characteristically wrote, she had "le diable au corps," and the rampant polygamous inclinations of her being denied her the possible solace of a unique devotion. Trained in the exercises and diversions of men, she was no stranger to the admiration of women who justifiably mistook her sex, and little by little the virus instilled into an ardent nature by the opportunities that offered themselves to one engaged in so dangerous a mummery, obtained its effect. Out of a sky that Séranne had no reason to believe aught but clear, his belle amie fell violently in love with a gently beautiful young Marseillaise, followed her to a convent in Avignon, managed to steal her away from her godly duress by outrageous means, and never more returned to him or to the agonized and hysterical Gaultier. Three months later the ravished novice returned to her parents to be received with lamentations, and an edict condemning the "sieur" D'Aubigny to death by fire was published abroad through the South. Ostensively to punish the sacrilege of the kidnaping of her friend from the convent, the erroneous prefix was a tactful and delicate denial of the more shocking circumstance of the proceeding. Bending her steps once more towards her beloved Paris, however, La Maupin laughed the tribunal's admonitions to scorn. Apprehension was a danger hardly worthy to be reckoned with since the pathological peculiarities of thousands of thousands of handsome young adventurers answering more or less to her description would occupy the whole attention of the law for years. [RogersTutor:] Passing northward she did not fear to linger in Poitiers, where she studied for a month or two assiduously at her singing under the direction of an adept if drunken master, and to continue in her own time and by easy stages upon a road every turn of which brought her a new adventure.
[Rogersd'Albert:] Faring pleasantly, a gallant and beautiful figure, the pommel of a long rapier beneath her right palm and the plume in her curling-brimmed hat waving a little, softly, in the gentle airs, she rode one evening into an inn-yard where a number of lackeys held steaming horses while their masters drank within. In the Tap-room, she called for Burgundy and tapped a yawn as a youth of distinguished appearance and rich dress sat him down at the table beside her and smiled a greeting. A company of gentlemen surrounded them, members of the boy's suite, and as the drawers came and went with the good full-bodied wine, their master became argumentative and wide of gesture. He discoursed upon the points of his horse, La Maupin, only mildly bored, upon those of her own mount, until the subject wearied her. Rising to go she found herself restrained by a clumsy hand that tore the lace upon her wide, back-turned cuff. The wine was spilt when she struck down the young noble's arm and his followers' blades were free of their scabbards in two seconds. The principals, one hot with an anger that sobered him, the other cold as ice, adjourned to the inn-yard. La Maupin, to whom the game was an old one, faced a young man trained by the best masters in France, but a certain lack of experience betrayed his notable tuition. His opponent, twice parrying thrusts with some justice deemed deadly by him who launched them, riposted with a blade of chilled lightning that pierced him through the shoulder and appeared in red nakedness six inches behind him. By craning his neck he could just perceive it. La Maupin sheathed and aided his gentlemen to carry him to a bed in the inn. He was, she was told, Louis-Joseph d'Albert de Luynes, Comte D'Albert, son of the Duke of Luynes and Anne de Rohan Montbazon, and further, a youth much prized at court and looked to for great things. She observed that she herself was a demoiselle of birth but without fortune and while D'Albert gasped, gave her name as Mlle. d'Aubigny, dite La Maupin. Retiring she left D'Albert a sown furrow of romance. Obstinately, he refused to be cured unless Mademoiselle nursed him. He tore bandages from his wound and raved in delirium until her heart misgave her and she undertook to secure his convalescence. Her capitulation resulted in the one lasting love of her life. D'Albert afterwards loved variously and widely, but almost until her death, he owned her conquest, as she owned his, to be the one most cherished. That convalescence was a long one but rendered ineffable by mutual delights. Cured, the young man followed his destiny but he had secured the promises of further trysts.
[RogersThevenard:] Alone once more La Maupin rode to Ruen, where she fell in with one Gabriel-Vincent Thévenard, a young singer whose intention it was to achieve fame in Paris with a genuinely commendable bass voice. To the girl the meeting was a godsend. No plan could have more neatly suited her and though as a lover the bourgeois proved less thrilling than the nobleman [RogersParis:] she rode with him to Paris, leisurely, making love and music by the way. In the great city, while Gabriel sought engagements, [RogersIntercession:] she bethought her of the tribunal of the Parliament of Aix and, to quash it forever, sought audience with her one-time protector, my lord of Armagnac. That dignitary found her more beautiful than ever and charmingly complaisant. He could see no reason for so delicate and perfect a body being consumed to ashes and said a word or two to this effect in the ear of his sovereign, as Louis held his petite levée. The matter was arranged, of course. After all, what was the law to jeopardize the fragrant flesh of pretty women? Gabriel in his emprise was no less successful. [RogersDebut:] Jean-Nicolas Francine, successor of Jean-Baptiste Lully as director of the Opera, employed during the season of 1690 both a bass and a contralto, and the latter made her début as Pallas in Hermione and Cadmus, libretto by Quinault, music by Lully, in the last month of that year. Paris came, listened and marveled, applauded to the echo and sought assignations with the new star by squadrons and regiments. Thévenard, like Séranne after her Marseilles triumph, was superseded at once. Dukes sought her favors and hung her with jewels while she still persisted in going abroad in the habit of a duelist and pursuing amours in keeping with her dress.
[RogersDumeni:] A perfectly characteristic exploit was her castigation of the tenor Dumeni, the pet of the pit and favorite of the stalls, a vulgar, mannerless capon, snatched by Lully from a scullery for the sake of a voice undeniably glorious. Incredibly conceited, dulled by a sort of taurine stupidity, and a drunkard who could absorb five bottles of Mâcon at a sitting, he was wont to strut about the dressing rooms and corridors, making obscene proposals to the prima donna of the piece in rehearsal and otherwise comporting himself in the fashion of a stud bull in a deer park. He outraged, one evening, the soprano, Rochois, summoned blushes to the veteran cheeks of the fascinating Moreau sisters, and finally rolled towards La Maupin. The latter turned her back on him. Dumeni gurgled a coarse epithet and blundered away, but not before the contralto observed in a sub-acid undertone: "We will speak of this again." The conventional phrase of challenge amused him, for he leered luminously. Poor fool, he was uninstructed as to the fair one with whom he had to deal. Pallas that evening was never more superb in Lully's score of Quinault's tragedy, but when the piece was over, La Maupin donned her male clothing and sought a nest of shadows on the Place des Victoires. Anon came the egregious tenor, humming a naughty stave, to find himself accosted by a formidable gallant who cuffed his head with shocking violence and bade him draw. But Dumeni, though he carried a sword, handled it like the spit to which he had once been accustomed, and quaked horribly at the thought of a combat, He was, he howled, a poor but worthy man with not a sou, far less a golden louis, to his name. "Good," replied the dangerous unknown, "then, as you insult women and lack the courage to defend yourself against men, I shall give myself the pleasure of punishing an insolent rogue and humiliating a coward." The slender blade snapped back into its scabbard and Dumeni, swung around by a hand of steel, received upon his rear fifty strokes from a flexible but solid cane. La Maupin strolled away to experience a salutary afterthought and returned to her victim. Dumbly the miserable giant offered his posteriors but this time was relieved of his snuff-box and chronometer. As far as La Maupin was concerned, the evening had then been conducted to a satisfactory close.
Next day the tenor, subdued and strangely rheumatic, appeared to electrify the green room with a tale comparable only to Falstaff's touching the self-divisible rogues in buckram. La Maupin listened with respectful interest for a time and then exploded her mine.
"You lie; you, my good sir, are a coward and a poltroon. Ladies, what Dumeni has just told you is a flagrant untruth. He was attacked but by me alone. This abject animal who so glibly insults women trembles like an aspen at the point of a sward. After giving him a buffet I asked him for satisfaction; he shook like a chicken. On his refusal to cross swords I game him a sound thrashing and to prove his cowardice I took his snuff-box and his watch."
She produced them. The green room shook to spontaneous cheering, applause that seemed to merit at least half a dozen encores, and Dumeni, scarlet save where he was a royal purple, lumbered into outer darkness, bellowing like a spanked baby. La Maupin had once and for all made away with the community pest.
Paris in the meantime hummed like a hive with enthusiasm and praise for her. On September 11, 1693, she created the rôle of the enchantress in "Dido," libretto by Mme. de Xaintonge, score by Desmarets, and [RogersReunion:] welcomed home from the wars her beloved D'Albert, now the darling of society and the idol of the French armies in the Low Countries. The Count, however, returned shortly to the siege of Namur(Namur), after fighting a duel or two and breaking a number of hearts, and his departure occasioned a very considerable irregularity on the part of one of his bereaved mistresses. [RogersBall:] La Maupin, richly attired as a young gentleman of position, attended one of the famous balls held regularly at the Palais-Royal by Philippe of France. In the argot of today, she "crashed the gate." Unbidden she stared down the first defense of lackeys, deceived the second by pretending that she had strayed from her companions, and achieved, by the great stairs, the guard-room. Passing down Mansard's gallery she brazenly entered the drawing-rooms glittering with ladies sheathed in jewels, and flaming with rich materials, and decorated and illumined by pendent candelabra hung with brilliants. In the ballrooms great personages danced the coranto, the branle and the pavane to the accompaniment of "Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre," a melody less appropriate for dancing sixteen years later(Malbrouk), and among other diverting spectacles, a young gallant with a headpiece composed of four different masks, each one of them of a noble well known at court, danced so cleverly with four ladies that each faced a partner, however impassive of countenance. La Maupin was in her glory. She danced with the most desired partners, ogled and flirted, juggled charmingly indiscreet proposals with the masked beauties and displayed her shapely person to such marked effect that she excited not a little jealousy among less handsome cavaliers. She singled out in particular one delectable marquise, exquisite as a Watteau portrait, with whom she trod a number of measures, suggested impossible alternatives to dancing, and whom she finally embraced passionately upon the mouth. The lady screamed, a tinkling crescendo, and three gentlemen, all suitors, encircled the couple in a trice. La Maupin replied to their heated observations with perfect calm. "At your service, gentlemen. I will await you beneath the first lamp on the street of St. Thomas-du-Louvre." Gaining the rendezvous she found the lamp extinguished but her three opponents made nothing of the shadows. On the Quai do Louvre the first of them drew and engaged so suddenly that the girl laughed. "Gently, gently! A little patience, my lord. You seem to desire retiring to bed at a very early hour." The blades rang each on each and the heels of the duelists pounded sharply in the still night. The darkness lightened an instant as a timorous moon appeared amid the wrack and La Maupin, parrying, spoke clearly. "This time I've had enough, I touch." A masterly riposte and her opponent collapsed upon his knees. The second cockerel was on her in an instant but the combat was brief. The moon peeped again and she marked her man against a wall. "Ha! Now that I've seen you, farewell." He fell, pierced through the shoulder. Startled, the last of her enemies fenced carefully and with calm, but a feint followed by a thrust "par la ligne basse" undid him. "Touched," he said as he stumbled. "The contrary would have surprised me," observed the Amazon and returned to the ball. There she sought an opportunity to speak with Philippe himself and apprised that prince of the fortunes of three of his guests. Sending to succor them, he paused. His aging but still handsome, though unvirile, face clouded. "Another duel! Who fought these gentlemen? A Woman? And who?"
"Aha! I've heard of that jade's handiwork. So you are she?"
He examined her pleasurably through a glass handled with emeralds and diamonds.
"Still at your old tricks."
"Your Royal Highness knows that sometimes I do not kill His Majesty's subjects and that there are sweeter meetings than are found at a sword's point--"
"Be silent, gadfly."
"I well do more. I will retire." Bowing, left foot advanced, so low that her curls swept the floor, she completed her vengeance by informing her marquise of the fate of her friends. Then she went home in the gray dawn humming a hardy ditty.
|"Dumenil sur la note |
Ne pousse pas si haut
Que fait d'un coup de motte
La petite Moreau.
Flon flon, larira dondaine,
Flon, flon, larira dondon."
Next day the city was agog with the news and La Maupin confidently awaited arrest but Louis was in a tolerant humor. His laws against dueling, he stated, governed men not women, but she took no chances. Saddling a horse she rode to Brussels until the affair had ceased to occupy the tongue of Society.
[RogersElector:] Belgium was governed during these years by Maximilian Marie Emmanuel, Duke and Elector of Bavaria, a prince who owed his government to Austria and Spain, for which dominions he had warred against the Turkish and the French. A florid Don Juan of uncounted gallantries with women of all classes from duchesses to kitchen maids, he paid well for his briefest loves and married the more notable of his mistresses to noblemen of his suite or of his army. La Maupin, singing Dido in Jean Wolfgang Franck's opera of Aeneas, did not long remain unsolicited. Maîtresse-en-titre for a year and a little, she could have made a fortune had she been a mercenary lady of pleasure but that was never her failing. The position of ex-officio first lady of the land pleased her and her ducal Bavarian was a lusty lover as well as being admirably open-handed, but the French girl, after an interval, proved too furious a bed-mate. Deeply chagrined, she stabbed herself in earnest in her rôle of the Carthaginian queen and was asked to leave the country, politely asked, however, with a purse of forty thousand livres. It was the wrong anodyne. La Maupin hurled the gold in the face of the startled emissary. [RogersSpain:] Two hours later she took the road to Spain.
Her opinion of the lands of his Catholic Majesty became, soon after she reached Madrid, exceedingly low. As she knew neither the cachuca, the fandango not the bolero she was unable to join a troop of dancers and there existed no opera. Completely lacking funds, she was eventually reduced to securing a position as lady's maid to the Countess Marino, an Italian beauty whose husband was at Court in a ministerial capacity. The Countess and the soubrette very early found themselves in a state of imperfect sympathy one towards another but, for the first time in her life, La Maupin could resent slurs neither upon her intelligence nor upon the felicity of her endeavors to please. But her time came at last. Having saved enough of her wages to allow her to reach Paris she dressed her mistress's hair for a state function and added to a really magnificent coiffure a half dozen small radishes which might only be observed from behind. The Countess, after complimenting her on her handiwork, and receiving the somewhat cryptic response that its virtue would only be appreciated to the full at the ball, departed radiant. Her appearance provoked such a distinguished reception that after a half hour plenipotentiaries and grandees were forming a queue at her heels to observe her. When a kindly old magnifico informed her of what was so attractive to the company she seemed to fall into a sort of molten stupor. Tarrying no longer she returned home, but her maid had silently stolen away, and the Arabs could have been no swifter in their flight.
[RogersReturn:] She had been three years absent(3 years) from Paris and her career, but Francine was so jubilant at her return that he at once presented her with the position of prima donna, vacated by the soprano Rochois, retired, and she returned to the public in November 1698, in the part of Minerva in Theseus, libretto by Quinault, score by Lully. Paris, which had always yielded her a large and vociferous following, gave her a clamorous welcome home, even though in one or two of the parts she later sang, a soprano and not a contralto was called for by the score. Of the 29 parts which over a period of 15 years she created in the Opera of Paris, only one failed to find favor with the public, that of Armide in the piece by that name by the old team of Quinault and Lully. La Maupin insisted on singing a soprano's part to a contralto's register and the result called forth a long and popular ballad of reproof. This was in November 1703, two years before her retirement. But save for this artistic vagary she never wanted for wide and enthusiastic support from her audiences, a circumstance that made her almost immune from official interference in her little affairs of a private nature. On her return from Madrid she encountered once more the debonair D'Albert and the two found their love to be as vital a passion as ever. She also at this time fell out with Thévenard, promoted to the position of primo basso, and their quarrel became a local wonder. Singing amorously one to another in more than one piece, La Maupin would bite the poor fellow's ear while he retaliated by secret but violent pinches. Remembering Dumeni, he dared not go abroad, but ate and slept in his dressing room until he could bear it no longer. He capitulated handsomely at last, in a missive not without pathos and a certain sense of humor.
"My Dear Julia: Every one in the world has his (and her) faults. I freely admit that you handle a sword far better than I do; you will admit that I sing better than you. With this settled, you will understand that were you to embed only three finger of steel in my chest, my voice, providing that I were not killed, would be seriously injured and I rely absolutely on the livelihood it wins me apart from the pleasure it affords me by allowing me to mirror myself in your eyes when we act together and when you do not glare at me, a procedure which much alters the sweetness of your expression.Julia was merciful but on condition.
"Let us, then make peace, my dear Julia; I come to place myself bound hand and foot before you (in writing, of course, considering the danger of an interview); pardon a blunder which I sincerely repent and be merciful to me."
"Since M. Thévenard so frankly admits the distaste he entertains for a meeting sword in hand, even with a woman, which leaves me no other course than to congratulate him upon his prudence, I consent to forgive him his offense. But I wish that, with this pardon granted, he ask me forgiveness before those who witnessed the injury; if he takes care to reunite them in my presence, I will keep my word."
The basso complied to the letter with this proviso and made nothing of the jibes at his expense, since he retained his health unimpaired. [RogersServan:] Not long after this La Maupin further won the affection of her brother and sister artists by publicly challenging a petty noble of Périgord, a Baron de Servan, whose unamiable eccentricity it was to fill the foyer with accounts of how he had enjoyed the favors of this or that lady of the ensemble. Unqualifiedly mendacious, these little tales annoyed every one and one evening, before a large company, the girl named him liar to his face, called him out and ran him through the arm. Shortly afterwards his estates in Périgord received him home.
In spite of these exploits, however, and an extremely full operatic career, La Maupin found time to cherish her beloved Count, a young man by this time sought after not only by less aristocratic belles but by ladies of very high rank indeed. She disputed so violently his favors with the Duchess of Luxembourg that one day, as that great lady knelt at prayers, she knelt beside her and promised in a conversational tone to cut her Grace's throat if the young soldier ever again made free of her boudoir. [Rogersd'AlbertMarriage:] Fortunately, perhaps, for both her and her intended victim, D'Albert, imprisoned for a fatal duel, left France on regaining his freedom and desolated a number of ladies by marrying at Compiègne Mlle. Montigny, late mistress of La Maupin's one time Prince Charming, the Elector of Bavaria, which prince gave her away with the handsome dowry of 40,000 Livres a year. Heartbroken in genuine earnest, La Maupin forsook for ever the opposite sex. Her last love and, indeed, the last chapter of her life were at hand.
[RogersFlorensac:] Madame La Marquise de Florensac, very beautiful, witty, and elegantly vicious, died on July 2nd, 1705, after an illness thought to be puerperal fever, of two days. Her death bereaved a great many whom it should not have so devastatingly affected and, in particular, it crushed La Maupin, for the two years since the marriage of the Count D'Albert, her favored and most passionate lover. [RogersRetirement:] After the sad event the stricken singer appeared no more at the Opera. Her last public appearance had been in the part of Isabelle in The Venetian Lady, the libretto of which comedy was written by La Motte, the score by La Barre, on May 26, preceding the tragedy. In August, having come to a decision, she wrote a last note to D'Albert apprising him of her intention to quit forever a life of pleasure by entering a convent, and, receiving no violent opposition to this plan from her only trusted friend, she put her design into execution. Once committed, hers was not a nature that yielded to vacillation or a change of heart. For two years she achieved a more or less satisfactory sublimation of her natural passions by transferring these to a contemplation of the Divine Bridegroom, but the struggle to do so shattered her health. [RogersDeath:] She died in 1707 aged thirty-seven, destroyed by an inclination to do evil in the sight of her God and a fixed intention not to. The war between the two effected her heath, there is no doubt.
As an historical figure La Maupin remains memorable for two reasons, both of them cogent. She was the first contralto to appear before a Parisian audience and in her time the most applauded performer in France. She was, if not the first swordman of her day, very nearly the most effective and renowned and in her alternative part of a woman of many loves, not all of them light, she was a famous and widely desired beauty. Her operatic career, lasting as it did in the metropolis, for only fifteen years, would fill a volume if fully treated from a critical and appreciative angle, but across the gulf of more than two centuries, it is rather her picaresque and vigorous life that attracts us. As has been observed, the moralist or censor will squander his abilities in attempting to nail her to a cross of shame, for her vices were the fruit of her epoch and her many and not inglorious sins the product of the times. Beautiful, valiant, generous and superbly unchaste, she represents a perfect of markedly individual example of the Dame Galante, nor is she in any way to be confused with the Donna Delinquente outlined by Lombroso. Her extraordinary masculine courage and lack of feminine distaste for physical combat links her with Belle Starr, the American gun-woman, Calamity Jane of hallowed memory and one or two more, but in her skill as a fighter with a designated and particular weapon she stands in a place apart. All these named, and other gallant ladies, were characterized by great personal courage and a manly aptitude for conflict, but of them all, Julie D'Aubigny, the incredible Maupin, strutting the duelist- and bravo-infested streets of seventeenth-century Paris, is by far the most debonnaire, Her "mise en scène" does much for her even as when on the day of her debut in 1690, playing the part of Pallas, a ribald punster ascribed her success to her "chemise en scène," but it does not do all. In herself La Maupin possessed many moments of sublimity.
Queens of Song by Ellen Creathorne Clayton[ClaytonP46:] [ClaytonBirth:] Mdme. la Maupin flourished at a somewhat later period. The history of this singer is like a wild romance. She was the daughter of the Sieur d'Aubigny, secretary to the Comte d'Armagnac, and was born in Paris in 1673. [ClaytonMarriage:] While yet almost a child, she married a gentleman named Maupin, of St. Germain-en-Laye, [ClaytonPosition:] who obtained a government situation in a distant province. M. de Maupin had the folly to leave his child-wife in the capital, where, freed from all control, she, a [ClaytonP47:] wayward, untutored creature, threw herself into a succession of madcap enjoyments with all the impetuosity of her nature. She had a taste for masculine exercises and accomplishments, and having become acquainted with a man named [ClaytonSeranne:] Séranne, assistant in a fencing academy, took in into her head that she would learn fencing. She soon surpassed her master; and her audacious nature leading her to throw off all restraint, [ClaytonMarseilles:] she agreed to elope with him to Marseilles. In order to be more at liberty in traveling, she assumed male attire and the name of M. d'Aubigny. [ClaytonMarseillesOpera:] The guilty pair suddenly discovered that they had no money to live on; but, as they both possessed fine voices, though totally ignorant of music, and were of showy exterior, they easily obtained employment at the opera-house of Marseilles. The voice of the supposed M. d'Aubigny was beautiful, sympathetic, and flexible, and she had a natural instinct for the truthful in nature and the effective in art; she always played male characters, and was very much admired as a clever singer and an elegant young man. [ClaytonNovice:] A foolish girl of the city saw the supposed M. d'Aubigny on the stage, and, struck with his appearance, fell in love with him. Mdme. la Maupin, for a whim, encouraged this predilection; but the friends of the young lady, rightly disapproving of the acquaintance, placed her in a convent at Avignon. The actress followed her admirer, and, resuming the feminine robes which she had discarded, applied to be received as a novice, being determined to carry off the young lady whom she had pursued. An opportunity soon presented itself. One of the nuns died, and was buried within the precincts of the convent; La Maupin with her own hand disinterred the corpse, laid it on the bed of the young Marseillaise, set fire to the chamber, and in the confusion made her escape with the infatuated girl. Immediately on the discovery of this double crime, Mdme. la Maupin was arraigned in her theatrical name, and condemned to be burnt for contumacy in default of appearing. She ran away to Provence, and the silly Marseillaise girl was restored to her friends.
[ClaytonProvence:] For some time La Maupin lived by singing in the cabarets of the towns trough which she passed. She was painfully conscious of the miseries of her vagabond life, but her ambition prompted her to strive to excel, although her audience was invariably of necessity rude and ignorant. She tried to [ClaytonP48:] sing her very best on every occasion, and to give expression and truth as far as she could to what she sung, and adopted every means of captivating--of moving her learers: "I tried even to compose the words and airs of some chansonettes, which were liked well enough by me rough audiences," she says herself.
[ClaytonLulli:] At length she arrived at Paris, and succeeded in gaining admittance to the school of Lulli. Two months after she made her début, under her husband's name, at the Opera, as Pallas, in Lulli's Cadmus et Hermione. She was still almost ignorant of music, but her voice was so good and of such compass, and her memory was so tenacious, while the airs of Lulli were so simple, smooth, and easily learned, that she managed very well. Her success was immense: she soon became a general favorite; her name was in every body's mouth; her portrait was in every shop window, and she was surrounded by admirers. [ClaytonRoles:] She was excellent both in comic and serious parts, but it was in male characters that she shone more especially: for these her appearance and manners were well suited.(male roles) [ClaytonDumenil:] Her fellow-actors regarded her with admiration, while they were kept in awe by her prowess; for, whenever she fancied she had been insulted, she made no scruple of avenging herself. Dumenil, one of the singers, having offended her, she waylaid him one night in the Place des Victoires, and called on him to give her satisfaction. Poor Dumenil, nigh fainting with terror, declined, when she gave him a drubbing, and carried off his snuff-box and watch as trophies. Next day Dumenil told the story after a fashion of his own, saying that three robbers had attacked him, and that he had defended himself valiantly, but, being overpowered by numbers, he was vanquished and plundered. Mdme. la Maupin, who was standing near, suddenly stepped forward, and, with ineffable disdain, exclaimed, "Fellow! you are a base liar and poltroon. It was I alone who assaulted you; and as a proof, I restore your miserable property," flinging him, as she spoke, his watch and snuff-box.
[ClaytonServan:] Among those who frequented the green-room was a certain Baron de Servan, a fop and braggart, whose vanity knew no bounds. He had a Herculean figure, a loud voice, an overbearing manner, and was fond of boasting of the numerous duels in which he had been engaged. One evening he was going over his list of the fair ones who had fallen victims to a [ClaytonP49:] passion for him, when he chanced to speak lightly of a young ballet-girl, Mdlle. Pérignon, whose irreproachable conduct had constantly defied calumny. A universal murmur of disapprobation at such a piece of ungenerosity ran round the green-room; but the baron persisted in his fatuity. Mdme. la Maupin, who was lounging on a cushion in a distant corner of the room, listening in silence to his scene, allowed the baron to speak as long as he pleased; then she suddenly rose, advanced, and addressed him haughtily. Being dressed in her favorite doublet and hose, she looked a tall, imposing young cavalier. "Truly," she cried, "I admire the patience of these gentlemen. Your insolent and stupid falsehoods demand not only refutation, but prompt and exemplary chastisement. You are an infamous liar, and it is I who tell you so." "And, pray, might I ask who are you, sir?" demanded the baron, trembling with rage. "The Chevalier de Rainey -- a better gentleman than you, and one ready to give you a useful lesson," replied La Maupin, with a look of contempt. The lesson was an effectual one. The baron had one arm broken by a pistol-shot, and amputation was pronounced indispensable. His agony of rage when he discovered that the hand of a woman had vanquished him is not to be described, and he retired from Paris to his estates.
[ClaytonBall:] Mdme. la Maupin sometimes carried her freaks to a height which would have subjected another to condign punishment. One evening, being (in her favorite masculine disguise) at a masked ball given at the Palais Royal by Monsieur the king's brother, she insulted a lady of rank so grossly that three of the lady's friends demanded satisfaction. She followed them to the gardens, and after a few passes killed her antagonist; then returning to the ballroom, she went up to Monsieur, and, unmasking, told her story and obtained his pardon.
[ClaytonElector:] Arrived at the height of fame and popularity, Mdme. la Maupin quitted France to fulfil a most advantageous engagement in Brussels, where she made a great sensation. The éclat of her adventures, the brilliancy of her beauty, and her surpassing talent, made the highest impression on the dilettanti and the strangers of distinction at that time collected in the capital of Belgium. the Elector of Bavaria threw himself at her feet; but, after a time, the Countess d'Arcos eclipsing her, the elector sent the actress a purse of 40,000 francs (about £1600), with an order to quit Brussels immediately. The husband of [ClaytonP50:] the countess happened to be the envoy; and the supplanted favorite received him with supreme disdain, flung the purse at his head, uttered several withering sarcasms, and turned her steps to Spain. She, however, retained the pension settled on her by the elector.
[ClaytonSpain:] The marvelous accounts which she had heard of Spain had greatly excited her imagination, and she fancied that in this delightful and happy region her success was certain; but she was soon cruelly undeceived, and became so reduced in circumstances that she was compelled to take a situation as femme-de-chambre to the Countess Marino, wife of the minister. This lady, if the historian does not belie her, was extremely cross-grained and capricious; the unlucky soubrette suffered long without murmuring, being, with all her faults, very good-natured and somewhat careless in temper; but at last her patience was exhausted,and she resigned her irksome post. She, however, determined to revenge herself, before going, for all she had endured. One day, having to dress the countess for a court ball, in arranging the coiffure of the dame, the wicked ex-cantatrice placed a number of little red radishes, encircled by their leaves and secured by large plack pins, in the "back hair" of her mistress, bedecking the front and sides with marabout feathers, so as to produce a charming effect. The countess glanced complacently in the glass, and departed in high spirits for the ball, where the decided sensation she created put her in a flutter of delighted vanity, until some considerate friend told her the truth, when, red with same, and suffocating with rage, she rushed from the room. She regained her hotel in a towering passion, but did not find her traitorous waiting-woman, who had prudently taken the road to Paris.
[ClaytonReturn:] Mdme. la Maupin returned to Paris and reappeared at the Opera. She discovered, however, that she no longer excited the enthusiasm which she had been accustomed to raise. The public were cold and reserved. Her voice was still fresh, her acting excellent, and her beauty undiminished; but during her absence many things had combined to alter the public taste. New performers had appeared, and the audience had become more exacting, more critical. Mdme. la Maupin was a bold, showy actress, but wanting in those delicate shades and niceties of expression which the public now demanded. Finding herself no longer an idol, a fit of penitence for a life misspent [ClaytonP51:] seized the poor siren, who regretted the dissipation of past years, and bewailed the errors of her youth.
[ClaytonBenserade:] One of her most ardent admirers was the Count d'Albert, an elegant and highly-accomplished nobleman, to whom, while he was in the camp of Maréchal Villars, La Maupin had addressed a poetical epistle, written with warmth of feeling and grace of expression. This effusion was subsequently attributed to Benserade, who had been dead for several years, and it is given in the Anecdotes Dramatiques, published 1775, La Maupin now wrote to Count d'Albert in her remorse, explaining her motives for quitting the stage, and requesting his advice. The gallant cavalier, while testifying his personal regret, warmly counseled her to carry out her idea, encouraging her in every possible manner. She therefore finally decided, and returned all the presents given her by the cavaliers of the court, retaining only the pension of the Elector of Bavaria. [ClaytonRetirement:] Her new-grown piety increasing, she resolved to retire from the world altogether, and [ClaytonReconciliation:] wrote to her husband, desiring him to come home directly: that gentleman meekly obeyed. Madame la Maupin made her last courtesy to her whilom enthusiastic adorers in 1705, and spent the short remnant of her life in peace. [ClaytonDeath:] This beautiful, misguided being died in 1707, at the early age of thirty-four.
New Grove Dict. of OperaMaupin [first name unknown] (b 1670;d Provence, 1707). French soprano. [GroveBirth:] She was the daughter of a Sieur d'Aubigny, secretary to the Count of Armagnac. Her physical beauty and natural talent were said to have compensated for a lack of musical training. She made her début at the Opéra in 1690 as Pallas in a revival of Lully's Cadmus et Hermione (1673), [GroveStar:] but her career flourished only from 1698 (when Marthe le Rochois retired) until 1705. During that time she sang in new productions by Collasse, Destouches, Campra and their contemporaries as well as in revivals of Lully tragédies lyriques. [GroveLastRole:] She made her last appearance in Michel de la Barre's La Vénitienne (1705). The Marquise of Dangeau wrote in his journal of a performance at Trianon of Destouches' Omphale (1701), describing Maupin's as 'the most beautiful voice in the world'. Campra is supposed to have written the first bas-dessus (contralto) role for her, that of Clorinde, in Tancrède (1702); in fact the part never descends below d' (at one time however she wanted to sing Lully's Armida a tone below its original pitch). In that same year she performed chamber music accompanied by Couperin (Mercure galant, 7 July 1702), and she replaced Mlle Desmatins in the title role of Bouvard's Médus, roi de Mèdes, receiving considerable acclaim. She was especially popular in comic roles.
Maupin was a colourful, tempestuous figure, fond of masquerading as a man and capable of dueling to the death with as many as three men at a time. [GroveLeCerf:] Le Cerf (Comparaison, ii (1705), 123) remarked on her success in roles in which she abandoned her hairdo and fan for a helmet and lance, noting however that her lively and cavalier manner and her unusually strong voice offended neither decency nor verisimilitude.(male roles) After marrying young, she left her husband and [GroveElector:] became the mistress of the Elector of Bavaria and others; [GroveReconciliation:] she returned to him in her last years. Attracted to women as well as to men, [GroveFanchon:] she attempted suicide when her love for the soprano Fanchon Moreau was spurned. These and Maupin's other adventures are chronicled by La Borde and Campardon.
- J.B. de La Borde: Essai sur la musique (Paris, 1780), iii, 519ff (La Borde)
- T. de Lajarte: Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'Opéra (Paris, 1876)
- E. Campardon: L'Académie royale de musique au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1884), ii, 177ff
- G.J.A.P. Letainturier-Fradin: La Maupin (1670-1707): sa vie, ses duels, ses aventures (Paris, 1904)
- M. Barthélemy: André Campra: sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1957), esp. 76, 102
Footnote in The Sword and Womankind
The most famous of all petticoated duellists was the actress Maupin, of whom exploits in this kind of a truly astonishing nature are told. [BeaumontBirth:] She was born in Paris in 1673, her father being named Daubigny. [BeaumontMarriage:] She married young, [BeaumontPosition:] and after sending her husband away into the provinces with a post in the taxes, [BeaumontDebut:] she entered the Opera in 1698 as an actress. [BeaumontSerane:] Passionately fond of fencing, she entered into a liaison with Serane, a fencing-master, and gained such a mastery over her weapon as almost eclipses that attained at a later day by the Chevalier, or Chevalière, d'Éon. [BeaumontDumeny:] Being one day insulted by the actor Dumény, her colleague, she lay in wait for him in the Place des Victoires, and having failed to induce him to take sword in hand, carried off his watch and snuff-box. Another of her colleagues having similarly insulted her, she compelled him to ask her pardon on his knees.
[BeaumontBall:] «La Maupin was a Sappho, if not in wit, at any rate in habits, and she had the effrontery to be proud of it. Being present once at a ball, she allowed herself certain indecent and provocative gestures towards a lady. Three gentlemen who accompanied the latter tried in vain to stop her: she challenged them, forced them to leave the room with her and killed them all three. After this little interlude, she returned quite quietly into the ballroom again.» She was pardoned by the king eventually, her Biographer says.
[BeaumontElector:] She retired to Brussels, where she became the mistress of the Elector of Bavaria.
For further particulars as to Mlle. de Maupin, see the extract from Émile Colombey's, Histoire Anecdotique du Duel in Appendix.
Appendix in The Sword and Womankind
[ColombeySesane:] The notorious Mlle. De Maupin the very day after her marriage got her husband a post in the Taxes and turned her back upon him, to scour the country with a master-at-arms of the name of Sésane, who had taught her fencing. The fond pair tried to make a living by giving exhibitions of skill with the foils, but finding this would not pay, went on the stage. [ColombeyNovice:] La Maupin was not long in sending the lover to keep company with the husband. The fact is she had now fallen victim to a strange passion for a young girl of ravishing beauty. But the young lady in question had clear-sighted relatives who soon put the wall of a Convent between her and La Maupin. The latter was not one to accept defeat; she set fire to the Convent and carried off the Novice. The blow struck, she had to fly the pursuit of outraged justice, the law being set upon burning her alive, -- nothing more nor less.
[ColombeyDumesnil:] The cudgel too was one of her weapons, as her colleague Dumesnil could vouch for. He had spoken ill of the lady, finding fault with her ways and laughing at her eccentric mode of life. Well! La Maupin said not a word; she preferred doing. One evening, dressed like a man and wearing a great hat that came down over her eyes, she waited for her man in the Place des Victoires, which he had to cross on his way from the Theatre. The instant he appeared, she thrust the point of her sword in his face, calling on him to draw. Dumesnil, who was not of a warlike spirit, making as if to pass on, she sheathed her weapon and made play with a stick she had kept in reserve. Then she took the poor creature's watch and snuff-box, intending to use them as evidence, if needful.
Next day at the Opera, as Dumesnil was bitterly complaining how he had been assailed by a gang of thieves who had robbed him, she told him to his face:
"You are telling a lie. -- I was the gang of thieves, and no one else. I gave you a thrashing because you were afraid to fight when I asked you, and the proof of what I say is here, -- your watch and snuff-box, which I hereby return to you."
[ColombeyBall:] La Maupin was always willing and ready to draw the sword. One night she had the caprice at a public ball to make eyes at a lady attended by three gentlemen. The latter challenged her, supposing they had to do with a man, for she used never to wear the dress of her own sex. They left the ballroom, and la Maupin killed the three men one after the other. She got off with nothing worse than a short sojourn over the frontier in Belgium.
Théophile Gautier has written a novel under the name of Mademoiselle de Maupin, which in spite of the difficulties surrounding the subject has won a wide-spread popularity.
The Encyclopedia of Amazons
Maupin, Aubigny: (A.D. 1673?-1701) The famed Mlle. de Maupin, immortalized in literature by Théophile Gautier, was not only a famous opera star and beauty of her age, but a feared swashbuckler of the violent quarters of Paris. As one of La Maupin's several biographers put it. "La Maupin was a Sappho, if not in wit, at any rate in habits, and she had the effrontery to be proud of it."
[SalmonsonHeckler:] She had low beginnings. Her earliest public debut as a performing duelist so astonished audiences with the perfection of her ability that, once, a heckler jeered that the audience was duped and it was no woman dressed as a cavalier, but a young man who was some cavalier's exceptional pupil. In reply, La Maupin angrily cast down her foil and tore open her shirt so that the audience could judge for themselves.
It was not long before her talents took her to the French Opéra, wherein she played such characters as Dido, founder of Carthage, and the War-goddess Minerva. She sang contralto. [SalmonsonNovice:] Offstage, she continued to dress as a cavalier. Her behavior was such that once she was condemned to death by fire, a punishment happily not carried out. The crime was one of passion, mutual it must be noted, with a nun of Avignon. It was three months before the ravished novice returned to her convent somewhat sheepishly and La Maupin returned to Paris, daring the tribunal to see true their notice of condemnation.
[SalmonsonBall:] Her most famous duel came as a result of her amorous inclinations. Attending one of King Louis's fabulous balls, she proceeded once more to act the role of the cavalier and to monopolize the attentions of a certain beauty. After several dances that won whispers and speculations from the guests, La Maupin suggested a secret rendezvous and, upon the dance floor before all, kissed the woman passionately.
Three of the woman's male suitors intervened. "At your service, gentlemen," said La Maupin, agreeing to the duel. In the darkness outside, she proceeded to injure and disarm her three opponents (in other tellings, she killed them). On returning to the ball, she was approached by Louis, who said, "You are the jade La maupin? I have heard of your handiwork! Need I remind you of my decree against duels in Paris?" The next day she awaited arrest, but Louis had been amused by the incident and, while he was speculating that his law governed only men and La Maupin was free to duel at will, she was given the opportunity to flee to Brussels until the dust settled. She left the stage in 1701 and died two years later, in her early thirties. [Rogers, Beaumont]
E-Mailed cover letter from J Nelson Smith
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 17:17:37 -0600 (CST)
Subject: La Maupin
Was happy to hear from you, and that you're still interested in La Maupin. I'll try to trace my research to see if you've got everything I've been able to locate thus far.
I knew when I read the Amazons intro that Salmonson had to have had access to some source that I was unable to obtain, and I was never able to get in touch with her to find out exactly how much material she had (something I still plan to do). That was when I lucked upon THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMAZONS, edited by none other than Ms Salmonson herself, and sure enough it had a listing for Maupin, and it cited two sources: Rogers, and Beaumont. I discovered that Rogers wrote a book entitled GALLANT LADIES, which so far has probably got the most readable and complete bio I've yet to find. Beaumont wrote THE SWORD AND WOMANKIND, which gives a brief bio, and an extract from Emile Colombey's HISTOIRE ANECDOTIQUE DU DUEL. I don't know if this extract is all that that work had to say about Maupin, and until I can obtain a copy (and learn French I'm not likely to find out any time soon.
That seemed to be a dead end until I decided to attack it from the opera end of her career. I found a listing for Maupin in the NEW GROVE DICT. OF OPERA, and it also gave five additional sources alas all in French, but did mention that Maupin's other adventures had been chronicled by La Borde and Campardon. I was unable to locate either of these, however I found another short bio in QUEEN OF SONGS, Clayton, Ellen Creathorne, 1865, reprinted 1972. I also found a French document from T. de Lajarte: BIBLIOTHEQUE MUSCICALE DU THEATRE DE L'OPERA (Paris, 1876) She is also listed in the PENGUIN DICT. OF MUSICAL PERFORMERS.
The book I found out about in the library of congress is as follows:
That's as far as I'm been able to go to date. If you don't have any of the sources I've listed as I said before I'll be more than happy to share them with you.
- There were two sieges of Namur. The French captured the city in 1692 and lost it in 1695. Neither of these dates entirely coincides with the chronology implied in this paragraph. D'Albert may very well have returned from the first siege of Namur only to be recalled to the Low Countries in 1693, shortly before the infamous incident at the ball. The exact dates here, as we will see in the next note, are somewhat suspect.
- Although it dates back to the Crusades, the song "Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre" has come to be associated with the Duke of Marlborough and the Battle of Malplaquet which occurred on September 11, 1709. The date that Rogers gives for La Maupin's debut in Dido is 16 years to the day before the battle. Dido did debut in 1693 according to other sources.
Letainturier-Fradin agrees that it was on September 11.
From The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable by E. Cobham Brewer:
Malbroukor Marlbrough (Marlbro'), does not date from the battle of Malplaquet (1709), but from the time of the Crusades, 600 years before. According to a tradition discovered by M. de Châteaubriand, the air came from the Arabs, and the tale is a legend of Mambron, a crusader. It was brought into fashion during the Revolution by Mme. Poitrine, who used to sing it to her royal foster-child, the son of Louis XVI. M. Arago tells us that when M. Monge, at Cairo, sang this air to an Egyptian audience, they all knew it, and joined in it. Certainly the song has nothing to do with the Duke of Marlborough, as it is all about feudal castles and Eastern wars. We are told also that the band of Captain Cook, in 1770, was playing the air one day on the east coast of Australia, when the natives evidently recognised it, and seemed enchanted. (Moniteur de l'Armée. )
"Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre,The name Malbrouk occurs in the Chansons de Gestes, and also in the Basque Pastorales.
Mironton, mironton, mirontaine;
Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre.
Nul sait quand reviendra.
Il reviendra z'a Pâques-
Mironton, mironton, mirontaine ...
Ou à la Trinité."
- 3 years:
- If she was "3 years absent" and returned in 1698, then she left in 1695, and it was the second siege of Namur that d'Albert returned to, in which case it was not 16 years, but 14 between the ball, and the time when Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre took on a special significance.
- Male Roles:
- Although Clayton says that "it was in male characters that she shone more especially", all of the roles cited in any of the sources I've seen so far are female. I suspect that Clayton has misread Le Cerf, who according to Sadie, "remarked on her success in roles in which she abandoned her hairdo and fan for a helmet and lance, noting however that her lively and cavalier manner and her unusually strong voice offended neither decency nor verisimilitude". Le Cerf was, of course, referring to her roles as warrior women and goddesses, but Clayton may have assumed that warrior roles are male.
- La Borde:
- It would appear that the full title of J.B. de La Borde's work is "Essai sur la musique ancienne et moderne". I have also seen J.B. expanded to "Jean-Benjamin-François", "Jean-Benjamin" and "Jean-Baptiste", with "Jean-Benjamin" being the most common.
Excerpted material is all copyright the original authors/translators.