La première: Marthe Aguillon. Первая куртизанка: Марта Агийон
|In the archives of the Paris police, there is a book. |
It is large and heavy, with a worn leather binding, brass hardware, and a broken lock. It contains the criminal files of a group of women called Les Insoumis— “the Undominated.” These were women who lived their lives outside the bounds of polite society, but who refused to register as prostitutes.
Most were not selling sex on street corners or working in brothels.
They were the mistresses of dukes and princes, or even of princesses. In return for their favors, they might receive not money, but an apartment near the opera house, or a small country villa.
Some were actresses, some dancers, some world-famous comediennes, while others still were playwrights or journalists who concerned themselves with a dangerous new concept: feminism.
All of them, the vice squad decided, were “courtesans” and must therefore be surveilled.
This secret ledger, known as The Book of the Courtesans, or by its code name “BB1,” survived a siege, a revolution, the 1871 burning of the archives, and two world wars.
|В архивах парижской полиции хранится книга. Она большая и тяжелая, в потертом кожаном переплете, с латунной фурнитурой и сломанным замком. Она содержит уголовные дела группы женщин под названием Les Insoumis – “Непокорные”. Это были женщины, которые жили вне рамок приличного общества, но отказывались регистрироваться как проститутки. Большинство из них не продавали секс на улицах и не работали в борделях. Они были любовницами герцогов и принцев, а то и принцесс. В обмен на свои услуги они могли получить не деньги, а квартиру рядом с оперным театром или небольшую загородную виллу. Кто-то был актрисой, кто-то танцовщицей, кто-то всемирно известной исполнительницей, а кто-то – драматургом или журналистом, озабоченным новой опасной концепцией – феминизмом. Все они, по мнению отдела нравов, были “куртизанками” и поэтому должны были находиться под наблюдением. Этот секретный журнал, известный как “Книга куртизанок” или, под кодовым названием, “BB1”, пережил осаду, революцию, сожжение архива в 1871 году и две мировые войны.|
|In 2006 it was transcribed and published in French with annotations but no illustrations, by renown historian Gabrielle Houbre. In 2016, while researching my forthcoming book The Parisian Sphinx, I was able to see the original document and its pasted-in photographs for the first time. Beginning with the files as presented, I began to reconstruct the lives of these remarkable women by searching for them in 19th century newspapers, photo archives, and civic records, treating them not just as cultural phenomena or historical color, but as individuals.||В 2006 году журнал был переписан и опубликован на французском языке с примечаниями, но без иллюстраций, известным историком Габриэлем Убре. В 2016 году, во время работы над моей предстоящей книгой “Парижский сфинкс”, я впервые смогла увидеть оригинал документа и вклеенные в него фотографии. Начав с представленных файлов, я начала восстанавливать жизнь этих замечательных женщин, разыскивая их в газетах, фотоархивах и гражданских архивах XIX века, рассматривая их не просто как культурные явления или исторический колорит, а как личности.|
These are their stories. Вот их истории.
|Pictured above Marthe Aguillon|
in September 14, 1871
|На фото вверху Марта Агийон |
14 сентября 1871 года.
|The first thing they had to say about her was that she was well-kept, “somewhat artistic,” and very famous. She was an actress, between forty and forty-five years of age, and had spent the past decade or so performing at the Théâtre Beaumarchais near Place de Vosges. During this time, she also “had relations” with one Monsieur Janvier de la Motte, who, for her benefit, had “made some sacrifices” (a euphemism, no doubt, for considerable money spent). Four or five years ago she lived on the rue Lafitte, but then moved to a furnished house at 43 rue du Cardinal Fesch (now rue de Châteaudun), near the church of Notre Dame de Lorette, in the comfortable 9th arrondissement. She met M. Janvier de la Motte some eight years prior, at which time, they said, he gave her five hundred francs. The police believed she met him through another person who had loaned her money. She was “very easygoing” when she possessed enough charm to attract lovers, the police said. They didn’t know if she still had the furnished house, which they’d found to be “rather poorly maintained.” She now lived on the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. There were no further notations.||Первое, что полиция записала – она ухоженная, “немного артистичная” и очень известная. Актриса 40-45 лет, последние десять из них играла в театре Бомарше рядом с площадью Вогезов. В течение этого времени она также “имела отношения” с неким Жанвье де ла Моттом, который ради нее “пошел на некоторые жертвы” (эвфемизм, несомненно, означающий значительные денежные траты). Четыре или пять лет назад она жила на улице Лафит, но затем переехала в меблированный дом на улице Кардинала Феша, 43 (ныне улица Шатодун), недалеко от церкви Нотр-Дам-де-Лоретт, в фешенебельном 9-м округе. С де ла Моттом познакомилась около 8 лет до этого, и тогда, как записано в досье, он дал ей пятьсот франков. Полиция считает, что она познакомилась с ним через другого человека, одолжившего ей деньги. По записям, она была “очень покладистой”, но обладала достаточным обаянием, чтобы привлечь любовника. Неизвестно, остался ли у нее меблированный дом, который, “довольно плохо содержался”. Сейчас она живет на улице Нотр-Дам-де-Лоретт. Других записей не было.|
|Her real name was Marthe Léocadie Baumann.||Ее настоящее имя было Марта Леокади Бауманн.|
|She was born around 1830, the year when Paris convulsed with the violence of the July Revolution. In the city, there was chaos. Revolutionaries sacked the Tuileries Palace and raided the royal wine cellars. One man located a ball gown belonging to the Duchess de Berry, put it on, and with feathers and flowers in his hair, screamed out of the palace window into the gardens below “Je reçois! Je reçois!” (“I receive! I receive!”). Marthe spent her childhood under the rule of the last king of France, the Orléanist Louis Philippe, only to see him overthrown and replaced in yet another bloody revolution by Napoleon III around the time she came of age. She started using the stage name “Aguillon,” perhaps to hide a Jewish or German heritage, by as early as 1861 when she made her debut in the press. As an actress, the critics called her “well traveled.” She performed at many respected theaters all over Paris, including the Théâtre Beaumarchais, the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin, the Dejazet, the Boulevard du Temple, the Gaîté, the Théâtre-Montparnasse, and the Théâtre-Molière in Brussels.||Она родилась году в 1830м, когда Париж сотрясался от июльской революции. В городе царил хаос. Революционеры разграбили дворец Тюильри и совершили набег на королевские винные погреба. Один из них нашел бальное платье, принадлежавшее герцогине де Берри, надел его и с перьями и цветами в волосах кричал из окна дворца в сады внизу: “Je reçois! Je reçois!” (“Я принимаю! Я принимаю!”). Детство Марты прошло при последнем короле Франции, Луи Филиппа, но примерно в то время, когда она достигла совершеннолетия, он был свергнут в результате очередной кровавой революции Наполеоном III. Она начала использовать сценический псевдоним “Агийон”, возможно, чтобы скрыть еврейское или немецкое происхождение, в 1861 году, уже замеченная прессой. Как актрису, критики называли ее “повидавшей мир”. Выступала во многих престижных театрах по всему Парижу, включая театры Бомарше, Порт Сен-Мартен, Дежазе на бульваре дю Тампль, Гэте, Монпарнас и театр Мольера в Брюсселе.|
|She was a serious actress, praised in rave reviews for her talents, but she could also handle comedic roles. “Here is a very great lady,” wrote one critic in Le Figaro in October of 1865. “With comedic actresses of this caliber, a play is saved.” In one production written by the female playwright D. Rouy, she portrayed a young Italian man named Stephano, a hero who seduces the heroine. “She gives the role of Stephano a cachet of distinction, that contrasts singularly with her mania for landing journalists in court,” Le Figaro wrote, suggesting that she may have responded litigiously to gossip and slander.||Она была серьезной актрисой, о ее таланте отзывались в восторженных рецензиях, могла играть и комедийные роли. “Весьма замечательная дама”, – писал критик в “Фигаро” в октябре 1865 года. – С комедийными актрисами такого уровня пьеса спасена”. В одной из постановок женщины-драматурга Д. Руи, она изображала молодого итальянца Стефано, героя, соблазнявшего героиню. “Она придает роли Стефано особую значимость, контрастирующую с ее манией привлекать журналистов к суду”, – пишет Le Figaro, намекая, что она могла привлекать к суду за сплетни и клевету в.|
|Her glory days appear to have been in the 1860s, when she was in her 30s and early 40s. “A brilliant artist, already crowned with success,” said La Comédie in 1864. “Well framed and perfectly played,” the Revue Artistique et Littéraire said of her performance in La Louve de Florence at the Théâtre Beaumarchais in 1865. The next year in 1866, the same journal declared the drama The Black Band, also at the Beaumarchais, to be “full of dread and well-played, especially by Marthe Aguillon.” When she performed at the Théâtre-Montparnasse, L’Europe proclaimed her role to be “played with zest and remarkable feeling, if a little exaggerated…a little bit more calm and measure and Madam Aguillon will find her path.” The Tintamarre wrote that she was “dramatic, with sparkle” and that she had a sparkling voice, elevating the actors who performed alongside her. By 1870, the year before the vice squad declared her to be a courtesan, the newspaper La Pays said that she was on the same level as Sarah Bernhardt: “Actresses ignite. The day before yesterday, it was the gracious Sarah Bernhardt, at the Odeon: yesterday, it was the plump Berthe Legrand, at the Variétés: today, it is the brunette Marthe Aguillon.”||Дни ее славы пришлись на 1860-е годы, когда ей было 30-40 лет. “Блестящая артистка, уже увенчанная успехом”, – писала “Комеди” в 1864 году. “Хорошо поставлена и прекрасно сыграна”, – отозвалось издание “Revue Artistique et Littéraire” о ее выступлении в “Флорентийской волчице” в театре Бомарше в 1865 году. На следующий год, в 1866 году, тот же журнал назвал драму “Черная банда”, также поставленную в театре Бомарше, “полной ужаса и хорошо сыгранной, особенно Мартой Агийон”. Когда она выступала в Театре Монпарнас, L’Europe провозгласила ее роль “сыгранной с изюминкой и замечательным чувством, хотя и немного пафосной… Чуть больше спокойствия и меры, и мадам Агийон найдет свой путь”. Газета “Тинтамарр” писала, что она “драматична, с блеском” и что у нее блестящий голос, возвышающий актеров, выступавших вместе с ней. В 1870 году, за год до того, как полиция нравов объявила ее куртизанкой, газета “La Pays” заявила, что она была на одном уровне с Сарой Бернар: “Актрисы зажигают. Позавчера это была грациозная Сара Бернар в “Одеоне”, вчера – пухленькая Берта Легран в “Вариетес”, сегодня – брюнетка Марта Агийон”.|
|Marthe was financially successful in her prime, and it showed. She dressed in fine clothes, and had her picture taken by the most famous photographers in Paris. A photo of her with a top hat and riding crop may indicate that she was an equestrienne, as a number of demi-mondaines of her era were, setting out for long rides in the leafy Bois de Boulogne. She had light eyes, a petite rounded frame, and her hair cascaded down her back in shining brown ringlets that reached to her corset-cinched waist.||В свои лучшие годы Марта была явно финансово успешной. Она изысканно одевалась, и ее снимали самые известные фотографы Парижа. Фотография, на которой она запечатлена в шляпе и с кнутом, может указывать на то, что она была наездницей и, как многие дамы полусвета ее эпохи, много гуляла в Булонском лесу. У нее были светлые глаза, миниатюрная округлая фигура, а волосы каскадом струились по спине блестящими шатеновыми кольцами, ниспадая до талии в корсете.|
|“Marthe Aguillon,” by Charles Reutlinger. Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. “Марта Агийон”, работа Шарля Ройтлингера. Предоставлено Национальной библиотекой Франции.||Eugène Janvier de la Motte, by Franck. Musée Carnavalet (source).|
Эжен Жанвье де ла Мотт, автор Франк. Музей Карнавале (источник).
|When she met Eugène Janvier de la Motte in 1863, he was 40 years old and legally separated from his wife. Mme Janvier de la Motte had left her husband after discovering him in the arms of an actress at the Hôtel de l’Europe. |
(He would prove to have a thing for actresses.)
She obtained her independence in 1861, then died in 1865, leaving him free to remarry if he so wished.
He did not.
By the time that he and Marthe were introduced—perhaps, as the police suggested, through an intermediary when she felt that her debts had grown too difficult to manage—he was the state representative of Eure, a department to the northwest of Paris.
He nevertheless spent plenty of time in the city, and was already legendary as a thrower of lavish parties and a giver of generous grants, acquainted with the likes of Victor Hugo and Jules and Edmond de Goncourt.
Now a merry widower, he was known for maintaining several actress mistresses at once, and for organizing orgiastic soirées at the Grand Hotel with as high a class of ladies as he could convince to attend. Naturally, he also made enemies.
|Когда она встретила Эжена Жанвье де ла Мотта в 1863 году, ему было 40 лет, и он был юридически разведен со своей женой. Мадам Жанвье де ла Мотт ушла от мужа после того, как застала его в объятиях актрисы в Отель де Лёроп. (Он, похоже, испытывал слабость к актрисам). Мадам получила независимость в 1861 году, а затем умерла в 1865 году, оставив ему свободу вступить в новый брак, если он того пожелает. Он этого не сделал. К тому времени, когда он и Марта познакомились – возможно, как предполагает полиция, через посредника, когда она почувствовала, что с ее долгами стало слишком трудно управляться, – он был представителем Ёр, департамента к северо-западу от Парижа. Тем не менее, он проводил много времени в городе и уже стал легендарным устроителем пышных вечеринок и раздатчиком щедрых грантов, знакомым с Виктором Гюго, Жюлем и Эдмоном де Гонкурами. Теперь, будучи веселым вдовцом, он был известен тем, что содержал сразу несколько любовниц-актрис и устраивал оргиастические зрелища в Гранд Отеле с участием дам самого высокого класса, которых только мог уговорить посетить. Естественно, он нажил себе и врагов.|
|By 1867 the prefecture he managed was in a tremendous amount of debt, to the tune of 700,000 francs. Following an altercation with a member of the General Council, whom he slapped in the face, he was fined 3,000 francs. He was then sent to represent the prefecture of Gard along the Riviera in 1869, and in 1870, fled France to escape the Franco-Prussian War by hiding out in Switzerland. When the new French government took office after the quelling of the Paris Commune, a warrant was issued for Janvier de la Motte’s arrest. Over 110,000 francs of his prefecture’s funds had gone unaccounted for, and he was accused of embezzlement. He was apprehended in Geneva in August of 1871—interestingly, just one month before Marthe’s appearance in the Book of the Courtesans—extradited to France, and sent to prison in Rouen to await trial. However by January of 1872, just a few months later, he was acquitted on the testimony of the Minister of Finance himself, causing such a scandal that the minister was later forced to resign.||К 1867 году префектура, которой он управлял, имела огромные долги в размере 700 000 франков. После ссоры с членом Генерального совета, которого он ударил по лицу, он был оштрафован на 3 000 франков. Затем в 1869 году он был направлен представлять префектуру Гард на Ривьере, а в 1870 году бежал из Франции, спасаясь от франко-прусской войны, и спрятался в Швейцарии. Когда новое французское правительство пришло к власти после подавления Парижской коммуны, был выдан ордер на арест Жанвье де ла Мотта. Более 110 000 франков из средств его префектуры пропали без вести, и он был обвинен в растрате. Он был задержан в Женеве в августе 1871 года, что интересно, всего за месяц до появления Марты в “Книге куртизанок”, экстрадирован во Францию и отправлен в тюрьму в Руане в ожидании суда. Однако в январе 1872 года, всего через несколько месяцев, он был оправдан на основании показаний самого министра финансов, что вызвало такой скандал, что министр был вынужден уйти в отставку.|
|The trial also exposed to the public his debauched and extravagant lifestyle, which despite providing salacious fodder for the press, did not seem to hurt his career aspirations or his personal life in the slightest. On the contrary, he went on to found a newspaper, win election as the deputy leader of the Bonapartist party in Bernay, and eventually obtain a seat on the General Council of Eure, his old prefecture, which he maintained until his death. The son he had with his late wife went on to become a political figure. He continued to keep various actresses as mistresses, and fathered another child with the actress Henriette Renoult. He died in Paris in 1884 at the age of 60. As for Marthe Léocadie Baumann, aka Marthe Aguillon, the last we hear of her in the press is in 1888. By then in her late 50s or early 60s, she was performing as a comedic singer in Brussels, still working under the same stage name, still entrancing audience with her sparkling voice.||Суд также показал общественности его развратный и экстравагантный образ жизни, который, несмотря на то, что стал пикантным материалом для прессы, не нанес ни малейшего ущерба его карьерным устремлениям или личной жизни. Напротив, он основал газету, выиграл выборы в качестве заместителя лидера бонапартистской партии в Берне и в конечном итоге получил место в Генеральном совете Эвре, своей старой префектуры, которое он занимал до самой смерти. Сын, которого он имел от своей покойной жены, стал политическим деятелем. Он продолжал содержать различных актрис в качестве любовниц и завел еще одного ребенка от актрисы Генриетты Ренульт. Он умер в Париже в 1884 году в возрасте 60 лет. Что касается Марты Леокади Бауманн, она же Марта Агильон, то последний раз мы слышим о ней в прессе в 1888 году. К тому времени ей было около 50 или около 60 лет, она выступала как комедийная певица в Брюсселе, все еще работая под тем же сценическим псевдонимом, все еще очаровывая публику своим искрометным голосом.|
|I tried very hard to find out what finally happened to Marthe. I looked through every death record with the name Baumann on it between 1870 and 1932. Newspapers can be mistaken sometimes, and famous names can be stolen. There were two Marthe Baumans who died towards the end of the 19th century in Paris, one in 1884 and another in 1890, but when I pulled up the full records, both turned out to be children younger than four. I kept going, searching through the death lists of each of the twenty arrondissements for each decade, combing through exactly one hundred different ledger books until, when I came to the very last feasible decade, in the very last arrondissement, the 20th, I found this: Marthe Baumann, died January 17th, 1923.||Я очень старался выяснить, что же все-таки случилось с Мартой. Я просмотрел все записи о смерти с фамилией Бауманн за период с 1870 по 1932 год. Газеты иногда ошибаются, а известные имена могут быть украдены. К концу XIX века в Париже умерли две Марты Бауманн, одна в 1884 году, другая в 1890 году, но когда я просмотрел все записи, оказалось, что обе были детьми младше четырех лет. Я продолжал искать, просматривая списки умерших в каждом из двадцати округов за каждое десятилетие, прочесывая ровно сто различных бухгалтерских книг, пока, дойдя до самого последнего возможного десятилетия, в самом последнем округе, 20-м, я не нашел следующее: Марта Бауманн, умерла 17 января 1923 года.|
|However, to my great frustration, when I went to find the death of this Marthe Baumann in the record book for 1923, it was nowhere to be found. Knowing that sometimes records can be misplaced, and the reporting of deaths delayed, I looked at every death in the 20th arrondissement for six months after the listed date, and for more than two months before. But I found nothing. The records were a mess, all out of order due to the judgements coming down on the deaths of the missing soldiers of World War I several years before, only now being pronounced legally dead so that their parents could collect compensation and their widows could remarry. There is no guarantee that the record is a match. She might have died in Belgium, struck down by a heart attack after a performance at the age of 69. Or she might have caught pneumonia in Moscow, or the flu in Louisiana, having emigrated and bought herself a house on the bayou. Anything is possible.||However, to my great frustration, when I went to find the death of this Marthe Baumann in the record book for 1923, it was nowhere to be found. Knowing that sometimes records can be misplaced, and the reporting of deaths delayed, I looked at every death in the 20th arrondissement for six months after the listed date, and for more than two months before. But I found nothing. The records were a mess, all out of order due to the judgements coming down on the deaths of the missing soldiers of World War I several years before, only now being pronounced legally dead so that their parents could collect compensation and their widows could remarry. There is no guarantee that the record is a match. She might have died in Belgium, struck down by a heart attack after a performance at the age of 69. Or she might have caught pneumonia in Moscow, or the flu in Louisiana, having emigrated and bought herself a house on the bayou. Anything is possible.|
|If this is our Marthe Baumann, the details do make sense. She would have been quite old—93 or thereabouts—but that was not unheard of for women of her stature. The 20th arrondissement, Belleville in the Roaring Twenties, might have been a fitting place for a famous former actress to have chosen to retire. Until the restrictions for Covid can allow me an in-person visit to the civil archives to get further assistance, I won’t know for certain that this is her. But at least for now, I’d like to imagine that it is. That she lived to a ripe old age, still in possession of some of her silks and furs, still able to enjoy the dawn of the Jazz Age, as the music from the dance halls of her quartier seeped up through the floorboards, put a sparkle in her light eyes once again, and set her old feet tapping.|
REFERENCES & LINKS:
Dictionnaire Général de Biographie et d’Histoire, by Charles Dezobry, 1889, p. 1,494 (link)
Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siècle, by Pierre Larousse, 1875, p. 20 (link)
“THÉATRES A VOL D’OISEAU,” La Causerie, 28 April 1861 (link)
“Les Coulisses,” Le Figaro, 19 April 1863 (link)
“Chronique,” La Comédie, 11 October 1863 (link)
“Chronique,” La Comédie, 18 October 1863 (link)
“Devant et derrière le rideau,” La Comédie, March 1863 (link)
“Devant et derrière le rideau,” La Comédie, 12 April 1863 (link)
“Devant et derrière le rideau,” La Comédie, 23 April 1863 (link)
“Chronique,” La Comédie, 12 July 1863 (link)
“Le Théatre Beaumarchais,” La Comédie, 14 February 1864 (link)
“Devant et derrière le rideau,” La Comédie, 6 March 1864 (link)
“Theatres,” Journal Pour Toutes, October 1864 (link)
“Courrier,” La Comédie, 16 October 1864 (link)
“A TRAVERS PARIS,” Le Figaro, 26 October 1865 (link)
“Chronique Théatrale,” Revue Artistique et Littéraire, 1865 (link)
“Feuilleton du Journal l’Europe: mouvement dramatique français,” L’Europe, 27 October 1865 (link)
“La Semaine Théatrale,” La Presse, 30 October 1865 (link)
“Tirage du Petit Journal,” Le Petit Journal, 12 October 1865 (link)
“Coulisses de Théatres,” Le Tintamarre, 19 March 1865, (link)
“Chronique Théatrale,” Revue Artistique et Littéraire, 1866 (link)
“FAUSSES NOUVELLES,” Le Tintamarre, 7 Octover 1866 (link)
“Revue,” La Comédie, 1 December 1867 (link)
“De Paris à Bruxelles,” La Comédie, 29 December 1867 (link)
“Le Courrier de Lyon à la Gaité,” La Comédie, 21 June 1868 (link)
“Revue,” La Comédie, 19 January 1868 (link)
“Etranger,” La Comédie, 22 March 1868 (link)
“Courrier de Paris,” Le Pays, 2 January 1870 (link)
“Courrier de l’Etranger: Brussels,” Officiel-Artiste, 19 July 1888 (link)
“Eugène Janvier de la Motte,” by Bernard Vassor, Autour de Père Tanguy, 2 February 2007 (link)
The Book of the Courtesans, Part 2: Divine Aillot & Maison Boissier
In the archives of the Paris police, there is a book. It contains the criminal files of a group of women called Les Insoumis— “the rebels” Some were actresses, some dancers, some world-famous comediennes. Others were playwrights or journalists who concerned themselves with a dangerous new concept: feminism. All of them, the vice squad decided, were “courtesans,” and must therefore be surveilled.
These are their stories.
Two: Divine Aillot
November 16, 1871
Mademoiselle Aillot was a very attractive young girl. She was a brunette, with beautiful eyes, a good education, and a “perfect” upbringing. She answered to the name Divine, but the police assumed this was a pseudonym. They didn’t know her age, either. For eighteen months she had worked at a candy shop called Maison Boissier. It was there, they said, that the pimp had found her.
This pimp put her into contact with Monsieur Odier, and she had since spent several months abroad in London in the company of a wealthy foreigner. She in turn “provided women” to one Monsieur Hirsch, a banker on the rue du Helder, setting him up with Anna Cowaleska, the sister-in-law of Madame Ferraris.
In an addendum to the file, written some two years later, in 1873, they note that Mademoiselle Aillot was currently living at No. 3 rue Clapeyron, and that her latest lover was “Monsieur de Ristang, the Ambassador in Florence.” She had been seen “going on dates,” and was “very clever when it came to intrigue.”
There was no attending photo.
“Sin became a luxury, a flower set in her hair, a diamond fastened on her brow.”
— ÉMILE ZOLA
When the young Divine looked up from her candy counter at Maison Boissier as Adrien-Hippolyte Odier walked through the door, she saw a man in his late forties, very fat, with a snub nose, gray hair, and an enormous gray beard. A wealthy property owner, and well-dressed, there was nevertheless something of the Dionysian satyr about him, and he spoke with a voice as self-assured as a president. In 1873 he would be arrested along with six others as part of the notorious rue de Suresnes pimping case, accused of inciting minors to debauchery. (In cases like this, “minors” meant individuals under the age of 21.) Regardless of the age of the women or girls involved, men were not permitted to take part in the sale of sex. Odier was later acquitted.
Maison Boissier was a respectable establishment. Founded by Bélissaire Boissier in 1827, the house was famous as the inventor of the marron glacé, the candied chestnut, one of the most beloved confectionery delicacies of 19th century Paris. Boissier opened his first grand shop on the Boulevard des Capucines, in the 9th arrondissement, near the Paris opera house. Fine ladies and gentlemen were known to purchase packets of sweets there before attending an opera performance. As his success grew, he opened other locations throughout the city, and his candies were later mentioned in the works of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, and the Goncourt brothers. In 1857 he retired and sold the business to Cyrille Robineau, who would continue the house’s prestigious reputation for the next 35 years. The brand went dormant sometime in the twentieth century, but was resurrected in 2000, with care taken to reproduce as much as possible, or at least pay homage to, the house’s historic recipes and packaging.
MORE THAN JUST THE CANDY FOR SALE
In 19th century Paris, candy wasn’t just for children. There was a craze for hard candies specifically among the bourgeoisie, with favorite flavors of mint, rose, violet, jasmine, and pineapple. An illustration from the 1850s showed an upscale candy shop at night on New Year’s Eve, lanterns blazing, with guards outside and a line of well-dressed men and women out the door. It became customary to bring hard candies to performances, perhaps to stifle coughs. The bankers of the stock exchange neighborhood of the 9th arrondissement were so enamored of the candies that they were nicknamed “the pastille suckers.”
Naturally, wherever one found bankers, there were also courtesans. The fine shops staffed by pretty young girls around the stock exchange sometimes doubled as display cases for a different sort of commodity: the girls themselves. If Divine Aillot was talent-scouted by a pimp while working at Maison Boissier, he may have recognized her potential on his own, or else was contacted by a customer who wanted more from Divine than rose pastilles and hoped for an introduction.
It is difficult to tell the story of a woman’s life whose face is not revealed, and whose real first name remains a mystery. If she was well educated and perfectly brought-up, as the police said, she might have been the daughter of a successful merchant or artisan, later obliged to seek employment after her father’s death or a reversal of family fortune. Even without facing hardship however, it was common for young ladies of the educated working classes in Paris to take up professional employment of some kind in their teen years. Based on similar women’s stories from the same time period, she may have been fifteen or sixteen when she started doling out candies, sixteen or seventeen when the pimps got their hands on her, and twenty or twenty-one by the time she landed in the books of the vice squad. That would make her birth year sometime around 1850 or 1851. There were not many Aillots in Paris at that time. There was a cabinetmaker working in Belleville, and a gold jeweler near the Hotel de Ville who disappeared from the records in the mid 1860s. Beginning in 1856, the Widow Aillot, wife of the recently deceased J.-P. (Jean-Pierre? Jean-Paul?), inherited her late husband’s bookshop and small press on the rue Saint-André-des-Arts, near the royal mint. I have no proof that these latter Aillots were Divine’s family, but it could explain both her high level of literacy for a girl of the working classes, as well as the need to seek more lucrative employment. (The Widow Aillot continued to run this bookshop for decades, suggesting that she was not elderly at the time of her husband’s death.)
Interestingly, Divine was not just accused of being a courtesan, but of acting as a procuress. Specifically, she’s called out for supplying women to the banker Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a dashing German Jewish financier and philanthropist with a trim physique, a receding hairline, and an impressive dark walrus mustache with flamboyantly waxed tips. When he met Divine Aillot, he was in his late 30s or early 40s. Hirsch would later be known for setting up charitable foundations to promote Jewish education and to improve the lot of oppressed Jewish Europeans, as well as being a social butterfly in the most rarified of circles. An outspoken critic of the Russian Imperial family’s treatment of Russian Jews, he founded the Jewish Colonization Association, which sponsored large-scale Jewish immigration to Argentina.The newspaper Le Gaulois described him as having arrived in Paris from Central Europe “like some elegant Hungarian horseman,” with a nimble grace that won him the friendship of princes and grand dukes. Others accused him of crassness, particularly regarding the fairer sex. He built a palace-like residence on the Avenue Gabrial, facing the gardens of the Champs-Elysée, and repaired to country chateaus when it suited him. One of his last wishes was to cancel the debts of his friend the Prince of Wales.
The specific woman whom Divine was accused of procuring for Baron de Hirsch was Anna Cowaleska, the sister-in-law of the actress Marie Ferraris. Despite having her own entry in the Book of the Courtesans, perhaps due to the lovers she had in her youth, Ferraris was married to the Polish pianist and composer Henri Cowaleska, who also went by the name Kowalski. The couple had traveled with Anna to America in the hopes of finding her a rich foreign husband. When those efforts failed, it seems, other options were explored. (More on this couple and Henri’s younger sister will be explored in a later post.)
Divine Aillot seems to have been a true, if minor, demimondaine, appearing on the arms of important gentlemen and at the debauched secret parties of the rich and famous, setting her friends up with the men she met there. She may have continued to work at Maison Boissier, and she may not. Her 1873 address on the rue de Clapeyron was in a nice building near the Saint-Lazare train station. As far as I can tell she was not an actress or other kind of public performer, which may be why no photos turned up under her name—if that was indeed her real name at all. I could find no Florentine Ambassador Ristang either, but a C. de Rostang appears in the city directory as a high-ranking military officer. I likewise had little luck in searching for her in genealogical databases and the municipal archives, despite Aillot being a relatively uncommon name.
I did however find one entry that was of note. In 1884, when candy seller “Divine” would have been in her early 30s, a woman named Marie Anne Aillot gave birth in Paris to a baby girl called Emilie. No father was named on the declaration of birth, meaning she was conceived out of wedlock. On the 21st of October, 1899, the girl Emilie died at the age of fifteen. The death certificate noted that her mother had predeceased her. What caught my eye about this record, other than the name Aillot and the plausible dates, was the occupation of one of the witnesses: Louis Aubry, age 71, was a chocolatier.
REFERENCES & LINKS:
Archives de la préfecture de police, BB1
Annuaire Général du Commerce, Firmin-Didot frères, 1850, p. 82 (link)
Almanach-Bottin du Commerce de Paris, Sebatien Botin, 1856, p. 66 (link)
Annuaire-Almanach du Commerce, Firmin Didot et Bottin réunis, 1858, pp. 682, 1148 (link)
Annuaire-Almanach du Commerce, Firmin Didot et Bottin réunis, 1860, p. 82 (link)
Annuaire-Almanach du Commerce, Firmin Didot et Bottin réunis, 1863, p. 1408 (link)
“Affaire des Bonbons Empoisonnés,” Le Petit Journal, 10 February 1869 (link)
“Nouvelles Diverse,” L’Univers, 18 February 1871 (link)
“Tribunaux: Affaire de la rue de Suresnes; excitations de mineurs à la débauche—sept accusés,” La Presse, 21 February 1873 (link)
“Gazette du Palais: Affaire de la rue de Suresnes, sept prévenus,” Le XIXe Siecle Journal Quotidien, 22 February 1873 (link)
“Les Petits Secrèts de la rue de Suresnes,” Le Petit Journal, 24 February 1873 (link)
Maison Boissier advertisement, Gazette Alimentaire, 7 January 1856 (link)
“Nécrologie,” Le Journal des Confiseurs-Pâtissiers, 1 May 1893 (link)
“Nécrologie,” Le Journal des Confiseurs-Pâtissiers, 1 December 1893 (link)
“Rapport sur la Confiserie,” Le Journal des Confiseurs-Glaciers, April 1901 (link)
Annuaire-Almanach du Commerce, Didot-Bottin, 1877, p. 103 (link)
Le Livre des Courtisanes: Archives Secrètes de la Police des Moeurs, by Gabrielle Houbre, pp. 48, 508, 522, 546
“L’Histoire des Barons de Hirsch, 6ème Partie: Maurice de Hirsch, Cosmopolite Mondain,” Noblesse et Royautés, 9 January 2017 (link)
The Book of the Courtesans, Part 3: Caroline Hassé
In the archives of the Paris police there is a leather-bound volume known as The Book of the Courtesans, containing the criminal files of a group of women called Les Insoumis— The Rebels. These are their stories.
“In the purple days of poor Cora Pearl, of Caroline Hassé…the legendary fetes of the Regency were thrown into the shade by the Babylonian orgies of the young Republic. It was in those days that Hortense Schneider bathed daily in Clicquot Champagne, and that Cora Pearl strewed her ball-room floor with a thousand pounds worth of violets…”
— THE NOCTURNAL PLEASURES OF PARIS BY SYLVESTER WRAY, 1889
April 24, 1872
Assé, Caroline [sic]
She came to Paris from Alsace in the late 1850s. Tall and très belle, she made her debut as a courtesan at the age of eighteen. The procuress Madame Lang of No. 63 rue Pigalle brokered numerous “introductions” to rich gentlemen. She met fashionable women and frequented the spa towns, eventually making a name for herself. She was often seen at the races with a young woman called Pepita Sanchez, and the pair were considered among the “top brass” of the old guard.
She lived with a young man named Delahante who she “exploited as much as possible.” At her request, he gave her twenty-three thousand francs [over €100,000 today] to buy some diamonds. When one of his friends remarked that they did not appear to be worth even ten thousand, he asked Caroline to return the diamonds and give him back his money, offering another ten thousand for a new set.
“Of course, Caroline Assé [sic] refused,” the police said.
By 1865 she was living at No. 61 rue de Ponthieu, near the Champs-Elysée. Her protector was a Monsieur Colbert, a rich young officer with an annuity of twenty-five thousand francs, of whom she demanded ten thousand francs per month [€48,000 today]. When his father learned of the relationship, he urged his son to get rid of her, and said he was prepared to do anything to sever the relationship. The young Colbert was seized by despair at the thought of leaving Caroline, and tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. Fortunately “the project was aborted,” and the following year he agreed to leave his mistress for good, who the police said “only loved him for his money.”
When the Suresnes pimping case went to trial, Caroline’s name was found in the notebooks of the Widow Rondy, an implicated procuress. Her address was given as No. 10 avenue Rapp, on the left bank near the Champ de Mars. The police found no trace of her there, although she was well known to popular pimps. They believed she was now living near the Champs-Elysée again, at No. 4 rue d’Albe.
There was no attending photo.
The Count de Maugny was strolling near the Champs-Elysée one day when he saw a great commotion. The opulent building at No. 61 rue de Ponthieu, which was shared by two wealthy demimondaines, had caught fire. Rushing into the courtyard to see if he could help, he saw the infamous courtesan Cora Pearl leaning out of her window in her chemise and shouting at her stable hands: “I’ll sack the first person who takes a bucket of water to that cow upstairs!”
The “cow upstairs” was Caroline Hassé.
They called her Caro, or “the living statue,” and said she smelled of truffles, lobster, and Veuve Clicquot champagne. She was fat, with an impressive chest that never failed to make an entrance, and a “violently” Alsatian accent. Born in Strasbourg, she came to Paris with nothing, and learned to dance at the Cellarius and Laborde dance school in the Passage d’Opèra, near the Grand Boulevards. In the daytime, proper young ladies would study there, but in the evenings, classes were made up of aspiring demimondaines and the young officers who came in civilian clothes to meet them. Once a girl like this had learned the popular steps, she could try to catch the attention of a rich gentleman under the lanterns at the public dance venues, like the Elysée-Montmartre or the Bal Mabille.
Caroline dressed simply at first, and looked almost poor, but she soon stood out for her charm and beauty. One man, a pseudonymous chronicler of Paris’s social underworld known as Zed, remembered encountering her at the dance school.
“One evening,” he wrote, “I noticed a splendid creature with thick golden hair and a buxom form; tall, beautiful, laughing, attractive, resplendent with freshness, youth and lust. She was dressed in a dark dress, rather crude, fitting her badly and contrasting singularly with the irreproachable elegance of her neighbors.”
He noticed that she was missing a button on her cuff, a detail that stayed with him, suggesting that she was “not swimming in opulence.” Still, he found her “lovely and desirable,” and predicted that she would be a success.
Indeed, she was. Before long she could be seen in the Bois de Boulogne, riding in her distinctive yellow carriage drawn by two half-breed horses, and attended by a pair of immaculately coiffed footmen.
“Caroline’s elegant appearance suggested that she was doing extremely well and living in abundance,” wrote the historian Gertrude Aretz.
One of her first protectors was Daniel Wilson, the future politician and heir to a British gaslighting fortune. Orphaned from childhood and raised by an uncle along with his sister, he was given full control of his inherited millions on his twenty-first birthday, and seemed to be in a great rush to spend as much of it as he could on Caroline. Gossip columnists joked that she called him her “betit Tanial,” her little Daniel, as mangled by her accent.
The twenty-one-year-old Wilson quickly blew a million francs on his buxom Alsatian mistress. She wore expensive dresses from the House of Worth, her bed sheets and pillows were made with black silk, and her lavish multi-floor apartment near the Champs-Elysée was stocked with “a hundred dozen” fine linens. They dined regularly at the costly Café Anglais. With her best friend, the Spanish-French actress Pepita Sanchez—who has her own entry in the Book of the Courtesans—she threw lavish dinner parties for thirty people at a time that went on for days, sparing no expense. She and Pepita could often be found in their own box at the opera, surrounded by roses and bouquets of Parma violets.
Wilson’s sister, dismayed at his extravagance, managed to wrest control of the family fortune away from her brother, who then went into politics. When he lost reelection some years later, he declared himself to be “morally dead” and threw a funeral for himself, complete with a hearse and can-can dancers. He later retired to the country to cultivate violets.
Caroline’s next conquest was Adrien Delahante, a rich financier who became the first director of the French bank Société Générale. He was also the head of Delahante et Cie, a manufacturer of sugar and alcohol. Whether their relationship continued after Caroline refused to return her diamonds and give him back his money—she had almost certainly pocketed the balance, for this was how courtesans made a living and saved for retirement—is anyone’s guess.
Next came Captain Pierre Émile Édouard Colbert (of whom I could find no photo), whose entire life was nearly derailed by their love affair. Having survived his suicide attempt, he went on to become a brigadier general and married well; all of his children either became counts or married them.
Whoever her protector of the moment may have been, the curvaceous Caroline continued to live lavishly. She is said to have modeled for the renown painter Alfred Stevens, a close friend of Édouard Manet, but no paintings of her have been identified. She spent summer days in the country houses of friends, where the guests “ate, drank, and made love night and day,” according to one account.
In her memoirs, the writer Marie Colombier recalled seeing Caroline at a raucous party in the early 1860s. A circle had formed around a tall man “with the face of Falstaff illuminated by an orgy,” who was performing a drunken pantomime in front of Caroline. He had the tails of his untucked shirt in his hands, pretending to ride a horse. It was none other than Otto von Bismark, the future founder of the Germanic Empire, “made cheerful by the good wines of France.”
Despite her undeniable success, Caroline’s beauty and grace were sometimes disputed by her detractors. They said she had “rather heavy manners” and “features without delicacy.”
“Only the face left something to be desired,” wrote the social chronicler Frédéric Loliée. “Someone we know makes her feel it a little cruelly on occasion.”
Some of her conquests may have experienced a touch of buyer’s remorse, but Caroline was good-humored and took it in stride. For one such interaction, she was seated next to a young and handsome gentleman at a feast.
“The enthusiasm he never ceased to display throughout the meal, and the spice of his conversation, had charmed Caroline. She invited him to drive her home,” Loliée wrote.
The young man stayed the night, and awoke in bright daylight to find Caroline still asleep with her hair loose about her. Alas, “on the pillow did not rest the pretty head that he would have liked to see there,” Loliée said. Disappointed, he jumped out of bed and was getting dressed when Caroline opened her eyes.
“What are you doing?” she asked. “Are you still drunk?”
“Don’t mind me,” he replied. “Staying any longer is impossible, since I’m the son of an Orleanist, and you look too much like [former king] Louis-Philippe!”
After being named in the rue de Suresnes pimping case of 1873, when Caroline was thirty-three, she appeared more seldomly in the press, but was still active in the demimonde. In July of 1874, she attended the funeral of her fellow courtesan, the actress and singer Blanche d’Antigny. In April of 1880, at the age of forty, she held a large sale of her art collection and jewelry at the famous auction house Hôtel Drouot. She also sold her grand apartment, perhaps in preparation for retirement. A journalist toured the property and reported that her dining room was immense and stocked to feed exquisite dinners to an army of guests. Her salon was packed with artistic wonders. Her bedroom, like that of a princess from the time of Louis XVI, was festooned with satin in cream and pale blue, complemented by ornate gilded molding. On the mantelpiece there rested a famous statue that had been the toast of the Paris Salon in 1874, The Golden Belt, by Prosper D’Epinay. Her boudoir was lined with “superb crimson silk,” and equipped with books both modern and antique, Oriental-style seating, and a piano.
“If only these walls could talk,” he said.
Later in June of that year, Caroline was embroiled in a lawsuit over an outstanding lingerie bill. The case made its way into the papers due to the sensational nature of the debt, with headlines like Mademoiselle Hassé’s Underwear. The seamstress claimed that Caroline had stiffed her on the bill, while Caroline contended that she had simply refused to pay because the quality was not worth the price. In the end, she was ordered to give the seamstress a sum of 11,546 francs and 40 centimes—over €50,000 today. She was not entirely out of money, however, for she was seen once again at Hôtel Drouot for a massive sale of Sarah Bernhartd’s jewelry in 1883, this time as a buyer.
Sometime before 1886, when she was still in her mid forties, she packed up whatever worldly luxuries remained to her and retired to the South of France. There she stayed under the southern sun, according to Zed, “very happy, very cheerful, very active, and surprisingly well preserved.”
REFERENCES & LINKS:
Archives de la préfecture de police, BB1
Les Livre des Courtisanes, by Gabrielle Houbre. Editions Tallandier, 2006
Grandes Horizontales, by Virginia Rounding. Bloomsbury, 2003.
The Elegant Woman, by Gertrude Aretz. Grethlein & Co, 1929 (link)
Cezanne, ou la lutte avec l’ange de la peinture, by Leo Larguier. René Julliard, 1947 (link)
Les Lionnes du Second Empire, by Auriant. Gallimard, 1935 (link)
Sarah Bernhardt, by Jules Huret. Felix Juven 1899 (link)
Mes souvenirs: les boulevards de 1840-1870, by Gustave Claudin. Calmann Lévy, 1884 (link)
La Fête Imperiale, Les Femmes du Second Empire, by Frédéric Loliée. Felix Juven, 1907 (link)
Paris-galant, by Charles Virmaitre. L. Genonceux, 1890 (link)
Mémoires: Fin d’Empire by Marie Colombier. Flammarion, 1898 (link)
The Nocturnal Pleasures of Paris: a Guide to the Gay City, by Sylvester Wray. The Byron Library, 1889 (link)
La Vie à Paris, by Jules Claretie. Victor Havard, 1883 (link)
“La Marxomanie,” Le Tintamarre, 13 December 1868 (link)
“Les Premières,” Le Figaro, 5 March 1872 (link)
“Chronique de Paris,” La Voleur illustrée, 14 June 1872 (link)
“Faits divers,” Le Pays, 1 July 1874 (link)
“Les Tribunaux,” La Liberté, 14 Jan 1876 (link)
“Art et Bibelot,” L’Evénement, 29 April 1880 (link)
“Au Palais,” La France, 10 June 1880 (link)
“Tribunaux: Lingère et cliente,” Les Temps, 11 June 1880 (link)
“Le Linge de Corps de Mlle Hassé,” La Justice, 12 June 1880 (link)
“Courrier de Paris,” Gil Blas, 9 October 1886 (link)
“Le Demi-Monde sous Le Second Empire,” by Zed, La Vie parisienne : moeurs élégantes, choses du jour, fantaisies, voyages, théâtres, musique, modes, 3 Januart 1891 (link)
“La Calaverie Parisienne,” Le Figaro, 10 June 1893 (link)
“Chronique des Livres,” Le Matin, 12 Dec 1898 (link)
“La Vitrine Magique,” Excelsior, journal illustré, 12 January 1924 (link)
“Alfred Stevens by François Boucher,” La Renaissance, 1 January 1931 (link)