Mistress of Paris by Catherine Hewitt

The courtesan in the Parisian society of the late 1800’s was quite something to behold. I have read many decent books on the subject as it fascinates me in an historical context. This particular book features the life story of one of the more famous of the Demi-Monde, one Emilie Delabigne who morphed into the extremely wealthy courtesan Madame Valtesse de la Bigne.

Courtesans were highly sponsored prostitutes in effect, they haunted all the best establishments, they met and caroused with men of means, Valtesse particularly enjoyed the company of military men, princes, politicians and landed gentry. These men and their own ego would let them pay a small fortune to be seen with a woman of this type. This woman eventually earned herself mansions, carriages, works of art, a staff of people looking after her and, dressed at the height of fashion, she would parade herself at theatres, cafés, the Bois de Boloigne and social soirees. Her bed was her throne, a magnificent edifice that can still be seen to this day. As the book states “she built an empire”.

How Catherine Hewitt has put all the information held within the narrative together is a feat worthy of an expert biographer, all praise to her accomplishment. A superb book; well worth the reader’s time. Photographs of the woman, paintings by eminent artists and other relative pictures lie within the book, they help bring the period back to life.

I enjoyed this book a lot, it flows splendidly along and I was a trifle saddened when I had finished it. Perhaps it may seem a trifle weird, me enjoying the subject so much, but there is nothing sinister in the narrative, nothing risqué whatsoever, the plain truth is that I am amazed how men can be so gullible when confronted with an obvious ‘escort’ and pay extremely heavily for the privilege.

Reg Seward
Leiston, Suffolk
Personal 5
Group 4

Mistress of Paris by Catherine Hewitt
Icon Books 978-184831-926-4 hbk

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