The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret

By Catherine Hewitt
Read by Sarah Nichols

9.70 Hours 01/24/2017 unabridged
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Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was painted by Édouard Manet and inspired Émile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel Nana. Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future King Edward VII kept gossip columns full. But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no comtesse. She was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid backstreet among the dregs of Parisian society. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art the envy of connoisseurs across Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life―and even her death―remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more. Spectacularly evoking the sights and sounds of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris in all its hedonistic glory, Catherine Hewitt’s biography tells, for the first time ever in English, the forgotten story of a remarkable woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.

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Summary

Summary

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice of Paris Books

Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne was painted by Édouard Manet and inspired Émile Zola, who immortalized her in his scandalous novel Nana. Her rumored affairs with Napoleon III and the future King Edward VII kept gossip columns full.

But her glamorous existence hid a dark secret: she was no comtesse. She was born into abject poverty, raised on a squalid backstreet among the dregs of Parisian society. Yet she transformed herself into an enchantress who possessed a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages, and art the envy of connoisseurs across Europe. A consummate show-woman, she ensured that her life―and even her death―remained shrouded in just enough mystery to keep her audience hungry for more.

Spectacularly evoking the sights and sounds of mid- to late nineteenth-century Paris in all its hedonistic glory, Catherine Hewitt’s biography tells, for the first time ever in English, the forgotten story of a remarkable woman who, though her roots were lowly, never stopped aiming high.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Hewitt is a diligent researcher and her handsomely illustrated debut biography is crammed with period detail.” Saturday Telegraph (London)
“An enthralling story, told with both conviction and sympathy.” Observer (UK)
“Her lovers included painters and politicians, and she caused plenty of scandal that will have you curled up with this book for hours.” Living France
“A fascinating biography.” France
“A vivid portrait of a woman who reinvented herself and carved out a successful and lucrative career in one of the only realms available to women in her time, place, and circumstances.” Booklist
“A thoroughly researched and clearly written account of a determined and talented woman and of an era.” Kirkus Reviews
“Through incisive enquiry and astute observation, Catherine Hewitt traces the courtesan’s flight from squalor to splendour, her prose sparkling in the light of her luminous subject.” Biographer’s Club (UK)
“Riveting.” Bookseller (UK)

Reviews

Reviews

Author

Author Bio: Catherine Hewitt

Catherine Hewitt studied French literature and art history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her proposal for The Mistress of Paris was awarded the runner-up prize in the 2012 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Competition for the best proposal by an uncommissioned, first-time biographer. She lives in a village in Surrey, England.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Runtime: 9.70
Audience: Adult
Language: English