Day whatever: name change

Well, that’s hilarious.

Spent the day in the Opera branch of the Biblioteque nationale de France (BnF) looking at a few of the early monographs on which all the later biographies of La Maupin are based, and, importantly, a slim volume of letters by d’Albert, her lifelong friend and on/off lover.

So. The infamous letter to La Maupin, aka Julie d’Aubigny, which is quoted in great slabs in many of the 19th century biographies, is addressed to Emilie.

Mademoiselle Emilie Maupin.

I have seen that name used only a couple of times, and have even seen other writers dismiss the idea. On the other hand, her other lifelong friend and one-time lover, Gabriel Thévenard, addressed a letter to her as “Julia”. In the cast lists she is simply Mademoiselle Maupin (no “de” either, that’s a later addition).

Of course, since d’Albert was Louis-Joseph and Thévenard was Gabriel-Vincent, it’s not surprising. Julie-Emilie.

The surprising thing is that for decades - possibly centuries - very few of the biographers have referenced those letters: they have referenced the extracts in the previous sources. I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Many of them also repeat the wrong basic information about her performances, and often twist the truth of her life to suit their own agenda: to some she is a star, to others a monster, to others an Amazon queen or an extra musketeer.

(Sarah Basiani in the French TV series Julie, Chevalier de Maupin)

I make a little bit of a fuss about the letter in the current draft of the novel. The back story is that La Maupin has retired to a convent (as you could, without joining an order, if you needed a little break or were sick), and writes to d’Albert for advice about whether or not to take the veil.

He wrote back the most pompous, poor-me letter:

Don’t you know that you can only achieve the happiness to which you aspire at the expense of my own, and that it will cost me my peace?

I hadn’t read it in its entirety before - I still haven’t, because my translation is so slow - but it, and the other letters in the book leave me in little doubt that Gautier had seen a copy and based his own character of d’Albert more closely on the real man than many have previously cared to admit, in Mademoiselle de Maupin.

Verbose, self-centred, well-read and rather pleased with the sound of his own words. Fancies himself as a philosopher. References the Greeks, including Sappho.

(An aside, I’m also amazed at how many scholars confuse the voice of d’Albert with the authorial voice of Gautier.)

Much rewriting looms, but it’s welcome. I hadn’t really got a feel for his specific character until now. Another unlikeable character. Excellent.

In other news, I had the entire Opera library to myself for hours. Just me and one very helpful librarian. Not another soul there. Was beside myself.

I also managed to clarify a whole list of performance dates and premieres, including the performances beyond the Palais-Royal.

If you’re on Broadway, you open in Philadelphia then move to off-Broadway before heading to the bright lights.

If you were in the Académie Royale de Musique, you opened at Versailles in front of the Sun King.