Mademoiselle de Maupin by Theophile Gautier

by |August 12, 2010

Mademoiselle de Maupin is as fresh and as youthful as the day it was published. It still has the power to initiate discussion. It will alter the way you look at your life.

Strangely, for we have come so far in many matters, this book still retains its power to shock. The name Théophile Gautier should be on the lips of all of those insipid emos and pale dirty students who fancy themselves intellectuals. It would serve them right if they were to read him now and discover how truly backward they are.

Chevalier d’Albert fantasizes about his ideal lover, yet every woman he meets falls short of his exacting standards of female perfection. Embarking on an affair with the lovely Rosette to ease his boredom, he is thrown into tumultuous confusion when she receives a dashing young visitor. Exquisitely handsome, Theodore inspires passions d’Albert never believed he could feel for a man – and Rosette also seems to be in thrall to the charms of her guest. Does this bafflingly alluring person have a secret to hide?

Subversive and seductive, Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) draws readers into the bedrooms and boudoirs of a French chateau in a compelling exploration of desire and sexual intrigue.

A Taste:

Ah! If I were a poet my songs should be consecrated to those whose lives have been failures; whose arrows missed the mark, who have died without speaking the word which they should have uttered, and without having clasped the hand which was intended for them; to all that has come to naught, and all that has been overlooked, to the quenched fire, to the barren genius, to the unknown pearl in the depths of the sea, to all whose love has been unrequited, and all whose sufferings have met with no pity. It would be a noble task.

Plato was right in deciding to banish you poets from his republic, for you have done us great harm. Your ambrosia has but added to the bitterness of our wormwood, and how much more barren and desolate our life seems to us after we have feasted our eyes on the vistas of the infinite which you have revealed to us. How dreadful is the struggle which your dreams have waged against the stark realities of our existence, and how ruthlessly did those rough fighters maltreat and trample on our hearts during the fray.

Théophile Gautier

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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