Thursday, December 5, 2019

Le Demi-monde

Alexander Dumas fils
Le monde is French for ‘the world.” You have “le monde” and Le Demi-monde which is the title of a play by Alexander Dumas fils. Demimondaines are the women of the demimonde. Sara Bernhardt was the daughter of a courtesan and an actress, both of which would have qualified her to be a member of the demimonde in the l8th or l9th century. Madame De Maintenon who would marry Louis the XIV also had humble origins qualified her to be demimondaine. In modern times Wallis Simpson who caused the Duke of Windsor to abdicate might have been termed a demimondaine not only due to being a commoner with aristocratic ambitions but because she was a divorcee, a status shared by Meghan Markle who recently married Prince Harry--a woman with no royal blood, a divorcee and an actress to boot. Les Liaisons Dangereux is an epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos later made into a movie with Jeanne Moreau by Roger Vadim. The story is full of manipulative women who use sex as a weapon and tool, but they're not demimondaines because they're all aristocrats, who one would assume were given a certain license to employ noblesse oblige. Sensibilities exist in particular times and places and art may reflect a particular way of life, but it may also create it. The Sufferings of Young Werther famously produced a rash of suicides in imitation of the the behavior of Goethe’s character. "Bounder" is a word used for cads, but it’s not one you’re likely to find in a work of contemporary fiction just as you’re unlikely to meet characters with names like Lady Fidget, Harry Horner and Jack Pinchwife (all characters out of Wycherley's The Country Wife), who marries a simple girl, incapable of cheating on him. When someone created the idea of the demimondaine they locked the door and threw away the key which would have freed their characters from the language (and history) in which they’d been created.

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