Sword-slinging, opera-singing bisexual rock star of the 17th century
January 22, 2023 12:43 AM   Subscribe

Extra History: Julie d'Aubigny - Duelist, Singer, Radical .
posted by Pendragon at 3:16 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Heard about her in her episode of You're Dead To Me on BBC Sounds (which itself deserves FPP attention), which I commend for your listening.
posted by k3ninho at 4:23 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Previously (but always welcome!).
posted by rikschell at 4:45 AM on January 22

She is my hero.
posted by kyrademon at 5:01 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Universally recognized badass so how the hell is there no movie or TV show of her life?
posted by Mogur at 5:41 AM on January 22 [3 favorites]

> "There is a musical, though!"

I've seen it -- it's a lot of fun!
posted by kyrademon at 8:09 AM on January 22

What a life!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:04 AM on January 22

Yeah, the musical was done by friends of mine! Work schedule last summer kept me from catching it, but I hope to see it this year and congratulate them properly.

People may be interested in Romantic poet Théophile Gautier's 1835 novel Mademoiselle de Maupin, written from the perspective of a man and a woman who both fall in love with her.

As an opera singer and historical fencer, I've had La Maupin on my business cards since forever. Always hoping to channel some of her badassery into the world.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:26 AM on January 22 [7 favorites]

To be clear: the bulk of what can be found about Julie d'Aubigny aka Mademoiselle Maupin aka La Maupin is basically fiction. Except for her stage career (which is well documented), and a couple of letters from her lovers, everything you read about her is derived from two short biographical notices written respectively in 1756 and 1775, respectively 50 and 70 years after her death. The Parfaict brothers, in their Dictionnaire des théâtres de Paris (volume 3, 350-352, 1756) talked about her career and said that she was known to dress like a man and to enjoy fencing, but they refused to talk about "the true or false stories" that were reported about her. Their source was a unidentified "Manuscript memoir". Twenty years later, Clément and La Porte, in their Anecdotes dramatiques (volume 3, 328-334, 1775), repeated the story by the Parfaicts, but they added a bunch of saucy anecdotes and witty dialogues.

All later biographers have done little else but building a house of cards on top of the Parfaicts, Clément and La Porte stories, embellishing them with imaginary details, and turning speculation into fact. For instance, Maupin's affair with Marquise de Florensac is a guess by Marie and Léon Escudier, a couple of mid-19th century music critics, based on an unpublished note by the Parfaicts mentioning the friendship between both women and Maupin's retirement after the death of the Marquise. The convent burning story is from Clément and Laporte, but different versions appear elsewhere, one (involving a male, not female, lover) in Mrs Du Noyer's letters (Volume 1, letter 27, 1707) and another in the notes of police lieutenant René d'Argenson, none of them naming Maupin. Some anecdotes reported like facts are drawn from apocryphal memoirs written in the 19th century (the Memoirs of Cardinal Dubois for instance).

That said, we can assume that there is a (large) nugget of truth, and that the mildly famous singer Maupin was something of an eccentric adventuress who did like fencing and cross-dressing, may have been bisexual, and travelled around Europe. This has been enough to sustain her legend for the last 300 years, and make her the topic numerous works of fiction, notably a novel by Theophile Gautier and two movie adaptations (1966 and 2004).

Amusingly, the only historically proven anecdote about Maupin's ability for violence can be found in a police report from 1700 found in the French National archives (cited by Letainturier-Fradin, 1904). Here it is:

The year 1700, the 6th of September, half past nine in the evening, we, Jean Regnault, etc., went to rue Traversière, to the house held and occupied by the Sieur Langlois, burgher of Paris, where having entered a kitchen, on the right as you enter under the large door, we found Marguerite Fouré, servant of the aforementioned Langlois, wounded and bleeding from the head above the right eye, her white cloth headdress trimmed with lace torn into pieces, her grey cloth suit marked with blood in several places in front; who in this state complained to us against the named Maupin, a singer at the Opera, her sister, and against three lackeys; and said that the said Maupin having descended from her room into the said kitchen, asking for supper, Mr. Langlois, her master, would have made her understand that he was no longer obliged to give her food, the deal made between them having ceased;

The said Maupin, violent and carried away by anger, took a piece of mutton that the complainant was pulling from the spit, and wanted to hit the said Sieur Langlois with it; the said Sieur Langlois having stepped back, the blow of the said piece of mutton hit against the door; denying God, she took the big key of the door and with the said key hit the complainant on the head, and the latter was wounded to the bone and had an open wound above the right eye; Then, she threw herself on her, accompanied by her sister and her two lackeys, knocked her down on the floor of the said kitchen, kicked her several times, punched her, tore off her headdress and put her in the state in which we see her; for which she is making the present complaint.

The report contains several testimonies, including that of the surgeon who treated Marguerite Fouré's wounds and gave her a prescription ("stay in bed, be cared for and medicated twice a day"). This story is certainly less badass than tales about Mademoiselle de Maupin humiliating her enemies with one-liners and johnwicking them with her sword, but at least it's true!
posted by elgilito at 12:17 PM on January 22 [23 favorites]

denying God, she...

Love this phrasing.

It's too bad most of the anecdotes I have read about her are, at the very least, exaggerated. I particularly liked the one where she took liberties with a lady at a party, then when challenged by three separate gentlemen there, stepped out into the garden to settle it, and successively ran through each of them.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:02 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I refuse to let annoying facts get in the way of things here.
posted by kyrademon at 1:10 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]

Maupin having descended from her room into the said kitchen, asking for supper ... Maupin, violent and carried away by anger ...

Never mess with a hungry woman!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:15 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

There are, in fact two musicals! I’ve seen this one that Oregon Shakespeare put on a couple times, and it’s quite good. At one point it was available to stream, and I’m hoping it might be again, but sadly doesn’t look like it is at the moment.
posted by duien at 1:44 PM on January 22

There are, in fact, at least three musicals - or, more precisely, two musicals and one “folk punk play with songs”. I suppose the stories (if not the facts) are just so inherently theatrical they demand to be put on stage.
posted by earth by april at 2:39 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

I refuse to let annoying facts get in the way of things here.

The trick is to consider all historical figures as partly fictional. Except for the few ones for whom there's a sizeable amount of reliable and extant primary sources, celebrities of the past are buried under layers and layers of historiographical cruft, with historians (or "historians") rehashing what previous ones wrote, adding their own embellishments, interpretations, variants, speculations, and inventions. And then truly fictional versions are created for entertainment or political reasons, drawing on the most "attractive" features of the character. In the end, it becomes almost impossible to separate the modern perception of the person from the historical one. The "true" Maupin is basically unaccessible to us, since we cannot assess the quality of the sources used by her early biographers, who may have had access to reliable testimonies lost to us or to juicy rumours. But it does not mean that we cannot enjoy the "modern" Maupin in all her fictional glory.
posted by elgilito at 3:04 PM on January 22 [10 favorites]

There's a podcast that's a live play of the Doctor Who RPG called the Game of Rassilon. This season they did a two-part episode featuring d'Aubigny.
posted by amk at 3:26 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]

Oh my god. Can you imagine being an opera director and turning up to the first day of rehearsals with a mezzo who just assaulted 2 people with a leg of mutton.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:50 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

… honestly that’s how all the opera people I know talk about work.
posted by clew at 6:41 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]

posted by Pallas Athena at 7:48 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]

Back in the early 2000s I used her legend as a model for an RPG character. I had the sources on the early web about her to point to in case the GM was reluctant to accept a character with such a weird and outrageous assortment of skills (a fighter AND an opera singer, really?).
posted by gentlyepigrams at 9:01 PM on January 22

Wasn't there a vintage manga (later made into a live-action movie that got tepid reviews from Shock Cinema) that was at least partly based on her? (Not sure if they incorporated the bisexuality and the skillful use of a mutton, but at least the cross-dressing royalty, era, and fighting abilities).
posted by gtrwolf at 10:04 PM on January 22

That could be Christina of Sweden too, though.
posted by clew at 12:12 AM on January 23

There's a podcast that's a live play of the Doctor Who RPG called the Game of Rassilon. This season they did a two-part episode featuring d'Aubigny.

I was just thinking d'Aubigny would be perfect material for an episode or two of Doctor Who.
posted by Gelatin at 4:54 AM on January 23

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