Philobiblon: Maupassant - a nice man (not)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Maupassant - a nice man (not)

Warning - not a post for the squeamish ...

Maupassant: "one day he had painted a false chancre on his penis and paraded thus in front of his mistress, whom he then raped to make her think that he had given her a dose of the pox."

Of course he did really have syphilis, although he didn't realise it, until March 1877, when he wrote to a friend, Robert Pinochon: "

For five weeks I have been taking four centigrammes of mercury and 35 centigrammes of potassium iodide a day, and I feel very well on it. Soon mercury will be my staple diet. My hair is beginning to grow again ... the hair on my arse is sprouting ... I've got the pox! at last! the real thing! not the contemplible clap, no the ecclesiastical crystalline, not the bourgeois coxcombs or the leguminous cauliflowers - no - no, the great pox, the one which Francis I died of. ... I don't have to worry about catching it any more, and I screw the street whores and trollops, and afterwards I say to them 'I've got the pox'. They are afraid and I just laugh."

It's a reminder of the hatred many men through the ages have felt for women. (Sorry to be depressing; got a cold and feeling rather miserable!)

From C. Quetel (Trans. J. Braddock and B. Pike) History of Syphilis, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1990, p. 129-30.)

You might think it is odd reading material (academic remainders again), but although my Camden Historical Society book on Leather Lane (on which I live - London EC1) manages not to mention it, the lane was best known from the 17th to the 19th century for its mercury baths, run, at the time the infamous John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, was treated there, by one Madam Fourcard. (That's from C. Goldsworthy, The Satyr, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2001, p. 129 - a not very good biography.)


Blogger Sharon said...

I presume you've heard of the saying: 'a night with Venus, a month with Mercury'?

But seriously, what an unpleasant piece of work. Even if you read it as a bit of slightly desperate bravado...

8/25/2004 10:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow - what a bastard! His tone is frightening. When i think of all the horrible treatment women have had over the years it sickens me. men do just as bad to other men as well, but the sexual elements suffered by women are perhaps more damaging.

What context was this letter written in (i.e. who is Maupassant and where did you find this)?

2/04/2005 04:37:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

It is taken from C. Quetel (Trans. J. Braddock and B. Pike) History of Syphilis, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1990, p. 129-30.

Maupassant was a
late 19th-century writer. What I've read of his, which is not a huge amount, doesn't come across as particularly misogynist, but there are worse accounts than the ones here about how he treated women in his life. (Yes, really!)

2/06/2005 03:30:00 pm  
Blogger Hyoscine said...

What an utterly repellent dude. I read his wikipedia article after stumbling across this post; it's kinda fawning, and completely neglects to mention anything so unsavoury. Maybe you could append/de-lame the biography over there? If you could spare the time, I really think it would be worthwhile. A guy's conduct is just as important as his artistic output.

7/06/2006 05:09:00 am  

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