|Violette - Anonymous - W.H.
ISBN 0 352 31780 9
It is late one pale Parisian night when a mysterious visitor appears at the door of Christian's apartment, on the Rue de Rivoli. Surprised to discover the young girl who stands before him, Christian is eager to offer the sanctuary she seeks. For though she is scarcely a woman, Violette is voluptuous enough to stir the passionate interest of any man...
Soon young Violette has more than one admirer — the lusty Countess Odette de Mainfroy is another victim of her charms. And to please her new protector Violette is prepared to admit the Countess to their lovenest, thus initiating a lascivious intrigue whose results prove most satisfactory to all.
First published in Brussels in 1882, Le Roman de Violette has been ascribed to many famous French men of letters, including Victor Hugo and Guy de Maupassant. In all probability, however, it is the work of a French noblewoman, the Marquise de Mannoury d'Ectot.
The authorship of Le Roman de Violette as with so many other erotic novels of the late Victorian era, is now inevitably (and was then necessarily) uncertain.
It is likely, however, that none of the famous contemporary writers to whom the book's authorship was originally ascribed -and these included Alexandre Dumas (both father and son), Theophile Gautier, Victor Hugo and Guy de Maupassant - had any hand in it.
Le Roman de Violette, according to its original publisher, purported to be 'the posthumous work of an incognito celebrity'. But even its true publication details were deliberately obscured. The book was not in fact published by 'Antonio de Boa-Vista, Lisbon, 1870' but by the indefatigable Auguste Brancart in Brussels, 1882.
Henry L. Marchand in his pioneering if none too reliable 1933 study The Sexual History of France comments that 'the intense delight depicted in the book of sapphic pleasures, makes one suspect that a woman was the author. Several women have been suspected; eg., Countess Maurice de Boissiron or a Madame Querouen de Boussiron, but at this late day it is impossible to tell with certainty who the unknown author was.' He later opts for 'Countess Maurice de Boissiron, an intimate friend of George Sand.'
Patrick J. Kearney in his scholarly and infinitely superior book A History of Erotic Literature (1982) settles for 'a certain Marquise de Mannoury d'Ectot, formerly Le Blanc, who in her younger days acted as host to poets and artists at her house near Argentan in northern France. Among those who visited her was Paul Verlaine.'
The publishers of the most recent French reprint have listed the author as 'a lady called Mauriac de Boissiron, better known by her title Comtesse de Manoury', while warning us that this too is in all probability 'a nickname or pseudonym'!
All three of the above sources also ascribe another celebrated 1880's work with a primarily lesbian theme, Les Cousines de la Colonelle, to this elusive lady.
Le Roman de Violette, whoever wrote it, does have charm and an erotic interest that are still unusual over a century later. These all too rare qualities are the main reasons for the book's survival. They clearly stem from the sexual inclinations and literary talent of its - almost certainly - female author.