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Julie d’Aubigny, Mademoiselle de Maupin (link post)

If Julie d’Aubigny (known by her stage name Mademoiselle de Maupin) were a character in a novel, she would be dismissed as an arrant Mary Sue, too implausible for the suspension of disbelief. Born in 1673, she learned fencing along with assorted courtly skills as a girl and habitually dressed in male clothing openly. She was the lover of noblemen, actors, fencing masters, and also of beautiful women. She abducted/rescued one female lover from a convent, setting it on fire to cover their escape. Her introduction to one of her noble lovers was when she wounded him in a duel. She made her living by fencing demonstrations and opera singing. She was sentenced to death for the kidnapping and pardoned by the king of France. After kissing a young woman at a society ball she was challenged to three duels as a result and won them all. Toward the end of her short life (she died at 33) she added a Marquise to her noble lovers and after the woman’s death was so inconsolable that she retired from the stage to a convent.

There appears to be no definitive biography of d’Aubigny in English. Her Wikipedia entry covers the list of her lovers and the timeline of her career in great detail and has a good starting bibliography. Jim Burrows has put together a more extensive well-footnoted narrative with a number of quotations from source material. A much more light-hearted (and somewhat less reliable) summary can be found at the site “Badass of the Week” by Ben Thompson.

D’Aubigny’s life and loves have inspired a number of fictional treatments. The best known is Théophile Gautier’s 1835 French novel Mademoiselle de Maupin in which she is the object of desire by a man and his mistress with a rather dismal spin being put on the whole affair. The original French can be found at Project Gutenberg. Also available on-line is a 1902 English translation by F.C. de Sumichrast. An 1898 edition of the work was famously illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley in his usual lush, decadent style. More recent fictional treatments include the novel Goddess by Kelly Gardinerand the short story “M. Le Maupin” by Catherine Lundoff (Lesbian Short Fiction, edited by Jinx Beers. Vol 3, Fall, 1997, illustrated by Alicia Austin). Screen treatments include a 1965 Italian film Madamigella di Maupin which retains her cross-dressing but appears to have erased her bisexuality, and a French TV movie Julie, Chevalier de Maupin which appears from the synopsis to have retained nothing except her name and nationality. A 2013 article in the Daily Dotprovides an interesting survey of recent online creative interest in this fascinating woman.

If readers know of other sites, sources, and interpretations they'd like to share, please feel free to add in comments. (As the Daily Dot article indicates, I've only scratched the surface of recent pop culture interpretations.)