The Salonniere

Dolls, come on in and let me tell you the tale of salonniere Madame Julie de Lespinasse. This morsel of historic fun is both inspiring, because of the success of our gal’s 18th century Paris salon, and sorrowful, because chère Julie lived a life of romantic disappointments and unrequited love. I shall paint for you, mes amis, the picture of this maiden from Lyon, complete with salon rivalries and retributions, so pull up a chair and pour yourself another glass of Burgundy.

Jeanne Julie Éléonore de Lespinasse was born in November of 1732 to the Comtesse d’Albon and Claude Lespinasse. Problem was, dear dolls, Julie was born out of wedlock and for a while her upbringing was entrusted to her father and to the local convent. When Julie was 16, she was sent to live with her half-sister and mother’s legitimate daughter, the Marquise de Vichy. She lived the quiet life of the governess until she was introduced to the reigning dame of Paris salons, Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand. Deffand instantly recognized in Julie a protégé, a woman both intelligent and charming, and convinced our Julie to come to Paris to live as her companion.

Madame du Deffand

It was 1754, and at the age of 22, Julie was installed in Deffand’s apartments in the Convent of St. Joseph on the rue Saint-Dominique. We hear she took an instant liking to her new aristocratic life, but who could blame her? It was here that Mme du Deffand held her toast-of-the-town salons, which attracted famous diplomats, great ladies, philosophers and politicians. It was not long before Julie became integral to the salons, her popularity eclipsing that of her mistress and creating distrust between the two. Imagine the scandal when Madame du Deffand discovered that Julie was meeting salon guests in private an hour before their appointed audiences with Deffand! The ladies quarreled, possibly even violently they say, and Julie decided it was time to set up shop on her own, even wooing some of Deffand’s famed guests in the process.

Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, the philosopher and mathematician, was among Julie’s guests. They became fast friends, though d’Alembert wanted more from Julie, who could never return his affections. She became smitten with the Marquis de Mora, son of the Spanish ambassador to France. But who doesn’t love a dashing Spanish diplomat, n’est-ce pas? Malheureusement, Mora was already in the early stages of consumption and returned to Spain to restore his health. Many billets-doux were exchanged between the two and eventually Mora asked for Julie’s hand. Upon his return to France, Mora fell ill again and died in Bordeaux before he could be reunited with his love.

The Salonniere

Jean Le Rond d’Alembert

While Mora was away, however, Julie, that savvy gal, kept her options open and had begun a new dalliance with Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, and “a man of fashion.” Unfortunately for Julie, this love went unrequited and, sorry to say, dolls, but Guibert married another. Julie’s feelings for Guibert soon turned to infatuation and our heroine descended swiftly into deep despair, withdrawing herself from the society she loved. The ever faithful d’Alembert stayed by her side, but despite his efforts, Julie succumbed to a broken heart and died, unmarried, at the age of 43.

The Salonniere

Jacques Antoine Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert

Following Julie’s death, her letters were published and revealed a woman of wit, intelligence and desire who fell victim to despair and passions she was unable to overcome. A broken heart really is a health hazard, love.

Sources: Wikipedia and

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