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Friday, 14 December 2012

A little decadence

Wednesday, December 14th., Les Sablons.

I worked at "S. and P. Love" till 1.30 Monday night; beginning at 3.30 in the afternoon, and I recommenced early on Tuesday and had got to the end of the first part by midday. I slept a long time after lunch and woke up with the first headache I have had for months. I went down To Rachilde's reception at the Mercure de France to meet Davray. He took me to an old bookseller's named Lehec, in the rue St. Andre des Arts. We could scarcely get into the shop for books. Lehec told us he had a hundred thousand; the place smelt of damp paper. He was an oldish thin man, wearing a hat and a black smock like a French child's pinafore.
I wanted a good copy of "The Memoirs of Fanny Hill". He had a copy upstairs in his flat. He took us up, in the dark, to the third storey, and having opened the door made us enter quickly lest his cat should escape. When he had struck a light we saw the cat - a superb Persian. A curiously arranged flat, small, very clean and bourgeois. It reminded me of what Sister Glegg's might have been - in "The Mill on the Floss". here again, all was books. He at last, after searching through several portmanteaus full of bawdy English books, found a fine edition of "Fanny Hill" in two volumes. I have since read this work. It is certainly a masterpiece of pornographic literature.

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (popularly known as Fanny Hill) is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England in 1748. Written while the author was in debtor's prison in London, it is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel." One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, it has become a synonym for obscenity.

Davray and I went back to the Mercure and met the usual crowd. But Henri de Regnier, tall, thin; grey, severe, and looking quite the Norman aristocrat that he is, was there - talking to Georgette Leblanc. The latter is decidedly very beautiful.

Georgette Leblanc (1875 – 1941) was a French operatic soprano, actress, and author. She became particularly associated with the works of Jules Massenet and was an admired interpreter of the title role in Bizet's Carmen. For many years Leblanc was the lover of Belgian playwright and writer Maurice Maeterlinck, and he wrote several parts for her within his stage plays. In the last few decades of her life she turned to writing, producing two commercially successful autobiographies and several children's books and travelogues.

Davaray told me that to have de Regnier dangling his legs from a corner of a table and talking obscenities in his calm exquisitely polished way, was a delightful experience.

Henri François Joseph de Régnier (1864 - 1936) was a French symbolist poet, considered one of the most important of France during the early 20th century. He was born at Honfleur (Calvados) on the 28th of December 1864, and was educated in Paris for the law. In 1885 he began to contribute to the Parisian reviews, and his verses were published by most of the French and Belgian periodicals favourable to the symbolist writers. M. de Régnier married Mlle Marie de Heredia, daughter of the poet José María de Heredia, and herself a novelist and poet under the name of Gérard d'Houville.

Rachilde gave me some madeira which did not arrange my deranged stomach. Davray was depressed, so I asked him to come and dine with me and Emile Martin. We met Martin at the Cafe Riche, where I had an absinthe. I could not judge whether or not it did me good. We dined at the Restaurant Italien in the Passage des Panoramas: a plain looking place with a bad atmosphere but a magnificent cuisine and good Chianti. We ate enormously, and drank also, and the whole bill was 17 fr. 30. Martin who is tremendously au courant, puts Notta's, Laperouse, and this restaurant as the best in Paris for a moderate purse.
Afterwards we didn't quite know what to do, and Martin suggested that we should go down to Port Maillot and see the cafes frequented by chauffeurs and their mistresses. Ca nous changera un peu. We went, wandering down through the Palais Royal and then taking the Metro. We got a good cafe but it was empty, and we saw only one chauffeur and he hadn't a mistress.

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