La Maupin once scandalized a ball by kissing another woman on the dance floor. She was challenged to a duel by three men, beat them all, and promptly returned to dancing. Jim Burrows is writing a novel about her, and has this account of her life:
La Maupin, 17th century French swordswoman, adventuress and opera star, was like something out of a novel by Dumas or Sabatini, except for two things.
First she was real, and second few authors would have attributed her exploits to a woman.
Theophile Gautier borrowed her name and a few of her characteristics for the heroine of his novel Mademoiselle De Maupin, but in many ways his character was only a pale imitation of the original. The real Maupin was a complex creature.
Well born and privileged, she knew how to use her influential friends and contacts to get what she wanted or to escape danger, but she was also proud and self-reliant. She seems to have craved the center stage, reveling in both fame and infamy. She had a fiery temperament and equally fiery passion, often the fool for love.
Mlle. Maupin was, excepting her sex, the very image of the swashbuckling romantic cavalier: tall, dark and handsome, one of the finest swordswomen or swordsmen of her day. She was athletically built, had very white skin and dark auburn curls with blonde highlights, blue eyes, an aquiline nose, a pretty mouth and, it is said, perfect breasts (or perhaps just a lovely throat).
She was also a star of one of the greatest theaters of her day — the Paris Opera. She had a lovely contralto voice and a phenomenal memory. Although she was largely unschooled in music and is said by some to have had little talent for singing, her good looks, beautiful voice, love of attention, excellent memory and flamboyance seem to have suited her well for stardom on the stage of the Paris Opera.
She is said to have been “born with masculine inclinations” as well as having been educated in a very masculine way. Certainly, she often dressed as a man and when she did so could be mistaken for one. She also seemed to have at least as much an eye for members of her own sex as for men. Her skill with the sword, either in exhibition or duels fought in earnest, seems to have been exceptional.
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