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Table of contents
PREFACE
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD-1.1
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD-1.2
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD-1.3
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD-1.4
THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD-1.5
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.1
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.2
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.3
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.4
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.5
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.6
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.7
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.8
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.9
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.10
SEXUAL EDUCATION-2.11
SEXUAL EDUCATION AND NAKEDNESS-3.1
SEXUAL EDUCATION AND NAKEDNESS-3.2
SEXUAL EDUCATION AND NAKEDNESS-3.3
SEXUAL EDUCATION AND NAKEDNESS-3.4
THE VALUATION OF SEXUAL LOVE-4.1
THE VALUATION OF SEXUAL LOVE-4.2
THE VALUATION OF SEXUAL LOVE-4.3
THE VALUATION OF SEXUAL LOVE-4.4
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.1
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.2
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.3
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.4
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.5
THE FUNCTION OF CHASTITY-5.6
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.1
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.2
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.3
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.4
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.5
THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABSTINENCE-6.6
PROSTITUTION-7.1
PROSTITUTION-7.2
PROSTITUTION-7.3
PROSTITUTION-7.4
PROSTITUTION-7.5
PROSTITUTION-7.6
PROSTITUTION-7.7
PROSTITUTION-7.8
PROSTITUTION-7.9
PROSTITUTION-7.10
PROSTITUTION-7.11
PROSTITUTION-7.12
PROSTITUTION-7.13
PROSTITUTION-7.14
PROSTITUTION-7.15
FOOTNOTES-1
FOOTNOTES-2

 

Ninon de Lenclos, who is frequently called "the last of the great 

courtesans," may seem an exception to the general rule as to the 

inability of a woman of good heart, high character, and fine 

intelligence to find satisfaction in a prostitute's life. But it 

is a total misconception alike of Ninon de Lenclos's temperament 

and her career to regard her as in any true sense a prostitute at 

all. A knowledge of even the barest outlines of her life ought to 

prevent such a mistake. Born early in the seventeenth century, 

she was of good family on both sides; her mother was a woman of 

severe life, but her father, a gentleman of Touraine, inspired 

her with his own Epicurean philosophy as well as his love of 

music. She was extremely well educated. At the age of sixteen or 

seventeen she had her first lover, the noble and valiant Gaspard 

de Coligny; he was followed for half a century by a long 

succession of other lovers, sometimes more than one at a time; 

three years was the longest period during which she was faithful 

to one lover. Her attractions lasted so long that, it is said, 

three generations of Sevignes were among her lovers. Tallemant 

des Reaux enables us to study in detail her _liaisons_. 

 

It is not, however, the abundance of lovers which makes a woman a 

prostitute, but the nature of her relationships with them. 

Sainte-Beuve, in an otherwise admirable study of Ninon de Lenclos 

(_Causeries du Lundi_, vol. iv), seems to reckon her among the 

courtesans. But no woman is a prostitute unless she uses men as a 

source of pecuniary gain. Not only is there no evidence that this 

was the case with Ninon, but all the evidence excludes such a 

relationship. "It required much skill," said Voltaire, "and a 

great deal of love on her part, to induce her to accept 

presents." Tallemant, indeed, says that she sometimes took money 

from her lovers, but this statement probably involves nothing 

beyond what is contained in Voltaire's remark, and, in any case, 

Tallemant's gossip, though usually well-informed, was not always 

reliable. All are agreed as to her extreme disinterestedness. 

 

When we hear precisely of Ninon de Lenclos in connection with 

money, it is not as receiving a gift, but only as repaying a debt 

to an old lover, or restoring a large sum left with her for safe 

keeping when the owner was exiled. Such incidents are far from 

suggesting the professional prostitute of any age; they are 

rather the relationships which might exist between men friends. 

Ninon de Lenclos's character was in many respects far from 

perfect, but she combined many masculine virtues, and especially 

probity, with a temperament which, on the whole, was certainly 

feminine; she hated hypocrisy, and she was never influenced by 

pecuniary considerations. She was, moreover, never reckless, but 

always retained a certain self-restraint and temperance, even in 

eating and drinking, and, we are told, she never drank wine. She 

was, as Sainte-Beuve has remarked, the first to realize that 

there must be the same virtues for men and for women, and that it 

is absurd to reduce all feminine virtues to one. "Our sex has 

been burdened with all the frivolities," she wrote, "and men have 

reserved to themselves the essential qualities: I have made 

myself a man." She sometimes dressed as a man when riding (see, 

e.g., _Correspondence Authentique_ of Ninon de Lenclos, with a 

good introduction by Emile Colombey). Consciously or not, she 

represented a new feminine idea at a period when--as we may see 


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