Sunday, 17 December 2017 Contact us

Finally something juicy…

19th-century Parisian mores

Yup, in a short, sharp change of direction, I thought a talk that dealt with sex, 19th-century Parisian social mores, sex, art, sex and Zola (in that order) might prove a valuable distraction from all the ‘worthy’ events I’ve so far attended.

And I wasn’t wrong… for two reasons -

The subject matter of the event was factual, historical and deliciously delectable, concerning as it did the forgotten story of Valtesse de la Bigne, a Parisian courtesan who, from humble beginnings, went on to inspire a painting by Manet, a novel by Zola, and a family tree plucked entirely out her own imagination (complete with specially commissioned family portraits I might add).

Plus, I t introduced first-time writer Catherine Hewitt who, based both on the book and her own self-assured presence at the event, is almost certain to become a familiar name.

Interviewed by the inimitably superb Paul Blezard, it made for a cracking end to the day, dealing as it did with the 19th-century equivalent of a Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (as in a self-made woman who turned herself through sheer force of will and other people’s money into one of history’s great cause celebres)

A story in fact - and this is meant in no derogatory way but quite the opposite - that would easily pass muster as a Richard and Judy beach read.

As it teases in the Festival’s brochure: ‘De la Bigne (Valtesse) was born into poverty and raised in the squalid backstreets of Paris. So, how did she rise to own a small fortune, three mansions, fabulous carriages and art that was the envy of connoisseurs across Europe?’

Indeed.

But it would spoil your fun if I were to tell you anymore.

Suffice to say, it was a perfect event to set the stage for a few Proseccos afterwards…

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival 2018 partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford HSBC Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner BBC World Service International radio partner BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner British Academy HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture Galileo Foundation Italian Cultural Institute Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Ian and Carol Sellars Lady Hatch Emily Rose and James Marrow George Warren Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design Marshall Maserati Festival courtesy cars The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Eynsham Hall Said Business School Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Corpus Christi College The Queen’s College The Queen's College St John’s College St John's College Jesus College Hertford College Exeter College Exeter College St Hilda’s College Keble College Keble College Oxford University Press Princeton University Press Oxford Brookes University Oxford Cultural Collective K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography Ashmolean Museum Floris of London University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Macdonald Bear Hotel Conference Oxford Critchleys Liaison Financial Services The Litmus Partnership British Humanist Association The Sheldonian Theatre Felicity Bryan Associates The Royal Society of Literature Oxford University Museum of Natural History The Story Museum Oxford City Council City Audio Visual OX magazine