Sunday, 17 October 2021 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 BBC World Service International radio partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner University of Oxford New College Jewish Book Week Partner of Jewish programme Italian Embassy Supporter of Italian programme Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme MIT Press MIT Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller The Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Princeton University Press Prestige publishing partner British Academy Festival academic partner Emily Rose and James Marrow Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Jill Dunsmore Lady Hatch Patron donor for the programme of Irish literature and culture George Warren Mary and Cecil Quillen Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Marlene Hauser Worcester College Worcester College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Hilda’s College 12th St Hilda's day at the festival St Cross College St Cross College: Festival college partner. The Feathers Hotel Woodstock festival hotel Critchleys Accountants to the festival Owen Mumford Sponsor of programme on science and medicine HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Felicity Bryan Associates Conference Oxford Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Said Business School Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner The Oxford Times Regional media partner Oxford Brookes University Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Floris of London City Audio Visual Schoolreaders The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Chamberlain Evans Estate agents Ironbridge Gorge Museums Foodbuy Siren Communications Siren Communications - corporate consultants Chêne Bleu Wines of Provence Frescobaldi Toscana Wines of Tuscany Symington Wines of the Douro Valley Seacourt Printers Festival printers Steer Oxford Botanic Garden Compassion in World Farming The Wild Geese Nicholas Hunter Ltd

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival sponsors, donors & partners

FT Weekend Title partner BBC World Service International radio partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner University of Oxford New College Jewish Book Week Partner of Jewish programme Italian Embassy Supporter of Italian programme Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme MIT Press MIT Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller The Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Princeton University Press Prestige publishing partner British Academy Festival academic partner Emily Rose and James Marrow Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Jill Dunsmore Lady Hatch Patron donor for the programme of Irish literature and culture George Warren Mary and Cecil Quillen Supporters of the programme of American literature and culture Marlene Hauser Worcester College Worcester College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Hilda’s College 12th St Hilda's day at the festival St Cross College St Cross College: Festival college partner. The Feathers Hotel Woodstock festival hotel Critchleys Accountants to the festival Owen Mumford Sponsor of programme on science and medicine HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Felicity Bryan Associates Conference Oxford Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Said Business School Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner The Oxford Times Regional media partner Oxford Brookes University Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Floris of London City Audio Visual Schoolreaders The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Chamberlain Evans Estate agents Ironbridge Gorge Museums Foodbuy Siren Communications Siren Communications - corporate consultants Chêne Bleu Wines of Provence Frescobaldi Toscana Wines of Tuscany Symington Wines of the Douro Valley Seacourt Printers Festival printers Steer Oxford Botanic Garden Compassion in World Farming The Wild Geese Nicholas Hunter Ltd