From Pornographer to the King of Theater: XVIII Century Literary Careers


Margot, a character created by Fougeret de Montbron, had made her career as an Opera dancer. This character, which had cost its author some prison time, was renown for its realism. But the XVIII century realism should not be mistaken for the XIX century realism, the same way as the XVIII century erotica should not be mistaken for anything we understand as erotic today; as for the incarceration, unless the author could pay for a better nourishment and accommodation, his chances of survival were low. So, my reader gets the picture, the erotic value is nil, and the punishment is brutal. Was it worth it? Most of the  time it certainly was: erotic novels sold very well, and their writers could quickly make themselves a fortune and a name, and if the quality of their writing was high enough, then, like Crebillon Jr, they just walked out of the Bastille straight into the best of literary salons and then switched to a different genre or even occupation. La Morliere, for example, had started as a pornographer, got his way into a prestigious literary café, Procope, and then became a play-write. He wasn’t any good at plays, but he had figured out a way to control the public opinion, and not only as far as his own plays were concerned. He had his people strategically planted all over the parterre. And they would applaud, whistle or yawn on La Marliere’s command, depending on how the boss wished to fix it.

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