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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Number 195: Dorothy Parker "Ninon De Lenclos, On Her Last Birthday"

Ninon De Lenclos, On Her Last Birthday

So let me have the rouge again,
And comb my hair the curly way.
The poor young men, the dear young men
They'll all be here by noon today.

And I shall wear the blue, I think-
They beg to touch its rippled lace;
Or do they love me best in pink,
So sweetly flattering the face?

And are you sure my eyes are bright,
And is it true my cheek is clear?
Young what's-his-name stayed half the night;
He vows to cut his throat, poor dear!

So bring my scarlet slippers, then,
And fetch the powder-puff to me.
The dear young men, the poor young men-
They think I'm only seventy!

-- Dorothy Parker

Hap Notes: It's not surprising that Dorothy Parker would know about the famous French courtesan and wit, Mademoiselle Ninon De Lenclos (1620-1705.) They had a bit in common both being writers, wits and independent women. De Lenclos really takes the cake, though. She was an extraordinary woman in every sense of the words "extraordinary" and "woman." In Parker's poem she is celebrating her 85th birthday, still as vital and as sexually active as ever.

As you can see from her pictures, it was not her great beauty that attracted men, although it didn't hurt none to look at her. She was a wit, an intelligence and she understood how to make love and felt no compunctions talking about sex. She is one of the finest examples of the idea of the brain being the most important sexual organ. Although, she certainly was not above taking a lover based on lust.

A woman of independent means, she also had very rich and famous lovers: Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, Gaston de Coligny, and François, duc de La Rouchefoucauld. It is said that Cardinal Richelieu offered her 50 thousand crowns for one night in bed. She took the money and sent a friend in her place.

De Lenclos believed that one could be a good person and still enjoy the pleasures of life. She was well versed in philosophy and literature and her salon was THE place to talk and exchange ideas and flirt. She was friends with Racine and was one of the leading critics of the arts.

She said, “I notice that the most frivolous things are charged up to the account of women, and that men have reserved to themselves the right to all the essential qualities; from this moment I will be a man.” She lived with those rights and preserved her femininity too. She took lovers, young and old, throughout her entire life with nary a pause.

She is highly revered in France as a woman of wit, wisdom and expertise in love.

If you would like to read some of her work it is available here:

Here is a book on Ninon if you'd like to read more about her:

Here is a verse Ninon De Lenclos wrote at the end of her life:

"I put your consolations by,

And care not for the hopes you give:

Since I'm old enough to die,

Why should I longer wish to live?"

Here is where we have talked about Parker before:

P.S. All pics are paintings and miniatures of De Lenclos – she inspired dozens of portraits.

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