Perfide Manon and Abbe Prevost. She was the classic cocotte, he the classic dupe; first the Abbe wrote his famous story, and then he set out to live it…
…In any case, the Abbe removed hurriedly from England to Holland in the autumn of 1730. He established himself in The Hague, center of the book trade, and gave himself up to a rage of production. It was one of those periods of heightened tension, familiar in literary lives, when the words flow faster than the pen can follow. He added two volumes to the Memoires d’un homme de qualite, wrote for volumes of a new novel, Cleveland, began a translation into French of De Thou’s monumental Latin history of sixteenth-century France, and produced his immortal Manon Lescaut.
He describes his own masterpiece as “depicting the results of a violent passion which renders reason useless when unhappily one surrenders totally to it- a passion which, being incapable of completely stifling in the heart of sentiments of virtue, prevents one from practicing it.”
In the heat of creation he met a person who rendered reason useless, who prevented him from practicing the precepts of virtue. Her name was Lenki Eckhardt. Prevost refers to her as a lady of merit and good birth who had suffered reverses of fortune.” Others were less charitable, describing her as a “veritiable leech who had bled white most of her lovers,” and identifying some of her victims. She was the classic cocotte. He broke with his froends in Dutch society, or they broke with him. Money seemed somehow to disappear; he was forced to borrow and to beg his publishers for advances.( to be continued)…
Eric Gans:Manon is the central figure in a love-story that explores the new possibilities opened to love in the emerging market society of the 18th century. Prostitution may well be the oldest profession, but it is only with the movement toward a true market economy that sexual attractiveness in itself acquires a generally agreed-on market value. This value need not be realized literally in an act of exchange, but it is implicit in the rationalization of desire by the marketplace. The principle of exchange-value allows for a systematic measurement of a woman’s–or man’s–desirability. (As a student in the seminar pointed out, Manon’s brother offers the Chevalier des Grieux, Manon’s lover, a trick as a gigolo–an opportunity that he, unlike Manon, indignantly declines.)
The Chevalier’s love for Manon and hers for him are only conceivable against the backdrop of market relations. This new kind of love, which leads the young nobleman to follow his beloved to the wilds of Louisiana, evolves in counterpoint to the capitalization of desire in the rest of society. The Chevalier’s love, and Manon’s as well, contains within it an implicit understanding of the beloved’s market value. Des Grieux and the dirty old M. de G… M… see Manon with the same vision of rationalized desire. But where G… M… thereupon offers Manon fair market price for her favors, the Chevalier gives himself up “absolutely” to love.Read More:http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/views/view17.htm