Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman
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She has been known as the "kept woman," the "fancy woman," and the "other woman." She exists as both a fictional character and a flesh-and-blood human being. But what do Madame de Pompadour, Jane Eyre, and Camilla Parker-Bowles have in common? Why do women become mistresses, and is a mistress merely a wife-in-waiting, or is she the very definition of the emancipated, independent female?
In Mistresses, Elizabeth Abbott intelligently examines the motives and morals of some of the most infamous and fascinating women in history and literature. Drawing intimate portraits of those who have—whether by chance, coercion, or choice– assumed this complex role, from Chinese concubines and European royal mistresses to mobster molls and trophy girlfriends, Mistresses offers a rich blend of history, personal biography, and cultural insight.
was published to widespread acclaim. Marian’s assistance had been invaluable and Lewes acknowledged it proudly, referring to her in his narrative as “a dear friend of mine, whose criticism is always worthy of attention.”41 He still dined with Marian’s naysayers, but in other ways he celebrated her brilliance and her importance to his life. Almost from the beginning, in Germany, the lovers had established a pattern of life that did not deviate for twenty-four years. They worked steadily until
teenaged pundit spoke about civil rights, politics, the Beatles, marijuana, women’s liberation, “the embarrassment of virginity” in an era of sexual revolution. She ruefully acknowledged the chunk of her life spent in front of television: “If I had spent at the piano the hours I gave to television … I would be an accomplished pianist now. Situation comedies steeped me in American culture. I emerged from years of TV viewing indifferent to the museums of France, the architecture of Italy, the
only did he have the detectives working [to catch Milly in a compromising situation], but he tried to put a law through that any married couple who had not lived together for the past ten years was automatically divorced… . The Catholic Church barged in and killed that.”13 Marion’s biographer believes that early on, W. R. asked Milly for a divorce that she refused. Afterward, she referred to Marion as “the woman.” The truth was that W. R. arranged his life to suit his own needs. He lived
late, and she often vomited with terror at the prospect of performing. She gobbled Dr. Greenson’s prescription pills to cope with her ravaging depression and seemed confused and unprepared. She took ill, and doctors confirmed that she suffered an infected throat. Sometimes she tried to work but collapsed on the set or left early. Cukor temporized desperately, shooting around her, waiting with the cast and 104 crew members for the star to appear. On May 14, Marilyn was sufficiently recovered to
all of us were wounded and sick, yet never allowed us to see any sign of fear in her, only a courage passing that of a woman.”2 Cortés showed his appreciation by empowering her to conduct the most delicate and difficult negotiations with the natives. The most fraught by far concerned the graceful, pyramidal Aztec temples, which Cortés determined to destroy. To him and his men, they were not places of worship, they were gory abattoirs that stank of human blood. But the Spaniards’ native allies