Fiction's Fallen Women: from page to stage - Violetta and Manon

  • Cadogan Hall London

Prévost’s L'Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut made an outrageous appearance on the literary scene in 1731 detailing the exploits of the young, beautiful, and morally incorrigible Manon. Banned in France for its scandalous depiction of this unrepentant libertarian of a woman the novel became very popular and pirated editions were widely distributed. Manon’s love, won and lost with the wheel of Fortune, is presented as capricious, addictive and impossible. Indeed, upon reading Prévost’s novel in Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias, Marguerite Gautier, better known operatically as Violetta Valéry, declares that "when a woman loves, she cannot do as Manon did". However, she too eventually abandons her lover and both fallen women succumb to their inevitable fate – an early death.