Gaby Deslys, 1881-1920: Material Girl

Norman Douglas on the subject of Menton writes in passing that the Riviera seems to have produced no persons of note other  than Andrea Doria and Gaby Deslys.

Clearly a joke that left them in the aisles in 1922, but hers was not a name I was familiar with. My wife, given the name without context, thought she might have been be one of Yves St Laurent’s muses.   Good guess, but wrong.

She was a dancer and and chanteuse and one of the most notorious stage presences of her day.  The Madonna of the aughts and teens,  making up for modest innate talent with colossal work ethic and a flair for publicity.  A multi-millionaire at the time of her death, she hung her numerous hats on the Corniche (229 Avenue Kennedy, Marsailles) in the sort of place that might entice even Gerard Depardieu back to France. Continue reading

George du Maurier, 1834 -1896: The First Blockbuster

The nineteenth century saw the first mass market for books and concomitantly the first serious bestsellers.   Dickens and Twain, of course, made quite nice livings by writing, thanks very much, and Harriet Beecher Stowe had more than her fifteen minutes of fame.  But however well these people did, the kind of DaVinci Code phenomenon never really hit the Victorian century.

That is,  not until 1894 when George du Maurier came out of nowhere with the game changing novel Trilby.  And, no doubt to the fury of a generation of would-be scribblers, he wasn’t even a proper writer.

Du Maurier was born in Paris of Anglo-French stock (his grandmother was Regency courtesan Mary Anne Clarke, on whom more next time) and for the better part of his life was chiefly known – well known, in fact – as an illustrator.

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