By Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)
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Additional info for A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the Making of the French Republic, 1872–82
13 Adélaïde Goupille was deserted by her first husband. She obtained a divorce, legalized by the French Revolution, and married Jacob Léon, a Jew. Their son Émile, who was to be Léonie’s father, was born in Guadeloupe in 1795. At the age of fourteen, Émile Léon enlisted as a cabin boy in the French navy. 14 In 1812, Émile Léon’s mother moved to France and settled in Caen. The following year, he left the navy and began a new career in the army, which may have looked more promising given England’s dominance of the seas.
25 ‘I want you to devote yourself to the Republic’ 35 Léon’s reply excelled in its extravagance: This supreme hour will be eternally present in my thoughts! This pale ray of the setting sun will envelop my whole life with its gentle light! We have contemplated the infinite face to face, we have felt and understood it. You have initiated this soul born of your breath to such divine mysteries, and what adoration does it not owe you in exchange for the ineffable delights with which you fill it? 26 Letters like these certainly suggest the sexual ardour of the union between Gambetta and Léon.
She wanted to establish an exclusive relationship with him: did she envisage marriage, or simply having a sole protector and discarding other clients? 11 This was a ‘coquettish ploy’ itself, however, given that Léon was in no position to promise ‘endless fidelity’. Léon responded indignantly to Gambetta’s initial assumption that theirs was simply a sexual relationship in which he could assume her availability: this was an assertion of her status as courtesan and aspiring mistress, rather than ‘common prostitute’.
A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the Making of the French Republic, 1872–82 by Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)