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 What would she do? 
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Post Re: What would she do?
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a constructed personality. That is a modern day phenomenon, which did not exist in the 18th century.

That is arguable in the extreme. What is more constructed than Arouet calling himself "Voltaire", or the Chevalier d'Eon's various identities? Louis XIV's whole image and use of court etiquette to rein in the aristocracy can be regarded as a self-constructed image (and one that worked like a charm). Many of Mme de Pompadour's techniques (like performing in her own theater and befriending the Philosophers) for maintaining both the King's interest and a power base of her own could be usefully compared to Hilton's use (however "innocent") of her own sex tape and other mini-scandals to become something more than one more heiress.

Beaumarchais, a clockmaker at the start, was as much self-invention as he was substance, and his adoption of an aristocratic title was one of the most common 18th century methods of self-construction, and one that often led to further self-elaboration. Casanova and Cagliostro were created out of their own whole cloth. (As of course is any expert fraud; but these two played on a very public stage.)

So certainly constructed personalities existed in this period, and may even have been largely invented then.

In Marie-Antoinette's case, however, the construction was largely done by her enemies - "l'Autrichienne", "Madame Deficite", implications of lesbian involvements with the Princesse de Lamballe, etc.. The Affair of the Necklace and the persistence of the 'Let them eat cake' libel show just how effective that construction was. But not atypical for the time.

You might read Robert Darnton's book on Mesmer (not so different from Casanova in some ways) and browse his essay "An Early Information Society:
News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris"
http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/105.1/ah000001.html
Which describes, among other things, how people's images were formed by the press, which was just beginning to have the influence we take for granted today.

The fact that MA did not construct her own image (and that image is far more present in most people's minds than the reality) does not mean that a constructed image did not exist (any more than Hilton's constructed image does not mean that her real self exists). But the fact that such an image was imposed on her does not mean that, in trying to find the human being behind it, we should expect her to be anything but, well, human. Which is to say, imperfect.

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Fri May 15, 2009 5:39 pm
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Post Re: What would she do?
Point taken, but we were comparing Paris Hilton and MA. For me MA was constructed by her breeding and background, and subsequently deconstructed by what was effectively already a very rampant and brutal press in its' own way. She herself hard little to do with all that, which is why one cannot compare this phenomenon to that of Paris Hilton, whom I am sure is not at all unaware of the image she herself encourages the press to purvey. Of course there was a timid degree of image building (the painting by Vigée Lebrun with her children looking very serious next to the empty cradle was apparently supposed to have been ordered to that effect) but one cannot say that one's actions would have immediate national and international repercussions within hours as one can now. Image (the way one is perceived) was, I grant you, already a vital phenomenon, but it was vehiculed very differently.

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Fri May 15, 2009 8:51 pm
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Post Re: What would she do?
baron de batz wrote:
Point taken, but we were comparing Paris Hilton and MA. For me MA was constructed by her breeding and background, and subsequently deconstructed by what was effectively already a very rampant and brutal press in its' own way.

The MA most people think they know - a rich, spoiled pleasure-loving woman so oblivious she invited poor people without bread to eat cake - is very much a construction, and as real in its way as any "objective" reality about MA (just as, no matter how many historians disprove the image, Shakespeare's Richard III will always be what people envision in thinking of that king). This was not just a construction of the press, or even the common people - there was, ironically, a fair amount of court intrigue behind it.

However it came to be, that image of MA, not MA herself (whom none of us here I think can claim to know all that well) is what I see as similar to the popular image of Paris Hilton (whose "constructed" self, helas, is probably not that different from her real one, even if she herself has claimed otherwise).

HIlton's own image is not a new one - there have long been and will be rich young heiresses causing scandal. Nor is the modern public all that different from the eighteenth century French public - or the medieval English who ate up scandalous ballads about their royals. To be fascinated by, yet resentful of, rich, glamorous people is an old human instinct and likely to endure (Lorca has a wonderful poem about it). MA is especially important in having been made into an enduring symbol of the objects of such fascination, while Ms. Hilton is probably only living her fifteen minutes. But both in their way respond to the same hunger from the crowd.

To paraphrase Voltaire (if indeed he really did say the original phrase), if figures like MA and Hilton did not exist, the public would have invented them - that is, projected those images (constructions, if you prefer) on some other likely target.

To put it another way, when I find points of resemblance between the caricatural MA and the public PH, I am really only saying the public has essentially projected variants of the same archetype on them both.

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Sat May 16, 2009 7:16 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
I am entirely in agreement with your argumentation, especially on the transcient nature of modern fame, compared to the relative staying power of these truly hstorical figures.

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Sat May 16, 2009 7:58 pm
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Post Re: What would she do?
This explains my enduring fascination with the figures from MA's era. I have really enjoyed your discussions, jimcheval and baron! :geek:

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Sun May 17, 2009 1:03 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
Well, it is nice to find one of the rare venues on the Web where this kind of thing does not make people nod off. :)

Otherwise, this is as good a moment as any to note how disconcerting I find the baron's nom de Web, since somewhere among my papers is a visiting card from the (then, at least) actual Baron de Batz, who either met me at or told me of a very exclusive club open only to those who could prove their Old Regime aristocracy.

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Mon May 18, 2009 1:57 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
Marie Antoinette would stop in Paris for a few things, carefully avoiding Versailles, la Place de la Revolution, les Tuileries, la Conciergerie and other painful locations, and head on back to Vienna. Hopefully all or a portion of Schoenbrunn would be renovated for her use (much like Kensington Palace in London), and there she could sit, purging herself of all of those memories in one volume after another. What a beautiful opportunity to exact renenge on some, praise others, detail the scandals, and so on. I;d stand in line for a copy.


Mon May 18, 2009 11:42 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
jimcheval wrote:
...somewhere among my papers is a visiting card from the (then, at least) actual Baron de Batz, who either met me at or told me of a very exclusive club open only to those who could prove their Old Regime aristocracy.

How wonderful, a bastion of tradition that seems so quaint to most modern citizens. Please do let us know if you find it.

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Tue May 19, 2009 5:34 pm
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Post Re: What would she do?
Artois wrote:
Marie Antoinette would stop in Paris for a few things, carefully avoiding Versailles, la Place de la Revolution, les Tuileries, la Conciergerie and other painful locations, and head on back to Vienna. Hopefully all or a portion of Schoenbrunn would be renovated for her use (much like Kensington Palace in London), and there she could sit, purging herself of all of those memories in one volume after another. What a beautiful opportunity to exact renenge on some, praise others, detail the scandals, and so on. I;d stand in line for a copy.



ohh soo would I!

i probably wouldnt be able to put the book down untill i finished with it!!


Sun Jun 28, 2009 3:32 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
Wow, again, thank you all for your posts. I agree in the fact that I dont think the 18th century had many Paris Hiltons, who I dont know personally either :wink: , but I think that the tim period had other persons like her (in a sense) if you look at Polignac and how she is portrayed in films and books. Every decade has a Paris it's just to what degree...

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Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:30 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
Well, there's one way in which 18th century women (long before MA) imitated Hilton before the fact:

Quote:
- PRIVATE LIFE: Toy dogs

The dubious habit of keeping tiny dogs as fashion accessories did not begin with Paris Hilton, though her influence in that regard was much cited at one point.

"Miss Guerin, rue du petit Bac, deals in small Dogs for the Ladies.

Note: That is, chamber or sleeve dogs. The most in fashion at this moment although already a bit in decline... [were] dogs from Bologna, a sort of pug, each of whose joints were rubbed at once with wine spirit to prevent them from growing. They were sometime sold at a high price. Taillemant... tells of an Italian extravagant, named Promontorio, who offered some to the princess Marie de Mantua, for fifty pistoles to pay when she became queen. She accepted, and eighteen months after became, against every appearance until then, queen of Poland. One can understand that she gaily paid the fifty pistoles. The race of dogs of Bologna has been lost, even in Bologna... At the end of Louis XIV's reign, Burgos dogs began to replace them. They preceded the fashion of dogs of Spain, or spaniels, which dates from the Regency. Between them and the Bolognese slipped for a moment wolf dogs: 'Only are caressed, we read in the *Lettre Italienne* already cited, those which have a wolf's muzzle and cut ears, and the more deformed they are, the more they are honored with kisses and hugs."
Abraham de Pradel, "Livre Commode des Addresses de Paris", 1698 (I:273-274)

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Mon Jun 29, 2009 6:12 am
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Post Re: What would she do?
That is right! Just look at MA herself and her pets! :D

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Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:11 pm
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Post Re: What would she do?
I was in a Halloween store yesterday and saw an extremely...fleshly MA outfit. I hate those, it's like, she wasnt a Playmate, dont compare her to one! She ISNT Paris Hilton at all. Oh, I sent my sister here for some school research so be nice, just kidding :)

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Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:20 pm
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