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This report is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

The Girls of Westminster Road David Arkell
The long and unrequited love affair in Italy with Matilde Dembowski inspired Stendhal to write De l'Amour, but in 1821 he returned to Paris in a somewhat desperate frame of mind. His friends rallied round and did what they could. On one occasion they arranged a 'partie de filles' at a brothel in the rue du Cadran, where there was a new 18-year-old with dark eyes called Alexandrine. But when he entered her room he thought of Matilde and the result was his first 'fiasco'. Alexandrine told the others and they laughed about it for twenty minutes.

Then Stendhal did what many Frenchmen have done before and since: he decided to come to London for a change of air. The visit is duly described in his Souvenirs d'égotisme. He arrived via Dover in mid-October and stayed for six weeks at the Tavistock Hotel, Covent Garden, on the north side of the Piazza. He had particularly wanted to see Edmund Kean (pronounced Kîne, he noted) and did eventually manage to see the great man in Othello at Drury Lane on 19 November, a performance he never forgot. In the meantime, however, he had to kill time.

Once more his ever attentive friends came to the rescue, again with the idea of distracting him with feminine company. But this time it all seemed so sordid that he could hardly show interest. A local guide had suggested a likely venue (in 'Westminster Road') and was bargaining as to whether the ...


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