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This report is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Birdman of Paris David Arkell
After the tragic death on 7 December 1893 of the child prostitute 'Monelle' (whom he had befriended two years earlier) the great French story-teller Marcel Schwob was so obviously shattered that his friends sought means to comfort him. One of them, Léon Daudet-whose fierce anti-Semitism did not deny him the luxury of an occasional Jewish friend-decided to bring him to England. The trip was a success: one convivial evening they imagined they saw De Quincey and Dickens strolling down the Strand together, arm in arm. The name De Quincey is probably the operative one here: when they reached Charing Cross Station Schwob gave five golden louis (out of the ten in his pocket) to a girl who reminded him of Anne-of-Oxford-Street.

The gesture, which Daudet thought extravagant, was typical of Schwob: on the first page of Le Livre de Monelle he recalls an incident in the life of the young Napoleon.- 'Bonaparte, the killer, was eighteen when he met, by the iron gates of the Palais-Royal, a little prostitute. She was pale and shivering with cold but "one's got to live" she told him. No one knows the name of that girl whom Bonaparte took, one November night, to his room at the Hotel de Cherbourg. She was from Nantes in Brittany, she was weak and tired and her lover had just left her. She was simple and good, and her voice had a very sweet sound. I think that ever afterwards the sound of her voice moved Bonaparte ...


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