Mademoiselle De Maupin

IMG Published in 1948, Mademoiselle De Maupin is the 7th book from The Folio Society. It is loosely based on the life of an extraordinary French woman Julie d’Aubigny.

The book was first published in 1835

The Book

Set in Perpetua Type and printed by photo-lithography. The plates were reproduced by Collotype. There were 8 pencil illustrations. There was a second impression of the book in 1950.

The preface to this book is not included in the FS version. It is available here

The Story

There are three principal characters, D’Albert – a young man of well to do means who is searching for his ideal version of love, Rosette –  his wealthy widowed mistress and “Theodre” – an androgenous visitor who is loved by both D’Albert and Rosette. The story starts off with a long letter from D’Albert to his friend Silvio. His desire is to have a mistress, but the mistress must meet his criteria and embody his ideal of perfect beauty. D’Albert is introduced to Rosette and she becomes his mistress. The affair is satisfying for them both but eventually it loses its lustre, though neither of them will admit it to each other. After a time they go to an estate in the country.

One day Theodore arrives on horseback with his page. It turns out that Theodore and Rosette have some history. Theodore is actually a woman, Madelaine de Maupin. Madelaine had decided to spend some time disguised as a man so she could share their company and discover what men really thought about women. During her travels she stayed with the family of a young man she met along the road. The young man’s sister was the young widow Rosette.  Rosette fell deeply in love with Theodore/Madelaine, and, to a certain extent this was mutual. This created an impossibility as the disguise would have to be revealed and marriage would never occur.

Theodre left and along the way rescued a young girl from a careless mother and a prospective older lover, and the girl became his page. Of course the girl had to be disguised as a boy to pass muster. Theodore/Madelaine share a bed along the journey and the book leaves no doubt about the affection of Madelaine felt for her page.

At the country estate D’Albert becomes increasingly attracted towards Theodore. At first he is somewhat repulsed at the thought that his true love is a man, but also believes that he/she may be a woman. He becomes more certain that this is the case when the guests do a performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Theodore plays the role of Rosalind, who plays a woman dressed up as a man. The initial scene of the play has Rosalind as herself without disguise, so in this inverted version the supposed male Theodore must  disguise  himself as a woman for that scene. He/she says and shows enough that D’Albert becomes convinced and sends a love letter. There is no acknowledgment of this letter and D’Albert begins to despair. Then, one night, Madelaine visits in her Rosalind dress, and a night of passion ensues. When D’Albert falls asleep she goes to Rosette’s bed and more of the same continues until noon the next day.

The following day she has gone, and a week later a letter arrives which basically says that the pleasure was great, and the remembrance of that night would never die. Better to keep that memory than become disillusioned by staying together.

The plot is really just a scaffold for the three principal characters to explore love, beauty, virtue, friendship, sexuality, age, morality and the transitory nature of things.

At times the flowery language left me yawning, but it was worth ploughing through to get to the last couple of chapters.


This book can be looked at in so many ways – one could look at it as a study in deceit, a battle of the sexes, an examination of the concept of “beauty”, an exploration of sexuality etc.



The Author

Theophile Gautier (1811 – 1872) was born in France and had wide ranging artistic interests – drama, poetry, art, opera and dance.

Mademoiselle De Maupin is his most famous novel but some details about his life and works can be found here




The Translator

R. & E. Powys Mathers 


The Illustrator

Mark Severin provided the pencil illustrations for this edition. Charles Ede would have like these as engravings, but finances did not permit. 





The Remaining Illustrations


Next Book

Likely Gulliver’s Travels, not read for many years


Brat Farrar

  IMG_0001 (Large) Brat Farrar was published by the Folio Society in 2010, so this is the most recent book I've looked at.  I'll slip a few post 20th century books in from time to time. This book was originally published in 1949 so it does at least have that in common with some of the early Folio Society books (mind you, still several 1948 books to get through before I take on the '49ers)

The Book

It is bound in a purple coloured cloth and blocked with the design shown left. Perhaps the colours were intended to represent the Ashby colours (Primrose and Violet). It is illustrated by A. Richard Allen. There are 8 full page colour illustrations. There is a very thoughtful introduction by Ruth Rendell.

The Story

Brat, who has a striking resemblance to men of the Ashby family, has a chance meeting with a connection to the family. He is persuaded to impersonate Patrick Ashby, the elder twin of Simon Ashby, who was thought to have committed suicide eight years previously, and whose body was never found. Simon is set to inherit the family estate when he turns twenty one as both parents died in a aeroplane crash when he and his twin Patrick were young. If Patrick is still alive then he collects the inheritance, so the imposter and his chance aquaintance (through regular payments) stand a lot to gain.  Brat becomes well coached in the family lore and is able to convince the family that he really is Patrick and that he didn't commit suicide, but ran away to America where he learnt horsemanship. Horses and horsemanship were the Ashby family trade and helped him to be accepted, and Brat finds himself liking Bee, his 'aunt' and Eleanor, his 'sister'.

Simon never warms to him and never believes that Brat is really Patrick. Brat starts to wonder why this may be. One of the possibilities he considers is that Simon really knows that Patrick is dead because he was killed by Simon. To look into this further he examines  old newspaper articles, the records of the inquest and has converstions with people who knew Simon back then.

When sharing a room with Simon at a regional fair,  Simon admits to the murder, but now the two are bound in an uneasy arrangement. Neither can reveal the truth without implicating himself in a crime. Brat cannot live with that knowledge and decides to make a brest of things. He works out that Simon must have got rid of Patrick at a disused quarry. In the dead of night he goes there to try and locate some evidence. Simon is there and they struggle. Simon dies and Brat is severely injured. Some evidence is found, and then goes  "missing".

Later Brat is found to be an illegimate son of a wayward Ashby, and then he and Eleanor consumate the love they thought they couldn't share.

One of the things I like about this book is that it is crime fiction without a detective, where the criminal (the imposter who defrauds the family), "investigates" a deeper and darker crime within the family.


The Author

Josephine Tey was the pseudonym adopted by Elizabeth Mackintosh (1896 – 1952).  She wrote several crime novels and plays, often with an historical theme. The Folio Society has also published The Franchise Affair which I intend to read some day.

The Illustrations

Here's a little blog piece by the illustrator, A. Richard Allen,  about the roughs and the final illustrations. Well worth a read (and all the illustrations are shown) about the process of getting the call from the Folio Society and providing the work.

Are there any "missing" illustrations? I would have liked to have seen an illustration of the scene in Simon's bedroom where Brat casually relates the childhood tale of the little horse on the end of the bed and sees Simon's shocked face in the mirror. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to show how they looked alike but different along with a "tipping point" in the plot.  Another one would have been at the hotel at the fair where Brat and Simon confront each other with their suspicions.  I guess I like illustrations which show tension. The last one with Brat grimly hanging on at the edge of the quarry, with Simon's knife glistening in the darkness is probably my favorite.

Next book

Most likely Mademoiselle de Maupin (published 1948), but you never know



The Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater

This is the third of the four books published in 1948.  The text used is the 1856 revision of the original 1821 work. The book was printed in Belgium on poor quality paper which did not suit the engravings. Another edition was issued in 1963 which is reported to be a much superior presentation.



The Book  IMG_0012 (Large)

The sixth book was an autobiographical account by Thomas De Quincey. Although principally about the effects of opium on himself it also provides insights into his childhood and youth, and his thoughts on contemporary poets and other artistic figures.

The Illustrations

The illustrations were wood engravings by one of England's fine practitioners of that art. This book was the first of the Folio Society to be so illustrated, and the illustrations were obtained from another publisher who was unable to issue them. Perhaps that publisher was Golden Cockerel which had a close relationship with the Folio Society in the early days.

The process of wood engraving is described here

The Illustrator

Blair Hughes-Stanton (1902 – 1981) learnt wood engraving at Leo Underwood's School of Painting and Sculpture in Hammersmith in the 1920s. The Confessions is the only book he illustrated for the Folio Society. He was badly injuried in WWII and was unable to continue as a wood engraver, though he did continue teaching and working in other media. Here are a few other illustrations from the book.

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The  next book will be Brat Farrar  which was published in 2010, then likely back to a book from the '40s