satchel, minutes after he is described pulling his penis out of his leather breeches in the same way, along with a bottle of ratafia, a wine noted for its aphrodisiac properties, that had been given to him by a group of filles de joie with whom he spent the previous night.30 Where Madame Thomas’ bout with Frère Alexis sees gluttony, animalism, and sexual instincts merge together with the help of two thirds of the bottle – ‘les yeux lui rouloient dans la tête comme ceux d’une chatte en chaleur, qui appète le matou’ (‘she rolled her eyes like a she-cat in heat lusting after her tom’)31 – Margot’s restraint at the table and skilful performance in the bedroom see Alexis recommend her to his friends at the Opéra.
The Opéra (the Académie Royale de Musique) was Paris’ centre of opera and ballet performance. It was also Paris’ most famous stable of kept women and available beauties, whose turns on stage brought them wealth, notoriety, and the public visibility required to attract wealthy suitors.32 Margot’s ascent into this world of high-class sex work brings with it a string of paid relationships in which she is furnished with money, gifts, and jewels by her besotted benefactors. These relationships, built on public visibility and transactional monogamy, were the most lucrative form of sex work into which women could hope to enter.33 Yet Margot’s narrative reminds us that, in a society of wealthy buffoons, money is no guarantee of refinement or pleasure. Worse still, with shared drinking and dining a key part of the élite sexual encounter, wealth comes at the cost of such men inflicting the most tasteless meals on one’s kitchen and dining quarters.
One such client is an obese English nobleman, a milourd – playing on lord/lourd, the French word for ‘heavy’ – who is so obese that he walks ‘comme un canard’ (‘like a duck’) and belches ‘comme un pourceau’ (‘like a hog’) after stuffing himself at dinner.34 In exchange for his wealth, Margot must have her kitchen polluted by Anglo-Saxon dishes, anathema to her refined French tastes,
Nous ne mangions les trois quarts du temps que des tranches de boeuf grillées, des côtelettes de mouton, du veau rôti nageant dans une sauce
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