Marie le Fel is Casanova’s actress lover. His mother was an actress and in his earliest years he was brought up a stone’s throw from the theatre where she performed. He always felt at ease in the company of actors, singers, dancers and performers. On his first visit to Paris, for example, his entrée into high society was through a contact with Sylvia Balleti, a renowned Italian actress.
Marie herself was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by a friend of her mother’s. Marie le Fel was not her original name; it was the name of a French opera singer she liked and she adopted it for that reason, and also because she thought it might be handy for business if people thought there was some connection. In fact, it was her name which sparked Casanova’s interest in her. He knew the real Marie le Fel and was curious about this young woman who had the temerity to steal her name.
Marie is a pragmatic, down-to-earth woman, equally unimpressed by Casanova’s vanity and boasting and Stefano’s juvenile crudities. As much as she loves Casanova, she is under no illusion that their relationship is going to lead anywhere, as she makes clear in Part 2 of ‘The Shadows of the King’ when she negotiates with him to provide a dowry to enable her to obtain a respectable marriage partner.
Here’s the real Casanova’s account of his introduction to Marie Le Fel:
As we left the Tuileries, Patu took me to the house of a celebrated actress of the opera, Mademoiselle Le Fel, the favourite of all Paris, and member of the Royal Academy of Music. She had three very young and charming children, who were fluttering around her like butterflies.
“I adore them,” she said to me.
“They deserve adoration for their beauty,” I answered, “although they have all a different cast of countenance.”
“No wonder! The eldest is the son of the Duke d’Anneci, the second of Count d’Egmont, and the youngest is the offspring of Maison-Rouge, who has just married the Romainville.”
“Ah! pray excuse me, I thought you were the mother of the three.”
“You were not mistaken, I am their mother.”
As she said these words she looked at Patu, and both burst into hearty laughter which did not make me blush, but which shewed me my blunder.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is now freely available here.
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