Courtesans by Katie Hickman; Grandes Horizontales: The Lives and Legends of Four Nineteenth-Century Courtesans by Virginia Rounding - review by Victoria Griffin

Victoria Griffin

Ladies of Pleasure



HarperCollins 352pp £20 order from our bookshop

Grandes Horizontales: The Lives and Legends of Four Nineteenth-Century Courtesans


Bloomsbury 337pp £20 order from our bookshop

As THE TITLES of these two books suggest, though both authors are concerned with ladies of pleasure, Katie Hickman focuses on England while Virginia Rounding has headed for Paris. There is some overlap, principally in the figure of Cora Pearl, who travelled from her native courtesan discussed by I Hickman - Catherine Walters. better known I as 'Skittles' - also spent some time in Paris, but otherwise the two writers concentrate on different women (there are, after all, plenty of courtesans to choose km). Their approaches I are also different. 1 Rounding is more concerned with setting Pearl: an English her horizontals in the context of their society, to which end she spreads their stories out against the backdrop of the changing monarchies and republics of France rather than making each woman the subject of a discrete short biography, which is Hickman's method.

Both writers devote some of their discussion to fashion (the crinoline being an object of particular fascination), make-up and early forms of contraception, about which they draw largely the same conclusions. Surprisingly, perhaps, Courtesans has more overt sex in it than does Grandes Horizontales. Hickman gives the impression that she

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter