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SUPERWOMEN


ALBERT PAYSON TERHUNE



INTERNATIONAL FICTION LIBRARY
CLEVELAND, O. NEW YORK, N.Y.

Copyright, MCMXVI
By Moffat Yard & Company

_Printed in the United States of America by_
THE COMMERCIAL BOOKBINDING CO.
CLEVELAND




Transcriber's Note: The headings for Chapters 8, 11, and 12 have been
retained as roman numerals, as printed. Words printed in bold type are
indicated by a tilde: ~bold~.




FOREWORD


Find the Woman.

You will discover her in almost every generation, in almost every
country, in almost every big city - the Super-Woman. She is not the
typical adventuress; she is not a genius. The reason for her strange
power is occult. When psycho-vivisectionists have thought they had
segregated the cause - the formula - what you will - in one particular
Super-Woman or group of Super-Women, straightway some new member of
the clan has arisen who wields equal power with her notable sisters,
but who has none of the traits that made them irresistible. And the
seekers of formulas are again at sea.

What makes the Super-Woman? Is it beauty? Cleopatra and Rachel were
homely. Is it daintiness? Marguerite de Valois washed her hands but
twice a week. Is it wit? Pompadour and La Valliere were avowedly
stupid in conversation. Is it youth? Diane de Poictiers and Ninon de
l'Enclos were wildly adored at sixty. Is it the subtle quality of
femininity? George Sand, who numbered her admirers by the score - poor
Chopin in their foremost rank - was not only ugly, but disgustingly
mannish. So was Semiramis.

The nameless charm is found almost as often in the masculine,
"advanced" woman as in the ultrafeminine damsel.

Here are stories of Super-Women who conquered at will. Some of them
smashed thrones; some were content with wholesale heart-smashing.
Wherein lay their secret? Or, rather, their secrets? For seldom did
two of them follow the same plan of campaign.

ALBERT PAYSON TERHUNE

"Sunnybank,"
Pompton Lakes,
New Jersey
1916




CONTENTS


CHAPTER ONE
LOLA MONTEZ 1

CHAPTER TWO
NINON DE L'ENCLOS 19

CHAPTER THREE
PEG WOFFINGTON 41

CHAPTER FOUR
HELEN OF TROY 62

CHAPTER FIVE
MADAME JUMEL 89

CHAPTER SIX
ADRIENNE LECOUVREUR 115

CHAPTER SEVEN
CLEOPATRA 135

CHAPTER EIGHT
GEORGE SAND 156

CHAPTER NINE
MADAME DU BARRY 175

CHAPTER TEN
LADY BLESSINGTON 204

CHAPTER ELEVEN
MADAME RECAMIER 230

CHAPTER TWELVE
LADY HAMILTON 250




CHAPTER ONE

LOLA MONTEZ

THE DANCER WHO KICKED OVER A THRONE


Her Majesty's Theatre in London, one night in 1843, was jammed from
pit to roof. Lumley the astute manager, had whispered that he had a
"find." His whisper had been judiciously pitched in a key that enabled
it to penetrate St. James Street clubs, Park Lane boudoirs, even City
counting-rooms.

The managerial whisper had been augmented by a "private view," to
which many journalists and a few influential men about town had been
bidden. These lucky guests had shifted the pitch from whisper to pæan.
By word of mouth and by ardent quill the song of praise had spread.
One of the latter forms of tribute had run much in this
rural-newspaper form:

"A brilliant ~divertissement~ is promised by Mr. Lumley for the
forthcoming performance of 'The Tarantula,' at Her Majesty's. Thursday
evening will mark the British debut of the mysterious and bewitchingly
beautiful Castilian dancer, Lola Montez.

"Through the delicate veins of this lovely daughter of dreamy
Andalusia sparkles the ~sang azur~ which is the birthright of the
hidalgo families alone. In her is embodied not alone the haughty
lineage of centuries of noble ancestry, but all the fire and mystic
charm that are the precious heritage of the Southland.

"At a private view, yesterday, at which your correspondent had the
honor to be an invited guest, this peerless priestess of
Terpsichore - - "

And so on for well-nigh a column of adjective-starred panegyric, which
waxed more impassioned as the dictionary's supply of unrepeated
superlatives waned. This was before the day of the recognized press
agent. Folk had a way of believing what they read. Hence the
gratifyingly packed theater to witness the mysterious Spaniard's
debut.

Royalty itself, surrounded by tired gentlemen in waiting who wanted to
sit down and could not, occupied one stage box. In the front of
another, lolled Lord Ranelagh, arbiter of London fashion and accepted
authority on all matters of taste - whether in dress, dancers, or
duels. Ranelagh, recently come back from a tour of the East, divided
with royalty the reverent attention of the stalls.

The pit whistled and clapped in merry impatience for the appearance of
the danseuse. The West End section of the house waited in equal, if
more subdued eagerness, and prepared to follow every possible
expression of Ranelagh's large-toothed, side-whiskered visage as a
signal for its own approval or censure of the much-advertised Lola's
performance.

The first scene of the opera passed almost unnoticed. Then the stage
was cleared and a tense hush gripped the house. A fanfare of cornets;
and from the wings a supple, dark girl bounded.

A whirlwind of welcome from pit and gallery greeted her. She struck a
sensuous pose in the stage's exact center. The cornetists laid aside
their instruments.

Guitars and mandolins set up a throbby string overture. Lola drew a
deep breath, flashed a vivid Spanish smile on the audience at large,
and took the first languid step of her dance.

Then it was that the dutiful signal seekers cast covert looks once
more at Lord Ranelagh. That ordinarily stolid nobleman was leaning far
forward in his stage box, mouth and eyes wide, staring with
incredulous amaze at the posturing Andalusian. Before her first step
was complete, Ranelagh's astonishment burst the shackles of silence.

"Gad!" he roared, his excited voice smashing through the soft music
and penetrating to every cranny. "Gad! It's little Betty James!"

He broke into a Homeric guffaw. A toady who sat beside him hissed
sharply. The hiss and the guffaw were cues quite strong enough for the
rest of the house. A sizzling, swishing chorus of hisses went up from
the stalls, was caught by the pit, and tossed aloft in swelling
crescendo to the gallery, where it was intensified to treble volume.

Lola's artistically made-up face had gone white under its rouge and
pearl powder at Ranelagh's shout. Now it flamed crimson. The girl
danced on; she was gallant, a thoroughbred to the core - even though
she chanced to be thoroughbred Irish instead of thoroughbred
Spanish - and she would not be hissed from the stage.

But now "boos" mingled with the hisses. And Ranelagh's immoderate
laughter was caught up by scores of people who did not in the least
know at what they were laughing.

The storm was too heavy to weather. Lumley growled an order. Down
swooped the curtain, leaving the crowd booing on one side of it, and
Lola raging on the other.

Which ended the one and only English theatrical experience of Lola
Montez, the dreamy Andalusian dancer from County Limerick, Ireland.
That night at Almack's, Lord Ranelagh told a somewhat lengthy story - a
story whose details he had picked up in the East - which was repeated
with interesting variations next day on Rotten Row, in a dozen clubs,
in a hundred drawing rooms. There is the gist of the tale:

Some quarter century before the night of Lola's London ~premiere~ - and
~derniere~ - an Irish girl, Eliza Oliver by name, had caught the errant
fancy of a great man. The man chanced to be Lord Byron, at that time
loafing about the Continent and trying, outwardly at least, to live up
to the mental image of himself that was just then enshrined in the
hearts of several thousand demure English schoolmaids.

Byron soon tired of Miss Oliver - it is doubtful whether he ever saw
her daughter - and the Irish beauty soon afterward married a fellow
countryman of her own - Sir Edward Gilbert, an army captain.

The couple's acquaintances being overmuch given to prattling about
things best forgotten, Gilbert exchanged to a regiment in India,
taking along his wife and her little girl. The child had meantime been
christened Maria Dolores Eliza Rosanna; which, for practical purposes,
was blue-penciled down to "Betty."

Seven years afterward, Gilbert died. His widow promptly married
Captain Craigie, a solid, worthy, Scotch comrade-at-arms of her
late husband's. Craigie generously assumed all post-Byronic
responsibilities, along with the marriage vows. And, at his expense,
Betty was sent to Scotland - later to Paris - to be educated.

At sixteen the girl was a beauty - and a witch as well. She and her
mother spent a season at Bath, a resort that still retained in those
days some shreds of its former glory. And there - among a score of
younger and poorer admirers - two men sued for Betty's hand.

One was Captain James, a likable, susceptible, not over-clever army
officer, home on furlough from India. The other was a judge, very old,
very gouty, very rich.

And Betty's mother chose the judge, out of all the train of suitors,
as her son-in-law-elect. Years had taught worldly wisdom to the
once-gay Eliza.

Betty listened in horror to the old man's mumbled vows. Then, at top
speed, she fled to Captain James. She told James that her mother was
seeking to sacrifice her on the altar of wealth. James, like a true
early-Victorian hero, rose manfully to the occasion.

He and Betty eloped, were married by a registrar, and took the next
out-bound ship for India.

It was a day of long and slow voyages. Betty beguiled the time on
shipboard by a course of behavior such as would have prevented the
most charitable fellow passenger from mistaking her for a returning
missionary.

There were many Anglo-Indians - officers and civilians - aboard. And
Betty's flirtations, with all and sundry, speedily became the scandal
of the ship. By the time the vessel docked in India, there were dozens
of women ready to spread abroad the bride's fame in her new home land.

English society in India was, and is, in many respects like that of a
provincial town. In the official and army set, one member's business
is everybody's business.

Nor did Betty take any pains to erase the impressions made by her
volunteer advance agents. Like a blazing star, she burst upon the
horizon of India army life. Gloriously beautiful, willful, capricious,
brilliant, she speedily had a horde of men at her feet - and a still
larger number of women at her throat.

Her flirtations were the talk of mess-room and bungalow. Heartlessly,
she danced on hearts. There was some subtle quality about her that
drove men mad with infatuation.

And her husband? He looked on in horrified wonder. Then he argued and
even threatened. At last he shut up and took to drink. Betty wrote
contemptuously to a friend, concerning this last phase:

"He spends his time in drinking, and then in sleeping like a gorged
boa-constrictor."

James was liked by the English out there, and his friends fiercely
resented the domestic treatment that was turning a popular and
promising officer into a sodden beast.

One morning James rode away over the hills and neglected to come back.
His wife never again heard of him. And at his exit from the scene, the
storm broke; a storm of resentment that swept Betty James out beyond
even the uttermost fringe of Anglo-Indian society.

She hunted up her generous old step-father, Craigie, and induced him
to give her a check for a thousand pounds, to get rid of her forever.
She realized another thousand on her votive offerings of jewelry; and,
with this capital, she took the dust of India from her pretty
slippers.

Here ends Lord Ranelagh's scurrilous narrative, told at Almack's.

On her way back to England, Betty broke her journey at Spain,
remaining there long enough to acquire three valuable assets - a
Spanish accent, a semi-tolerable knowledge of Spanish dancing, and the
ultra-Spanish name of Lola Montez, by which - through mere courtesy to
her wishes - let us hereafter call her. Then she burst upon the British
public - only to retire amid a salvo of hisses and catcalls.

With the premature fall of the curtain at Her Majesty's Theater,
begins the Odyssey of Lola Montez.

She went from London to Germany, where she danced for a time, to but
scant applause, at second-rate theaters, and at last could get no more
engagements.

Thence she drifted to Brussels, where, according to her own later
statement, she was "reduced to singing in the streets to keep from
starving." Contemporary malice gives a less creditable version of her
means of livelihood in the Belgian capital. It was a period of her
life - the black hour before the garish dawn - of which she never
afterward would talk.

But before long she was on the stage again; this time at Warsaw,
during a revolution. She danced badly and was hissed. But the
experience gave her an idea.

She went straightway to Paris, where, by posing as an exiled Polish
patriot, she secured an engagement at the Porte St. Martin Theater. It
was her last hope.

The "Polish patriot" story brought a goodly crowd to Lola's first
performance in Paris. But, after a single dance, she heard the
horribly familiar sound of hisses.

And at the first hiss, her Irish spirit blazed into a crazy rage; a
rage that was the turning point of her career.

Glaring first at the spectators like an angry cat, Lola next glared
around the stage for a weapon wherewith to wreak her fury upon them.
But the stage was bare.

Frantic, she kicked off her slippers, and then tore loose her
heavy-buckled garters. With these intimate missiles she proceeded to
pelt the grinning occupants of the front row, accompanying the volley
with a high-pitched, venomous Billingsgate tirade in three languages.

That was enough. On the instant the hisses were drowned in a salvo of
applause that shook the rafters, Lola Montez had "arrived." Paris
grabbed her to its big, childish, fickle heart.

She was a spitfire and she couldn't dance. But she had given the
Parisians a genuine thrill. She was a success. Two slippers and two
garters, hurled with feminine rage and feminine inaccuracy into the
faces of a line of bored theatergoers, had achieved more for the fair
artillerist than the most exquisite dancing could have hoped to.

Lola was the talk of the hour. An army of babbling Ranelaghs could not
now have dimmed her fame.

Dujarrier, all-powerful editor of "La Presse," laid his somewhat
shopworn heart at her feet. Dumas, Balzac, and many another celebrity
sued for her favor. Her reign over the hearts of men had recommenced.

But Lola Montez never rode long on prosperity's wave-crest. A French
adorer, jealous of Dujarrier's prestige with the lovely dancer,
challenged the great editor to a duel. Dujarrier, for love of Lola,
accepted the challenge - and was borne off the field of honor with a
bullet through his brain.

Lola sought to improve the occasion by swathing herself somberly and
right becomingly in crape, and by vowing a vendetta against the
slayer. But before she could profit by the excellent advertisement,
Dumas chanced to say something to a friend - who repeated it to another
friend, who repeated it to all Paris - that set the superstitious,
mid-century Frenchmen to looking askance at Lola and to avoiding her
gaze. Said Monte Cristo's creator:

"She has the evil eye. She will bring a curse upon any man who loves
her."

And by that (perhaps) senseless speech, Dumas drove Lola Montez from
Paris. But she took with her all her new-born prestige as a danseuse.
She took it first to Berlin. There she was bidden to dance at a court
reception tendered by King Frederick William, of Prussia.

The rooms of the palace, on the night of the reception, were
stiflingly hot. Lola asked for a glass of water. A much-belaced and
bechained chamberlain - to whom the request was repeated by a
footman - sent word to Lola that she was there to dance for the king
and not to order her fellow-servants around.

The net result of this answer was another Irish rage. Lola, regardless
of her pompous surroundings, rushed up to the offending chamberlain
and loudly made known her exact opinion of him. She added that she was
tired of dealing with understrappers, and that, unless the king
himself would bring her a glass of water, there would be no dreamy
Spanish dance at the palace that night.

The scandalized officials moved forward in a body to hustle the
lesemajeste perpetrator out of the sacred precincts. But the rumpus
had reached the ears of King Frederick William himself, at the far end
of the big room. His majesty came forward in person to learn the cause
of the disturbance. He saw a marvelously beautiful woman in a
marvelously abusive rage.

To the monarch's amused queries, the chamberlain bleated out the awful,
sacrilegious, ~schrecklich~ tale of Lola's demand. The king did not
order her loaded with chains and haled to the donjon keep. Instead, he
gave a laughing order - this gracious and gentle sovereign who had so
keen an eye for beauty.

A moment later a lackey brought the king a glass of water. First
gallantly touching the goblet to his own lips, his majesty handed it
with a deep obeisance to Lola.

Except for the advertisement it gave her, she could gain no real
advantage from this odd introduction to a king. For, next day, she
received a secret, but overwhelmingly official hint that an instant
departure not only from Berlin, but from Prussia, too, would be one of
the wisest moves in her whole career. She went.

To Bavaria, and to greatness.

Lola Montez, the Spanish dancer, was billed at a Munich theater. She
danced there but three times. For, on the third evening, the royal box
was occupied by a drowsy-eyed sexagenarian whose uniform coat was
ablaze with decorations.

The old gentleman was Ludwig I. ~Dei gratia~, King of Bavaria, a
ruler who up to this time had been beloved of his subjects; and whose
worst vice, in his people's eyes, was that he encouraged art rather
than arms.

Ludwig watched breathlessly while Lola danced. Afterward he sent for
her to come to the royal box and be presented to him. She never danced
again in Bavaria.

For next day Ludwig introduced her at court as "my very good friend."
Lola dazzled Munich with her jewels and her equipages. The king
presented her with a huge and hideous mansion. He stretched the laws
by having her declared a Bavarian subject. And, having done that, he
bestowed upon her the titles of "Baroness von Rosenthal and Countess
von Landfeld." Next, he granted her an annuity of twenty thousand
florins. Things were coming Lola's way, and coming fast.

The Bavarians did not dislike her - at first. When Ludwig forced his
queen to receive her and to pin upon the dancer-emeritus' breast the
Order of St. Theresa, there was, to be sure, a shocked murmur. But it
soon died down. Had Lola been content with her luck, she might have
continued indefinitely in her new and delightfully comfortable mode of
life.

But, according to Lola's theory, a mortal who is content with success
would be content with failure. And she strove to play a greater role
than the fat one assigned to her by the love-sick old king.

She had read of Pompadour and other royal favorites whose vagrom whims
swayed the destinies of Europe. She sought to be a world power; the
power behind the throne; the woman who could mold the politics of a
dynasty. And she laid her plans accordingly.

It was not even a dream, this new ambition of Lola's. It was a
comic-opera fantasy. Bavaria, at best, was only a little German state
with no special voice in the congress of nations. And Lola herself had
no more aptitude for politics than she had for dancing. Nor did she
stop to consider that Germans in 1846 were much more likely to
tolerate a fair foreigner's meddling with their puppet king's domestic
affairs than with matters of public welfare.

But Lola Montez ever did the bulk of her sane thinking when it was too
late. So she proceeded to put her idiotic plans into operation.

First, she cajoled King Ludwig into dismissing in a body his perfectly
capable and well-liked ministry. As delighted with that success as is
the village cut-up when he pulls a chair from under the portly
constable - and with even less wholesome fear of the result to
herself - Lola next persuaded the king to change his whole policy of
state. Then things began to happen.

One morning Lola awoke in her ugly and costly mansion to find the
street in front of the door blocked by a highly unfriendly mob, whose
immediate ambition seemed to be the destruction of the house and
herself. This was the signal for one more Irish rage, the last on
public record.

Lola, throwing a wrapper over her nightgown, snatched up a loaded
pistol, and, pushing aside her screaming servants, ran out on the
front steps.

At sight of her the crowd roared in fury and made a dash for the
steps. Lola retaliated by emptying her revolver into the advancing
mob. Events had moved rapidly since the primitive days when she was
content to bombard her detractors with slippers and garter buckles.

The rioters halted, before the fusillade. Before they could combine
for another rush, and while Lola from the topmost step was reviling
them in her best and fiercest German, a company of the royal
bodyguard, headed by the old king himself, charged through the crowd
and rescued the angry woman.

But, though Ludwig had just saved her from a sudden and extremely
unpleasant form of death, he was not strong enough to stem the
avalanche of public opinion that crashed down upon her. This same
avalanche proceeded to brush Lola out of her big and hideous house, to
knock away from her her titles of baroness and countess and her
twenty-thousand-florin annuity, and to whirl her across the Bavarian
frontier with stern instructions never to return.

Incidentally, poor old King Ludwig came in for so much unpopularity on
her account that he was forced to abdicate. Thus, in her own fall from
power, Lola had also dragged a once-popular king off his throne a
noteworthy achievement, in that pre-Gaby-Deslys period, for an Irish
girl with a variegated past.

The Ludwig scandal preceded Lola wherever she tried to go. The
divinity that hedges a king was everywhere on guard against her. The
gate to practically every country in Europe was slammed in her face.
Folk fell to repeating Dumas' "evil-eye" words, and to applying them
to discrowned old Ludwig. Lola Montez was not wanted anywhere;
certainly nowhere east of the Atlantic.

So she came to New York. Here there were no kings, to bar her out lest
they share Ludwig's fate. And Americans knew little and cared less
about the evil eye. If Lola Montez could make good on the stage,
America was willing to welcome her: If not, it had no further general
interest in her.

Moreover, she was well past thirty; at an age when the first glory of
a woman's siren charms may reasonably be supposed to be slightly
blurred. New Yorkers were curious to see her, on account of her
history; but that was their only interest in her.

She danced at the old Broadway Theater. People thronged the theater
for the first few performances. Then, having gazed their fill on the
Bavarian throne's wrecker and finding she could not dance, they stayed
away; and Lola ended her engagement at the Broadway to the hackneyed
"beggarly array of empty benches."

An enterprising manager - P. T. Barnum, if I remember aright - raked up
the Byron story and starred Lola in a dramatization of Lord Byron's
poem "Mazeppa." But people here had already looked at her, and the
production was a failure. Next she appeared in one or two miserably
written plays, based on her own European adventures. These, too,
failed. She then wrote a beauty book that had a small sale, and wrote
also a drearily stupid volume of humor, designed as a mock "Guide to
Courtship."

On her way to America, Lola had stopped in England long enough to
captivate and marry a British army officer, Heald by name. But she
soon left him, and arrived in this country without visible matrimonial
ties.

New York having tired of her, Lola went West. She created a brief, but
lively, furore among the gold-boom towns along the Pacific coast; not


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