Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Marie Duplessis (1824-1847) was a French courtesan who was a mistress of a number of prominent men. She is the basis of Marguerite, the main character of La Dame aux Camélias (Camille) by Alexandre Dumas the younger, one of Duplessis real-life lovers. Much of what is known about her has been mixed with the literary character and contemporary legends.
Marie Duplessis was born Rose Alphonsine Plessis in 1824 at Nonnant Normandy, France. Her father became her de facto pimp when she was about 12 years old. At the age of 15 she moved to Paris and continued her trade, in addition to working in a dress shop. By the time she had reached the age of 16 she had become a prominent courtesan and had learned to read and write. She had also added the faux noble "Du" to her name.
Duplessis became both a popular courtesan and society hostess. Among the attendees of her salon were prominent authors and politicians of the day. She rode in the Bois de Boulogne and attended opera performances. Her portrait was painted by Edouard Vienot.
Duplessis was mistress of Alexandre Dumas the younger, between September 1844 and August 1845. After that she became mistress of composer Franz Liszt, who later said that she had offered to live with her.
Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis on February 5 1847. At the time she was 23 years old. Two of her lovers, Swedish Count Von Stakelberg and French count Edouard de Perregaux , who she had briefly married, were by her side. Within couple of weeks, all her belongings were auctioned to pay for her debts. Still her funeral in Montmartre cemetery was told to have been lavish.
The Dumas' very romantic novel La Dame aux Camélias appeared within a year. In the book, Dumas became "Armand Duval" and Duplessis "Marquerite Gautier".
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