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"Abbott's tour of sensational love affairs provides juicy details and intelligent commentary on some of history's most marginalized women."
A lively and nuanced look at gender roles as they have been revealed by the lives of concubines and mistresses over the centuries.
Abbott (A History of Marriage, 2011, etc.) a former Dean of Women at the University of Toronto and now a research associate, begins this romp through history with a quip by British multi-billionaire Sir Jimmy Goldsmith, who said, "when a man marries his mistress he creates an automatic job vacancy." The book has the irresistible fascination of celebrity gossip—the author tells the story of Alice Keppel's affair as one of the mistresses of the famous womanizer King Edward VII, and the romance of her great-granddaughter Camilla Parker Bowles, now married to the current Prince of Wales—but it reveals far more than the foibles of the rich and famous. Abbott writes about the vulnerability of women in out-of-wedlock situations, beginning with the biblical story of Hagar, the bondwoman of Sarah, whom she calls "the first concubine to be named in recorded history." The author relates this to the situation of Chinese concubines, who, as recently as the 20th century, were brought into families as lower-status second wives to provide male heirs. Abbott also looks at the abuse faced by female black slaves and Jewish women in Nazi death camps, and how the institution of marriage has often fostered out-of-wedlock relationships in which women were vulnerable even when they were willing partners. This was the case for the celebrated novelist Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot), who suffered social opprobrium for living in a common-law arrangement with her married lover George Lewes, whose wife had refused to divorce him. In the chapter "Mistresses as Trophy Dolls," Abbott delves into the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe after she was discarded by JFK, as well as the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Full of fascinating details and illuminating insights.
Author's Note xii
Meeting Mistresses xiii
Chapter 1 Love Out of Wedlock in the Ancient World 10
Chapter 2 Eastern Concubines and Harems 34
Concubines in China 34
Concubines in Japan 44
Lady Nijo 46
Geisha Mistresses 48
Harem Concubines 53
Chapter 3 Whose Whore? Europe's Royal Mistresses 71
Nell Gwynne 72
Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour 77
Jeanne du Barry 83
Lola Montez 88
Katharina Schratt 91
Alice Keppel 96
Elena Lupescu 99
Camilla Parker-Bowles 106
Chapter 4 Marital Arrangements in Aristocratic Circles 115
Lady Bess Foster and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 115
Lady Caroline Lamb 123
Claire Clairmont 130
Countess Teresa Guiccioli 135
Chapter 5 The Clandestine Consorts of (Un) Celibate Clerics 144
The Priest's "Housekeeper" 147
Papal Mistresses 153
Theodora and Marozia Theophylact 153
Vanozza d'Arignano and Giulia Farnese 156
The Modern Clerical Mistress 161
Annie Murphy 164
Louise Iusewicz 169
Pamela Shoop 172
Chapter 6 Conquerors and Their Mistresses 176
Spanish Conquistadors and Native Women I76
"Country Wives" in Colonial America 183
Sally Fidler, Betsey Sinclair and Margaret Taylor 187
Mistresses in Conquered Asia 190
Le Ly Hayslip and Dao Thi Mui 191
Chapter 7 Interracial Sexual Unions Within the "Peculiar Institution" 195
Julia Chinn 202
Sally Hemings 204
Julia Frances Lewis Dickson 208
Harriet Jacobs 215
Chapter 8 Sexual Unions and the Jewish Question 225
Concentration Camp Life Before Death 227
Eleanore Hodys 234
"Partisan" Forest Camps 236
Eva Braun: Mistress to the Author of the Shoah 238
Jew and Gentile, Beyond the Camps 249
Hannah Arendt 249
Chapter 9 Mistresses as Muses 258
Émilie du Châtelet 264
Jeanne Hébuterne 271
George Eliot 275
Lillian Hellman 284
Catherine Walston 293
Joyce Maynard 304
Chapter 10 Mistresses of Men Above the Law 313
Mobster Molls 313
Virginia Hill 313
Arlyne Brickman 320
Sandy Sadowsky, Georgia Durante and Shirley Ryce 323
Kremlin Dolls 326
Castro's Comrades 327
Naty Revuelta 328
Celia Sanchez 339
Chapter 11 Mistresses as Trophy Dolls 344
Marion Davies 344
Gloria Swanson 359
Maria Callas 366
Marilyn Monroe 377
Judith Campbell 388
Vicki Morgan 393
Chapter 12 Fallen Women: Mistresses in Literature 401
Jane Eyre 401
Hester Prynne 404
Emma Bovary 408
Anna Karenina 413
Mildred Rogers 415
Ellen Olenska 419 Lara 423
Sarah Miles 427
Merrion Palmer 429
Chapter 13 The 1960s Transform Marriage and Mistressdom 433
Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman 435
Lillian Ross 439
Simone de Beauvoir 442
Conclusion: Mistresses Met 458
Posted October 13, 2011
The other woman hiding in the shadow is often overlooked in the bowels of history. Now the definitive book on this taboo role has been written by Elizabeth Abbott in Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman.
Abbott does a masterful job of going as far back as to biblical times. With a scholarly background she is Research Associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto and, from 1991 to 2004, was Dean of women. In some parts the book is a bit dense and thick to read. Rather than be a salacious tell all, it hits some of history's most famous mistresses.
According to the book, the taboo of a mistress a recent occurrence, it was just part of the web of relationships that men had. They had their wife, who gave them their emotional and home support and the mistress satisfied their sexual needs.
In some parts of the book, it reads like pure gossip. In others it is a good to get the full story behind the headlines.
For instance the real relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diane mixed in with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Camilla's great-great grandmother Alice Keppel was mistress to Charles' great-great grandfather Edward VIII. Who subsequently abdicated the throne so that he could marry Wallis Simpson.
Charles and Camilla's relationship flourished but she did not fit the role of a princess. She was frumpy, married, and older. Camilla is said to have a fun spirit a certain sexual aura. Fortunately in the end they were together but their tale is one of forbidden love.
Another example is the many women of President Kennedy has long been discussed. In this book the bombshell Marilyn Monroe is explored and mob darling Judith Campbell. It was reported that this prince of Camelot had inadequate sexual skills and was quite the quick draw.
In modern times partly because of the sexual liberation movement, the formal role of a mistress is not as common but still lingers as the need for sexual satisfaction survives.
At over 500 pages, this book will give you a good taste of the magic between the sheets and behind forbidden lust. The author concludes that "today, a woman as well a man may indulge in a passionate attraction for its own sake, as an erotic adventure and surrender to the senses, a delicious interval with a lover who is not, strictly speaking, available, and whom she usually shares with another woman." Hopefully the author will explore in the future works the roles of attached women's side male lovers.