Monsieur D'Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade

Gary Kates, Author Basic Books $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-465-04761-1
Kates (The Girondins) has consulted an impressive body of research in his investigation of the remarkable life of the Chevalier d'Eon (1728-1810). D'Eon, a French diplomat who served in the monarchy's espionage operations, was declared to be legally a woman by Louis XVI in 1776. D'Eon explained that he had been born female but raised as a male by a father desperate for a son. At his death, 35 years later, it was discovered that d'Eon was really a man. In a series of engaging vignettes, Kates describes d'Eon's life before and after his decision to live as one of the opposite gender, including encounters with philosophers Rousseau and Voltaire. Drawing on d'Eon's writings, Kates argues convincingly that d'Eon's decision to change gender was based on religious conviction rather than sexuality; in fact, according to the author, he died a virgin. D'Eon had a deep belief, prevalent under the ancien regime, that women were more virtuous than men, and transformed his gender to be closer to God. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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FORMATS
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-465-04762-8
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-8018-6731-6
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