Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet, Pioneer Feminist, Literary Star, Flaubert's Muse

Francine Du Plessix Gray, Author Simon & Schuster $27 (432p) ISBN 978-0-671-74238-6
Feminist journalist, novelist, poet and flamboyant populist, the impetuous, exuberant Louise Colet (1810-1876) is best known as Gustave Flaubert's great love and a midwife of Madame Bovary. In this gossipy, captivating biography, noted journalist and novelist Gray ( Lovers and Tyrants ) limns Colet as ``a 19th-century Erica Jong who recklessly splashed her life and loves across her poetry and prose.'' Confidante of Victor Hugo, lover of debauched poet Alfred de Musset, Colet sparred politically with George Sand and ran a salon frequented by Baudelaire and Alexandre Dumas. She was an ardent supporter of the Paris Commune of 1871 and a fierce critic of the Catholic Church, which she accused of bigotry and hypocrisy. Yet in her later years Colet became what Gray calls ``a militant born-again moralist'' who railed at the materialism and loose morals of the Second Empire. Gray delineates the many facets of a hot-tempered, ambitious extrovert, a self-supporting single mother who refused to compromise her independence by living with a man. Illustrated. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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