This introductory chapter narrates the story of Demoiselle Varenne, a prostitute in the high-end Parisian brothel of Madam Carlier. Varenne left the brothel as the mistress of an army lieutenant, who paid for her treatment for venereal disease and then established her in a chambre garnie. She soon traded the officer for another patron, the son of a trésorier general, who, in turn, was quickly replaced by the son of an army lieutenant general. Her story demonstrates that working as a professional mistress afforded a degree of agency and a potential for financial success that was unusual for women from humble backgrounds. It also shows that demimonde was an integral part of contemporary Parisian culture.
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