Salon Series: The Real Manon Lescaut

Salon Series: The Real Manon Lescaut

With Historian Joan DeJean | in English

Thursday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m.
$10 Members/ $15 Non Members
54 W. Chicago Avenue

Online registration is closed but walk-ins are welcome. Merci !

One novel and two operas: much blood, ink and arias have flown about the iconic French heroine with a tragic destiny… But who was the real Manon Lescaut ?

Learn how her father, the Queen’s embroiderer, stole her dowry to invest in the newborn stock market on rue de Quincampoix; and how the real Manon Lescaut fought patriarchy to own her life and marry the man she loved.

Following the story from 1600 until the Revolution of 1789, author and historian Joan DeJean recreates the larger-than-life personalities of Versailles, where displaying wealth was a power game; the sordid cells of the Bastille; the Louisiana territory, where French women were forcibly sent to marry colonists; and the legendary "Wall Street of Paris," the rue Quincampoix, a world of high finance uncannily similar to what we know now. The Queen's Embroiderer is both a story of star-crossed love in the most beautiful city in the world and a cautionary tale of greed and the dangerous lure of windfall profits. And every bit of it is true.

Musical excerpts from Massenet's Manon will be sung by celebrated French soprano Nathalie Colas, accompanied on the piano by esteemed musician Luciano Laurentiu: the famous Gavotte about making hay while the sun shines because we're not 20 years old forever, and the poignant Adieu notre petite table.

Excerpts from Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut, by Abbé Prévost (1731), a novel that scandalized XVIIIth century France, will be read by Melisha Mitchell with English translation available. Following the program, we will hold a wine reception where Joan DeJean will sign copies of The Queen's Embroiderer: A True Story of Paris, Lovers, Swindlers, and the First Stock Market Crisis.


The Salon Series re-creates the atmosphere of Parisian salons held by French women famous for their wit and influence during the Age of Enlightenment. In this case, hear the real story behind the brave Manon Lescaut, much more than the ambiguous femme fatale men made her to be...


Joan DeJean has been Trustee Professor at the University of Pennsylvania since 1988. She previously taught at Yale and at Princeton. She is the author of ten books on French literature, history, and material culture of the 17th and 18th centuries, including How Paris Became Paris, The Age of Comfort, and The Essence of Style. Of her most recent book, The Queen's Embroiderer, Valerie Steele, Director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, says : “A fascinating true story based on formidable detective work in the archives.” 

Joan shares her time between Philadelphia and Paris.