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Demi-Monde

social, dumas and women

DEMI-MONDE, Le ("The Outer Edge of Society)), by Alexandre Dumas the Younger, was written in and, after troubles with tbe censorship amusingly recounted in a pref ace, acted and published in 1855. By ((demi monde)) Dumas says (Preface, p. 11) he means not courtesans, to whom this phrase of his coin ing is often misapplied, but the semi-society of unclassed women of respectable stock, whose loss of full social recognition had love for its sole cause, with some recruits whose. talents have gained them a semi-respectability and others from among the foreign residents. This society, he says, is not for everybody. "One is banished from the 'demi-monde' for selling herself, as one is from the 'monde> for giving herself away It begins where the legal con sort ends and ends where the venal consort be gins,* or, as his Olivier puts it (Act II, Scene 8, p. 103), "The first woman who was turned out of doors hid and lamented her fault in the dark est retreat she could find; the second went to look for the first and they learned to call fault 'misfortune,' crime 'error,' to console and excuse one another. When they were three

they asked one another to dinner. When they were four they had a quadrille. Then there gathered around them girls who had made a false start in life, sham widows, women who take the names of the men with whom they live, some legal couples who have spent supernume rary years in a liaison, in short all women who want to make believe that they have been some body and do not wish to appear what they are.* In construction the play is faulty, its denoue ment is a -piece of dramaturgic legerdemain. The scheming Suzanne d'Ange, overreaching herself, throws away her hope of rehabilitating herself through marriage with the soldierly Ray mond de Nanjac, while Marcelle's straightfor wardness wins hand and heart of Olivier le Jalin, the exponent throughout of Dumas' ideas. But this is of less interest that the keen insight shown in the satiric portrayal of a social class more clearly defined in the Paris of its day, than since divorce has gained greater social recogni tion in France.