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The Magnificent Montez From Courtesan to Convert   By: (1875-)

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[Illustration: Lola Montez, Countess of Landsfeld

( From a lithograph by Prosper Guillaume Dartiguenave )]




From Courtesan to Convert



"When you met Lola Montez, her reputation made you automatically think of bedrooms."






Sweep a drag net across the pages of contemporary drama, and it is unquestionable that in her heyday no name on the list stood out, in respect of adventure and romance, with greater prominence than did that of Lola Montez. Everything she did (or was credited with doing) filled columns upon columns in the press of Europe and America; and, from first to last, she was as much "news" as any Hollywood heroine of our own time. Yet, although she made history in two hemispheres, it has proved extremely difficult to discover and unravel the real facts of her glamorous career. This is because round few (if any) women has been built up such a honeycomb of fable and fantasy and imagination as has been built up round this one.

Even where the basic points are concerned there is disagreement. Thus, according to various chroniclers, the Sultan of Turkey, an "Indian Rajah" (unspecified), Lord Byron, the King of the Cannibal Islands, and a "wealthy merchant," each figure as her father, with a "beautiful Creole," a "Scotch washerwoman," and a "Dublin actress" for her mother; and Calcutta, Geneva, Limerick, Montrose, and Seville and a dozen other cities scattered about the world for her birthplace. This sort of thing is to say the least of it confusing.

But Lola Montez was something of an anachronism, and had as lofty a disregard for convention as had the ladies thronging the Court of Merlin. Nor, it must be admitted, was she herself any pronounced stickler for exactitude. Thus, she lopped half a dozen years off her age, allotted her father (whom she dubbed a "Spanish officer of distinction") a couple of brevet steps in rank, and insisted on an ancestry to which she was never entitled.

Still, if Lola Montez deceived the public about herself, others have deceived the public about Lola Montez. Thus, in one of his books, George Augustus Sala solemnly announced that she was a sister of Adah Isaacs Menken; and a more modern writer, unable to distinguish between Ludwig I and his grandson Ludwig II, tells us that she was "intimate with the mad King of Bavaria." To anybody (and there still are such people) who accepts the printed word as gospel, slips of this sort destroy faith.

As a fount of information on the subject, the Autobiography (alleged) of Lola Montez, first published in 1859, is worthless. The bulk of it was written for her by a clerical "ghost" in America, the Rev. Chauncey Burr, and merely serves up a tissue of picturesque and easily disproved falsehoods. A number of these, by the way, together with some additional embroideries, are set out at greater length in other volumes by Ferdinand Bac (who confounds Ludwig I with Maximilian II) and the equally unreliable Eugène de Mirecourt and Auguste Papon. German writers, on the other hand, have, if apt to be long winded, at least avoided the more obvious pitfalls. Among the books and pamphlets (many of them anonymous) of Teutonic origin, the following will repay research: Die Gräfin Landsfeld (Gustav Bernhard); Lola Montez, Gräfin von Landsfeld (Johann Deschler); Lola Montez und andere Novellen (Rudolf Ziegler); Lola Montez und die Jesuiten (Dr. Paul Erdmann); Die spanische Tänzerin und die deutsche Freiheit (J. Beneden); Die Deutsche Revolution, 1848 1849 (Hans Blum); Ein vormarzliches Tanzidyll (Eduard Fuchs); Abenteur der beruhmten Tänzerin ; Anfang und Ende der Lola Montez in Bayern ; Die Munchener Vergange ; Unter den vier ersten Königen Bayerns (Luise von Kobell); and, in particular, the monumental Histeriche of Heinrich von Treitschke... Continue reading book >>

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