The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana
by Jess Nevins
The She-Tiger of Paris (1845)
copyright © Jess Nevins 2022
The She Tiger of Paris: Containing a history of the life and adventures of a celebrated French lady of fashion, under the name of Felina de Cambure (original: “La Comtesse de Monrion”) was written by Frédéric Soulié and first appeared as a roman feuilleton in La Lionne (Sept. 9-Oct 14, 1845). Soulié (1800-1847) was a prolific French writer whose output was mainly romans feuilleton. He is primarily remembered for The Memories of the Devil (original: Les Mémoires du Diable, 1837-1838).
The She Tiger of Paris is the story of Victor Amab, a noted painter, and Felina de Cambure, the bad girl who falls for him. Victor’s paintings are successful, but he needs money to live, and so he works as a clerk at the shop of the Thore family. Julia Villon also works there, and Julia and Victor are attracted to each other. But one day Felina sends Victor a note telling him how much she admires his work and asking for a rendezvous with him. Victor isn’t interested, so he gives the note to Charles Villon, Julia’s brother, and Charles goes to the rendezvous and pretends to be Victor. Charles falls for Felina, but she discovers that Charles is not Victor, and she, understandably offended, swears vengeance on the Villons and Victor. Felina investigates and finds out about Julia, Charles, and the shop, and especially the shop’s money problems, and she arranges for a large amount of money in the shop to be hidden. This causes unhappiness for Julia, and Charles does not return home one morning after a night of gambling and drinking. And then Felina’s brother, Count Gustave de Monrion, challenges Victor to a duel. Victor visits Count Monrion to see why he is challenging Victor to a duel, and while at Monrion’s mansion meets Felina.
Felina uses her beauty to string Victor along. She keeps several assignations with him, but when he falls in love with her she abruptly she rejects him. Meanwhile, she orders Count Monrion to seduce Julia, and she torments Charles, who she has captured. From there things get worse for Victor and the Villons, but at the end of the twenty-seventh part of The She Tiger Charles is free, Victor and Julia engaged to be married, and both Count Monrion and Felina are dead, the latter struck dead by God while being arrested.
The She Tiger of Paris is a moderately entertaining trifle. Soulié seems to have intended it slightly more seriously, however, for much time is spent moralizing about the wicked behavior of modern women, who are of course badly treated by vulgar and cruel men. Soulié also wastes several dead trees with “philosophical” blather and sermons about the fallen morals of modern women. Those sections are worth skipping.
Felina herself is enjoyable enough, but she is more a Woman Wronged than a femme fatale (see: The Fatal Woman). She is described by the author as “unbridled lasciviousness,” but her actions—wanting to meet Victor alone, late at night, in her apartment—won’t strike the modern reader as particularly shocking. The modern reader is, in fact, far more likely to sympathize with her than with Victor or Charles, whose actions toward Felina—showing her note to Charles and then the latter impersonating the former at a tryst—are shameful.
Print: Frédéric Soulié, La Comtesse de Monrion. London: Forgotten Books, 2018.
Online: Available at http://gallica.bnf.fr (in French; there is no English-language translation available online)