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The Empress of Pleasure: The Life and Adventures of Teresa Cornelys - Queen of Masquerades and Casanova's Lover [Hardcover]

Judith Summers


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Book Description

6 Nov 2003
Mrs Tersa Cornelys was a unique figure in 18th-century Europe. A Venetian-born opera singer well known on the stages of Vienna, Bayreuth and Holland, she came to London in 1759 aged 36, and opened the capital's first real concert venue and nightclub - Carlisle House in Soho Square. Her private life and professional dealings were to scandalise society for the next 20 years. Outrageous, ingenious and indomitable, Mrs Cornelys enjoyed immense wealth and success during her lifetime, but although she earned a small fortune from carlisle house, she borrowed extensively, in common with many Londoners of the time, seldom paying her debts. After her imprisonment for bankcruptcy, her children turned their backs on her. Undaunted, Mrs Cornelys made a series of spectacular comebacks - at one point as a purveyor of asses' milk in Knightsbridge, in a salon entirely decorated with fragments of coloured looking-glass. She remained a working businesswoman well into her 70s. She died as a result of breast cancer in the Fleet Debtors' Prison in 1797.

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About the Author

Judith Summers is a novelist, freelance journalist and script writer. Her first book was a history of the Soho district of London, which was published in 1989 and won the London Tourist Board Book of the Year. It was whilst researching this book tht she first became entranced by the forgotten story of the extraordinary Teresa Cornelys. Judith Summers lives in Hampstead. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable 18th century life, told in a slightly annoying voice 16 Sep 2013
By Chretienne de St. Crispin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most fascinating and entertaining biographies I have read in a long time. I hesitate to pepper my review with facts from the story of its subject, Teresa Cornelys, because much of the pleasure in reading about her comes from being constantly surprised by the events and people in her life. I am a classical musician and my attention was originally drawn to the book because Teresa Cornelys played a part in the creation of a very important concert series in 18th century London --"The Bach/Abel Concerts" -- but that's probably the least interesting thing there is to tell about her. Amongst the historical figures with roles in her story are Casanova and the famously bigamous Elizabeth Chudleigh (Duchess of Kingston). Full of deliciously seedy, 18th century Hogarthian detail. As an historical example of a very independent, self-directed, unapologetic businesswoman, I should think her story might have particular appeal for women.

My one complaint is with the author's voice: there's a breathless, slighty pop-eyed quality to the writing, particularly in the prologue and first few chapters. It mellows somewhat, later on, but never quite loses a tone that, to me, seems more appropriate to a romance novel, or certain varieties of historical fiction. But it's well worth gritting your teeth (or holding your nose, or whatever works for you) for the story of a remarkable 18th century European woman.
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