This article was first published in my July 2022 Newsletter. I will be posting pieces on some Mummies that I have found from past times! Okay, not like they are ABDL Mummies, but prominent nurturing characters such as...
Minette Helvétius (1719-1800)
Minette was thought to have a very special effect on men, which made her a very desirable companion. There was no doubt that she was gifted with the ability to make men feel young again! It was reported that the 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin felt "like a little boy" around her, as well as any other men who were in her salon with her at the time. An event, such as a salon, was a gathering of people in a private house hosted by an inspiring host who was a woman most of the times. As a part of the gathering, they would entertain each other as well as learn from each other during the event.
But who was Minette, and what was her story?
Anne-Catherine de Ligniville, Madame Helvétius, nicknamed "Minette", was a wealthy Parisian socialite who married the philosopher Helvétius and made a fortune together with him. When he died 20 years later and she was 52, she kept her salon, which featured some of the most prominent figures of the Enlightenment during that time period. It was not uncommon for Diderot, the co-founder of the Encyclopaedia, to be invited to her gatherings, as well as Fontenelle, a writer, poet, and leader of the French Revolution, André Chénier, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benjamin Franklin, etc... This gives you an idea of the type of meetings she had.
Along with that, she had a total of 18 angora cats as well!
As she sat in the center of the salon, Minette would gracefully greet everyone with a girlish and vivacious demeanor, engulfed in joy. After becoming a widow shortly after being born into a deprived family, she became known as a seductress and made her way into expensive clubs and salons where she bewitched Paris with her joie de vivre. She would infatuate both men and women, including the philosopher and self-made millionaire Helvetius. Helvetius was a womanizer himself and literally consumed women, but when he met Minette he proclaimed her his “divinity”, left all his many lovers and committed to her in devotion until his death.
It is said that Minette had a great number of suitors who felt like "little boys" in front of her, but she turned down their marriage proposals owing to her preference for independence, and marriage in the 18th Century meant being owned by a man. There is no doubt that Benjamin Franklin, who liked older women better than younger women, was also deeply in love with her, and she loved him back, but she also rejected him as a husband, even though she loved him deeply and had close ties with him.
Minette was said to be ageing backwards, enjoying her time in the salon and being admired by others, enjoying the attention of her admirers. Even in her advanced years, she was as light and lively as a twenty-year-old. Doctor Cabanis (in the picture) was one of her lovers and "little boys" who also attributed mythical characteristics to her. She was compared to both a moon goddess and a divine regenerator by Franking and Fontenelle. It is Cabanis who tells us of her maternal allure, which she compares to the attraction that she has for the older siren.
Minette the nurturer, the queen, lover and mother died in 1800 with Cabanis beside her.
In the last moments of her life, he cried out to her, "My dear mother".
And she replied, “Yes... I am. I always will be”.
Bibliography and resources
Madame Helvétius and Ben Franklin, Rodama: a Blog on 18th Century & Revolutionary France, Sunday 24th November 2013
Anne-Catherine de Ligniville, Madame Helvétius, Wikipedia Article
Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love, by Betsy Prioleau, Penguin Books 2004
The Salons, at alphahistory.com