Histoire de Madame la Comtesse des Barres is the autobiography, first published in 1735, of François-Timoléon, Abbot of Choisy (1644–1724), an early example in literature of crossdressing. As a child he was a playmate of the ‘Little Monsieur’, Philippe d’Orléans, who often stayed in the Luxembourg Palace dressed as a girl. The future Abbot of Choisy was also often dressed in feminine clothing, and later passed as the Countess of Barres, near Bourges (1670–71), then Madame de Sancy in Paris (1672–74). At the same time François-Timoléon participated, under his male identity, in many of the major events surrounding the court of Louis XIV.
A man of the court rather than of the church, François-Timoléon was a writer and member of the French Academy, the author of a number of historical and ‘gallant’ works. When established at the Château de Crespon near Bourges, under the name of the Countess of Barres, he sometimes succeeded in making love in front of his guests without those present suspecting any indecency. As Madame la Comtesse des Barres, he dressed like a woman, adorned himself with jewellery, and for much of the time passed as a woman among the notables of Bourges. At the same time, the abbot’s sexual desires and pleasures apparently remained perfectly ‘masculine’.
The text is often quite explicit – ‘She was on her back, and I was on my left side, my right hand on her throat, our legs intertwined one in the other’ – which made it a favourite of clandestine publishers. This edition, with Annenkoff’s minimalist drawings and gouache stencils, captures well the flavour of the eighteenth century narrative.
This edition of Histoire de Madame la Comtesse des Barres was published in Paris by Aux Editions des Quatre Vents in a limited numbered edition of 620 copies.