|A carte-de-visite portrait of the soprano Blanche Roosevelt (1853-1898), at one time the mistress of Guy de Maupassant.
An American by birth, in the spring of 1876 she appeared in five performances of La Traviata at Covent Garden, at which time she was known as ‘Mme Rosavilla,’ an Italian form of her name.
Following her marriage to a wealthy Italian, she also became known as Mme. Macchetta. Arthur Sullivan makes references to her under both names in his diary for 1879, having engaged her to sing the part of Josephine in an American tour of HMS Pinafore. When her engagement with D’Oyly Carte came to an end in 1880, she stayed on in American, not as a singer but as a novelist. In the course of her literary career she became acquainted with a number of notable figures, including Giuseppe Verdi, Victorien Sardou, and Gustave Doré. But probably of greatest significance was her relationship with that master of the French 'conte,' Guy de Maupassant, whose mistress she became in 1884.
She stayed with Maupassant at his house in Etretat in June 1884. François Tassart, Maupassant's valet, later recalled with obvious affection that she ‘was as intelligent as she was beautiful.’ In the summer of 1886, when Maupassant visited London as a guest of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, she accompanied him on an excursion to Oxford. On their return to London she took him to Tussaud’s waxworks and followed this by an evening at the Savoy for a performance of The Mikado. Maupassant, exhausted by his first - and, as it happened, only - visit to England, hastened back to Paris the very next day.
It appears that she spent the remainder of her fairly short life in the south of France. She was only 45 when she was killed in a carriage accident.
[The above is adapted from a longer biography by Paul Seeley.]
Photographed by Mora of 707, Broadway, New York.
A Spaniard born in Cuba in 1849 [or 1846], José Maria Mora found a safe haven in New York during the Cuban Revolution in 1868. After studying with Sarony, he opened his first studio in 1870 at 707 Broadway. He was noted for his extensive collection of painted backdrops (over 150), many of which he had designed himself. A great deal of his profit was earned from selling celebrity images (called ‘publics’) in theaters, hotels and other establishments all over the world. Mora chose to live as a recluse at the Hotel Breslin in New York for the last fifteen years of his life. His meals consisted mainly of fifteen-cent pies and cakes, and other food given to him by hotel guests, even though it was said that he had several savings accounts and property in Cuba and on Long Island. In September of 1926 he was declared incompetent by a sheriff's jury, who based their opinion on his appearance and incoherent talk. When his room was searched it was found to have been littered with scraps of food, and, barely alive in a box, two pigeons were found. His bathroom was secured with four padlocks, and the bathtub filled with theatre programs and newspapers from years ago. Photographs of dead celebrities, and old theatre clippings decorated his walls and tables. Mora died on 18 Oct 1926 at St. Vincent's Hospital. [Adapted from a short biography on the website Historic Opera.]
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