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A Diplomatic Woman - Huan Mee [pseud. Walter and Charles Mansfield] - 1900. 
Sands and Co: London, 1900. 8vo. 181pp. + 2pp ads.Publisher's pictorial green cloth titled and decorated in black, white and pink to spine and front board. Minor bumping and edgewear, a trifle discoloured to the spine, a very good copy indeed. Plain endpapers, internally clean and bright. One of those forgotten gems which was actually pretty groundbreaking. A tumultuously gothic and purple roller coaster ride of espionage and intrigue, featuring the redoubtrable and skillful Madamoiselle Lerestelle; the "cleverest woman in Paris" it's a fair stab at creating an early female spy and furthermore producing a female protagonist who is smarter than most of the surrounding men, immune to romantic blandishments ("Not so much sugar if you please, monsieur."), is perceived primarily as intelligent with her manifest beauty being a pleasant afterthought, is independent both financially and by inclination and is tenacious enough to meet any challenge. It's all secret cyphers and evil Russian chaps, princes committing indiscretions with showgirls, stolen documents that leave France on the brink of war, and a rather complex conundrum involving a treaty between France and China. It's all world changing stuff and rather a far cry from missing jewellery. Like George R. Sims' Dorcas Dene, Madamoiselle Lerestelle is a force to be reckoned with and represents a growing awareness of the change in women's attitudes and roles. Scarce and quite important. .
[Bookseller: Jonathan Kearns]
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