Ninon de Lenclos’ home in the Rue des Tournelles was home to one of the great salons of 17th century Paris. She, aged 90, met Voltaire, aged 12 and left him a thousand livres in her will. Voltaire in turn, fifty years later, wrote up her life and re-invented her for the 18th century. The re-inventions continued, through the 19th and 20th centuries. So who is she now?
Charles de Saint-Evremond lived for the entire second half of his life in exile (1661-1703), almost all of it in London. He and Ninon had been lovers before he left and remained friends right to the end. Their correspondence, and particularly what they had to say about friendship, feels to me particularly relevant just now. This book is published today. It is my response to the election of Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party.