The best of all possible cafes.

Author:Graham, Elyse
Position:Works In Progress
 
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Voltaire? Montesquieu? Diderot? For your list of Enlightenment heroes consider one Mme Bourette, the twice-widowed owner of a Paris cafe. Mme Bourette was, in her way, a literary woman. With more than a soupcon of self-promotion and media savvy, she wrote poems lionizing whichever victorious general, rising politician, or prize-winning novelist was in the news, and she sent her paeans to newspapers for publication, signing her name over the sobriquet "the cafe-owning muse" and the address of her establishment. Courtesy obliged the honoree to respond with a gift or a visit to her cart, or perhaps a poem in return, which she would also send to newspapers for publication.

Mme Bourette's public-relations efforts involving Parisian commerce, politics, and literature make her a prime resource for Thierry Rigogne, a social historian and assistant history professor at Fordham University. As part of his investigations into the links between public communication and the rise...

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