Fanny Legrand (leh-GRAH[N]), an intelligent, shrewd, and completely feminine prostitute. She is fifty years old and has been mistress to many men of various occupations and professions. She ends her days with one of her first lovers and their child.
Jean Gaussin (zhah[n] goh-SA[N]), a student from the south of France who has come to Paris to prepare himself for a diplomatic career. He meets the experienced courtesan Fanny Legrand and, attracted by her sophistication, falls in love with her despite the great difference in their ages. After they have lived together for a time, Fanny’s hold on Jean is so strong that his naïve fiancée has little attraction for him. When he is awarded a post in South America, he breaks his engagement and begs Fanny to go with him. Unwilling to leave Paris, she declines his offer.
Déchelette (daysh-LEHT), a wealthy engineer who spends most of his time on construction projects far from France. For two months of the year, however, he lives in Paris, where he hosts lavish parties and enjoys the society of his native city. Fanny has been his mistress, and he has shared his wealth with her.
Flamant (flah-MAH[N]), an engraver who goes to prison for counterfeiting...
(The entire section is 476 words.)