Pearl, Cora (DNB00)

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PEARL, CORA (1842–1886), courtesan, the assumed name of Emma Elizabeth Crouch, was born at Caroline Place, East Stonehouse, Devonshire, on 23 Feb. 1842. She was the daughter of Frederick William Nicholls Crouch, by his wife, Lydia Pearson, a singer. Crouch, who was born on 31 July 1808, was a musical director and composer of many songs, including the well-known ballads ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ and ‘Dermot Asthore.’ He went to America in 1845, and took up his residence in that country. Cora, one of a family of sixteen children, was educated at Boulogne until thirteen years of age. Coming to England in 1856, she was misled by an elderly admirer into a life of dissipation, and took the name of Cora Pearl. In March 1858 she went to France, and a series of liaisons followed with various persons of influence under the second empire. Although large sums of money, with diamonds and jewellery, passed through her hands, she never became rich. She maintained a large establishment in the Rue de Chaillot, which her admirers called Les Petits Tuileries, and kept the finest carriages and horses of any one in Paris. For some time she excited the greatest interest among all classes of Parisian society, and ladies imitated her dress and manners. She inherited the singing talents of her father, and at one period, when in want of money, made her appearance at Les Bouffes Parisiens as Cupid in Offenbach's opera ‘Orphée aux Enfers.’ On the night of her début the theatre was filled to overflowing; certain of the boxes sold at five hundred francs, and orchestra-stalls fetched 150 francs each. On the twelfth night she was hissed, and she never reappeared on the stage. At the commencement of the war in 1870 she came to England, but, being refused admission at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, she returned to Paris, converted her residence into an hospital, and spent twenty-five thousand francs on the care of the wounded. On the conclusion of the war the commissioners refused any recognition of her services, and on her appealing to the law she only recovered fifteen hundred francs. A son of Pierre Louis Duval, the butcher and founder of the restaurants known as the Bouillons Duval, however, befriended her. In the two years following his father's death (1870–1) M. Duval spent on Cora Pearl seventeen million francs; and when he reached the end of his fortune she left him with contempt. At various times she was expelled by the police from France, Baden, Monte Carlo, Nice, Vichy, and Rome. In her last years she occupied herself in compiling her ‘Memoirs,’ and sent round advance sheets to the people mentioned, offering to omit their names on suitable payment. The work as ultimately published in 1886 proved dull reading, and gave little information. She was often called La Lune Rousse, in allusion to her round face and red hair. She had small eyes, high cheekbones, beautiful skin, and good teeth. Her figure was modelled in marble by M. Gallois in 1880. She died of cancer, in squalid poverty, in Rue de Bassano, Paris, on 8 July 1886.

[Mémoires de Cora Pearl, Septième mille, Paris, 1886; Memoirs of Cora Pearl, London, 1886; Folly's Queens, New York, 1882, pp. 23–7; Vizetelly's Glances Back, 1893, ii. 232; Truth, 15 July 1886, pp. 105–6; London Figaro, 24 July 1886, p. 6, with portrait.]

G. C. B.