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Joseph Fiévée
(1767 - 1839) France

Joseph Fiévée

Novelist and bureaucrat

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The son of a Paris restaurant-owner, Fiévée began his professional life as a printer. He survived the turbolent period of the Revolution and attracted attention at the end of 1700s with a successful novel, La dot de Suzette, a satire on parvenus under the new regime. Converted to Bonapartism, he was employed by Napoleon as a secret correspondent furnishing information on the French political situation. Fiévée was then made a state counsellor and named prefect of the Nièvre départment.

Fiévée is interesting for the way in which he lived out his homosexuality in this period. Perhaps as a youthful indiscretion, he married, but his wife died in labour in 1790, leaving him a son. In a political club in the late 1790s, under the Directory, he met Théodore Leclercq, ten years his junior. Leclercq and Fiévée lived together until the latter's death, and together they reared Fiévée's son.

Contemporaries spoke about their "Greek friendship", a relationship which was officially accepted. When Napoleon sent Fiévée on a mission to Britain, he took his friend and his son along with him. When Fiévée became a prefect, Leclercq moved into the official residence with him and acted as his "hostess" during official receptions.

From the life and career of Fiévée, and that of Cambacérès, one can conclude that French society at the time of Napoleon was not yet as homophobic as it would become after the Restauration of the Bourbon monarchy and subsequently.

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Source: excerpts from: Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001

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