MADAME DE STAËL, French author (d. 1817); When old editions of the staid Encyclopedia Britannica say that someone’s sex life is “unconventional,” it can sometimes mean little more than the subject enjoyed something other than missionary position with his clothes on and the lights off.

When a woman’s sex life is even mentioned, no less described as “unconventional,” then, man, you better sit up and take notice. Madame de Staël liked not only men, but (gasp) women, too.

In 1798 the French novelist, separated from her husband and living with a male lover, met Juliette Récamier, the most celebrated beauty of her time. Mme. de Staël was 31, Juliette ten years younger. “She fixed her great eyes upon me,” wrote Juliette, “and paid me compliments about my figure which might have seemed exaggerated and too direct had they not seemed to have escaped from her. From that time on I thought only of Mme. de Staël.” They lived together for the next nineteen years, until the novelist died. Her final words to Juliette, to whom she had once written, “I love you with a love that surpasses that of friendship,” were “I embrace you with all that remains of me.”