SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 22 - March 18, 2006

FROM JIM'S SHELVES: Darnton on Mesmer inter text THE VIRGINIA GAZETTE: Luck for change inter text NOBILITY: A letter from an emigré

inter cooking 18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for Marie-Antoinette - Giblets in consommé

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
JOURNAL DES SAVANTS: Resewn noses inter text Magasin Pittoresque: No 25-1857


FROM JIM'S SHELVES: Darnton on Mesmerism

I can't remember why I bought Robert Darnton's "Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France", beyond the fact that Darnton himself is always a sure value. Mesmerism, until I read this book, did not seem all that interesting a subject. But Darnton quickly ties it here to a general popular interest in science and pseudo-science and such ventures as walking across the Seine in special shoes:

"Mesmerism suited the interest in science and "high science" during the decade before the Revolution, and it did not seem to contradict the spirit of the Enlightenment.... mesmerism expressed the Enlightenment's faith in reason taken to an extreme, an Enlightenment run wild, which later was to provoke a movement toward the opposite extreme in the form of romanticism."

There are also surprising connections such as the following:

Lafayette...left little indication of his own mesmerist ideology, as he was no writer or speaker but the sort of man who made his appearances in history while mounted on chargers or standing on balconies....The written evidence that does exist suggests that his experience of the American Revolution and his friendship with Thomas Jefferson had a strong influence on his political ideas, and further that he saw some connection between his dedication to the American republic and mesmerism. Even Louis XVI associated these two interests when he asked Lafayette, shortly before the young hero's departure for the United States in June 1784, "What will Washington think when he learns that you have become Mesmer's chief journeyman apothecary?

Darnton's customary delight in popular culture gets free rein here, as when he analyzes cartoons in the BNF and finds that they suggest "Parisians cared only about mesmerism, balloon flights, and spectacular feats of heroism or humanitarianism." (54) Not to mention the inevitable bits of salacious doggerel, such as this one:

That the charlatan Mesmer
With another frater
Cures many a female;
That he turns their heads,
In touching them up who knows where
   Is crazy
   Quite crazy
And I don't believe in it a bit
(54, in French)

He explores how revolutionary figures such as Brissot were involved with the movement, and how this related to their political activity, and moves on past our century to the movement's influence on Fourier and on writers such as Balzac and Hugo to say "By the time it had infiltrated 'La Comedie Humaine' and 'Les Miserables', it had left the Enlightenment behind, in ruins."

A brief, lively and, in every sense, enlightening work.

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Imagine this: a man takes a cab, gets to his destination, finds the cabbie can't change a large bill. Having fruitlessly asked a few local businesses for change, he ends up buying a lottery ticket just to break the bill - and wins part of a large jackpot.

Sounds like an item in 'Strange But True' or 'News of the Weird', no?

Now, back the story up to 1769:

Some days ago a jeweler at Charing Cross took a coach to the Royal Exchange, but having no less money than a thirty six shilling piece applied in vain to the coachmen, and at several coach-houses, for change; on which he went into a lottery office, and bought the 16th of a ticket, which very ticket was drawn a prize of 10,000 l. the next day.
Virginia Gazette - March 16, 1769 Number 930 (page 2, top of first column)
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NOBILITY: A letter from an emigré

It struck me in reading this that France had its own 'Gone With the Wind' when aristocrats who had grown up with everything being taken care of for them - money, to start with, but also most personal hygiene, meal preparations, etc. - suddenly found themselves in foreign countries starting from scratch. Had this ever happened before in European history, that thousands of people raised with the most absolute assurance of privilege and security, found it all taken away in a few years? And when, in later years, many (including this writer) found themselves restored to lives of privilege, did they look back on these years with pride, pride, that is, that they'd been able to adjust, or only horror?

No doubt there's a study there, and perhaps it's been done. For now, we find the young (22) Count de Serre writing to his mother in November 1798 from Reutlingen, describing a typical day:

I wake early... I wash up, comb my hair and get dressed. As soon as I am ready, I read a few pages of a Latin author, breakfast on two cups of milk tinted with coffee and a roll. At eight o'clock, I go to give a French lesson to the son of an innkeeper, aged seventeen. At nine o'clock, to a young man of fourteen, when I also teach to write and reckon, until ten thirty; then I come home and work at mathematics for which I have always had a pronounced taste. At one o'clock, I have another lesson of French and writing; at four o'clock, I go until six o'clock to a house where I also teach a young man of twelve, one of fifteen and one my age; from six to seven, to another, in which is the young man I teach at one o'clock, and one of his brothers and a cousin, two children of twelve. It cannot be denied that it is hard going with these children, but the efforts which I make to encourage them, to enliven the lesson, work to my advantage. Let me flatter myself that children profit from me! At least, I profit with them in becoming again a bit of a child, in sharing for a few moments their lack of care and their gaeity, and often I leave them feeling freer and more serene.
Intermediaire des Chercheurs, June 25, 1892, excerpted by Poggiarino (445-446)

(The count subsequently flourished under both Napoleon and the Restoration and died as ambassador to Naples.)

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From CHEZ JIM Books:
and a history of the CROISSANT:

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18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for Marie-Antoinette - Giblets in consommé

The next of the sixteen entrees listed for this meal is "Turkey giblets in consommé".

The first thing to consider with giblets ("abatis") is just what they were in our period. The Oxford Companion of Food says they have corresponded to internal organs of an animal since at least the 16th century. But Briand's Dictionnaire des Alimens (1750) says (I-3) "By this term is understood the heads, the feet, the livers and other similar parts of land or flying animals" and refers right after that to using those from turkey (or other animals). Then there's the "consommé" part. Generally, this meant a clear soup, but since various items were often added to it, its clarity could vary - as could its degree of difference from good old-fashioned soup.

The Dictionnaire's recipe (I-4) is for 'Giblet Soup', but seems to correspond nicely to giblets - whatever they are here - in a clear broth (minus, perhaps, the simmered crusts):

If one wants to make a soup of Giblets of Gosling or other Fowl, begin by scalding them and cleaning them. Then cook them in a well seasoned bouillon. When they are cooked, cut them into pieces, put them in a frying pan with melted lard, parsley, white pepper. When all this is blanched with egg yellows, a trickle of verjuice, and Lemon juice, set out one's soup, made apart with the bouillon of butcher's meats, in which have been simmmered crusts dried in the Oven. Then lay out the Giblets on top of them, and serve this soup hot.

Both the definition and the recipe, by the way, are very close to those given (81-82) in the Cuisinier Roial et Bourgeois (1705).

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fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys


Personally, I had always had a vague idea that the ability to reattach body parts was developed in the twentieth century. But apparently noses, at least, have been reattached since ancient times, per this 1994 article from the Washington Post (which dates such surgery back to the Egyptians) and this (very commercial) plastic surgery site which points out that such surgery was popular in India as far back as 500 B.C. "because using mutilation as a form of punishment and humiliation was quite common." The same site says that, after Byzantine times, "the practice of plastic surgery waned, only to experience a resurgence in the first the 14th and then the 18th century."

The Journal des Savants, in items ranging from the dubious to the well-documented, documents part of this resurgence.

The first mention of this in the Journal (1666 (423)) is in an article on remote communication by such things as secret codes, but also by various supposed forms of sympathy. In this connection, the story is told of an Italian gentleman whose nose was cut off and who replaced it using the flesh of his valet. Supposedly, several years later when the valet died, the master's nose started to rot. (The writer, having been twice to the town where this was said to have occured, found people there unwilling to talk about it and decided it was a fable.)

This item in a brief 'Extract from the Abbe Nazari's Journal of Italy' (1678 (272)) is evocative, if tantalizing:

3. Of a Nose cut off by the headsman which was fortunately put back after being caught when it fell into a hot roll cut down the middle and then applied in this state and resewn.

Mentions in our own century become more specific, starting with one (1731 (479-480)), which tells of a soldier who on September 26, 1724 quarreled with a friend who bit his nose off. The friend, finding something in his mouth, spit the nose out into the gutter and, enraged, stepped on it. The soldier picked it up, threw it into a neighboring surgeon's 'shop' and ran after his friend. The surgeon, finding it covered with mud, washed it in a fountain. When the soldier came back, the surgeon heated the nose in wine, cleaned the wound and stuck the nose back on with a plaster. Within a day, the nose was beginning to heal and within four days was solidly scarified and reattached.

M. de Garengeot, who told this story, wrote: "Who would ever have thought... that the end of a nose crushed in a gutter, then cooled by the water of a fountain, would have been ready to enjoy a second life? Is there not in that lessons more persuasive and more useful than knowledge supposedly sublime, reserved to few, which in truth lulls the sick a certain time, but of which they soon perceive the vanity and lack of effect?"

Finally, the 1736 edition contains several stories (611-612) from Dionis, a Paris surgeon, on noses split or cut off (sometimes by jealous wives) with some details of how to restore them, using waxed thread. Though the same author says that a nose which has been completely cut off cannot be restored, the reveiewer tells two stories which rather dramatically contradict this - one of a thief whose friends cut off the end of a hapless victim's nose so that a surgeon could replace his and another of a surgeon who stuck the bleeding part of the wounded nose against the patient's forearm until, we are told, the flesh of the arm stuck to it and then was cut away to form the shape of the end of the nose (!).

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Magasin Pittoresque: No 23-1855

REMINDER: The Magasin Pittoresque was a nineteenth century French magazine. Issues can be found on Gallica.

I suppose the wig riots are the most surprising item here from our century. Gypsy history is probably under-documented, so the item about Bampfylde Carew seems valuable. Otherwise, mezuzahs (mezuzoths) are not often mentioned in French periodicals of either the 18th OR 19th century, so the reference here stands out.

39 - dates (1783-1833) serfdom ended in different German regions
75 - Perrault's satire of women
86 - student ceremony of the Paranymph
117 - dialogue between Benjamin Franklin and the gout (written in French by BF)
131 - history of bakers (going to 18th)
141 - a 17th c. songbook (with image)
171 - history of Trianon
194 - the rocks of Brittany
214 - origin of bathing in the sea for health (Dieppe)
225 - Mme de Maintenon and the house of Saint-Cyr
233 - Gainsborough's Blue Boy (image)
238 - 1701 letter from Bailly de Munden to Liebnitz on Papin; 18th lingua franca in Alger
257 - Barcelona in 1808
273 - image of Garrick as Richard III (image)
306 - the blue flower of Novalis
322 - wig riots in England
361 - a portrait of Louis XIV in colored wax showing smallpox scars (with engraving)

Individuals of note
86 - Rolet, attacked by Boileau
128 - Bampfylde Moore Carew, king of the gypsies
148 - the childhood and youth of Prud'hon
405 - Washington and his mother (again) (with image)
324 - painter Etienne Jeaurat
335 - Emmanuel Swedenborg
370 - Anne-Robert-Jacques-Turbot
386 - painter Joshua Reynolds (with image)

Off-topic but interesting
32 - the Mezuzoth (Mezuzah)
201 - the Pont Neuf restored
255 - tokens of the Faculty of Medicine (images)
272 - image of ornate (really really ornate) 16th c whistle
348 - the public and works of art (essay on public taste)
359 - alphabets of different countries
378 - Sunday defined as first day of the week (in 19th c France)
388 - the market in Cuba (with image)

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End quote

"I am beginning to see that, seduced by a false enthusiasm for glory, I made a blunder in coming among the Americans. But I feel too that it would be a greater one to return. The wine is poured, it must be drunk to its dregs; but already these dregs are evident."

Lafayette, in a letter
(quoted January 1779 in Lescure's Correspondance Litteraire)

FROM CHEZ JIM BOOKS Three works on eighteenth century subjects:

For some sample 18th century vegetarian recipes, click here.

copyright 2006 Jim Chevallier.
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(NOTE: Most translations, except where otherwise noted, are by Jim Chevallier and are copyrighted as such.)
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