SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 23 - March 25, 2006

TEXT COLLECTIONS: Prospect Books inter text Guillotine trinkets and toys inter text BRISSOT: Marat and Franklin; Marat on Milton?

inter cooking 18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for Marie-Antoinette - Breasts of mutton with chicory

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
JOURNAL DES SAVANTS: German executioners inter text Magasin Pittoresque: No 26 - 1858



This publishing company provides a number of free resources in their "Scholarly Section" including this glossary of 17th and 18th century food terms: "Glossary, compiled for six Prospect Books facsimile reprints or transcripts of English cookery texts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" as well as this lecture: "Text of a lecture Tom Jaine gave at Oxford in 2004 - Recipes And Sources Of Information In Food History" and this study: Gilly Lehmann, The British Housewife Cookery-books, Cooking and Society in 18th-century Britain:

This is the first full-scale study of the world of eighteenth-century British cookery books, their authors, their readers and their recipes. For many decades, we have treated them as collectables - often fetching thousands at auction and in rare-book catalogues - or as quaint survivors, while ignoring their true history or what they have to tell us about the Georgians at table. The publication of cookery books was pursued more vigorously in Britain than in any other west European country: it was also the genre that attracted more women writers to its ranks - indeed, perhaps the very first woman to earn her living from her writing in modern Britain was Hannah Woolley, author of The Cook's Guide and other works. Reason enough to look more closely at the form.
The site also offer this poem (in French), "La Gastronomie, ou l'Homme des Champs à Table", by Joseph Berchoux, for which a large claim is made:

The lengthy poem which follows is Joseph Berchoux's La Gastronomie, ou l'Homme des Champs à Table. It is this poem, first published in Paris in 1801, which introduced the word 'gastronomy' into the modern European lexicon. The edition we have followed is the fifth, published in 1819. We published this text in four parts in PPC 75, 76, 77, and 78. Peter Cooke wrote an introduction to the text in PPC 75. As the text here presented is a transcription, not a scan, it is searchable.'
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THE REVOLUTION: Guillotine trinkets and toys

Were earrings and other objects made showing the guillotine? In different discussions between 1866 and 1923, several writers in the Intermediaire des Chercheurs said they were, but not without contradiction.

The 1866 thread begins (May 25, 18666, (295)) with a reference from Mercier's New Paris ("Nouveau Paris") in which he talks of the luxury and parties that contrasted with the horrors of the Revolution. The writer of the item says that - per his grandfather, a member of the Directory - this was no longer true under the Terror: "All the silversmiths were closed; only copper jewelry was sold, not even gilded, in the form of guillotines, levels [? implying the leveling of society? JC], liberty caps, etc."

Some questions were then discussed: was the copper jewelry gilded or not? Did the women of Paris wear such items, or only the women of Nantes? A later writer even questioned the existence of such objects. The next entry (August 10, 1866 (454)) quotes Mercier again: "The women of Paris did not wear in their ears, like the women of Nantes, gilded guillotines." But the writer points out that Mercier was imprisoned during the period in question and so could only have heard, not seen, this - in other words, his account is questionable. However, an item from September 25 (561) gives the example of colonel Maurin, who was said to have had earrings in the shape of the guillotine, as well as the ladder used by Latude to escape the Bastille and one of Palloy's models of the Bastille (made from its own stone), and Camille Desmoulin's last letter to his wife.

Other examples - all from Nantes - are given in the 1867 (February 10 (87-88)) edition. One note cites an image in the Autographe (of December 1864) of "Guillotine earrings, worn at Carrier's balls at Nantes. An example of this curious piece of jewelry belongs to M.D.R. of Nantes; he has it from his mother, on whom it was imposed by Carrier himself. Another example is said to exist in the judicial archives... of ...Chartres." (Still? Chartres is a lovely town, if anyone's inclined to go look.)

Another writer cites another pair from Nantes, owned and described by Chéron de Villiers in his work Charlotte Corday. These, in red copper, included a dangling head, crowned and beheaded. Yet another reports seeing several pieces of copper jewelry (some quite long) representing squares (T-squares?), "radiant levels", little guillotines, scaffolds, etc, or mottos such as "Liberté, Equalité, ou la Mort" (Liberty, Equality or Death), "Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité" (the still current Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) and "République Française une et indivisible" (French Republic, one and undivisible).

In Nantes, at least, it appears that such jewelry really did exist.

The last writer here prefigures a subject which appeared years later: working miniature models of the guillotine. He says that "at the request of several distinguished amateurs" reduced versions of the guillotine were created as "household furniture and utensils".

Most such models seemed to be toys rather than useful items. In 1906 (667) the Goncourts were quoted, from their History of French Society during the Revolution, to the effect that exiled Royalists used to set up miniature mahogany guillotines and with these behead dolls representing Bailly, Lameth, Lafayette, etc. When each head rolled, a purple fluid spilled out in which the emigrés would dip their handkerchiefs (as some were said to have dipped theirs in the blood of Louis XVI) - the 'dolls' were actually bottles and the 'blood' was perfume. The writer of this item questions this tale (though the Goncourts' rigor overall is later defended). The writer also questions tales of guillotine jewelry and toys, but accepts as true references to a seal showing a guillotine.

A later writer (1923 (53)) says the seal in question was used by Gateau, a military administrator. The same writer says that the guillotine 'trinket' described by the Goncourts must have been made abroad, as were 'guillotine plates' which were sold to English customers who'd read (probably falsely) that the Revolutionaries had produced such ghoulish souvenirs. In France itself, less playful toys of a 'prudent civic spirit' were produced: "little guillotines for flies, streetlamps on which were fixed, hanged, little cardboard aristocrats."

The idea of toy guillotines, not surprisingly, survived the Revolution - though I doubt they were welcome in France under the Restoration. The Magasin Pittoresque (No 70 -1902 (19)) tells the story of Cruchet, originally a fisherman and then a sailor, who was captured at Trafalgar and learned to make toys while in prison. One so impressed the Regent that he offered him money and his freedom - but Cruchet demanded the release of five others with him, and was refused. Finally released in 1815, he stayed in England, where he made toy guillotines for children, before returning to France to become a maker of clever and often expensive toys.

Cruchet was not alone. The Carnavalet Museum has models of the guillotine (complete with steps and scaffolding) made by French prisoners in England. (Strangely, the museum's own site doesn't seem to show these details.

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BRISSOT: Marat and Franklin; Marat on Milton?

Those who know anything of Marat may think only of the grotesque figure, covered with sores, sitting in a bathtub, who was murdered by Charlotte Corday as he gloated over a list of new victims. In fact, before the Revolution, he was a man of aristocratic, scientific and other pretensions. In his book on "Mesmerism", Robert Darnton says he was not involved with the movement but sympathized with its distrust of the scientific establishment, a distrust he passed on to Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville:

Brissot learned this lesson at the feet of a man who epitomized the important but generally unappreciated connection between political radicalism and the frustrated ambitions of the many would-be Newtons and Voltaires of prerevolutionary Paris. (92)

In his memoirs, Brissot has a lot to say about his erstwhile friend, of which this is only a sample:

I have always been fair to Marat, and I will be still, though the persecutions which I suffer today are in part due to him. He was tireless in work, skilled in the art of performing experiments. One day I heard Franklin pay him this homage. His experiments with light had charmed him. I will not say the same of those with fire and electricity. Marat thought to have made discoveries which destroyed Franklin's system; but the latter was not duped by his charlatanism.
Mémoires de Brissot, Perroud edition, (I, (202)))

He goes on to say that Marat was determined to earn the praise of the Academy of Sciences and describes a "superbly printed" translation of Newton's "Optics" which Marat produced towards this end.

Brissot had reason to dislike Marat - he wrote his memoirs while in a Revolutionary jail awaiting his (inevitably fatal) sentence. And some of what he says about Marat is quite virulent. But some, given the circumstances, is almost comic:

At the time that I knew Marat, I was made a tempting proposition. There were then men who, having no talent, dealt in the talents of others, who built great enterprises, publishing brilliant prospectuses, taking subscribers' money and delivering nothing. One of these companies of speculators announced a new translation of Milton. I was thought knowledgeable in English, this translation was proposed to me, and I agreed to do it. I furnished two odes, and received nothing. Meanwhile, I saw well-equipped offices, account books, subscribers' receipts, etc. But all this apparatus was nothing but pure charlatanism; the project stopped there, I do not know what happened to the money.

I had also invited Marat to join with me in the translation of Milton; .... I thought to help him in sharing the product of the work I was assigned. Marat did nothing about it, at least he never showed me anything; but when I told him the sad outcome of my work while telling him to leave off his own, he acted outraged. He much regretted the loss of his time and his hopes. In sum, he did not hesitate to show his displeasure at an incident from which I alone suffered, instead of showing gratitude...

It would be interesting to know if Marat did indeed do "nothing", or if some translations of Milton lie tucked away among his papers.

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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-Antioinette - Breasts of mutton with chicory

The next of the sixteen entrées for this meal is "larded breasts of mutton with chicory".

While there are a number of recipes for breast of mutton, it is more often served in pieces (as in carbonnade) or in a soup such as hochepot (hotch-potch, probably the origin for hodge-podge). (The tendons were often used as well.) Larding a breast of mutton may have simply been too basic to merit a recipe. (But I'll keep looking....)

One thing to note is that other cuts of mutton, roast and larded, were often breaded, with salt and pepper added.

Chicory was used for a number of recipes (American cooks may want to use endive; chicory and endive are closely related, and the exact meanings of each word in France, England and America are too intertwined to decipher here - check the Larousse Gastronomique or a similar culinary source for more.) Briand's Dictionnaire des Alimens offers several preparations for chicory (I-366-367), including these two:

Another way to prepare Chicory

Chicory is eaten when it is white, either in Soup, or in Sauce. To prepare it so that it has a good taste, put it to boil in water; once cooked in water, take lard or butter and brown it with a little flour, all seasoned with fines herbes, salt and pepper with a trickle of vinegar, then serve it.

Stew of Chicory for all kinds of Entrées

Take very white chicory, when it has been peeled, blanch it in boiling water. Blanched, take it and put it in cold water, and press it well; put it on a table and give it a few blows of a knife; then put it in a pot and moisten it with a coulis of veal and of ham; les it simmer on a low fire until it has a good taste; if it is not yet bound enough, put in a little essence of ham and of coulism, and you uuse this for all sorts of Entrées with chicory.

One recipe for a dish with chicory sauce refers the reader to a recipe for chicory soup. Here then is a recipe for chicory soup from Viard's Cuisinier Imperial (21) which, conveniently enough, seems to be used as a sauce (on bread) in this case:

Soup of chicory with water

Slice five heads [?] of leafy chicory up fine; be careful to put as little of the stump as possible; brown your minced chicory with a lump of butter; when your chicory has been well browned, do not let it be scorched, moisten your chicory with water; when your chicory has boiled for three quarters of an hour, when serving your soup (in which you will have put salt, coarse pepper and a little ntmeg) bind it with three eggs, and pour it on your bread when serving it.
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fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys

JOURNAL DES SAVANTS: German Executioners

This review of a German work - Of laws concerning Executioners and Flayers - provides incomplete but interesting details about executioners, mainly in Germany. (Much to my surprise, it is also quoted in part - in French - on this site.)

The author of the book - Adrian Beier - begin with an apology confessing that two things should have kept him from proceeding: the indignity of the people he describes and the disagreeable nature of the subject, but goes on to say that having written one work on trades and another on criminal justice, this work was the logical next step (!).

Before Germany established the office of executioner, the youngest (presumably male) member of the community or of the city fathers was assigned these duties. Some specific examples: in Franconia, it was the newly married; in Reutlingen (where we last week saw the Count of Serre) it was the last councilor to take office; in Stedien, it was the last to move to the town.

Only lords with the right of "blood justice" were allowed to engage executioners (no mention is made of a custom like that in France, where a lord might have a regulated number of gallows.)

In most parts of Germany, the executioner's office was joined to that of flayer, and with that the right to strip down and take or remove dead animals in the street. Executioners were also dog-catchers, going out on fast days to capture wandering dogs and restoring them to their owners for a fee.

To the dismay of surgeons, executioners could also set broken and dislocated bones. After the former's complaints on this subject, patients were sometimes given the choice of who would treat them ("Hmmm... guy who fixes people, guy who kills people; guy who fixes people, guy who... which to choose?").

The review ends with a list of other questions:

  • Could a prince or magistrate oblige someone to take this office?
  • Was the office itself shaming?
  • Could the headsman's children go to university?

And finally, what were the punishments for:

  • carrying someone off as they rode to the scaffold?
  • throwing rocks at the executioner when he didn't succeed at the first blow?
  • suicide?
  • those who survived execution (!) ?
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Magasin Pittoresque: No 26 - 1858

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

Some major figures highlighted here - Bach, Adam Smith - and surprises like a map of the Louvre from the 19th c. and a reference to California's 'giant trees'.

79 - Egyptian wheat in the 18th c.
128 - almanach in the form of medal (image)
282 - Tour St. Jacques la Boucherie (with image)
319 - Kant's house at Konigsberg (with image)
353 - a 17th c. Dutch tea (with image)

Individuals of note
33 - painter Jean Van-Huysum
63 - children's writer Arnaud Berquin
75 - artist Duplessi-Bertaux
94 - Revolutionary orator Lally-Tollendal
111 - writer Ballanche
133 - Oberkampf and printing on cloth
142 - Tour d'Auvergne - first grenadier of the Republic
157 - public figure marquis de Vauvenargues
257 - financial minister Mollien
339 - Adam Smith
289 - scientist Geoffroy St. Hilaire
298 - Bach

Off-topic but interesting
8 - putative cup of William the Conqueror
147 - the Louvre (with maps)
225 - Michelangelo's house in Rome (image)
286 - influence of public taste on art and industry
359 - giant trees in California
395 - Tunisian proverbs ("He seeks out the son he carries on his shoulders")

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End quote

"I often have attacks of self-hatred, of sadness, of repentance, of remorse; I think myself unbearable to everyone else, and that people find me as hateful as I am. In these moments, woe to you and grandmamma, when I get it in my head to write you!"

Mme du Deffand to Horace Walpole, January 14, 1769

FROM CHEZ JIM BOOKS Three works on eighteenth century subjects:

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

copyright 2006 Jim Chevallier.
When using brief extracts from this site, please credit properly and provide a link back to this site.
(NOTE: Most translations, except where otherwise noted, are by Jim Chevallier and are copyrighted as such.)
Please do not reproduce extended pieces (recipes, translated pieces, etc.) without prior permission.


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