SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 1 - October 15, 2005

TECH TALK: Free Word/Office Clone; Opera inter text NOBILITY: Lethal carriages and Dickens inter text IMAGES ON-LINE: Portraits from Neuchatel

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
MEDICAL HISTORY: The French "ER", c. 1701 inter text VOLTAIRE: Corneille and Voltaire; Potsdamy inter text SITES: From the Revolution to Napoleon inter text GALLICA: Dictionaries

TECH TALK: Free Word/Office Clone; Opera

Our more tech-savvy members undoubtedly know about already. But it's precisely the others who might find this useful.

Do you use Word and the rest of Office at work or at school, but can't quite afford it for home? Rather unbelievably, you can now get something very much like it for free, thanks to the wonders of Open Source. The product is called OpenOffice, available at For their own overview of their features, see:

Basically it offers a Word-compatible (and very Word-like) word processor, a spreadsheet, a database, a presentation tool and a drawing/charting tool. For most people, I suspect the first will be the most important. I'm a pretty advanced Word user and have found very few things that didn't work pretty intuitively for someone used to Word (footnotes don't click back to the reference, restarting page numbers is tricky and doesn't export well to Word, etc.). But for someone who wants to do school papers, etc. it should be just fine. Plus, it not only saves to Word formats, but exports very smoothly to PDF!

The spreadsheet looks solid enough, but I don't use those much, so a power user who does might have more to say. Impress brings in Powerpoint slides very smoothly and is more than most non-business users will need (and probably enough for many business users). Draw is a bit light for someone used to Visio, but certainly if you want to do flow charts and organizational charts, it's got what you need. The database tool is enough for building a full application, though I can't say how well it integrates with Access, should you need to export.


You may already have heard of Firefox, an alternative to IE that many people use to reduce the risk of viruses, worms, etc. I used that for quite a while, liked it, though I was dismayed to find it dials out to the Internet quite a bit (probably for legit reasons, but it's disconcerting). Now I'm using the most recent (ad-free) version of Opera's browser and overall finding it very smooth:

Worth a look, if IE makes you nervous.

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NOBILITY: Lethal Carriages and Dickens

I've been very frustrated by the recent query about "the French nobleman whose carriage killed a child, and who then made amends to its mother by offering to help her get another one", since I dimly recall reading the same tale and can't find it either.

The closest thing I've found so far concerns the sons of Mme de Brionne, a sometime friend of Marie Antoinette's. In 1780 the Prince Lambesc and his brother drove over pedestrians on the Rue St. Antoine. Mme. de Brionne (their mother) tried to at least make amends to an injured priest by offering him 200 livres in income and by asking her children to apologize to the priest (which they didn't) (described on p. 183 of Marie Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen, edited by Deena Goodman). Bachaumont (vol 15, April 2, (107-109)) also tells the tale, mainly re the curé (whom the population taxed with being over-forgiving).

Otherwise, one would think that a good gloss of Tale of Two Cities would reference this, but even Stanford's excellent site on the novel only quotes Mercier:

"At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt"
The hazardous driving of Monsieur the Marquis' carriage is, according to a chapter in Mercier's Tableau de Paris (1781-8), historically accurate. In an anecdote called 'Gare! Gare!' ('Watch out! Watch out!'), Mercier describes the perils of the Parisian roads in this period and the indifference of the wealthy to the consequences of their haste: Watch out! Watch out for carriages! [writes Mercier]'. I have been knocked over three times on to the street at different periods, and in each case I was almost broken on the wheel. I therefore can claim a little bit of moral authority when I condemn the barbarous luxury of carriages.
No one's put the brake on, despite the daily complaints. The menacing wheels which proudly hold up the rich fly no less rapidly over a pavement stained with the blood of unfortunate victims who expire in frightful tortures, awaiting the reform which will not come, because all those who participate in the administration maintain state-coaches, and consequently disdain the complaints of the infantry.
The lack of sidewalks makes almost all the streets perilous: when a man who has a little credit gets sick, they spread dung in front of his door, to muffle the sound of state-coaches; and it is then above all that one must be on guard'¦. When a coach has ground you up alive, they ask at the police superintendent's office if it is the big wheel or the little wheel that did it; the coachman says the little; and if you expire beneath the big wheel, there are scarcely any pecuniary damages paid to your heirs. There is a fine for the arms, the legs, the thighs; and it is a price set ahead of time. (qtd. in and translated by Maxwell, 410-11)"

This is from the Discovering Dickens site:

Discovering DIckens: a Tale of Two Cities -

The same site includes notes on the Chevalier de la Barre (whose tale is told in the SECOND paragraph of that novel - somewhat overshadowed by the first):

Very curiously, these notes repeat some of the most distorted versions of that tale, yet add extremely precise details rarely found elsewhere.

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IMAGES ON-LINE: Portraits from Neuchatel

Though this site, from the University of Neuchatel, is in French, the links are alphabetized and pretty straightforward. It includes numerous portraits from that city and well beyond:

Portraits neuchâtelois, suisses et étrangers -

I had trouble getting the images to come up in IE, but they worked find in Opera.

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fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys

MEDICAL HISTORY: The French "ER", c. 1701

This thesis, in French, on the history of emergency treatment in Paris, includes material from our period, going back (despite its title) to at least 1701:

"Histoire des Urgences a Paris de 1770 a Nos Jours" -

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VOLTAIRE: Corneille and Voltaire; Potsdamy

Last year we discussed Corneille's connections with both Voltaire and Charlotte Corday. For those who want to know more about Voltaire's support of a descendant of Corneille's, it turns out that the second volume of this work begins with a long account of that involvement: Louis Nicolardot - Ménage et finances de Voltaire. The author, I should note, appears to be one of several 19th century authors who were less than impressed by Voltaire et al. Also, in another book on salons - Les cours et les salons au dix-huitième siècle - he spends several pages enumerating all the incests and other moral turpitudes of our era. It was there that I first learned that Freddy the Great's... tolerance... of homosexuality led to the coining of the word "Potsdamy".

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SITES: From the Revolution to Napoleon

This site seems remarkably thorough and well-organized:

and self-describes itself so:

Ce site n'est pas un site de propagande napoléonienne. Il ne cultive pas la nostalgie d'une époque à travers la vision idéalisée des historiens et des artistes nationalistes qui ont bâti la légende... Il tente, au contraire, de se rapprocher de la vérité de cette époque par le retour systématique aux documents originaux, et le décodage des images et interprétations léguées par des générations successives d'historiens et d'artistes. Il privilégie aussi une lecture de l'histoire selon des critères de défense des valeurs démocratiques.
The map of the site should prove useful:

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GALLICA: Dictionaries

Users of Gallica may have noted that Gallica has a separate link to its dictionaries. But in fact this link is trompeuse - the site has FAR more dictionaries than listed there. A better way to see them all is to enter "DICT*" in the first search field. This brings up a few 'false positives', but mainly 12-14 pages of dictionaries (in some cases, volumes of the same work).

For lovers of the insolite, the variety to be found scrolling through these is exhilarating the usual dictionaries of argot, biography, history, architecture, arts, administration, regions, medicine, sciences, religion, languages, names, nobility, commerce, finance, languages (obscure and familiar), and literature but also of atheists:

Dictionnaire des athées, anciens et modernes... (Sylvain Maréchal)

of furniture:

Dictionnaire raisonné du mobilier français de l'époque carlovingienne à la Renaissance

of crimes of the Revolution:

Histoire générale et impartiale des erreurs, des fautes et des crimes commis pendant la Révolution française. Tome II, Dictionnaire (L. P.)

of failed businesses:

Dictionnaire... des faillites, séparations de biens, nominations de conseils judiciaires... : prononcées par les tribunaux de Paris, depuis le 24 février 1848... (H.-F. Mascret)

of erotic terms:

Dictionnaire érotique moderne (par un professeur de langue verte [Alfred Delvau])

And there is of course a dictionary of dictionaries:

Dictionnaire des dictionnaires. Lettres, sciences, arts, encyclopédie universelle.

One of my favorites is:

Dictionnaire critique des reliques et des images miraculeuses ; précédé d'un Essai historique sur le culte des images et des reliques, sur les troubles élevés par les Iconoclastes, etc. (J.-A.-S. Collin de Plancy)

Though one might think such an exhaustive catalogue of relics and saints would be compiled by a devote Catholic, in fact Collin de Plancy is best known as a demonologist and a more typical work would be:

Dictionnaire des sciences occultes... ou Répertoire universel des êtres, des personnages, des livres... qui tiennent aux apparitions, aux divinations à la magie... ([Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy])

In listing saints, he typically says, without comment, this sort of thing: "Left four bodies: one at Ajaccio, one at Sens, one at..:" His scholarship seems thorough enough - when he discusses excrement as a relic, he begins by talking of Tibet and Lamas.

This is hardly the kind of book one reads through, but it might be worth perusing the indexes - organized by Mineral, by Animal, by Vegetal, by Maladies, by Other, etc. - and delving in from there.

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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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