SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 52 - October 14, 2006

SEARCH TOOLS: Clusty, née Vivisimo inter text ON-LINE COLLECTIONS: Italian music collections inter text EXHIBITS: The Silver Machine (and a lecture)

law scales THE OLD REGIME POLICE BLOTTER: Sodomy - lesbians

inter cooking 18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for 10-12 guests - pigeon tart

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
ON-LINE COLLECTIONS: Patrimoine Numérique inter text Magasin Pittoresque: No 5 - 1837


SEARCH TOOLS: Clusty, née Vivisimo

Vivisimo's clustering search tool - a flagship for more corporate products - is my own first choice for searches. Now the company has changed the primary link to their site to focus more on their corporate business. The search tool was already largely duplicated by "Clusty", which is now their main search site:

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ON-LINE COLLECTIONS: Italian music collections

This Italian site lists a number of Italian sites that may have music (much of it 18th century) on-line: - Institutes with digital collections available online (music). However, one person who dug into collections she knows well was unable to find any actual pieces. It may be that the different collections will evolve over time.

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EXHIBITS: The Silver Machine (and a lecture)

The name of this glorious centerpiece for a table is misleading to a modern reader, since it was, if anything, less functional than other "surtouts" (which often had compartments for salt, etc.). The Getty's note says that the term then meant "an invention of artistic genius or spirit":

The Machine d'Argent is a masterpiece of French 18th-century silver made by one of France's foremost goldsmiths, François-Thomas Germain. In 1748 Germain had succeeded his renowned father, Thomas Germain, as sculptor and goldsmith to King Louis XV. François-Thomas took over his father's workshop in the Louvre Palace in Paris, complete with his designs and models, many of which were taken from casts of real vegetables and dead creatures. The assemblage of casts in the Machine d'Argent demonstrates an exceptional originality of concept while striking a perfectly balanced Rococo composition.

The Getty has surrounded it with related pieces which compete heartily for attention. This, according to one note, is supposed to show the ingredients for an oille (which, conveniently enough, was described here recently); another shows that for a meatless (fast) version.

In conjunction with this show, the Getty presented a talk last Sunday on "The Art of the Chase: Hunting and Dining in 18th Century Europe" by Tracey Albainy, senior curator of decorative arts and sculpture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Among the things to be learned from this lively and to the point talk were the following:

  • The Duke of Mecklenburg, who commissioned the piece, was a tad cheap, which is why the piece is a modest (if satisfying) size.
  • The rabbit on the piece was handed down to Germain by his father and appears in several pieces
  • Women often rode in the hunt, a practice which began in this period and developed into the upper class activity known (if not always loved) in subsequent centuries
  • A hunting lunch was served during the more casual outings and was correspondingly informal (which was not something to take for granted for members of the court.)

An image of the latter struck me for a very simple reason: as Albainy pointed out (and I had at first missed), it shows aristocrats (the men, that is) relaxing together without their wigs (which were replaced with little white - lace? - caps); a rare depiction, I think, of such relaxed social behavior. Another image - of a standard table service (much like the one currently being examined here under '18TH CENTURY RECIPE') with the dishes laid out symmetrically in the center of the table and servants in yellow-gold livery - was so lovely and striking that the person behind me actually gasped (I barely restrained the same impulse). Finally, among the others, were two charming figures in Meissen porcelain (a subject my late mother wrote up for her antiques column - I really must get that on-line.)

UPDATE [2/25/08]: - During her talk, Tracey Albainy gave no sign, physically or otherwise, of being in less than perfect health. Quite bravely, as it turns out, since she was clearly very sick at the time:

December 20, 2007...
Very sad news out of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Tracey Albainy, a senior curator of decorative arts and sculpture, died on Tuesday in her native Cleveland after a battle with lung cancer. Albainy, 45, started at the MFA in 2000. She was most recently coordinating curator of “Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style, 1800-1815,” which remains open through January 27.
Visit these links for more on a talented scholar, gone too soon: and

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"The crime of women who corrupt each other, is regarded as a type of sodomy." (Jousse, Traité de la Justice Criminelle (IV, 122)) The penalties were in theory as severe, though very much (as it was in reality for both genders) a function of circumstances.

First, a note on terminology: in Old Regime France, a lesbian was a person from Lesbos (and so there was no contradiction in speaking of a lesbian man); the term "Sapphic" referred to a poetic meter; when a specific term was used (which was not always the case) for women who preferred women, it was most often "tribad".

The chronicles of the time were not shy about referring to known "tribads":

July 11, 1774. The vice of the Tribads is becoming very much in fashion among our misses of the opera: they make no mystery of it at all & and treat this peccadillo as a friendly gesture. Miss Arnoux, though having tried her talents in another genre, since she has several children, reversed course, indulges in this pleasure; she had another girl named Virginie, whom she used in this way. The latter changed her status and passed to mademoiselle de Raucourt of the Comedie Francaise, who has a strong taste for her sex & renounced the marquis de Bievre, to indulge it more at her ease. Most recently at the Palais-Royal, at night, sir Ventes, having tweaked miss Virginie on her rupture with miss Arnoux, who is called Sophie in these orgies, the latter, witness to these remarks, gave the cavalier an expert slap, which he was obliged to laugh at, asking the kind tribad to excuse him.
Bachaumont (Tome 7, 178?)

This is only one of many references in Bachaumont, who most often mentions Mlle. de Raucourt (Raucoux is an alternate spelling), both in regard to this subject and that of her very admired art:

September 11, 1779. Mlle. Raucoux's return has been decided. One may recall that the actors did everything they could to oppose her return, & have even evade the protection of the queen, to whom they stated that the poor conduct & the libertinage of this actress repelled the decency of their body. All these obstacles were lifted by order of the king.

Mlle. Raucoux came to mademoiselle Arnoux's, where she is lodging. She begins today with the role of Didon. The whole sect of Tribads is mobilized to ensure her triumph, & the uproar is no less than at her debut.
Bachaumont (Tome 14, 176)
(More can be found on Françoise Raucourt (1756-1815) at

It can be safely assumed that if journalists knew of these women, so did the ubiquitous Paris police. But the word is absent from the same sources - such as the archives of the Bastille and d'Argenson's reports - that mention a numerous of male sodomites. So much the better for the women in question, but it makes for a thin historical record; in this case, one assertion in a marital case and another much longer account of a woman who did her best to stand her ground as the police pushed implacably into her private life.


Before there were messy divorces, there were messy separations...

It is not clear here if the simple term "tribad" (so often used by Bachaumont himself) was considered indecent or if this clearly provocative lawyer found it useful to enter into excessively explicit detail. Nor, absent other information, can one assume that the challenged court filing was accurate ("indecent" or not).

The initial phrasing is confusing, since it seems clear that Maitre Prevost was acting on the husband's behalf. Does it indicate that he wrote a memoir without officially being the man's counsel?

August 2 [year?]. Me. Prevost de Saint-Lucien is a former lawyer much esteemed by his colleagues, but who is said to be difficult, because he is very hot-headed, very passionate; he willingly identifies with his client, & becomes impassioned for his case; which the [concerned] parties regard to the contrary as a rare and excellent quality. This zeal has already led him into several affairs, & here he is now quite recently in the situation of being denounced to his order.

In a memoir that he wrote, because he pleaded not at all in favor of M. du Villiers, former musketeer, son-in-law of sir Bourdes, the king's dentist, against the wife, who asks for a separation because of abuse and ill treatment; he has not hidden the fact that this lady was a tribad, & he explained himself without mystery; which Saturday led to a hearing by the judges of the great chamber, delivering a judgement which allowed the lady of Villiers to enter evidence, to suppress the paragraph of the memoir in which there is question of tribadery, as contrary to good morals & public decency. These qualifiers would force the lawyers to expel Me. Prevost de Saint-Lucien from the bar. As a result he is busily trying to obtain from the judges that this article of judgement not be maintained.
Bachaumont (Tome 26, 127-128)


A reader who only knew Madame de Murat from d'Argenson's account might think that her "abominable" involvement with women was the most significant fact of her life. There is not a hint of the writer of children's stories of whom the Biographie Universelle says:

The novels of the countess of Murat placed her in the first ranks of this sort of literature.. They are notable for purity of taste, wisdom of ideas, the decency of the scenes, and by a touch of philosophy which characterized the century in which she wrote them. Her verse, of which there is little, is distinguished by its facility, and she could have made a name for herself among the erotic poets.
(XXIX, 566-567) (Compare this description of her work with d'Argenson's rather different descriptions of the woman herself.)

According to this article, Henriette-Julie de Castelnau, countess of Murat, was born in Brest in 1670 of distinguished ancestry. She left Brest at 16 to marry (a bit later) Nicolas, the count of Murat, from a very old family.

Born with much imagination and vivacity, but with an ardent and opinionated character and with too great a leaning towards pleasure, madame de Murat fell sometimes into lapses to which her birth only served to draw greater attention. Suspected of having cooperated in a pamphlet which insulted the whole court of Louis XIV, she was exiled to Loches, by this monarch, at the request of madame de Maintenon.

The article then lists a long list of works she wrote during her confinement (until her release in 1715 [3?] by the Regent, at the request of his mistress).

The two children mentioned by d'Argenson either died or were overlooked by this biographer. "She died... September 24, 1716, leaving no children." Her pregnancy during this same period may indicate that she was, in practice, bisexual, though d'Argenson seems to regard it as one more manipulation.

Though her case does not seem to be widely known, it has been the object of some study. David Michael Robinson's article on "The Abominable Madame de Murat" can be found in Homosexuality in French History and Culture (Jeffrey Merrick and Michael Sibalis, ISBN: 1560232625, Haworth Pr Inc 2001). A French scholar says:

Madame de Murat is, on the model of Charles Perrault, the author of several tales. Married around 15 or 16, she made a name for herself with a political pamphlet against Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon, which earned her exile, then (in 1702) by "dissolute" conduct, a love of pleasure to the point of scandalizing her contemporaries, she is one of the important storytellers of the Grand Siècle. Her tales mix court life with the marvelous.
Séminaire du 1er avril 2004 par Séverine Auffret-Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen - "Liberté des libertines ?"

And says Marie-Jo Bonnet:

Under Louis XIV, there is Madame de Murat, who wrote fairy tales, and who was imprisoned by the king for ten years because at the same time, she loved women, dilapidated the family patrimony, gambled and had dissolute morals.
Interview with Marie-Jo Bonnet, author of Les relations amoureuses entre les femmes du XVIe au XXe siècle, éditions Odile Jacob, collection « Opus ».

But as important for the connection-conscious authorities of the time was her relation to the wife of the Marshal of Boufflers (which is why the latter is kept informed at one point in these reports).

DISORDERS OF MADAME DE MURAT. - September 29, 1698 - I have had madame de Murat warned, as it has pleased you to order me, but, while showing some disposition to change her play, by respect for the King's orders, she seemed resolved to maintain the gatherings at her place, almost every night, with much dissolution and scandal. I hope that a little reflection will make her more circumspect and more submissive; I have taken measure to be informed on this, and I will have the honor to recount to you the result.

December 6, 1699. - I have the honor of sending you the memoir which it has pleased you to ask of me, concerning madame de Murat; it is not easy to express in detail all the dissolution of her conduct, without offense to decency, and the public is pained to see a woman of this birth in so shameful and also frank dissolution.

April 20, 1700. - I have made the intentions of the King known to madame de Murat, and I have used, in this notification, all the care which might ease its bitterness: she has promised to conform to it and has even given me her submission in writing; I have even understood, by her talk, that he plan was to retire to a distant region, at the home of one of her friends, and to completely forget Paris; but she declares that, owing rent to her host and having only for a long time lived off loans, it would be very hard for her to leave without paying anyone, to abandon her son, seven years old, and to not be able to bring him with her, nor confide him to a tutor with board, lacking money to satisfy the one or the other of her expenses: she adds that, not having the least resource on her side, and the fortune of her husband being under seizure, it is absolutely impossible for her to pay the costs of the carriage which would take her to the place of her exile, and that this impossibility (reason superior to all others) is the only one that has led her to defer her departure, and that she dares offer as an excuse for her delay.

I can answer for her interior resolutions, but if her speech was as sincere as her indigence is true, one can count on her repentance and trust in her promises. because she certainly lacks everything, and even the most necessary clothes, most of the furniture at her home belonging to tapestry-makers who would like to have them in their shops and are losing their rent. The wages of the few valets who remain to her are entirely unpaid, and, for a very long time, she has only lived from loans and the little money the cards have earned her.

Under these circumstances, dare I propose to you to move the King's liberality in favor of a person who has not deserved it by her conduct, but whose present misfortune is not without being worthy of compassion. It seems too that her birth, though a little marred by the conduct of her life, deserves some consideration. and that the King, whose kindness is well above the ordinary, can accord her some help at the same time that he makes her feel the just effects of his indignation.

[December 1701] - I would add, regarding Mme de Murat who is mentioned in this memoir that she has returned to Paris after an absence of eight days, and that she has reconciled with madame de Nantiat, and the horrors and the abominations of their reciprocal friendship cause a righteous horror to all their neighbors.
[PONTCHARTRAIN'S NOTE: Alert the marshal of Boufflers. Arrest madame de Nantiat.]

You have done me the honor of telling me that the intention of the King was that the first be taken to prison, if she resolved to disobey, but I beg you to carefully choose her prison, and to find it proper that I point out to you that this woman, unworthy of her name and of her birth, belongs to people of the first rank, and that she is five months pregnant. I believe than that it would be more just and more appropriate to discuss with her closest realtives the place of her retreat, to have her taken there with some care, and to be that much more circumspect in that all her actions make it plain that she would not be unhappy if her labors were precipitated...

December 4, 1701. - I take the liberty of sending you a letter which I have received, this morning, concerning the abominable conduct of mesdames de Murat and de Nantiat, which present, each day, new scenes to the public: the writing of this letter appears constrained, and one can easily suspect that the reconciliation between these two women has excited feeling of jealousy or vengeance in the heart of a third, who previously reigned over that of madame de Murat; but the blasphemies, the obscenities and the drunkenness for which they are reproached is nonetheless real. Thus, I hope that the King would be willing to use his authority to drive them from Paris or even lock them up, if nothing else can be done.
[PONTCHARTRAIN'S NOTE: To order for the one.]

[February 1702?] - Madame de Nantiat has finally left for her own region: thus, I am returning to you the letter de cachet which authorized me to have her taken in the house of the stables of H.R.H. madame the duchess of Orleans, where she was retired.

Madame de Murat continues to distinguish herself by her outbursts and by the dissolution of her morals. She knows that the King is kept aware of this; but she is counting on no religious community will be found bold enough to receive her. I do not, in effect, think there are any, and I could not have a good opinion of those who would be willing to run the risk: thus, what other measures can be taken, regarding a woman of this character, than locking her up in a distant castle, where a hundred crowns will be sufficient for her keep and for that of the oldest servant to be found?
[PONTCHARTRAIN'S NOTE: A. M. de Boufflers]

As she fears that the horror of her life will bring her this order, she claims to be pregnant and adds that her husband not complaining of her conduct, the public is wrong not to approve it: but this poor husband only keeps quiet to not expose himself to the furies of a wife who has thought to kill him two or three times, and the least sober people bear only with pain the abomination of which this woman makes a kind of triumph.
[PONTCHARTRAIN'S NOTE: A. M. de Boufflers.]

April 30, 1702. - I have learned that madame de Murat writes, from the chateau of Loches, not only to her family, but to persons who were the most implicated in her disorderly conduct. It seems then that there would not be less propriety than justice in depriving her of this general liberty, most of her letters onlybeing likely to maintain her lapses and to perpetuate her dishonor. It would be good, too, that while waiting to extract from the debris of her fortune some stipend for upkeep, the commandant has been ordered to feed her in the most frugal way. I am willing to believe that he does not allow her to receive any visitors. But it would not hurt if you were willing to write him further, in order that he not interpret you silence favorably and give way to the importunity of this woman who, equally adroit and capricious, will omit nothing to bring him around to her ends.
d'Argenson, "Rapports" (3, 10, 17-18, 88-89, 94, 97-98)
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From CHEZ JIM Books:
and a history of the CROISSANT:

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18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for 10-12 guests - pigeon tart

Here is a recipe for the third of the six entrées for the first service of this model meal:

Pigeon tart

Line your tart dish with large greenery with a little godiveau in the base. Take small pigeons, scald & truss them the feet inside. Then put them in a pot with grated lard, very white mushrooms, garnishings, like cooked and blanched coxcombs, blanched sweetbreads of veal or lamb & other things. Strain it all a minute, & season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, a bouquet [of herbs]. When this is cold, garnish your tart, cover as normal, finish, gild, & cook properly; then skim and pour in white veal stock.
Les Dons de Comus (III, 84)
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fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys

ON-LINE COLLECTIONS: Patrimoine Numérique

This site lists several digitisation projects: Patrimoine Numérique - Catalogue des collections numérisées

Unfortunately, though it identifies specific sites, it does not link to them and some can be hard to find. Here is one with some rich material:

Bienvenue dans la bibliothèque numérique de la Bibliothèque municipale d’Orléans !

Explorez l’Orléanais à travers plans, cartes, gravures et cartes postales ; recherchez les généalogies de familles orléanaises ; voyagez à Orléans au XVIIIe et au XIXe siècles grâce aux almanachs ; découvrez les multiples facettes de la vie à Paris à travers la plume du lieutenant de police Lenoir… Imprimés et manuscrits

Généalogies orléanaises du chanoine Hubert (17ème siècle)
Manuscrits du lieutenant de police Lenoir (1732-1785)
Almanachs orléanais (18ème-19ème siècles)


Cartes et plans
Cartes postales
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Magasin Pittoresque: No - 18

REMINDER: The Magasin Pittoresque was a nineteenth century French magazine. Issues can be found on Gallica. Also, most articles are accompanied by at least one image, and so some may interest even those who do not read French.

Their tutor called them the four F's: le Fin (the Duke of Burgundy), le Faible (Louis XVI), le Faux (Louis XVIII), le Franc (Charles X) (Fine, Feeble, False, Frank). - Lana's balloon was a little like Da Vinci's wings (right idea, not QUITE there...) - 18 poets worked on it; the result was admired but not great - "The story of Gaspard Hauser.... has been told several times, but in fragments..." - The history of nations is better told "by the administration of ministers than by the reign of kings." - Mehemed-Ali defeated the Mamelucks by a bold act of betrayal - Even a cut-purse had to show his masterpiece - Montaigne: "Get a prescription for a purge for your stomach, it will be better prescribed than one for your stomach." - "Finally he unties the prisoner, rips it page by page..." - Bruneau noted harsh sentences on blank pages in an almanac - Louis the XIV placed an enemy's portrait among those of his own generals - The Huns weren't great cooks, but they had some handy slaves - Charles I's guards made him breathe TOBACCO SMOKE! (Those monsters....) - "If I could refuse anything to so beautiful a person, I would do more than Nature, which has refused her nothing." - "People wondered that a man deprived of light could execute such complicated works" - Pasck wrote his memoirs between wars - "The press is the word writ large" - "I only have one pen stroke... but it is mine, and perhaps it will have as much of an effect as another better trained." - "If my tears flowed in proportion to my sorrows, no human foot could touch dry land." - "He published, sometimes in one country, sometimes in another, strange books." - The first owner of Versailles was strangled for his land - "The cannon will decide, and English pride might well give way to French valor." - 'I am not worth buying, but such as I am, the king of Great Britain himself is not rich enough to do it." - In 1683, the Swiss didn't yet seem to have a reputation for being neat and clean - "The bell ringer of the departed / ringing from street to street / Chills hearts with terror / although the body sweats" - The Joyous Event was, believe it or not, a tax - Luckily, cats know how to land - Math made a worker a celebrity in London - Descartes was a warrior, among other things - A Sunday school was all that the first such students had - In 1783, wheat found a new home - From the Levites to the Bulletin Officiel - Louis XIV made up for revealing Raisin's secret - Vella kept "discovering" rare books - the sculptor married a woman who painted fruits and flowers; both were Academicians - Hairdos fell with the Bastille - In 1756, everybody wanted a pantin in their pocket

8 - Lana's balloon, 1670
15 - Julie's garland, 1641
27 - A cut-purse's induction
42 - How a forbidden book was burned
66 - Bruneau: caricature and pamphlets against Louis XIV
87 - phrases in the Precieuse style
110 - chronology of liberty of the press
153 - Hogarth - a gambling house
177 - The Historical Museum of Versailles (with description and map of rooms)
202 - A Swiss inn in 1683
206 - The bell ringer of the departed
225 - Hogarth: a ridiculous contradance
227 - Some Old Regime fiscal terms
235 - Making a cat fly, 1641
265 - history of the Paris wheat market
297 - Hogarth: buying votes
306 - Different ways to promulgate laws
401 - 18th century hairdos
403 - pantins (cardboard puppets)

7 - The four F's
17 - Louis IV and Colbert
26 - Mehemed-Ali, Viceroy of Egypt
73 - Dutch Admiral Ruiter
82 - The trial of Charles I
94 - William Kennedy, the blind man of Armagh
98 - Memoirs of the Polish knight Pasck
132 - Mme de Sevigne
170 - writer Jean-Paul-Frederick Richter
193 - naval commander Du Quesne
199 - General Reed's response to the English
238 - numerical prodigy Jedediah Buxton
244 - Some Old Regime fiscal terms
260 - Robert Raikes, founder of Sunday schools
310 - Raisin's clavichord
337 - Monreale and the Abbe Vella
359 - sculptor Francois Girardon

15 - Gaspard Hauser
28 - Montaigne's tomb
74 - dinner at Attila's
163 - Jewish commentators

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End quote

"There are in man's nature two opposing principles: self-love which recalls us to ourselves, and kindness which we spread about. If either of these springs were broken, we would be either wicked to the point of fury, or generous to the point of madness."

Diderot, quoted in the Magasin Pittoresque (No 5, 208)

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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