Contributor: Shelly Charles
Description (English): This late nineteenth-century watercolour by the caricaturist and theatrical costume designer Draner depicts the Lepeintre brothers in Monsieur Botte (1827), a comedy-vaudeville by Depeuty and Villeneuve based on Pigault-Lebrun’s fiction of the same title of 1802. It evidences the century-long popularity of a novelist now almost forgotten. Despite the critical, legal and religious censorship to which his work was subjected, it was widely disseminated during the nineteenth century through multiple reissues, translations, various imitations and theatrical adaptations. From 1796 (L’Enfant du Carnaval) to 1830 (Contes à mon petit-fils), from the Terror to the Three Glorious Days, Pigault-Lebrun’s novels follow the evolution of French society through the succession of regimes and historical events. Balzac, Stendhal, Hugo, and Flaubert remind us, each in his own way, of the place occupied in their imaginations and their aesthetics by these scandalous novels in which free thought reconnects with the tradition of comic realism to offer a fresh look at morals.
Continue reading “A watercolour illustration to Monsieur Botte.”
Contributor: Bénédicte Prot
Description (English): Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse is the presumed author of many literary works published between 1797 and 1824, including the libertine fiction Entre chien et loup, published anonymously in 1809. In 1881, the Belgian publisher Henry Kistemaeckers offers to bibliophiles a luxurious reprint, illustrated with this frontispiece by Amédée Lynen, as part of a collection of ‘erotic and literary curiosities’.
Continue reading “Choiseul-Meuse’s Entre Chien et Loup“
Contributor: Nicolas Duriau
Description (English): Marie Joséphine Antoinette Félicité de Choiseul-Meuse, a now forgotten writer from the end of the French Enlightenment, was active between 1797 and 1824. As Élisabeth Guénard, she was one of those successful female novelists who adapted their work to satisfy the imperial authorities and, from 1810, to evade censorship (Granata: 2007, 168). The author of several pornographic novels, including Julie ou j’ai sauvé ma rose (1807), Amélie de Saint-Far ou la fatale erreur (1808), and Elvire ou la femme innocente et perdue (1809), which appeared anonymously (Glessner: 1997, 132-134), also wrote pedagogical novels after 1810. These educational works, which include Les Récréations morales et amusantes, à l’usage des jeunes demoiselles qui entrent dans le monde (1810), are far different from her libertinage and remain unknown.
Continue reading “Les Récréations Morales et Amusantes“
Contributor: Christie Margrave
Description (English): In early nineteenth-century France, Eugénie Servières ‘took to painting medieval themes under the influence of romanticism’ (Handley, p.29). Although Servières is little-known, more than one of her paintings interact with the work of one of the most popular novelists of the era: Sophie Cottin. Given Servières’s taste, it is unsurprising that she was inspired by Cottin’s Mathilde ou mémoires tirés de l’histoire des croisades (1805), which is replete with examples of early French Romantic Medievalist imagery. Painted in 1820, this painting, entitled Maleck-Adhel [sic] attendant Mathilde au tombeau de Josselin de Montmorency, was the second of Servières’s paintings to be inspired by Mathilde. Here, she chooses to focus on two particular Romantic tropes: Orientalism and death. In so doing, she emphasises Cottin’s own juxtaposition of these two common features of Romantic texts and images, both representative of the ‘au-delà’, within Mathilde. Servières depicts the scene which takes place at the tomb of Montmorency, and several features of the image aid the reader to unlock the power Cottin attributes to this scene and its spatial setting.
Continue reading “Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin”
Contributor: Catriona Seth
Description (English): A novel with an intriguing title, Le Pirate de Naples. Traduit de l’anglais, came out in Paris between 23rd September and 31st December 1801: it bears the double date An X/1801. Whilst all books labelled as such were not necessarily translations, this one was. At a time when the French were avid readers of English gothic fiction, it was translated particularly swiftly: it was published the same year as the original, also in three volumes. The English book cost 13 shillings and sixpence, the translation 5 or 7.5 francs. Le Pirate de Naples underscores the importance of translators as cultural intermediaries helping to shape a shared European imaginary.
Continue reading “A Neapolitan pirate between London and Paris…”
Contributor: Simon Bainbridge
Location: The Alps
Description: The summit of Mont Blanc was first reached in 1786, when the Chamonix-based doctor Michael-Gabriel Paccard and the crystal hunter Jacques Balmat attained the highest point in Western Europe. The following year, the Genevan man of science, Horace Bénédict de Saussure, fulfilled his obsessional desire to reach the loftiest of vantage points, which for him became the most elevated of outdoor laboratories; he spent four hours on the summit conducting various experiments. De Saussure, best known for his four volume Voyages dans les Alpes (1779-1796), speedily published an abbreviated narrative of his ‘Journey to the Summit of Mont Blanc’. De Saussure’s evocation of his mountain ascent was a major contribution to the developing genre of Alpine travel writing, which became a key form in materialising and transmitting Romantic ideas and sentiments across Europe.
Continue reading “Mont Blanc”
Contributor: Hélène Cussac
Location: Collection Baronne et Baron François Duesberg, Musée François Duesberg, Mons, Belgium/Private Collection, France.
Description: Paul et Virginie, the novella by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, published in 1788 and a best-seller throughout the nineteenth century, was particularly celebrated by the decorative arts. Saint-Pierre’s pastorale, which speaks of moral values such as innocence, virtue, charity, the family and work, corresponded perfectly to the bourgeois values developed at the end of the ‘Ancien Régime’. It catered also on the one hand to a pronounced taste for the exotic, which the story offered thanks to its setting in the natural countryside of the Île de France (Mauritius) and, on the other, to contemporary interest in the concept of the ‘noble savage’ as represented by the enslaved Africans, actors in the fiction. Hence fans, plates, screens, magic lanterns, armchairs and sofas covered in toile de Jouy, and wallpapers were decorated with episodes from the novel. From the period of the Directoire, through the Empire and the Restoration, one ornamental object was particularly fashionable: the clock, decorated with characters in the story. This remarkable clock was ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 with a view to gifting it to Bernardin de Saint-Pierre himself.
Continue reading “Two French clocks depicting Paul et Virginie“
Contributor: Bill Bell
Location: National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
Description: This object is tied to Abbotsford, the home of Walter Scott, a globally famous literary tourist destination in Britain. It not only embodies the connection between literature and place, but negotiates, in quite explicit ways, some of the tensions between conceiving of literature in an age of mass consumption and recognising the intimate experience of the pilgrim reader.
This is a fairly common edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion, printed and published in Edinburgh by the firm of Adam and Charles Black in 1873, and now held in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Marmion, originally published in 1808, remained at the end of the nineteenth century, along with The Lady of the Lake and The Lay of the Last Minstrel, one of the most popular works of Walter Scott and one of the most celebrated works of English Romantic poetry. Black’s was associated with the author through the multi-volume Waverley novels that they had produced in their thousands since the mid nineteenth century. In 1871, they had produced a lavish 25 volume centenary edition of Scott’s works.
What makes this item unusual in the first instance is its covers, and in the second an inscription by its first owner.
Continue reading “A Mauchline Binding”
Contributor: Carmen Casaliggi
Location: Archives & Special Collections, University of Glasgow Library, Hillhead Street, Glasgow, United Kingdom. Part of the Bannerman Collection donated by J. P. Bannerman and G. W. MacFarlane in c. 1937.
Description: Writing to David Hume from Toulouse in September 1765, Adam Smith forcefully tried to dissuade him from settling in Paris. Written in Smith’s hand, this letter opens with the amicable salutation “My Dear friend”, unusually intimate at this date between a younger man and an older one, and ends on page four with no subscription (final greetings) and no superscription (address). The signature on the verso has been cut out, probably by an autograph-hunter with the result that several lines are missing. However, as the sender’s name “Adam Smith”, written in Smith’s own hand, remains intact on the same page (upside down), I would suggest that the decimated part could instead pertain to the “hold their tongues” section on page three, where there were possibly allusions to politically sensitive names and material. This letter expresses a proto-Romantic nationalism and regionalism asserted in the face of transnational cosmopolitanism generated by émigré experiences and European encounters. It also epitomises the medium of exchange that extended salon culture transnationally.
Continue reading “Holograph Letter from Adam Smith to David Hume”
Contributor: David Taylor
Location: The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Description: At a glance, this looks like a standard early nineteenth-century playbill. But it’s not. In fact, it’s a nationalistic broadside published during the invasion scare of the summer of 1803 – when it was widely feared that Napoleon was readying a fleet to cross the English Channel – and it closely mimics the typographic format and language of the playbill to make its point. The work of arch-loyalist James Asperne – who ran a bookshop in Cornhill, London, with the strikingly unsubtle name of The Bible, Crown, and Constitution – this mock-playbill informs the public of a new pantomime “In rehearsal” at the “Theatre Royal of the United Kingdom” – that is, a drama to be staged in and by the nation itself. “Some dark foggy night about November next,” the playbill exclaims, “will be ATTEMPTED, by a Strolling Company of French Vagrants, an old Pantomimic Farce, called Harlequin’s Invasion or The Disappointed Banditti”.
Continue reading “Harlequin’s Invasion, 1803”