Sunday, 27 April 2014

Journal Journey - March 1811

March 1811

In March the BNF only holds issues 13, 15 & 17. Oddly enough, Chateaubriands voyage description of the travel to Jerusalem via Greece occupies large parts, and is published in four parts throughout the month. While very interesting in itself (especially if you compare it to the changes the region experienced in the past 200 years), it is a topic what could fill books, and I am a tad too lazy to translate it (I believe there's a contemporary translation anyway), the one bit about the fact that it's published in the Journal des Dames and the Modes:
Can you imagine today's Elle or Vogue publishing a 4-part long travel report, occupying about 1/4 to 1/3 per issue? Honestly, I can't. But still, M. LeMésangère thought this to be of interest among his readers.

Anyway, off to have some fun in March :-) April will follow shortly.

Issue No 13, March 5, 1811
Paris, ce 4 Mars, 1811


Gravure 1127

Capote de Pluche de Soie. Par-dessus Fourrée en hermine.

Capote (soft hat) of silk-plush. Overcoat lined in ermine (crickey! Poor critters, but also - what an expense!!!)


We spoke about the simplification of capotes without them loosing their size and shape, that plumes were less used now. We spoke about roses, violets, lilac, ranunculi. Today we can say, that lilac is the most often seen flower. What do you think of a bunch of pink roses on a black hat? Do you consider this as a hiccup in a milliner's taste, or do you blame the fantastic taste of the customer. Get used to it - it's fashion. Another trend what is much more surprising, are the chignon wigs. As the titus cut doesn't grow long fast enough, M Tellier, who already supplied us with wigs à l'enfant, curly wigs, presented our ladies of a more advanced aged, with the solution to have beautiful hair. At the lingères (whitework) two articles are in great favour: big camisoles (shirt, worn underneath dresses) and bonnets with long lappets. These lappets are meant to form a big cocade at the side. The decoration of the camisoles are a large pélèrine, and rised embroidery.

(What makes me now wonder - these "over-chemisettes" of dresses - if they would be called camisoles too…?)


All boxes have been taken for the opening of Mahomet II the new long announced and awaited 5-act tragedy at the Théatre-Français. Talma and the best tragic actors perform in this work, we owe to the elegant and lively author to whom we also owe Omazis or Joseph in Egypt.

(Comment: We've heard about this one coming on stage back in February, amongst other new plays coming up)

This Tivoli, what is so lively during the carnival, so pittoresque and of a crazy playfulness, this Tivoli I wanted to revisit in lent. Instead of little shepherdesses and Johns, I've encountered young men wearing smart coats and young ladies wearing canezou (similar to spencer), in short - the same we see in town, yet Tivoli wasn't deserted.


A couple of days ago, I overheard a gentleman, possibly a husband utter "Damned be mythology": We are Titans of a different kind, while we don't want to usurp the Gods of Olympus, we just aspire to rival them, we pretend to be alike them.
My wife wears a Junoesque tiara, a tunique in the style of Venus and the girdle of the Graces. Her complexion rivals Hébé, her dance Terpsichore's;
My wigmaker speaks only about Titus, Caracalla, Antinous, of Apoll.
At my clockmaker's one sees nothing but pendules (small very ornated clocks) sporting the god Mars, Minerva in her disguise as Mentor, the nine Muses, the hunting Diana etc. It goes from my architect, who had all the friezes in our apartments following Ovid's Metamorphose, down to my wife's shoemaker who makes her "Sandals à la Psyche".
But, my dear gentlemen readers - as all these items refer back to a time of legends, lets not forget that we are but poor Heres, and hope that those who re-introduce the dress and luxury of the Graces and Apoll won't forget to give us Croesus' purse to pay for all these fopperies.
(For a fashionable contemporary, the mentioning of all these antique celebrities would immediately evoke in their mind the "look" they'd expect them to sport. Diane à la chasse - Diana/Artemis hunting would flash up in front of their inner eye. They'd also know some of the legends surrounding them.

Similar as if today you'd read about "Audrey Hepburn Look" - you'd automatically picture something you've once seen. As my notes are very extensive on this subject, I'd like to invite you over to read the full post on this wee paragraph :-) )

My grandmother once told me a story. Once upon a time there was a caterer who, to attract chaps, sold his roasted chickens, turkeys, partridges and feasants at about 2 or 3 sous. But he garnished all his dishes with a special sauce, costing 12 francs; that's where the proverb "the sauce costs more than the fish" apparently comes from.

Our fashion dealers aim to imitate this caterer of my gran's story: They sell beautiful fabric for dresses at very reasonable prices; but for the trimming of a dress, one needs a ribbon border**, a garniture of blonde (silk lace), a falbalas of flowers, a belt in gold or silk, a lace chemisette ruff etc.

Dad or husband, who pay for the shopping are attracted by the low prices, but when faced with the bill for lace, silk lace, ribbons, flowers - they remember my gran's caterer, and cry under the pain of their purse: "It's a pity that the sauce costs more than the fish!"

*the author uses the word "chalan" - a wonderful oldfashioned word to describe a slightly ruffian chap
** ribbon - usually silk ribbon. Some cities became very rich by the production of silk ribbon, and still are, on the inheritance of it. (e.g. Basel: Made a fortune in the 18th century by the production of silk ribbon, and the modern chemical & pharma-industry what makes billions (Novartis, Roche etc) has it's roots in the chemical dyes in the beginning of the 19th century for the silk ribbon production.

You see - the issue of "I've got the fabric from my stash, but the decoration is ruining me" is a couple of centuries old ;-) …

Attached we also have a poëm by Mme de Staël.

(Comment: You may have come across her name because she was famous. Not for beauty, and no, not for virtue neither - that was all her friends Juliette Recamier (who was also an intellectual, yet is remembered for being beautifully draped on a recamière) - but for being highly intelligent, for being an accomplished writer and trouble maker. She run a salon for ages, and coming from a wealthy background she never had to worry about money or pleasing someone. Some may say, she better had tried, as Napoleon forced her into exile, and other contemporaries said "what a man she would have made". I honestly believe that she would have outdone Talleyrand even. This makes it even more fascinating to find a poem of hers in a journal what enjoyed N.B. patronage.)


A votre âge souvent on ignore. Sophie,
D'un lien fortuné la douceur infinie;
Mais un jour vous saurez quel tourment est le coeur
Quand un crai sentiment n'en fait pas le bonheur.
Lorsque sur cette terre on se sent délaissée,
Qu'on n'est d'aucun mortel la première pensée,
Lorsque l'on peut souffrir, sans que sur ses malheurs
Acun mortel jamais ne répande de pleurs,
On se désintéresse à la fin de soi-même;
On cesse de s'aimer si quelqu'un ne nous aime,
Et d'insipides jours, l'un sur l'autre entassés,
S'écoulent lentement, et sont vîte effacés.

Ne pensez pas non plus qu'il suffise, Sophie,
De songer au bonheur à la fin de sa vie;
Celui qu'on goûte alors du passé doit venir;
Ceux qui nous ont aimés peuvent seuls nous chérir.
C'est par le don heureux des jours de la jeunesse
Qu'on mérite l'amour jusque dans la vieillesse.
Le coeur qui fut à nous vit de ses souvenirs
Et les prend quelquefois pour de nouveau plaisirs.

Par Mme de Staël

No 14 is not preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, but the Gravure 1128 is filed with No 13

Velvet Toque, and a Redingote of Levantine (heavy (silk) twill) fabric.
Toque de Velours. Redingote de Lévantine.

Issue No 15, March 15, 1811 

Number 15 is mostly occupied by theatre reviews and a journey description to Jerusalem. While most interesting, not the main aim of this post, I concentrate on the frivolous world of fashion

GRAVURES 1129 & 1130

Toque of Satin and Crêpe, Dress of Mérino Wool 

Turban of embroidered muslin

Gravure 1131 does not belong to issue 15, but 16, what is not kept by BNF - therefore just the description (sad, as it's an intriguing one)

Velvet hat, shawl with turkish flower sprigs Chapeau de Velours,


These four days our walks encountered crowds of people. White dresses with spencers are dominating, and on nearly all capotes we see spring flowers, lilac, double violets, hyacinths, hawthorn, mountain cowslips. The bottom of the dresses sport the same as last year, falbalas à la Ninon.


ISSUE No 17, 25 March 1811
Paris, ce 24 Mars 1811

Covered by a most modest hat of grey taffeta, the dress the same, the shoes the same, our most elegant ladies appear to have renounced Satan's pomp and luxury - if they are not covered by ash in these days of penitence (it's post Carnival, so in lent…) they have at least adopted the dress of the same colour.
And there are still voices complaining that the good style of behaviour disappeared in this century.
La Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty) has woken, for a few days at least, the public taste for the Vaudeville, but we recommend to the directors of the Vaudeville not to sleep on such a passing success, once the cheering of the parquet seats cools off, because the "Belle au bois dormant" lacks spirit, jolliness or interest, but I don't know what has saved the piece from instantaneous death (it's title, perhaps?). At least in three deadly acts we can at last distinguish three couplets:

Le Chevalier, le Troubadour,
A l'honneur soumettent leurs ames;
Et ce n'est pas toujours l'Amour
Qui nous fait obliger les Dames.
Jeunes, l'on doit les protéger;
Belles, leur offrir son hommage;
Du moindre outrage les venger,
Et les respecter à tout âge.

De Renaud, imitant le sort,
Loin des camps un guerrier s'endort;
Mais qu'on répète à son oreille,
Ces mots sur sa bannière écrits;
Défends ta Dame et ton pays,
Voilà ce qui le réveille.

De s'marier Lubin fait l'effort;
Près d'sa vieille femme il s'endort;
Le lendemain, fraîche et vermeille,
A ses regards s'offre Babet;
Il ouvre de grands yeux, le benèt,
Et v'la que l'drôle se réveille.

One awaits eagerly the first act, becomes bored in the second, yawns at the third, what might explain what prevented a hail of catcalls.
I've seen two balls à la mi-carême*: the one at the Opera, very high numbers of visitors, and the one at Tivoli, very decent, and very enjoyable.
(Mi-carême: Carnival balls outside the period of carnival)

The repetitions of all the well known old or new plays have been put of by pieces fitting the current circumstances. At the Vaudeville, they give "La Nouvelle télégraphique" (the Telegraphed News), at the Théâtre des Variétés "l'Heureuse Nouvelle" (The good news), The Opéra Comique gives us "Le Berceau" (the cradle) and promises us with "La fête au village ou l'heureux militaire" (The village feast or the happy soldier). The Comédie Française is preparing a hommage of their own and all the street theatres have already paid their tribute.

The Imperial Music Academy performs without break "Le Berceau d'Achille ou le Triomphe de Mars" (Achillas cradle or Mars' triumph")

The crowds queue to see these new performances, and acclaims them highly. The birth of the King of Rome* has sparked a profound liveliness and lightness, and the Parisians celebrate with such candour, as to lengthen this happy day.


(*When Napoleon's son and heir was born on March 20, the theatres all adapted their program to reflect the happy occasion.)


Wig by Tellier (see him mentioned in issue 13). Velvet Canezou.


A pink spencer over a white dress, or an overcoat of scarlet mérinos what shows the dresses hem; a pink capote, or jonquille (narcissus-yellow) or serin (livelier yellow), or striped with lilas (light purple), or simply white, decorated with blonde lace (silk lace) - that's what the current female dress ought to look like.

Regarding the form of the spencer or canézou, nothing new: Fringes for the decoration, hugs the neck and is closed by buttons in the back. But don't think a merino spencer has only fringes for it's decoration, or that the bottom of a perkale dress (perkale = firmer cotton) or muslin you'd see anything else than cut out embroidery, filled ruffles or ruffles à la Ninon.

Two articles remain to be mentioned especially: Large veils falling down to the knees, and brodequins (small laced boots) what match the capote.

If we pass to the gentlemen's dress, we see young men sporting waistcoats made of shawls, and white-in-white striped cravates, breeches of off-white silk or nut-colour or water-green - the stockings in the same colour. The coat's colour either "Spanish tobacco" or bright green, and the hats with a flat brim and very small.

If you'd like to see what's going on elsewhere (the others are already long in April, I am behind schedule)