French Victorian Feminist Hubertine Auclert

French Victorian Feminist Hubertine Auclert
A Young Hubertine Auclert, Courtesy of Wikipedia

French Victorian feminist Hubertine Auclert was born to a middle-class family on 10 April 1848. At age 13, when her father died, she was sent to a Roman Catholic convent. She initially intended to become a nun, but she left the convent permanently after being rejected because of her vivacious personality. She then went to Paris, and shortly thereafter, Napoleon III was ousted and the Third Republic established. These changes encouraged activism by women, and women began to demand changes and greater rights. Inspired by others, Auclert then became involved in securing rights for women and because of her time spent in the convent, she became a militant anti-cleric. Continue reading

The French Tightrope Walker, Charles Blondin, a Daredevil

Charles Blondin Carrying His Manager, Harry Colcord, on His Back As He Crossed the Tightrope, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The French tightrope walker, Charles Blondin, as he was called, was born at St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais, France on 28 February 1824 under the name of Jean-François Gravelet. When Blondin was about four, a traveling company of equestrian and acrobatic performers came to town. It “produced a powerful and abiding effect upon his infantile mind,” and Blondin fell in love with the idea of acrobatics and tightrope walking. It also encouraged him to attempt to duplicate these acrobatic and gymnastic feats, and before long, he succeeded.

Because Blondin proved to have uncommon agility and a strong desire to perform as an acrobat, at the age of five, his parents placed him in the École de Gymnase at Lyon. Blondin’s first instructor was a man named Blondin and it was from this elder Blondin that he took the name Blondin. The elder Blondin was a man who used kindness to get the best out of the young Blondin, and the young Blondin quickly became recognized as a prodigy. In fact, it was noted that whatever feat he desired to achieve, “he … practised with unflagging pertinacity until he achieved complete success.” Continue reading

Rue de la Harpe Murders, Cannibalism, and Folktales

Rue de la Harpe murders, Cannibalism, and Folktales
Rue la de Harpe Today, Courtesy of Wikipedia

This folktale is about the Rue de la Harpe murders and begins in 1800 when two rich business men decided to travel to Paris together. They went to the Rue de la Harpe, an ancient street in the Fauxbourg of St. Marcell. One of the men was accompanied by his faithful companion, a dog. Before visiting the more fashionable streets of Paris and upon their arrival at the Rue de la Harpe, the two friends went to the shop of a barber to be shaved.

The barber’s name was Becque. The first business man (whom I shall call Henry for clarity’s sake) was shaved and then Henry told his friend that he needed to complete a small errand. Henry promised to return before the second man finished his shave, but when Henry returned, to his great surprise, he discovered his friend had left and that his friend’s dog was waiting for him outside the barber’s door. Continue reading

Fortune-Telling and the Meaning of Food in Dreams in the 1800s

Meaning of food in dreams in the 1800s
Courtesy of www.mycutegraphics.com

One popular way to determine a person’s fortune in the 1800s was through dreams. Dreams supposedly could foretell what would happen to a person and whether the person would have good or bad luck. For instance, if a person had a dream about barking dogs it was considered a sign of misfortune whereas a dream about playing cards signified good luck in the future. People also had dreams about food, which could indicate good or back luck, as indicated below:

ALMONDS – Dreaming about these nuts signified embarrassment, although it was also said that embarrassment could be avoided with care. Moreover, to eat them in a dream foretold good fortune.
APPLES – It was stated that “if you take them from the tree, it signifies that you will be persecuted. If they are ripe and ruddy, and you eat them, it will bring much happiness. If they are sour, you will shortly quarrel with someone.”
APRICOTS – To see them in a dream meant that person would be disappointed in whatever if was he or she hoped for, but to eat them meant good fortune. That is, unless it was the time of year when almonds were out of season, then it denoted great misfortune and if they were dry, it was thought they would bring sorrow.
ARTICHOKES – To see artichokes in a dream meant secret trouble whereas eating them in a dream meant you should expect trouble. Continue reading

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools: The Secret Companion
“The Secret Companion” by R J Brodie, 1845, Courtesy of Wellcome Images.

The term masturbation was first introduced in the 18th century. At the time, however, the terms onanism or self-pollution were more frequently used. Victorians later used those same terms to refer to masturbation. Additionally, in the 19th century, masturbation was more politely referred to as self-abuse or sometimes manualization, as it was done by hand. 

One article published in 1870 noted that the practice of masturbation among Victorian youth in boarding schools was “much more frequent than … generally imagined.” According to the article there was nothing more “detestable or ruinous.” Masturbation was also called a “baneful habit,” and it was noted that such a pernicious habit could easily spread from one student to another until the whole boarding school was affected. Moreover, the effects of it could supposedly result in the following:

“Health, intellect, morals — all purity, dignity, and self-respect — sink beneath it in promiscuous and hopeless ruin. When carried to excess it produces idiotism in the most deplorable and disgusting form, accompanied by impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, and other distressing infirmities, and terminates in death.”

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First French Celebrity Chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême

First French Celebrity Chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême
Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The first French celebrity chef Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême was born on 8 June 1784. It is rather surprising Carême achieved such wonderful success as his initial beginnings did not seem to indicate such an illustrious future. He was one of fifteen children, and, in 1794, at the height of the French Revolution, his father left him on the streets of Paris and told him to go and seek his fortune. 

Hungry and in despair, Carême begged for shelter. The following day he was admitted into the service of a man who owned a cheap eating house or chop-house, and, at that point, he began working as a kitchen boy. Four years later, in 1798, he was apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal. Bailly immediately noticed Carême’s talents, and Carême quickly gained fame for the works that he created and displayed in Bailly’s shop window.

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Prominent Theatre Fires in the 1800s in Europe

Theatre fires in the 1800s: Example of a Theatre Fire
Example of a Theatre Fire in 1881, Public Domain

Theatre fires were a big problem in the 1800s. Some fires happened after hours when theatres were closed, but fires also occurred when people were in the building, on stage, or seated in the auditorium. Fires with people present were the most worrisome as lives were endangered and people were often injured or killed.

Among some of the most prominent theatre fires in the 1800s were seven that occurred in Europe. Below are the statistics on each of these fires, including where, when, and how the fire started, as well as how many people were killed or injured and the contributing factors that resulted in the injuries or deaths. Continue reading

Victorian French Lingerie

Victorian French Lingerie: Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitiching between the lace and embroidery. Author's Collection
Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitching between the lace and embroidery. Author’s Collection

The concept that lingerie and undergarments were visually appealing, did not become a thought until the late nineteenth century during the Victorian Era. At that time, some of the best lingerie that could be purchased came from France. In fact, it was common for nineteenth century English and American visitors to travel to France to purchase French lingerie for their wedding trousseau.

Victorian women also wore French lingerie for other reasons. Some women found they obtained some form of personal enjoyment from it. After all, many pieces of French lingerie captivated the eye because they were practically works of art with their fine embroidery and pretty ribbons and bows. The French also viewed lingerie in a different light than did most English or American women. Their view allowed Victorian lingerie wearers to focus on how they felt rather than how they actually looked in it. This in turn allowed wearers of French lingerie to enjoy an aristocratic elegance even if they belonged to the ordinary working class. However, there was also this tidbit about French lingerie: Continue reading

French Giant Louis Frenz Visits England

"French Giant" Louis Frenz: Jack the Giant Killer
Jack the Giant Killer, Author’s Collection

Many famous fairy tales exist about giants and two of the most popular tales are “Jack in the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant Killer.” However, in the 1800s there was a real person who was a giant. He was called the French Giant Louis Frenz but he also gained notoriety as Monsieur Louis.

The French Giant was born in 1801, and, at an early age, he decided to seek his fortune in England. His first exhibition in England supposedly occurred there in 1822 when he appeared at New Bond Street. It was there he naively confessed he had arrived in London to make a fortune and planned to return to France once he accomplished it. To earn this fortune, the French Giant usually exhibited himself between 11am and 5pm and between 7pm to 9pm. In addition, in 1825, he charged a shilling to see him, although servants and children got a reduce rate of half price. Continue reading

The Man Who Made Potatoes Popular in France in the 1700s: Antoine-Augustin Parmentier

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was the man who made potatoes popular in France in the 1700s. His interest in potatoes began after he was captured during the Seven Years’ War and found himself imprisoned in Russia eating mounds of potatoes. Unlike Russians who were willing to eat potatoes, Frenchmen considered them hog feed, and, in fact, in 1748, the French Parlement forbade people from cultivating them because they thought potatoes caused leprosy.

When Parmentier returned to France in 1763, he began to use his degree as a pharmacist to conduct pioneering studies in nutritional chemistry. Remembering his imprisonment, he decided the potato had great nutritional value, as much as wheat. In fact, he considered the potato so valuable and nutritious, he began to consider how he might overcome the prejudices of the French public against the humble potato. Exactly how this came to pass, involves several stories. Continue reading