Tuileries Garden Bird Charmers

Tuileries Garden bird charmer. Author’s collection.

Tuileries Garden bird charmers were street performers who appeared in the mid to late 1800s and enticed flocks of birds to come to them. Later, the bird charmers began appearing in other gardens or in public green spaces, such as the Champ de Mars. One of the earliest of the bird charmers at the Tuileries Garden was Edward du Peyron, “an old sub-prefect … [whose son] long continued his practices [of bird charming] in Diane Alley.”[1]

“[When Peyron arrived at the garden, ring-doves] left the branches of the tall chestnut trees and flew from the center of the grass plats, and … [sparrows] came in swarms from the smallest shrubs, and all followed him until he came to a standstill. The boldest at once alighted upon his shoulders, upon one of his outstretched arms, or one of his fingers, and took from his hand or lips, the food that he offered them, while the others arranged in a line upon the iron railings, or hopping about on the ground, or sustaining themselves in the air by rapid flaps of theirs, impatiently awaited their turn.”[2]

Continue reading

Wolf Attacks in France in the Early 1800s

The Eurasia wolf of today. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wolves were considered a problem in France as early as Charlemagne’s reign, and Charlemagne was the first to institute a special corps of wolf hunters (called the louveterie) to deal with them between 800 and 813. The louveterie was abolished after the French Revolution but was then reestablished in 1814. The wolves in France during this time were mainly the Eurasian wolf (the common wolf) native to Europe, which had been widespread throughout Eurasia prior to the Middle Ages. By 1800, in most areas throughout France, there were reports of wolves causing problems and stories were regularly printed in newspapers highlighting their attacks against people. Here are seven stories reported between 1809 and 1829.  Continue reading

The First Pet Cemetery in the World

Postcard of Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Claimed to be the first pet cemetery in the world, Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques, (literally translated as the “Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals”), opened in 1899.* It was originally founded as the Cimetière des Chiens (“Cemetery of Dogs”) because of a law that was passed in 1898 by Paris’s city government forbidding Parisians from throwing dead dogs into the the Seine River, gutter, or trash. One article noted the introduction of the new law stating: Continue reading

Singerie: 18th Century Arts Depicting Monkeys Aping Human Behavior

Antoine Watteau’s “The Monkey Sculpture.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Singerie is a French word for “Monkey Trick” and is the name given to arts depicting monkeys aping human behavior. The Singerie was popular as far back as Ancient Egypt, and, in medieval times, scribes frequently drew monkeys in the margins of manuscripts to mimic man and his foibles. Flemish engraver Pieter van der Borcht introduced the singerie around 1575 in a series of prints and this encouraged other Flemish artists to begin depicting monkeys dressed in human attire. By the 18th century, singeries found their way to France where they became extremely popular. Continue reading

An 18th Century Experiment on Cats

An 18th Century Experiment on Cats
Julie Manet with Cat, 1887, by Renoir, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Supposedly, the French have always had a mania for cats. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known better by his stage name Molière, is said to have had a favorite cat, and a celebrated harpist named Madame de Puis, so loved her furry feline she left a pension for it in her will. There was also French impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir born in the mid-1800s. He painted several paintings with cats, including “Young Girl with Cat,” “Geraniums and Cats,” and “Julie Manet with Cat.”

Another cat lover was Louis-François Fontenu (called l’Abbe de Fontenu). In the eighteen century, he was curious about cats (or as the French call them les chats) and because he was curious, he observed them daily. One day while observing them, he noticed something rather interesting:

“Having remarked how cats often habituate themselves, and oftener than one could … to dry warrens … he fancied that these animals could do for a very long time with drinking.”

This was a light bulb moment for Fontenu because he decided to conduct an experiment to determine how long a cat could go without water. Continue reading

A Glance at Parisians and Their Animals According to Louis-Sébastien Mercier

A Glance at Parisians and Their Animals According to Louis-Sébastien Mercier: Louis-Sébastien Mercier
Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Louis-Sébastien Mercier was a French dramatist and voluminous writer who was born on 6 June 1740 and died on 25 April 1814. He wrote plays, pamphlets, and novels and was imprisoned during the Reign of Terror but released along with many others after the fall of Maximilien Robespierre. Among the topics that he sometimes chose to write about was his surroundings in Paris. In fact, there is no better writer that describes what it was like to live or be in Paris during the eighteenth century. Among his writings are two volumes titled, Paris Delineated that provides information about the “edifices and curiosities” of this international city. Three interesting sub-stories — Confined Animals, Slaughter of Cattle, and Lap-dogs — are taken from these volumes, and they allow a glance at Parisians and their animals according to Louis-Sébastien Mercier. Here they are almost verbatim: Continue reading

Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding

In my book, “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante,” one of the things I talk about is Marie Antoinette and donkey riding. It all began after Marie Antoinette arrived in France, became bored, and developed a strong desire to ride horses. Her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa, was an excellent horsewoman, and as Marie Antoinette’s new husband, the Dauphin and future Louis XVI, loved to hunt, Marie Antoinette thought that riding horses might be way to spend more time with him.

Marie Antoinette and Donkey Riding
Marie Antoinette. Author’s collection.

Continue reading

Dogs During the French Revolution: What Became of Them

Portrait by J. B. Charpentier of the Duke of Penthièvre, his son Prince de Lamballe, the Princesse de Lamballe, daughter (the future Duchesse d’Orleans), and Maria Theresa Felicitas d’Este with Their Pedigreed Dog

All sorts of events were associated with dogs during the French Revolution and many stories exist. The French Revolution was a chaotic time not just for people but also for the dogs. Sometimes dogs suffered danger and sometimes they were the danger. They also helped to maintain prisoner morale, functioned as messengers, and sometimes served as watchdogs or comforting companions. 

Of all the dogs that suffered during the Revolution, pedigreed dogs probably suffered the most. Pedigreed dogs were usually the pets of royalty or nobility, and when these people fled France, their pedigreed dogs, called lexicons, were abandoned. Some of these dogs became outcasts, some mourned the loss of their owners, and some were disguised to prevent them from being taken or destroyed. However, many lexicons were gathered up and burned at the Place de Greves, the spot said to be used for the “vilest malefactors.” Continue reading

Popular Posts for 2016

Popular Posts for 2016Last year was a great year for me. I published my book, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, and I published many interesting posts on topics related to the 18th and 19th centuries. Looking at the past year, here are the twelve most popular posts, by month, for 2016:

January – French Dueling Codes for Swords, Pistols, and Sabers

February – The Red Inn Affair

March – 21 Nicknames of Napoleon

April – Tricoteuses: Knitting Women of the Guillotine

May – Fontainebleau Forest Murderess

June – The 18th Century Beast of Gévaudan

July – “The Monsters” or the “Vere Street Gang” Homosexuals

August – Georges Cuvier, Father of Paleontology

September – French Naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon

October – An American Plot to Save Marie Antoinette From the Guillotine

November – Gambling, Cheats, and Voltaire’s Madame du Châtelet

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

Hans and Marguerite: The Elephants of France

Hans and Marguerite
The Two Elephants Listed as Parkie and Hans, Public Domain

Two young elephants were captured in 1785 in Sri Lanka. They eventually ended up in the Netherlands with William V, Prince of Orange, and during the revolution, they were confiscated by France and sent to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. The two elephants were male and female. Hans was the male and the female was called Parkie (or sometimes Peggy), but she was renamed Marguerite in France.

After two attempts to leave Sri Lanka with the elephants — one attempt in June of 1795 and the other in November 1795 — the elephants finally left for France on 25 September 1797.  To convey Hans and Marguerite to Paris, numerous crates were constructed. Hans and Marguerite were unhappy about the trip and the crates. They “made incredible efforts to break down the partition [between them]; but having found that their endeavors were vain, they became resigned and remained tranquil during the rest of the journey.” Continue reading