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An Idler in Old France  —  £ 3.99

Go to the eBook Shop Published in 1899, this is a collection of 13 essays on the social life of 'older France'. Whilst this may sound rather dry, English ridicule of French behaviour is a popular and ancienne sport. It may be a serious trip down some fascinating historical byways but you will also find some chapters amusing, amazing or revolting. They are certainly all informative.

As Tighe Hopkins says in his introduction 'If the subject be not to the reader's taste, he will not go with me for any invitation of mine; should it like him, there are many curious and pleasant paths not over-trodden yet in this romantic tract'.

It originally caught my eye because I misread the title as 'An old idler in France' - and thought I could send it to any one of several ex-pats I know. Please see the extract below, describing the content of each essay.

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  2 files, mobi for any Kindle and epub for all other eReaders


The cover of my original is blank, so I made the one above. Overlaid on the drapeau tricolore is 'Eglise Metropole de Notre-Dame, a Paris' by Gustav Simonau from about 1840.


The text and any images below are identical to the eBook; however, depending on the typeface, etc., that you select, they may not display here exactly as they do on your eReader. Also, pages turn as normal, rather than the scrolling effect seen here.



I — A New Picture of Old Paris

1.  The Old Paris of the Novelist, and the true Old Paris. — Impossible to tell everything. — Victor Hugo's 'Notre Dame.' — Lutetia: Lutum. — The Streets of Mediæval Paris. — The Beginnings of the Plague. — The Town cannot be cleansed. — Impossible to print the Names of the Streets. — Customs of Burial. — Bury where you please. — The Cemetery of the Innocents.

2.  Leprosy. — The Leper dead in Life. — Paris under Louis XIV. — The King dislikes his Capital. — La Reynie. — The Mud of Paris sticks, smells, and burns. — The Door-step of M. Corneille. — Montaigne and Boileau. — The Chambermaid's 'Gare l'eau!' — The Louvre itself. — The Princess Palatine and Le Sage. — The Scavenger's Cart. — Voltaire's Paris.

II — The Toilet

1.  Mediæval Models of Religion. — The Monk not often in the Tub.— Two Baths a Year.— The Toilet of a Nun.— Duchesse de Mazarin's Foot-bath. — Popularity of the Étuves. — But as to Morals! — The Étuve is abandoned, and no one washes. — The Hands of Queen Margaret of Navarre. — Personal Cleanliness at the Court of Louis XIV. — The Man of Fashion washes occasionally. — The Ladies ?

2.  The Hair and the Beard. — The Beard in Controversy. — The Beard is 'contrary to Modesty.' — The Peruke and its Varieties. — The Mouche. — Powder. — The Coiffeure and the Pouf. — Marie Antoinette at the Ball of Duchesse de Chartres.

III — Old Paris at Table

1.  The Markets of Old Paris. — Old Paris feeds but does not dine. — Rabelais's Gastrolaters are the Parisians of the Renaissance at Table. — 'Prodigious feasting.' — Sumptuary Laws of no Avail. — Jerome Lippomano. — Kings at Table. — The Appetite of Louis XIV. — Capons 'greased' with Sugar-plums. — The first Treatises on Cookery — The 'Petits Soupers' of the Duc D'Orléans.

2.  Customs at Table. — How the Courses were served. — Drinking. — 'Not incorrect to be drunk.' — The Example of the Court.

3.  Luxury without Comfort. — The Seigneur prefers to dine in the Kitchen. — The Salle has no Chairs, no Carpet, and is lighted with Torches. — Table-linen. — Plate. — Gold and Silver Plate a form of Capital. — The Dinner-hour. — The Court eats seldom, the Bourgeoisie at all Opportunities. — Fasts. — The Rigour and Pains of Fasting in the Middle Ages. — Royalty dining in Public. — A Queen at Table.

IV — Two 'Civilities'

'Sit down to Table with your Hat on,' and 'Go to Dinner with your Hands clean.' — The Guest is 'on no Account to smack his Lips.' — Fingers before Forks. — The 'brilliant Notion of the Ladle.' — 'Do not try to eat Soup with a Fork.'— The correct Talk at Table.— The 'Civilité' admonishes the Guest 'not to blow out the Cheeks in Drinking,' and 'not to scratch himself in Company.'

V — The French Mediæval Inn

The Epigram of Maître Gonin. — The wolfish Host. — The Inn a 'parlous refuge' for the honest Traveller. — Monks at the Inn. — The Scholars of the University. — The Scholars' Excuse. — Rabelais and Montaigne on the College of Montaigu. — The bonâ fide Traveller of the Middle Ages. — The Army drinks, but does not pay. — Pilgrims. — Rabelais's Friar John of the Funnels not a Travesty but a Type. — St. Julien, the Patron Saint of Travellers. — Example of the Crusades. — Signs and Sign-boards. — The Criers of Wine. — King, Seigneur, and Abbé in Competition with the Inn-Keeper. — Wretched State of Rural Inns. — Joan of Arc's father at the 'Striped Ass.'

VI — A Mediæval Pulpit

Frère Maillard of Saint-Jean-en-Grève. — He denounces Merchants, Money-changers, Lawyers, Counsellors of Parliament, the Clergy, the Scholars, the Publishers, the Gallants, and the Ladies, and consigns them all to the Pit.

VII — Apprentice, Workman, and Master

Apprenticeship an important Institution in Mediæval France. — Jealousy and Exclusiveness of the Guilds. — Duration of Apprenticeship in one Trade and another. — The Master's Responsibility. — Runaway 'Prentices. — The Vente and the Rachat. — Before the Jurors. — General Condition of the Workman in the Middle Ages. — Conditions of Industry. — Master and Man. — Charities. — The Principle of Solidarité. — Standards of Workmanship. — A Comparison with our own Age.

VIII — The Surgeon-Barbers

Surgery begins with the Barbers. — The Faculty of Medicine. — 'Poor Devils of Artisans.' — The Struggle between the Doctors, the Barbers, and the Surgeons up to the Sixteenth Century. — The Advance of the Barbers. — Ambroise Pare. — The Pope, the University, and the Parliament. — Compromise between Surgeons and Barbers. — The new War with the Faculty. — Rout of the Surgeons. — A Note on the History of Dissection. — Gallows plundered and Graves rifled. — Louis XIV. in the Hands of the Surgeon. — Benefits that accrued to the Profession. — The Barber's Apprentice. — End of the Struggle.

IX — The Chase

The Merovingians. — Legend of St. Hubert. — The Chase becomes the national Pastime. — The splendid Hunts of Charlemagne. — The Hunting-parks of Philippe Auguste. — The Warrens of the Seigneurs. — Earliest Treatise on the Chase. — Ladies in the Field. — Clerical Sportsmen. — Gaston de Foix. — Louis XI. — He wants all France for his Hunting-ground. — Rat-hunting in the King's Bed-chamber. — Falconry. — Diane de Poitiers. — Catherine de Medicis. — Charles IX. killing Pigs and Asses. — Henri IV. — Old Game Laws. — Opposition of the Old School to Fire-arms. — Louis XIV. — A Nimrod at thirteen. — Magnificence of Louis XIV.'s Stables, Kennels, and Aviary. — Officers of the Chase. — The old King and his Four-in-hand. — Hunting-Laws of Louis XIV.

X — Writing and Writing Materials

The Scriptorium. — The Copyists. — A pious Task. — The Demon Titivillus. — The hard Struggle of the Clerk. — No Materials and no Models. — Parchment-maker and Publican. — Qualities of Parchment. — The human Skin no good. — The Paris University and its Clients. — The celebrated Gold Ink of the Monks. — Its Secret lost to us. — The Booksellers. — Famous Copyists. — Penmanship on the Decline. — The Beginnings of Printing. — The Gothic Hand. — Handwriting of the Kings of France. — Master- Writers in the Seventeenth Century. — Attempts to fix a Standard of Writing. — The modern Style. — Handwriting of Richelieu, Buffon, Molière, Rousseau, Voltaire, and others. — Fashions in Note-paper. — Why a Love-letter was called a 'Fowl.'

XI — The Bagne

1.  Successors of the galley-slave. Forçats marching in Chains to the Bagne. — The 'Song of the Widow.' — Sufferings on the March. — What the Bagne was. — 'Hard Labour' and 'Life' Sentences. — The Accouplements or Coupling of Forçats by the Leg. — Varieties of Labour. — The 'New Chum' on the Chain. — Penal Code of the Bagne. — Guillotine, "Double-chain," and Bastonnade. — The Salles d'épreuve, or good-conduct Rooms. — The 'Gentleman' lag. — Governors of the Bagne.

2.  The Forçat as Prison-breaker. Prison-breaking not what it was. — An Example from Major Hawley Smart. — How it could not be done at Portland. — Flights from the Bagnes. — Difficulties. — Penalties.— Nevertheless, Flights were frequent. — The famous Petit. — Arigonde. — Cochot. — Victor Desbois. — A Gonnette. — André Fanfan. — The Cache or Cachette. — One might be buried alive. — The 'Escape of Nine.' — Felon-hunters.

XII — The Comédie Française

1.  The Troubles of Royalty, November, 1789. — Voltaire's Prophecy. — Commotion over Chenier's 'Charles IX.' — Talma to the Fore. — Danton says Chénier has 'cut the Throat of Royalty.' — Talma expelled from the Comédie Française. — Recalled. — The Comédie Française under Suspicion. — 'Pamela.' — Uproar in the Theatre.— The Players arrested, and the Comédie Française closed.

2.  The Paris Prisons during the Reign of Terror. — The Players in Les Maddonnettes. — State of the Prison. — 'Half a pair of Snuffers.' — The Call to the Guillotine. — Concierge Vaubertrand. — Small-pox. — Good Dr. Dupontet. — Preparing the Dossiers of the Players. — 'G.' for the Guillotine. — Heroic Labussière. — Reunited.

XIII — Gavarni

Gavarni compared with Balzac. — How Gavarni got his Pencil-name. — Boyhood and Youth — Paris, 1828. — Gavarni works like a Madman. — At twenty-eight he is 'a known and appreciated Talent.' — Balzac sings his Praises. — In the Whirl of it. — "Le Journal des Gens du Monde." — Gavarni in the Debtor's Prison. — Some of his Albums. — 'The Students of Paris.' — Carnival. — Gavarni the Epigrammatist. — In London. — Will not be lionised. — Visits from Thackeray and Dickens. — 'Does not know what an Englishwoman is.' — Commanded to Windsor. — His astounding breach of Etiquette. — Returns to Paris. — Three hundred and sixty-five Cartoons in three hundred and sixty-five Days. — His Retreat at Auteuil. — The new Railway. — Returns heart-broken to Paris. — 'A living Sepulchre.' — Last Days. — Death.


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