In my quest to understand the British, I have some unexpected help: my two daughters are becoming more British by the day and are giving me a useful insight into the British mind, and I also found five old newspapers in my attic. I have already described the first two, and wanted to write about the third today.
But I attended my body combat session, and I am feeling in a feisty mood. I didn’t like something I read in “the illustrated London News”, dated Saturday, October 24, 1874. So I am going to talk about it first, and then, after my rant, I will talk about the paper. Maybe.
Ok, here we go. A big banquet has taken place at the castle of Rambouillet, in France. “This was the dinner given at the Chateau (castle in French) of Rambouillet by a French Duke to the Prince of Wales…It comprised a crayfish soup, some tartlets a la Talleyrand ; roast beef and potatoes a la Dauphine, lobster salad, ramequins au fromage and glaces a l’Orleans. I mean to write a book some day on the vocabulary of the kitchen, which, albeit its syntax is eccentric, is not half so idiotic as some people imagine. Take the tartlets a la Talleyrand, for example. Well ; did not the Queen of Hearts -that is to say, France- make some tarts ? ( yes, I copied it word for word). The crafty Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Perigord was the Knave (it must mean knight?) of Hearts who betrayed Napoleon I. and handed France over to the Bourbons. So his tartlets ever since 1815 have been popular at the Legitimist Chateau of Rambouillet.”
It then continues on and on but I will spare you the rest. You get the gist of it. On the face of it, there is nothing new. The Brits have always made fun of the French and vice versa ( have a read at what a former French Prime Minister, Edith Cresson, said about the Brits. Not nice. Can’t write it here) But it made me realise that it started long before my time, and hasn’t stopped ever since. Why is this? Why do we always badmouth our neighbours? Why do we have this urge to explain that, deep down, we are better? Sometimes I am feeling very pessimistic about the future of the human condition. Or maybe the so-called journalist had just been dumped by his French girlfriend and I am over-interpreting. In any event, I needed to get it off my chest.
The funny thing is that the rest of the newspaper is pretty balanced, and even start with a very good explanation of why there is a need for a “municipal government of London”. Here it is : “Its inhabitants are at present in the hands of a great many petty officials, who act in their name, and in some way or other by their authority, but do not really at all represent their wishes”. Very nicely put.
Other interesting news include the fact that, in Guatemala “The late Governor of San Jose, being a drunk madman, some months ago took it into his head to flog the British consul.” “For this outrage the Republic had to pay a large sum of money and to make a formal apology.” There is nothing like an insult to the authorities to wake up your inner patriot.
The other funny thing is how things can change fast. Napoleon, in France, has been thrown out. You may remember him, he had been praised for his attitude on my last post (see here). Well, he isn’t even mentioned now. Nope, not even half a line. It looks like France has always been a Republic…
Let’s finish with of couple of ads:
“Hobson’s patent lock-Rib umbrella: the smallest, when folded, of any umbrella in the world; also their new scent bottle umbrella for ladies. No148, regent street” well, in London, I am sure that they made a fortune!!!
“pale and golden hair-sol aurin produces that tint so much admired in classic age and now so much desired. Sent for 72 stamps. 248, high holborn, London”
Some things like rain and old hair, never change. Well, that’s reassuring
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London