I am starting to believe that my old Victorian house has a mind of its own. London is, finally, under the sun, which is nice. But for some unknown reason, my wooden entrance door has decided to dilate with the heat and coming home is becoming more and more of a challenge. The door needs a really big push! I must have done something to make the house angry. I can’t help thinking that it must be because I am revealing its secrets…anyway, as London is not really famous for its weather, my concerns should be short-lived.
As you know, I found some old copies of the “illustrated London News” in my attic. Today, I am taking you back to Saturday, November 7th, 1874. The picture on the front page is an illustration of the civil war in Spain, it shows donkeys bringing food rations for Carlist (I.e., supporter of Don Carlos) soldiers defending Estella. It is a part of history that I have never been taught. This week, the tone of the paper is a little bit more measured. It looks like the journalist is starting to get worried for Germany – or is it because of the power of Germany ? ” However confident Germany may be in the adequacy of her own resources, she is deeply impressed with the necessity of organising and utilising them to the utmost. She is in geographical contact with three great military powers. Upon two of them, in single encounter, she has inflicted the humiliation of defeat. What if they should combine against her? The contingency, it may be, is not on the cards just now ; but it may be at some future crisis of European events. At any rate, she will prepare for such a possibility to the fullest extent of her means. For the present, Germany aims only at keeping what, at great cost, she has won, and at tranquilly enjoying the conquests she has achieved.”
The news from France are quite boring this time, so let’s jump to the local section. “There were 2359 births and 1368 deaths registered in London last week. The births exceeded by 20, and the deaths were 149 below the average numbers. The deaths included 1 from smallpox, 8 from measles, 128 from scarlet fever, 4 from diphtheria, 12 from whooping cough, 43 different forms of fever, and 21 from diarrhoea. Six deaths were caused by horses or vehicles in the streets. The mean temperature was 53.3 deg” I am not sure that the transition between the numbers of death and the temperature is that well managed. I am also thankful for living in 2011 as smallpox has disappeared, and antibiotics or vaccines can prevent or cure most of the listed death causes. I certainly tend to easily forget that it wasn’t the case not that long ago! And for those of us who don’t do Fahrenheit, the temperature was 12 degrees. Chilly.
The funny bit is that there is a long section on “Paul and Virginia”. What, you haven’t heard about “Paul and Virginia” written by Bernardin de Saint Pierre? Let me brief you: it was a best seller at the time. It was published in 1789 but stayed at the top of the game for a long, long time and was even translated in several languages. It is the story of two children brought up together as brother and sister, in Mauritius. When Virginia becomes a teenager, she realises that her feelings towards Paul have changed. She loves him, but ends up being sent to France, where she feels miserable despite her aunt’s attempt to educate her. After a year, she decides to come back but her ship goes upon the reef of rocks just before reaching Mauritius and she dies either because she doesn’t want to get undressed to swim (there are men onboard!) or because, being almost naked, she doesn’t want a sailor to carry her -I can’t remember which one, but I know that it always seemed to me pretty ridiculous a reason (times have changed). I wouldn’t hesitate to go and dance naked on the street if it could save my skin. And mind you, everybody was almost naked today in the park, which was not always a pretty sight. The journalist seems to agree with me (with his own words obviously) “Poor Virginia was the victim, perhaps, of a mistaken sentiment of duty and honour.” Well, spot on.
And finally, if you are looking for a present for your friends,”the magic sailor will, when placed on the ground, immediately commence dancing, in perfect time, to any tune, astonishing all present. post free 14 stamps. HG CLARKE and Co.”
See you next week!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London