Filed under French history

Talking Bells

France seems to have been the country for church bells – locals vied with each other for the best bells and ringers, but they featured in every parish of England that could afford them, and at important times, especially national celebrations, the noise in some towns must have been horrific, with some ringing all night plus … Continue reading

French Bells

In Alain Corbin’s Village Bells Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth Century French Countryside, the records are far from silent regarding bells for a wide range of uses, such as helping people to navigate in the forests, especially when there was snow, of coastal villages ringing bells to help sailors or to lure them into … Continue reading

The English Garden

The English are notoriously fond of their gardens, and some claim that the style that emerged in the early 18th century is the only genuinely English art form, a layout that replaced rigid lines and vast intensely cultivated plots with sinuous paths and more naturalistic design. This is from “The Georgian Triumph, 1700-1830”, by Michael … Continue reading

Papist Fopperies

One of the biggest objections to Catholics during and after the Reformation was their use of human images, which is specifically banned in the Bible. This objection was waived centuries before to allow Christianity to spread, as the use of images is a powerful tool in evangelising. This is from John Evelyn’s Diary of 1672: … Continue reading

Hogarth on Vaucanson

When the French inventor/mechanic/clever clogs Jacques de Vaucanson came to London in 1743 to display his incredible automata – as reported in a previous blog – his duck, flute player and tabor player were all the talk of the town. It was shown at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Nobody had ever seen such life-like machinery, … Continue reading

The Gleaners & I

This is an extraordinarily intelligent and insightful film by Agnes Varda who, as the title suggests, is a gleaner herself, who travels across France in search of people who survive on what the world leaves behind. She begins with paintings showing women – they were always women – picking up the sheaves of grain after … Continue reading

Speed and Horses

Again from TH White: “In 1773, Dr Johnson, whose idea of bliss s was ‘driving briskly in a post-chaise,’ gave Boswell a piece of information about the possible speeds of earlier days. The English.. are the only people who ride hard a-hunting. A Frenchman goes out upon a managed horse, and capers in the field, … Continue reading

Genie Out of the Bottle

Industrial espionage is nothing new in fact it was widespread from the 17th century in England when Swedish spies were all over the West country till metalworking moved to the Midlands. So, it is no surprise that as soon as Harrison’s Longitude clock was announced to the world, arch rivals France were onto it. This … Continue reading

Negotiating the End

This is the penultimate piece on World War I from the I newspaper, by their French correspondent John Lichfield: ON 8 November 1918, 2 trains came to a halt in adjoining idings at Rethondes in the forest of Campiegne, 40 miles north fo Paris. One, formerly the imperial train of Emperor Napoleon III, contained German … Continue reading

The King’s Visit

Much has been made over the years of the out-of-touch leadership during the First World War. This is by Jonathan Brown in the i newspaper: “The king’s arrival at the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the British Expeditionary Force in France was unlike most arrivals there. The road to the fine old walled town of Montreuil … Continue reading