Thursday, April 28, 2011

March 20th, 1781

Two months until the wedding and I am consumed by concerns about the guest list. I could not imagine getting through the event itself without T- to reassure me, but when I insisted that he should be invited Maman said that it was out of the question. This seemingly small request became an argument, and then finally a fit of shouting, with her insisting that I would bring shame to such an important occasion and my guests would think ill of me, and I denying that anyone but her would think such a thing, and that it was all I asked of a day which should have been mine to begin with.

In the end she departed the room, slamming the door behind her and I went shopping to cheer my spirits. Arriving home some hours later I was reminded that I was due to host a small supper party this evening, and rushed to prepare. A day that begins ill rarely ends well, and I proceeded to lose at cards, fail to be a charming hostess, and was struck dumb by a simple question about last year's grape harvest in Auvergne.

F- noticed my lack of enthusiasm and I told him about the argument thinking that he would side with Maman, but to my great surprise he offered to speak with her for me. I saw them in conversation later, but have not spoken to her as she retired to bed before all of he guests had departed. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

March 16th, 1781

I have been so busy with wedding preparations that I have been much too tired to write, either here or to any of my acquaintances. The mercy is that Maman is here in town with me and so I am not receiving any complaints from her for my lack of correspondance. My hope is that with so much attention on the wedding at present I shall escape being this busy closer to the event itself.

I finally received a letter from T-, but it was very strange in that it did not mention my incident with the wedding agreement and F- at all. He wrote of his work, more about the people of Calais, some Englishmen and women he has met, how he is improving his English and should like to visit their country some day, and sounds completely unconcerned! When I have time to respond to him I shall have to ask if he has received my letters, though I cannot imagine so many going astray.

For now I am tired and must rest, Maman will have me reviewing decorating ideas, packing lists, and heaven knows what else the instant she rises in the morning.
Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, April 24, 2011

French Proverb- On Fortunes


“A great fortune in the hands of a fool is a great misfortune.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

March 9th, 1781

F- has returned to attending my Lever, and Maman has had me busier than I could have even imagined with wedding preparations. We argue constantly about the most trivial matters of dishes to serve, guests to be invited or not invited, and even the color of my gown. I favor a blue, but she insists I would look best in a peach, which is a color I abhor. I told her quite bluntly that I would not wear such a thing, and yet she invited a marchande to show us her wares with emphasis on "warm, bright, colours". I look best in cool, silvery pastels, but she does believe she knows best.

I try to be understanding, and I know that I am her only daughter, so she must have been dreaming of this for so long; far longer, in fact, than most since I am old to be getting married for the first time. Still, it galls me that she takes liberties with sending my servants on errands without discussing the choices with me first.

I must endure it, I suppose. I should prefer something small and private, but both F-'s family and mine would never allow it. It still feels like a dream to me, unreal, as if I will wake up any moment to find myself younger, with R- alive and T- by my side, as in days past.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Cause De- Childbirth Statistics

This is less of a factor in the French Revolution of 1789, but it does help us to understand some of the fears and frustrations of people's lives.

"A woman had a one-in-twenty chance of dying as a result of the delivery, perhaps a victim of septic infection or puerperal fever, both agonizing deaths. [She] could expect...as many as half a dozen pregnancies, making those death rates a sobering statistic. Her baby had even slimmer chances of survival. French doctors estimated that nearly a third of the children born would die before the end of their second year of life."
- The Widow Clicquot

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

March 4, 1781

Last night I dreamt of my beautiful and peaceful Saint Saturnin, and was almost surprised not to find myself there upon waking. I ache to see it again and escape town with its troubles.

This morning over breakfast Maman suggested that we take a walk with Reinette at the Tuileries. It was pleasant enough at first, but presently I recognized a figure approaching from across the gardens as the Marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois. Turning to Maman she avoided my gaze and I knew that this had been arranged between them.

He offered his arm, and after a moment's hestitation I took it. Maman followed attentively behind, and for a while neither of us spoke. Finally, he began by apologizing, to my great surprise, for having given me no notice of his intentions regarding our marriage. He spoke of his heartache in losing R-, and said that the Comte de Rodez had seen himself as my champion, for it was in his nature to be chivalrous, and that he, F-, would be remiss if he did not honor his memory by protecting me as well. Placing a hand upon mine on his arm, he said that he hoped that we could begin anew to build an alliance that would bring joy to us and our families. When I hesitated he said that I need not answer immediately, but that he would hope to call upon me often and return to the days of peace which had been our custom.

I could not deny him this, and answered that he would be as welcome a guest as ever he had been. So we walked on some more, until F- announced that he must leave us to attend to some business; but before leaving he drew out of his pocket a small box, which he said was a gift he hoped I would accept. Opening it I found that it was a miniature portrait of R-, and F- said that he had been given it three years before.

I thanked him and he departed. Returning to Sully with Maman she looked very smug, but I remain much troubled. In many ways I would prefer his cruelty to his kindess, for that is easier to oppose. I wrote an impassioned plea to T- to return to Paris, or at least advise me on what to do, but he seems to be too busy to answer me. I wish that there was a way that I might go to Calais.

Olympe, Comtesse

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Champagne Revolution

Around the 1-year anniversary of this blog I posted about the History of Champagne, and in complete coincidence my best friend gave me for Christmas, a book called The Widow Cliquot, which is the story of how a woman founded one of the great Champagne empires of world, in the aftermath of the French Revolution. In reading it I have come across some very interesting facts about champagne (the beverage) in the late 18th century.

- For one thing it was not the light gold, taupe, or ever-so-slightly pink color we know today, but was much more of what we would call a Rose; even as dark as a puce and was refered to as "eye of the partridge".
- It was also extremely sweet, even more so than our sweetest dessert wines today. Compare our common sweet champagnes today with 20 grams of residual sugar to their 200 grams, and in Russia at the time something with up to 300 grams of sugar was prefered!
- Lastly, we like our champagne to be chilled, but they typically enjoyed it frosty to the point of having a slushy-like consistency. Sounds like a delightful way to end a dinner to me!

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 3, 1781

Maman arrived this morning, which was the first morning that I had held a Lever in quite a while. The proceeds from the sale of Chateaugay have not arrived yet, but I feel confident enough in their eventuallity to expend some credit with my Marchande des Modes, and have ordered new shoes, hats, and a new gown.

Fortunately I was mostly dressed and all but one of my male visitors had departed when Maman was shown in to my room. As Marianne put the finishing touches to my coiffure, she settled herself into a chair and began to complain unceasingly about my lack of communication with her, especially regarding the wedding. She paused at one point to say "I do suppose you are still planning on going through with it, aren't you?" But then continued leaving no space for me to answer. When Marianne was finished and dismissed I made ready to speak with Maman, but she indicated a sudden need to settle herself into her room and left me at that.

Over dinner this afternoon she informed me that we would be buying my wedding clothes tomorrow, and so she seems to have decided to take everything into her own hands. I'm sure she means to assist in purchasing everything, after all, her husband is a magistrate of Riom, but I still cannot help but balk at the feeling of purchasing my own chains.

I almost expected to see F- at my Lever, and feared to lest everyone be made aware of the discord between us, but he has not appeared and I have had no communication from him. I wonder if we shall speak again before we meet before the priest.

Still no word from T-, I wonder what he can be thinking? Is he on his way to me?

Olympe, Comtesse