Making a good marriage in the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century

The Napoleonic Civil Code (1804) states the total legal incapacity for French women, who move from their father’s to their husband’s guardianship. From then on, it is necessary for women to make a good marriage, and their education focuses on making them good wives and mothers. In Claire Sallard’s notebooks, circa 1824-1836, which are principally composed of short stories dictated or commissioned by her tutor, the morals of the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century and the way of thinking they imposed on women show through.

The short story entitled Les trois mariages [The three weddings] is typical of the state of mind that prevails in these notebooks. The moral of the story could be summarized in one major statement: marriages of convenience, acceptable both to family and society, are the most successful unions. The first young lady in the story, Hortense, weds a rich and miserly man, who suits her family but lives on the fringe of society because of his cupidity, so she ends up jilted and sad. The second one, Eudoxie, falls in love with a young good-looking aristocrat who is used to gambling, and she marries him, with her mother’s blessing, but in spite of her father’s advice. In the eyes of society, it is a brilliant marriage, but their love fades and their life together turns into a nightmare. Finally, the third young lady, Cécile, who proves to be the heroine, despite her love for a young and pleasant aristocrat, chooses to marry an honest and virtuous man whom her father likes and who fits her late mother’s guidance. They enjoy “a calm happiness, free from the happy and sad torments coming from the turmoil of deep passions”. Claire is the model of the type of woman whom the reader is invited to follow.Sallard

The three weddings, like other short stories in Claire Sallard’s notebooks, are somewhat reminiscent of the novels Balzac writes in the same years. Les Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées [Letters of Two Brides] and La Maison du chat-qui-pelote [At the Sign of the Cat and Racket] offer very similar reflections.

By the way, what happened to Claire Sallard? Whom did she marry? In 1843, at about twenty-three, she married the forty-year-old landscape painter Paul Huet, and they seem to have been a close couple.

Humor during World War 1: French Propaganda in the archive of Richard Norris Williams

The Special Collections Processing Center is pleased to welcome Aleth Tisseau des Escotais.  Aleth, a student at École Nationale Superiéure des Sciences de l’Information et des Bibliothèques in France, is working with us from February to April, as part of her training in libraries.  She will be working on a number of collections during her time with us, and will be reporting on her collections and her experiences working with archival collections in the United States.  Her first post follows:

World War 1 is well-known for its over 16 million deaths, 20 million wounded, and 7 million imprisoned, along with the dramatic living conditions of the soldiers in the trenches. It should have been a short-lived war, but eventually it turned out to be a long-lasting and stalemated conflict. More than ever, it was important to keep one’s chin up. This is the goal of the propaganda found within the R. Norris Williams collection of World War I material.  R. Norris Williams, a soldier in World War I and General Harbord’s aide de camp, collected an excellent group of humorous French propaganda documents, a few of which will be highlighted below.

2014-02-25 13-56-17On the one hand, they laugh at their enemies. The French propaganda describes the German soldiers as ogres or monsters. Their chief, Kaiser Wilhelm II, is its main target, nothing is spared from him. Many jokes lack subtlety, as you can see on the following picture. On this toilet paper, a “Boche” sticks his tongue out in order to catch his food. The inscription says: “Donnez-moi mon dessert du 11 août S.V.P.”, that is “Please give me my August 11 dessert”.

2014-02-25 13-57-52On the other hand, they can also use self-mockery. Making fun of themselves and their tragic situation allow them to put things into perspective and accept them more easily. In the newspaper L’Exilé written in the prisoner-of-war camp of Hammelburg, in January 1917, we can read this comic article where one of the prisoners gives a funny portrayal of himself and his fellow inmates. The author, Crapouillot, describes in a scientific way the “Françousse”, an unknown red, blue and khaki only-male animal who appeared in the Hammelburg area, in Bavaria, Germany, about two years ago, who lives inside a wire enclosure and feeds himself mainly with potatoes. On the left is an excerpt from this article.

croppedHumor is not a French prerogative. I will end this post by showing you an extract from an American “confidential and secret” leaflet, “for distribution by aeroplane”, entitled “Summary of Unintelligence”:

The R. Norris Williams collection of World War I material is now available for research.

You can see more World War I propaganda in the World War I Printed Media and Art Collection (to which R. Norris Williams material has been added).