SUNDRIES: An eighteenth century newsletter

N° 28 - April 29, 2006

TEXT COLLECTIONS: ILEJ complete again inter text TECH TALK: Digital ink approachin inter text LINKS: Craps, food, CIRBEL English page inter text THEATER: Beaumarchais keeps his box iner text THE REVOLUTION: Trollope's summary


inter cooking 18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for Marie-Antoinette - Spitted suckling pig

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys
inter text Magasin Pittoresque: No 32 - 1864



The Internet Library of Early Journals home page has for a very long time born an apology for the absence of some journals. This week this note went up: "The full service has now been restored. We apologise for the past interruption in service. 24 April 2006." Concretely this means all the following journals are now available again:

  • Annual Register
  • Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine
  • Gentleman's Magazine
  • Notes and Queries
  • Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
  • The Builder

In regard to the Notes and Queries by the way, it turns out Google Print has some of these available, for those who find the ILEJ site unwieldy.

back to top

TECH TALK: Digital ink approaching

For those of us who'd love to read our downloaded PDF's without lugging around a laptop, the International Herald Tribune for April 24 has this item: "Newspapers worldwide are testing e-devices":

In the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller "Minority Report," a subway passenger scans an edition of USA Today that is a plastic video screen, thin, foldable and wireless, with constantly changing text. The scene is circa 2054, but it is no longer science fiction. This month, De Tijd, a Belgian financial newspaper, started testing versions of electronic paper, a device with low- power digital screens embedded with "digital ink," millions of microscopic capsules the size of a human hair with organic material that display light or dark images in response to electrical charge... ...the screens on the new hardware are designed to reflect rather than transmit light, making them more like paper, readable in sunlight or a dark subway train.

The new technology also allows for basic annotation.

back to top

LINKS: Craps, food, CIRBEL English page

How would d'Alembert feel about being cited on a gambling page? Not to mention its off-handed dig:

While he made great strides in mathematics and physics, d'Alembert is also known for incorrectly arguing in Croix ou Pile that the probability of a coin landing heads increased for every time that it came up tails. The probability remains the same on every toss - 50/50.

Here are two historic food sites. The first, Historic Food, includes some resources which are not obvious at first, including this one: The Pleasures of the Table:

This exhibition focused on the eighteenth century dessert course, its principle feature being a re-creation of a 1750s table setting. Peter Brown, the director of Fairfax House and curator of the exhibition, sourced a remarkable assemblage of contemporary silver and glass tableware. Ivan Day and Tony Barton produced the sugar sculpture for the plateau. The dessert foods consisted of a typical array of eighteenth century English luxury items made from contemporary recipes.

The Culinary Historians of New York have a varied links page. Some five years back, the list was alerted to the then new web site for CIRBEL: Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherches sur les Îles britanniques et l'Europe des Lumières. But English speakers may want to be aware of their English language page: "English language summaries for Le Spectateur européen / The European Spectator - Volumes 1 & 2" and their links page.

back to top

THEATER: Beaumarchais keeps his box

I once read that the main reason the VCR was so successful so fast was that otherwise respectable people who would never have been seen dead watching pornography in one of the nasty little theaters which were once its preferred venue could now do so privately. "The pleasures of vice and the honors of virtue - such is the century's prudery." Plus ca change... This is Beaumarchais' response to "one who gives me a large box in order to have a small one, saying that it is for women who fear being seen at my play.":

I have no respect, Sir Duke, for women who allow themselves to see a show which they consider disreputable, so long as they can see it in secret. I do not go along with such fantasies: I have presented my play to the public to amuse and instruct them, and not to give half-baked prudes the pleasure of thinking well of it in a small box, on the condition of bad-mouthing it in public. The pleasures of vice and the honors of virtue - such is the century's prudery. My play is not an equivocal work, one must confront it or flee it. I salute you. I keep my box.
Bachaumont, 26, 1784 (103)
back to top

THE REVOLUTION: Trollope's summary

Though fictional authors clearly change some facts, in summarizing an overall historical context they are more likely to adhere to known reality. One advantage for a reader of such accounts is the author's interest in keeping the story moving. Here is Anthony Trollope's overview of one period in the Revolution, from La Vendée:

The history of France in 1792 has been too fully written, and too generally read to leave the novelist any excuse for describing the state of Paris at the close of the summer of that year. It is known to every one that the palace of Louis XVI was sacked on the 10th of August. That he himself with his family took refuge in the National Assembly, and that he was taken thence to the prison of the Temple. The doings on the fatal 10th of August, and the few following days had, however, various effects in Paris, all of which we do not clearly trace in history. We well know how the Mountain became powerful from that day; that from that day Marat ceased to shun the light, and Danton to curb the licence of his tongue that then, patriotism in France began to totter, and that, from that time, Paris ceased to be a fitting abode for aught that was virtuous, innocent, or high-minded; but the steady march of history cannot stop to let us see the various lights in which the inhabitants of Paris regarded the loss of a King, and the commencement of the first French Republic. The Assembly, though it had not contemplated the dethronement of the King, acquiesced in it; and acted as it would have done, had the establishment of a republic been decreed by a majority of its members. The municipality had determined that the King should fall, and, of course, rejoiced in the success of its work; and history plainly marking the acquiescence of the Assembly, and the activity of the city powers, naturally passes over the various feelings excited in different circles in Paris, by the overthrow of the monarchy.

Up to that period there was still in Paris much that was high, noble, and delightful. The haute noblesse had generally left the country; but the haute noblesse did not comprise the better educated, or most social families in Paris. Never had there been more talent, more wit, or more beauty in Paris than at the commencement of 1792; never had literary acquirement been more fully appreciated in society, more absolutely necessary in those who were ambitious of social popularity. There were many of this class in Paris who had hitherto watched the progress of the Revolution with a full reliance in the panacea it was to afford for human woes; many who had sympathized with the early demands of the Tiers Etat; who had rapturously applauded the Tennis Court oath; who had taken an enthusiastic part in the fete of the Champ de Mars; men who had taught themselves to believe that sin, and avarice, and selfishness were about to be banished from the world by the lights of philosophy; but whom the rancour of the Jacobins, and the furious licence of the city authorities had now robbed of their golden hopes. The dethronement of the King, totally severed many such from the revolutionary party. They found that their high aspirations had been in vain; that their trust in reason had been misplaced, and that the experiment to which they had committed themselves had failed; disgusted, broken-spirited, and betrayed they left the city in crowds, and with few exceptions, the intellectual circles were broken up.
back to top

back to top


I know of nothing like a French Newgate Calendar. Though similar information exists in a variety of police records, periodicals and in local volumes like Abbeville's Red Book (a log of trials over several centuries), only some of this is on-line and that is rarely searchable and still more rarely in English. While an effort to reconstitute (and translate) an "Old Regime Newgate Calendar" would probably outlast Sundries itself, I thought I would begin including such items here, faute de mieux, and see where the project takes me. With that, for lovers of the gory and the gruesome, a few murders. All of these were mentioned in Bachaumont, which is to say they were all considered colorful or otherwise worthy of note at the time.


Sometimes it's just smarter to take your pardon and run.

June 22, 1775

Among the pardons granted by the king at his coronation, much is said about that of M. de Vileraze de Castelnau, perpetrator of the murder of Monsieur Franc, agent of the states of Languedoc, May 30, 1772, condemned to the wheel by the Toulouse parlement. But a remarkable restriction has been added, that he cannot come nearer to Beziers, scene of the crime, than twenty leagues. This captain of cavalry proposed, it is said, to change his name, and never return to the kingdom, and to go to serve in a foreign land. It would be all the more prudent for him to do so given that the deceased has grown sons... who might want to avenge their father.
Bachaumont 8, 1775 (88-89)


This simple story unfolds with a Biblical inevitability before landing in the sophisticated precincts of Paris.

February 21, 1778

Two farmers leave their village together, they head on to their business, they quarrel, the brawl heats up, one of them kills his friend; his first instinct is to flee. Upon reflection he retraces his steps, and throws the body in a nearby stream in order to leave no trace of the crime. He comes home after this outing so riddled with remorse, that the next day, unable to bear it, he goes to confess to his parish priest, admits the murder, and tells how it happened; as payment for his sin, the priest imposes a proportionate penance, and beyond that advises him, in order to avoid all suspicion, to stay calm, and to keep completely silent about it.

The same day, the pastor was to dine at the house of the dead farmer. He goes, and finds the family completely unaware of the loss of its head, and everybody in good humor. The contrast of this joy with the dark secrets he hides in his breast torments and disturbs the priest so that he appears very unhappy through the meal. He is questioned about his obvious discomfort; he responds vaguely. One of the sons of the victim notices this and thinks it over; during the night his imagination takes over, he becomes convinced that his father is dead, and that the priest knows this. He goes right away the next morning to demand that he explain his answers from the night before; the latter, regretting having said too much, is evasive and claims to know nothing... The next day, the young man, in a state, and troubled overnight by the most sinister dreams, shares his fears with his brother, and his decision to force the priest to explain himself; he arms himself with a pistol and both go to see him together. After the first demands, which the priest resists, the furious young man shows him the pistol and tells him he is ready to blow his brains out if he does not disclose what he knows of his father's death which he now considers certain; the other, present, asks him as well not to prompt his brother, by his refusal, to carry out his threat. The terrified priest tells them everything he has learned.

The story gets around, the murder is known, the authorities are informed, the affair is taken before the Toulouse parlement which absolves and releases the murderer, sentences the priest to be burned alive, and the two brothers to be broken on the wheel. The decision is appealed, it is overturned, and they are sent before the Paris parlement, which is currently reviewing this truly romanesque trial, and is the subject of consultations. One cannot help but applaud the decision at Toulouse, following the letter of the law,; but it is considered quite severe, and it is hoped that all the guilty parties will be pardoned.
Bachaumont 10 1777-1778 (110-111)


In America today, some complain that murderers delay the execution of their sentence by repeated appeals. Apparently, for people of the right class, such delays were available even in Old Regime France. [NOTE: Though the perpetrators here are referred to as 'murderers', the victim in this case survived.]

February 11, 1778

Pleading will begin this month at the palace [of justice], [before the] Great Chamber and Tournelle combined, on a very interesting case: it concerns a murder committed by the Chevalier de Queyssat, captain of the dragoons in the legion of Lorraine; Froidefond de Queyssat, formerly captain in the provincial regiment of Marmande; and Fillol de Queyssat, formerly captain-aide-major in the same regiment, against the person of Beller [Belair] Damade, merchant in the city of Bordeaux. It is at Castillon on Dordogne, where the murderers live, that the crime was committed, but luckily not fully accomplished. The plaintiff, maimed for the rest of his days, and mulitated in his prime in the most deplorable manner, was preparing to demand the full rigor of the tribunal of the marshals of France, judges on questions of honor, when the lords Queyssat, hoping no doubt for a better outcome, entered a protest before the civil judge by suit of October 17, 1775. The latter, the lieutenant criminal of Libourne, had no choice but to issue an arrest warrant for the lords Queyssat. They appealed to the Bordeaux parlement which, by consecutive decisions of March 16 and May 12, 1776. rejected these appeals and ordered them transferred in the prison of the senechal of Libourne...

The lords Queyssat, having since had the last decision of the Bordeaux parlement overturned on a technicality, wer sent back to the Toulouse parlement, which confirmed the arrest order against the murderers. By a new chicanery, they have begun again, and here they are before the Paris parlement. The arm of justice, [having] already loomed three times above the heads of the accused, presumes strongly that they are guilty.
Bachaumont, 10 1777-1778 (95-96)

[NOTE: La Harpe later reported that after the brothers finally lost, and were held until they paid 80,000 livres of damages, Madame de Genlis, surprisingly, sold an edition of her plays to help them. He also says that at that point they were "ruined". Correspondance Litteraire, II (361)]


Much about this story is classic - but not how the murderer hid the evidence.

June 20, 1784 It appears certain that M. d'Entrecasteaux, counselor with the Aix parlement, twenty six years old, after having tried several times to poison his wife, slit her throat in the most atrocious fashion while she was in bed. It is said that having found her asleep, together with his valet, a scoundrel devoted to him, they both stuffed her mouth with cotton, then sawed her neck with a razor; that during this awful operation the husband held a vessel to catch the blood; that having taken ever precaution to set up a story, he cried out he'd been robbed; but by everything that followed, it was clear they were the perpetrators of the crime and what removed all doubt is that M. d'Entrecasteaux has fled to Sardinia. The husband's father was here. He is a president on this parlement, but little liked among his colleagues, having once been attached to Maupeou's party, and as currently prosecuting one of those trials which it is even shameful to win. The parlement has written to the chancellor to beg the king to have all courts alerted to watch for the guilty man. Mad [sic] d'Entrecasteaux, the daughter-in-law, was born Castellane, very pretty and only 24 years old. She brought a small dowry to the marriage; the young man was very greedy and wanted to marry a rich widow; this is the motive given for his horrendous crime. Bachaumont, 26, 1784 (59-60) September 7, 1785 It has been thought sure for some time that M. d'Entrecasteaux has died of sorrow in Lisbon; that first he had declared himself the perpetrator of his wife's murder, and to have had no accomplice. He told how, to commit it, he stripped himself completely naked, and then plunged into the well of his house, so that no trace of blood remained on him.
Bachaumont, 29, 1785 (207)


A minor affair, a major player... (The king of Sweden was travelling in France under the name of the count of Haga.) And a reminder that even prominent people (as the judges here would have been) are not immune to star power.

July 4, 1784

The count of Haga was to hear a case judged at the Tournelle; but the keeper-of-the-seals dissuaded him, on the pretext that it was not customary, that these matters should be handled in closed session. Everything had been arranged to pardon the criminal, especially since it was a very pardonnable case, since it concerned a man who had killed another with a ninepin, which suggests a momentary, even involontary, crime. The members of the parlement were very unhappy with the keeper-of-the-seals's remark, especially since the example would set no precedent, it being rare to have spectators of this rank. The count of Haga was himself to pardon the guilty man, who is to be pardoned nonetheless, it is hoped, by his intervention.
Bachaumont, 26, 1784 (97)


While several people escaped from the Bastille, none did it by violence and I know of no one who ever escaped the formidable Conciergerie. This case was almost an exception.

October 4, 1784

The trial concerning the revolt and the murder at the Conciergerie has taken place before the Lieutenant-General of the bailiwick of the palace [of justice]; a third participant has been implicated in the adventure. It is a certain Jaquin. He was what is called a 'servante' [sic] of the wicket clerks [the jailors at the entry window]. This is a prisoner who is less guilty and more likely to be released, whom these engage and to whom they give a certain trust in order to help them in their duties. Desaignes and de Forges had won him over, and he agreed to help them; which his position made it easier for him than another to do.

Here is what has been determined legally. All three were duly convicted of having plotted an armed escape from the Conciergerie, and for this purpose Desaignes of having having obtained from a person whom he declares to be unknown to him, five pistols [à demi-arçons - with shortened stocks?]; three quarters of a pound of gunpowder and twenty-two bullets; of having distributed them as follows, two pistols, to Desforges, with the necessary ammunition, and one of the same to the said Jaquin, and of having kept for himself two other pistols, and the rest of the powder and the bullets: all three, for the execution of their plot, Tuesday the 28th of September towards nine in the evening, wanted to force open the doors, fired several pistol shots, of which one hit a wicket clerk, another, though aimed at the wicket clerk, hit Jaquin, one of the accused and another hit a second wicket clerk, dead of the wound the next morning. The general word this evening is that all three have been condemned on October 1st by the bailiwick to be broken on the wheel, and that the sitting chamber [chambre a vacations] has just confirmed the sentence.
Bachaumont, 26, 1784 (225)
back to top

From CHEZ JIM Books:
and a history of the CROISSANT:

back to top

18th CENTURY RECIPE: A meal for Marie-Antoinette - Spitted suckling pig

The next item on this list of 16 entrees is a classic: spitted suckling pig. The Dons de Comus (1750) has the following simple recipe (46-47) for:

Roast suckling pig Heat water in a large, very clean cauldron. When the water is more than warm, put your pig in, holding it by the head or by the rear trotters. Keep stirring unilt the water is hot enough; which can be seen when the tail begins to lose its bristles. Then take it out of the water and rub in vigorously on a very clean table. While it is warm, empty it and truss the trotters with two skewers. Let it hang for a day, then skewer it with a bouquet [of herbs] in the body, salt and pepper. When it begins to dry, wipe it well with a white cloth, and rub it with good oil. The skin must be crisp.

(I resisted the temptation to include Beauvillier's much more extensive recipe, which lays out in excruciating detail how to slaughter and dress Little Piggie. No hanging, though. Instead of rubbing on the oil (to make it come out crisp), Beauvillier suggests using a white feather.)

back to top

fleur de lysFOR READERS OF FRENCHfleur de lys

back to top

Magasin Pittoresque: No 32 - 1864

REMINDER: The Magasin Pittoresque was a nineteenth century French magazine. Issues can be found on Gallica.

Couscous and the marimba are two of the more surprising off-topic bits here. If you'd like to see what it was like to get your hair done in the morning in our era, see page 65. And when is a chair with wheels not a wheelchair?

19 - dress under Louis XV (images)
65 - the wigmaker and the clerk (image)
176 - chair with wheels (not a wheelchair) Louis XV (image)
187 - invention of sedan chairs
257 - history of Square du Temple (image)
276 - funeral customs in Tahiti (from Bougainville)
297 - 18th century woodwork (at Bercy)
361 - the Winter Palace (image)
375 - old houses of Rouen (image)
392 - Varignon (1707) and others question Galileo on falling objects

1- Hyacinthe Rigaud
14 - Frederick the Great and his flutes
48 - Louis XV and his reader
112 - Daniel Richard, originator of watch industry in Geneva?
240 - chemist Claude-Louis Berthollet
282 - Franklin's letter to his sister on the death of her husband
342 - John Harisson and longitudes
369 - portrait of Moliere (with article and image)

off-topic but interesting:
23 - acoustic pottery
27 - sonnet by Da Vinci (in French); the turning bridge of the Tuileries

34 - ancient beds (images)
64 - the marimba
78 - if 'de' always indicates nobility
92 - continuation of series on photography
172 - how to make your own balancing man (images)
193 - discovery of Raphael's remains
203 - couscous (couscoussou)
241 - history of tattooing
261 - same phrase in different patois of France

back to top

End quote

"Fate decreed that my bed should be placed in a room that is the storehouse for the pastry shop, thus exposing me to temptation the whole night long. But I considered that it was beautiful to master one's passions and so slept soundly, surrounded by all these alluring objects."

Robespierre, June 2, 1783
(translation by Nancy Ampoux)

FROM CHEZ JIM BOOKS Three works on eighteenth century subjects:

For some sample 18th century vegetarian recipes, click here.

copyright 2006 Jim Chevallier.
When using brief extracts from this site, please credit properly and provide a link back to this site.
(NOTE: Most translations, except where otherwise noted, are by Jim Chevallier and are copyrighted as such.)
Please do not reproduce extended pieces (recipes, translated pieces, etc.) without prior permission.


Questions? Comments? Corrections? Write:

Chez Jim

Memoirs of

the Bastille

Return to
Welcome to

the Bastille
Chez Jim