Sunday, October 23, 2016

From the Library of Marie Antoinette: Caroline, or the Diversities of Fortune

Today's Book: Caroline, or the Diversities of Fortune

Title: Caroline, or the Diversities of Fortune (French title: Caroline, ou les Vicissitudes de la fortune)

Author: Anne Hughes (unknown birth and death dates)

Publication: Originally published in English in 1787 in three volumes. Published in France in 1788.

Notes: A novel about a young lady named Caroline who finds herself in a difficult position after her father dies; having no one, since her mother died at birth, she travels from place to place hoping to find refuge with relatives, constantly at odds with her own fortune.

The book was mentioned in the 1787 Monthly Review as a "pleasing and well-wrought story" with a sound moral for young women regarding the importance of arming yourself with virtue and fortitude because, to quote the work, "She who has that, is clad in complete steel[.]"

Where you can read it: The original English version can be read at the Chawton House Library.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From the Library of Marie Antoinette: L'aventurier François; ou, Mémoires de Grégoire Merveil

Today's Book: L'aventurier François; ou, Mémoires de Grégoire Merveil

Title: L'aventurier François; ou, Mémoires de Grégoire Merveil (The French adventurer, or memoirs of Gregoire Merveil)

Author: Robert Martin Lesuire (1737-1815)

Publication: First published in 1782 in French; further volumes were published throughout the 1780s.

Notes: An adventure-mystery tale about a French man who discovers an underground society populated by former criminals, and finds himself accused of murder and forced to investigate and solve the crime himself to clear his name.

This is Lesuire's best known work and his most popular work with contemporary readers, although it was not well received critically. It was called a "pile of incoherent nonsense [and] the delight of frivolous readers" by one critic. The adventures of Gregoire Merveil were continued in further works by Leisure, although these were not quite as popular.

In addition to this first novel, the queen's library also held copies of the rest of Lesuire's Merveil adventures: Suite de l'Aventurier français, ou Mémoires de Grégoire Merveil, marquis d'Erbeuil; Seconde suite de l'Aventurier français, contenant les mémoires de Cataudin, chevalier de Rosamene, fils de Grégoire Merveil; and Dernière suite de l'Aventurier français, contenant les mémoires de Ninette Merviglia, fille de Grégoire Merveil, écrits par elle-même, & traduits de l'italien, par son frère Cataudin

Where you can read it: Available on in French (1784 reprint edition). The book was translated into English in the 1780s, but I have been unable to find it for free online thus far.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen Review


[A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher]

Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen is a somber, ghostly tale that weaves together the tragic end of Marie Antoinette with the life of a widowed painter in 1930s Paris. The book, written and illustrated by Rodolphe and Annie Goetzinger, was originally published in French several years ago; this year, NBM has released an English edition with a translation by Peter Russella. According to the forward by Rodolphe, the pair originally intended to adapt the Moberly–Jourdain incident into comic form, before deciding on an original story.

The story as presented is straightforward, which helps the narrative flow easily from panel to panel. Maud is a recently widowed painter living in Paris in the 1930s, who is attempting to hone her talents as an artist while fending off the advances of her stepson, who is all too keen to get his hands on the vast sums his elderly father left his young wife. While painting at the Petit Trianon, Maud's little dog runs away--only to find himself in a time slip, as he stumbles on a gathering held by Marie Antoinette and her companions, who are being told that a mob is marching on Versailles and they must flee to the palace for safety. Maud, whose visit to the Petit Trianon sparks a previously unawakened connection to the spirit world, finds herself enlisted by the ghost of Marie Antoinette to find her remains and bury them, so that her soul can finally rest at peace.

The few twists in the story aren't exactly unexpected if you are familiar with this type of classic ghost narrative, and the story lacks a real antagonist since the attempts of Maud's sleazy stepson to get her money (through marriage, murder, or commitment to a mental asylum) never pose a serious threat. But a good story doesn't always have to be a complicated or difficult one, and Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen shines as a simple, somber narrative that plunges readers into a tragic tale and then takes them exactly where they want to go in the end. It's the perfect read for a quiet afternoon or morning, when you can take the time to savor the illustrations and the comic's quieter moments, particularly the last few panels.

The illustrations by Annie Goetzinger for the book have to be singled out: they are truly exquisite, and will stay with you long after you've finished reading. I've found myself flipping through the pages again and again to admire the work, and I always seem to find a new detail to gush over. The depiction of Marie Antoinette's ghost, as well as the nightmares of her final days in captivity, are especially memorable.  The soft, dreamy colors are perfectly suited to the ghostly story line, and combined with the artist's great eye for color and mood, they give the comic a dreamlike quality. 

I would recommend Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen to anyone with an interest in Marie Antoinette, classic style ghost stories or anyone who is looking for a beautifully illustrated story with an eerie undercurrent of the supernatural.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Samples from Marie Antoinette: La Jeunesse d'une Reine by Fuyumi Soryo

Marie Antoinette: La Jeunesse d’une Reine by Fuyumi Soryo is a new manga published by Kodansha and created with the collaboration of the Chateau de Versailles. The manga will tell the story of Marie Antoinette and features exquisite drawings and historical detail. The French edition of this manga volume will be released in the fall.

Glenat has uploaded some amazing sample panels of the comic. I've posted a select few on this blog, and the rest can be viewed here. 

No word yet on whether the comic will be getting an English translation, but here's to hoping!

 © Fuyumi Soryo / Kodansha Ltd. 

 © Fuyumi Soryo / Kodansha Ltd. 

© Fuyumi Soryo / Kodansha Ltd.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back from hiatus!

So, I technically never announced that I was taking a hiatus, but a short break in July  turned into a few months of silence--at least on this blog! It's been a truly distracting summer and while things haven't exactly calmed down for me, I'd like to get back into the swing of things here at Reading Treasure. Coming up next week will be a review of John Hardman's new biography of Louis XVI, followed shortly after by a review of Elena Maria Vidal's next book. I'm also excited for October to continue last year's tradition of "spooky" posts for the Halloween season.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Quick Picks

Recent news, old bits and bobs, and other quick picks for your Marie Antoinette fix!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

And Marie Antoinette Said: "I was a queen, and you took away my crown..."

Marie Antoinette did not say "Let them eat cake!" 

Yet "Let them eat cake!" isn't the only phrase frequently attributed to the last queen of France. A quick cursory search on Google or numerous social media platforms reveals many quotes supposedly said by Marie Antoinette. But did she really say them? Where did these quotes come from? In this new post series, 'And Marie Antoinette Said...' we will be taking a closer look at some of the most famous quotes attributed to the queen  (yes, including "Let them eat cake!") to uncover their origins and hopefully their veracity.

"I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long."

This popular quote is credited as having been said by Marie Antoinette at her trial. In addition to being frequently shared online, the quote was commonly included in 19th century history books and can be even found in books published in the last hundred years. The short speech is usually placed after Marie Antoinette's death sentence is read or when she is asked if she has anything to say in her own defense before the jury begins their deliberations.

It is a moving, novel-worthy quote to be sure--something that evokes a hauntingly elegant image of the burdened former queen, slowly rising in her tattered mourning gown, addressing the Revolutionary Tribunal with all the grace and wit of a daughter of the Caesars.

But did she actually say it?

Thankfully, a written record of the queen's trial was published by the revolutionary government shortly after her execution. This record was translated into English and published by a London press immediately thereafter.

In these trial records, when Marie Antoinette is asked if she has anything to add in her own defense, both the original French and English translation remark the queen as having said:

"Yesterday, I did not know the witnesses; I knew not what they were going to depose against me; and nobody has produced against me any positive fact. I finish by observing that I was only the wife of Louis XVI, and it was requisite in me to conform myself to his will."

Marie Antoinette was then led out of the hall while Fouquier de Tinville gave a speech to the jury, who deliberated and returned with their verdict. The queen was led back into the hall and told to listen to the judgment of the Tribunal, which was a guilty sentence with the punishment of death. Fouquier de Tinville then asks if she any objection to make against her sentence.

Here, the original French record and the London translation differ very slightly. The French transcript records the queen's reaction as: "Antoinette shakes her head as a sign of the negative." The English London publication translated this as: "Antoinette bowed her head."

The French record's afterword is a description of Marie Antoinette being led to the scaffold. The London edition, not surprisingly, contains a lengthy afterword condemning the Revolution. This afterward slightly contradicts the English transcript preceding it by writing that Marie Antoinette replied with the word "nothing" after having been asked if she had any objections to make.

However, in neither the original French publication or the translated trial record does the "I was a queen, and you took away my crown" quote appear at any point.

Claude François Chauveau-Lagarde, one of Marie Antoinette's defenders, wrote an account of her trial in 1816. In his recollections, Chauveau-Lagarde said that Marie Antoinette did not say anything in response to her sentence.

So, where did the quote come from?

The phrase has its origins in a 1794 publication called Marie Antoinette d'Autriche, Reine de France, ou Causes et Tableau de la Revolution. The book was written by Chevalier Nicolas de Maistre, a French noble officer who was living as an émigré in Austria when he wrote and published the volume. Maistre's book is a condemnation of the Revolution told through the tribulations and eventually the trial of Marie Antoinette.

It is in Maistre's version of the trial that when Marie Antoinette is told "The sentence of death is pronounced. What have you to answer for your defense?" she replies:

"In my defense! Nothing. For your scruples! Much. I was a queen, and you dethroned me. I was a wife, and you killed my husband. I was a mother, and you tore me from my children. Only my blood remains: you are thirsty. Drink it. Hasten to meet it that you may drink it."

The French version of this quote had some traction in the 19th century, but not very much. It is in English books from the 19th century that a slightly revised version of the quote, which omits the first and last sentences, gained much more popularity in that same time period.  It can be found in some histories of Marie Antoinette as well as many books about queens, women in history and historical anecdotes. This discrepancy between its French and English popularity could be related to the fact that the English translation of her trial was not given new editions in the 19th century, whereas the French record of her trial was republished several times throughout the 1800s, so the circulation of this anecdotal quote ran wilder with English publishers.


It is safe to say that Marie Antoinette did not say this quote, moving as it is.

Nicolas de Maistre was not present at her trial and no records from her trial include any version of this quote; one of Marie Antoinette's defense lawyers confirms that she did not say anything; nor has the quote been so much as paraphrased by anyone who was present at her trial or would have had access to someone who was a witness. Its origins are an émigré noble's pro-monarchy book and Maistre, like many authors of the day, included invented details to make things more dramatic, more interesting, and more eloquent.

Further Reading