Hear Now the Tale of a Jet Black Sunrise


Chapter 1: Thanks again to Marianna Starke for the travel information. “The riots last month” refers to the November 1827 riots, including the first barricades in the streets in a century, that materialised after elections under a new electoral law returned a majority of Ultraroyalist candidates to the Chamber of Deputies. The Salon of 1827 is the next Salon in Paris after the great 1824 Salon. It is also nearly as great, with Delacroix exhibiting the results of his English sojourn, and as characterised, Greeks as far as the eye can see. The religious conservatives favoured the Greek fight for independence because the Turks were Muslim; the Romantics enjoyed self-determination with pretty costumes. Alfred de Vigny published Poèmes antiques et modernes in 1826. He’s of the depressing, suffering Romantic genre - all beings suffer, therefore we must be resigned to the shittiness of life. His novel Cinq Mars, one of the early historical novels in French, was also published in that year, and was insanely popular as the French response to Sir Walter Scott - and also thus not exactly “the thing” to hand to a girl who just left a convent school, as Combeferre perceives to be the case with Isabelle Laurier.

Chapter 2: Adolphe Tiers’ History of the Revolution was the first major leftist history of that period, published in ten volumes from 1823 to 1827. I am completely inventing an actual publication date solely for my own purposes. It was apparently encyclopedic yet inaccurate, but it served as a counter-balance to the dominant theme of the Restoration, particularly after Charles X ascended the throne in September 1824, thus ensuring it an important place in the development of liberal thought.

Chapter 3: Tarot was a provençal card game before it was used to tell fortunes. Indeed, fortunetellers of this period were more likely to use a regular deck of playing cards than a tarot deck. Patience being a form of solitaire, the addition of the extra cards ought to make it more difficult, but not impossible, to win.

Chapter 4: Christmas in England was rather sporadic before Dickens guilt-tripped everyone with A Christmas Carol. In France, however, Christmas was always a major holiday, intended to be celebrated with the family. Traditions were highly local, and the Enjolras family would likely celebrate a combination of what M. Enjolras experienced in his childhood in the Rhône and the common celebrations of Marseille. The tradition of the yule log, the bûche de noël or, in provençal, chalendal, was followed throughout France; in Provence, it was often a piece of a fruit or olive tree. The log was prayed over and blessed with wine and olive oil and lit before the family left for midnight mass (traditions vary on if it was blessed before or after being lit). In general, throughout the nineteenth century, the réveillon, the dinner eaten upon return from midnight mass, would have been prepared in advance and left for the family to serve themselves, the servants being permitted the night off. In Paris in particular, later in the century, sausages and waffles cooked over the fire were the hot foods that supplemented the large cold buffet. Christmas Eve was a fast day rather than a feast day, thus the dinner ought to be meatless, but strict observance declined over the course of the century rather in proportion to the decline of the church. The major provençal food tradition that comes up in modern writings is the “Thirteen Desserts”, but they come together in the early twentieth century as a combination of older traditions. The “mendicant orders” are dried fruit and nuts that were often served as a representation of the mendicant orders on celebrations that the Church declared a fast, thus they would often be seen on Christmas Eve. Pompe à l’huile is an olive oil-based sweet bread flavoured with orange blossom and is traditional to Marseille. Today, black nougat and white nougat are both included on the table as representations of evil and good, but gourmand guides of the 1820s note nougat in general as a particularly provençal inclusion in the all-important réveillon.

But to be completely clear on this chapter: I have used what Christmas traditions within all of France throughout the century suit my purposes rather than set the entire evening according to provençal custom as described by publications between 1800 and 1850.

As for Marseille geography, la Major refers to the cathedral of Ste-Marie-Majeure, a 12th century Romanesque structure that, prior to 1852, was directly on the waterfront. A portion of it was knocked down in 1852 in preparation for building a new cathedral next door, but the outcry was enough to save most of the rest of the structure. (Welcome to the 19th century, where something declared a “Monument Historique” in 1840 can get knocked down twelve years later.)

Chapter 5: Presents were traditionally exchanged both at Christmas and a week later at the New Year. Occasionally, it was emphasised that Christmas gifts were for children and New Year’s gifts for adults, but in practice, people did either or both as they preferred. Mourning traditions fluctuated slightly historically - they were cut shorter under Louis XVI then lengthened again during the Second Empire. Men were expected to mourn for less time than were women: the requirement for a widow mourning her husband was one year.

Chapter 6: When writtten, Saint Joan was meant to be Joan of Arc, but she was not yet canonised. However, she shares a name with Sainte Jeanne la Myrophore, one of Christ’s followers, who not only took him from the cross and prepared his body for burial but is also credited with retrieving and properly burying the head of John the Baptist. These acts fit easily enough into a political reading for my purposes (particularly as Flavius Josephus insists that John the Baptist was killed precisely to avoid the outbreak of revolution), though she was not a martyr. Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the famous one with the wheel. She was condemned for the crime of having converted the Empress of the Roman Empire to Christianity, an intensely political act in that it was part of a campaign she led to convince Emperor Maximus to end the persecution of Christians. She also refused to become one of his wives, which may well have added to why he was pissed off at her. Saint Cecilia and her husband, Valerian, buried executed Christians in direct defiance of governmental order. She also preached publicly and made hundreds of conversions. These are major female saints who committed what can be construed as deliberate political acts and may only later have had the stories of virginity pasted on (I’m thinking of Cecilia here, though a lot of early Christians maintained a fanaticism about virginity to directly contrast with a Roman world in which temple prostitutes were part of religious observance). Saint Barbara, on the other hand, merely refused marriage at all (not even in a political alliance sense - she isn’t characterised as having been of important enough family for that) and was brutally murdered by her vindictive bastard of a father. While this is of course one of the few ways for women of the era to hold out against patriarchal domination, it’s a more diffuse political act and can very easily be taken as ridiculous. A large number of the early female saints were of a very similar brand of outraged virginity, their sainthood resting not on their actions for the collective but on their individual bodies.

Chapter 7: The mistral is a dry wind from the north, sometimes from the west. It blows a good third of the year, sometimes only for a day at a time, sometimes for as long as two weeks. The reason that Provence has so much sunshine is because the wind inhibits cloud formation - as a storm moves in, it appears to push the clouds away. It is said even today that Marseille has the cleanest air in France because the mistral pushes away the pollution. The force and length of these weather events is such that trees often grow at a slant, bending away from the direction of the wind. It is also said that during a mistral, the air is so clear that one can see Corsica from the top of Mont Ventoux, approximately 130 km north of Marseille - the joke being that no one can actually stand at the summit during a mistral, when wind gusts of 320 km/hr have been recorded. (A category 5 hurricane has wind speeds of over 250 km/hr, though the average sustained wind speed on Mont Ventoux during a mistral would be something over 90 km/hr, more akin to a strong tropical storm.) When the summit is accessible and the air is clear, one can see all the way to the sea and can even identify the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, which stands on a hill above Marseille. But from Marseille itself, La Ciotat and Toulon would intervene even before the 200 km of sea between France and Corsica, rendering all comments on that score a definite joke. Samuel Hahnemann was a German physician who developed homeopathy in the 1790s. His major book, The Organon of the Healing Art, laid out his theory that “like cures like” and had a French edition in 1824. His writings generally asserted that mainstream medicine, particularly the drugs, killed more patients than itcured. Basing his theory on experiments with cinchona bark, which was a source of the quinine that treated malaria, he asserted that disease was caused by stimuli which could be faked through the judicious use of highly diluted drugs that mimicked the effects of the disease, the false reaction taking over from the natural reaction and expelling the disease from the body. He also believed at one point that coffee caused disease. He was a fruitcake, but people often had better outcomes in homeopathic infectious disease treatments than in traditional treatments (he at least avoided purgatives for cholera and did not permit bloodletting, so of course more people were going to live when they only had to battle the disease and not the medical treatment).

Chapter 8: Stendhal reports that during the mistral, he was traveling in a diligence that, when crossing a bridge, had to be held down by men hanging off the roof with ropes to add additional weight to counteract the top-heaviness of the vehicle in the wind. While one would certainly get the greatest trouble on an exposed bridge, I cannot imagine it would have been easy at any time during the mistral. With the Restoration, the lycées set up by Bonaparte were maintained but re-named collèges royaux. Scholarships were rare (approximately 1700 for all the collèges royaux in France) and usually amounted to half-tuition. Those scholarships that did exist were generally for academic merit or sometimes for the benefit of the sons of impoverished supporters of the regime. The class characterisation of Gérard is really based on patterns from about twenty years later due to lack of data for school enrollments for the relevant period.

Chapter 9: Each town of 5,000 inhabitants was required to support a commissaire de police (CP) hired by the Ministery of the Interior; for each additional 10,000 in population, an additional CP was required. In 1830, Marseille had eleven CPs, including a commissaire central, a CP tasked not with an area of the city but with the co-ordination of all police work within the city. One could think of it as a CP was a precinct head, while the commissaire central was the police chief, though answering to Paris rather than to the local mayor.

Chapter 10: A collège communal was of a lower order than the collèges royaux - the one at Grasse was one of the slight majority that could prepare a student to sit the baccalauréat, but nearly half (in 1852, 150 out of 311) did not offer classes at a high enough level. Grasse, in the 1860s, was attended primarily by the sons of small shopkeepers and peasants. In 1821, with a population of over 12,500, Grasse would have been considered a medium-sized city (the average market town had fewer than 5,000 people).

Chapter 11: Thank you, Google, for managing to send a streetview camera down the tiny little alleys of Aix. The brief mention of Marseille history is accurate, and the comparison of the cities is largely derived from travelogues of the period and the growth of Marseille during the Restoration and July Monarchy.

Chapter 12: One of the primary duties of a CP was to make political reports to the Ministry of the Interior. Complaints were frequent that the Ministry cared more about the political situation than about the crime rate and often privileged reports and demanded that CPs organise their work accordingly. Courfeyrac’s report on the staffing of parishes is accurate for the entire period of the Restoration. The “events of November” are a couple of nights of rioting: celebrations of Liberal victories in the 1827 elections got somewhat out of hand with firecrackers set off in the street and roving bands of men demanding that householders and shopkeepers put lanterns in their windows in solidarity with the Liberal victory. The gendarmerie and the Army had been put on alert and, the night of 19 November, sent cavalry through the streets to brutally suppress the initial rioting. They also injured and killed a number of women and children and several men who claimed to merely be bystanders, some of them being professional men and men of property rather than the ragged marauders who were tossing firecrackers. This violence led to larger demonstrations the following night and the construction of barricades to protect the demonstrators from additional cavalry charges. The whole thing was put down and to a modern eye reflected poorly both on the government and on the populace - there was some looting, but the government had been looking for excuses for repressive action all year. (Bahorel probably thought Christmas came early.)

Chapter 13: Before the Revolution, women often succeeded to post office positions in medium-sized cities on the death of their husband, often as an interim measure until a son were old enough to assume the position. While most of these widows were cleared out by 1834 through natural attrition, women continued to be nominated to direct post offices in small towns where the mail volume was not enough to justify a full-time job as post-office director. The phenomenon increased considerably after an 1830 law that expanded the reach of the postal service in rural areas, as hundreds of new post offices were constructed and required management.

Chapter 14: Censorship was constantly fluctuating as the king and his ministers attempted to silence opposition as quietly as possible. In 1827, the law was roughly that all periodicals, regardless of frequency of publication or subject matter, had to be examined by the censors prior to publication. Publication became far more difficult with the law passed in July 1828, which made the publication of “anything that would incite hatred or contempt for the king’s government, provoke disobedience to the laws, or attack the rights of king and parliament under the charter of 1814” a prosecutable offense.

Chapter 15: Jean-François Champollion was the French linguist, a specialist in Eastern languages, given the task of deciphering the Rosetta Stone. He had several publications out by 1828, but Combeferre almost certainly had his Précis du système hiéroglyphique of 1824 - that single book pretty much created the entire field of Egyptology as a specialty. Baghdad was the intellectual centre of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the entire city was destroyed in 1258 by the Mongols: great architecture torn down, the library - the greatest repository of ancient Greek texts on earth - dumped into the river, the vast majority of the population massacred, and a comparatively few artisans were spared, only to be forced east to work in the Mongol capital. The Mongols preferred the people who made jewelry and furniture, but they destroyed the intellectual products of millennia. The Turks followed the Mongol example a few hundred years later when Timur (Tamerlane) sacked Damascus, again destroying a major library and sending local artisans back to his capital city. Granada (really al-Andalus, all of Moorish Spain, rather than just the final rump of Granada that finally fell in 1492) filled a similar role in the west at a time when the rest of Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, al-Andalus was producing major innovations in science and philosophy, plus some really beautiful decorative art the Alhambra in Granada has been an influence on art and design in Europe since a restoration that began in 1828.

Chapter 16: Demographically, in the ten years between the 1821 and 1831 censuses, the population difference between Lyon and Marseille declined from approximately 22,000 to 4,000. By the end of the century, Lyon had begun a decline while Marseille continued to increase in population, finally becoming the second city in France around 1900. The political censorship laws in Britain were removed near the end of the 17th century; the modern policing of London did not begin until 1828. Combeferre’s visit would thus show one of the greatest contrasts between the countries at this period, not to mention that visitors were outright banned from the Chamber of Peers under the Restoration and access to the Chamber of Deputies seems to have fluctuated based on political concerns. Parliament had not managed to eliminate many of the rotten boroughs until the reform of 1832, and the electorate was as elite as in France at the time, but the comparative openness must have been astonishing.

Chapter 17: The implications here should be vague enough to be historically passable - Jacques Laffitte, the banker, only ever had one daughter, but he was one of ten children and did well by his family. One of his nephews, Charles Laffitte, was a founding member of the Jockey Club. Laffitte hits too many important social, economic, and political buttons for me to leave alone, both in siting how Combeferre’s extended family fits into the socio-economic framework in Paris and in reflecting M. Enjolras’ own history, ambitions, and desires for his son.

Internal travel was regulated for citizens as well as foreigners. One needed a passport in order to legally travel outside the départment of residence, and if stopped on the road without a valid passport, or with a passport valid for a journey that should take you in a completely different direction, one could be arrested for vagrancy. This section is still somewhat speculative, based on several secondary sources below, and I admit to making the assumption that at 21, Henri can travel without parental permission, or at least being of an important name in town, he will not be interrogated and asked to prove parental permission. Naming conventions for the period suggest that each godparent provide a name at baptism, thus the double middle names here.

The French proverb is “La patience est mère de toutes les vertus” - Patience is the mother of all virtues.

Sources (books sourced through Google Books):

Ariès, Philippe and Georges Duby, eds. A history of private life, vol. 4: From the fires of revolution to the great war. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Artz, Frederick B. France under the Bourbon restoration, 1814-1830. New York: Russell & Russell, 1963.

Bachrach, Susan. Dames employées: the feminization of postal work in nineteenth century France. Philadelphia: The Haworth Press, 1984.

Brégeon-Poli, Brigitte. “« Va pour treize ! » La « tradition » des desserts de Noël en Provence”. Terrain, no. 24, March 1995.

de Girardin, Emile. De l’instruction publique en France: ouvrage utile aux familles. 3rd edition. Paris: Mairet et Fournier, Libraires, 1842.

Grimod de La Reynière, Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent. Le gastronome français, ou, L’art de bien vivre. Paris: Charles-Béchet, 1828.

Harrigan, Patrick. Mobility, elites, and education in French society of the second empire. Waterloo, Ont. : Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1980.

Merriman, John M. Police stories: building the French state, 1815-1851. London: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Michelet, Jules. Histoire de France. Second Edition. Paris: Librairie classique de L. Hachette, 1835.

Smith, Michael Stephen. The emergence of modern business enterprise in France, 1800-1930. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Starke, Mariana. Information and directions for travellers on the continent. Paris: A and W Galignani, 1829.

Thogmartin, Clyde. The national daily press of France. Birmingham: Summa, 1998.


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