Tag Archives: Gallica bibliothèque numérique

Sauts des mariés and fêtes baladoires: customs arcane and illicit

With the French Revolution Collection (FRC) all but cataloged in full, our primary task now is to deal with the hundreds of duplicates set aside over the course of the three year CLIR project.  In the end it was decided that the integrity of the collection was worth preserving, so all duplicates will be retained.

For bibliographic records pre-dating the project, we’ll be recataloging, but CLIR records require merely adding holdings records in Voyager.  The latter is a simple matter, potentially tedious but quick enough to allow for a satisfyingly high level of productivity.   This alacrity makes it easy to simply skim the titles, but occasionally — as with the monkey and nun that (metaphorically) leaped from the pages of a Saint-Sulpice volume last year — a an unusual word or two demand attention.  For Case folio FRC 27535, my eye was caught by (literally) jumping newlyweds:

Ruling of the Cour de Parlement that prohibits all persons, of whatever quality and condition they may be, to require newlyweds, resident in the parish of Verruyes, to jump, on the day of Pentecost or any other day, over any hole; and that equally prohibits any newlyweds from presenting themselves to make the jump [...]

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

As the 1786 arrêt goes on to describe it, the hole is to be at least half full of water, of a depth of about 12 feet or more, and if the newlyweds fail to make the jump they must each pay a fine of 60 sols.   One can’t help but agree with the court  that the custom “can do nothing but result in very great impropriety … regarding both the danger incurred by jumping … and the fear that may precipitate paying  the fine.”

Case folio FRC 27535 (duplicate of Case folio FRC suppl. 93 no. 48)

The ruling also notes that the saut des mariés can be considered nothing but a “fête baladoire” which are already outlawed.   One such decree (conveniently available online via the French national library’s Gallica bibliothèque numérique) sheds light on what fêtes baladoires might entail, describing in some detail the disruptive hijinks in a particular area.

Arrest de la cour du Parlement défend les fêtes baladoires, les attroupements et assemblées illicites ... (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The decree pertains to assemblies

that could be regarded as fêtes baladoires (licentious festivals), during marrages and baptisms; that the inhabitants tumultuously gather together armed with rifles and pistols, having rockets and firecrackers, and lighting fires in different places around the parishes; that around the days of carnival the boys of the parishes go out looking for girls in the places where they are assembled, with drums, fifes, and horns, traversing during the night all the quarters of their villages leading around masked and disguised girls, and going from village to village; that the inhabitants of Couilly assembled in a cabaret where they wrote and composed defamatory libels that they had distributed; that during carnival they had an inhabitant of Couilly mount an ass [...] carrying and representing his effigy, which they burned, extorting from this inhabitant the sum of 60 livres, and then they assembled in the cabarets where they made a tumult and drank all night [...]

The high spirits — particularly the libel and effigy-burning — sound much like the 1791 case of the carementran in Crest that cropped up almost exactly a year ago.  Somehow these crop up on our work flow just after Ash Wednesday.  Go figure.


Putting women’s rights on (the) line

When a French revolutionary pamphlet crops up in the news, we take notice.

Just days ago, the British Library announced that it is partnering with Google to digitize 250,000 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books.  Among the few titles they singled out for mention is a signal work on women’s rights, Olympe de GougesLes droits de la femme of 1791.  Happily, though not surprisingly, this notable pamphlet can also be found here at the Newberry in the French Revolution Collection (FRC) (Case FRC 19262) where it is among 25 works by Gouges that were cataloged last spring.

The digitization project is good news; in creating our catalog records, we include links to free online versions when they are available.  Google Books comes up frequently and will be a familiar resource to most users.  Less well-known, perhaps, but vital to our project are other electronic libraries such as Gallica bibliothèque numérique (of the Biblioteque nationale de France), the HathiTrust Digital Library, and the Münchener DigitalisierungsZentrum Digitale Bibliothek, just to name a few.

But what of that extraordinary feminist pamphlet?

In Les droits de la femme, Olympe de Gouges places women’s inequality squarely in the framework of France’s struggles, linking the fortunes of women with that of the revolutionary project itself.  At its core is the Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne, a point-by-point feminist response to the landmark Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, which conspicuously omits women from its scheme of universal equality.  Following the declaration is a lengthy postlude that proposes a new form of marriage contract, one that makes provisions for divorce and the equal distribution of property among husband, wife, and children (legitimate or not), among other things.

De Gouges was an outspoken human rights activist, essayist, and playwright.  She dedicated this work to Marie Antoinette, who she urges to take up the cause of women’s equality, suggesting that by doing so she might yet salvage her tarnished legacy.  While praising the queen, de Gouges also takes her to task in no uncertain terms for her involvement with émigré counterrevolutionaries and foreign powers.

The pugnacious and radical text ends with a jubilant post-script.  De Gouges stopped the presses to add a note expressing her pure joy at the news that the king had accepted the Assemblée nationale’s constitution.  Her elation and her hope for the future are palpable, though marked with caution: “Providence divine, fais que cette joie publique ne soit pas une fausse illusion!”  The joy was to be short-lived.  Aligned with the Girondins, she was imprisoned in the summer of 1793 as the Jacobins swept into power.  Two weeks after the queen’s execution, de Gouges, too, was sent to the guillotine, her fate echoing Article X of her Déclaration: “La femme a le droit de monter sur l’échafaud; elle doit avoir également celui de monter à la Tribune” (Woman has the right to mount the scaffold; she has the same right to mount the rostrum).