Tuesday, September 17, 1889

Tuesday Sept. 17th.

This morning we took a cab and started out for Madame Tatemans a boarding school just outside the city limits. The coachman did not know the way, so we had a long ride and a good look at Paris. Every time I go out I am astonished more and more at the size ,extent and beauty of this metropolis. We rode out on the “Bois-de-Bologne” the most delightful Boulevard in Paris, with four rows of trees down the whole extent to the park. When we arrived at Madame Tateman’s we were ushered into a beautiful parlor. The Madame came in,a polished French woman speaking English fluently. She took us all over the beautiful school, and I never saw anything so fine for a school. The dining room has a dome and stained glass ceiling. I went there to get the little girls in school, but found everything bfilled. I heard about it on the Gascogne.

This P. M Jennie’s Greek admirer came for us and took us in a carriage to the Louvre, the grandest picture gallery in the world. How can I begin to give any idea of it. It was once the Palace of the sovereigns of France. Begun in 1541 by Francis 1, and finished in 1857 by Napoleon 3. The Government spares no expense in keeping up these galleries of pictures and it costs nothing to enter. Of course there are miles of pictures, but we divided most of the time to among the old Masters, Rubens, Raphael and Murillo. One whole row is devoted to Rubens and the pictures are immense. How one man could accomplish so much in one short life time is a mystery to me The coloring is rich, and the spiritual inspiration is sublime. We saw the famous Last Supper by Leonardo-de-Vinci, and a great number of Raphael’s seraphic pictures, always containing the one face he adored. I do not wonder these men are immortal. The number and grandeur of their works makes one feel their enormous powers and capacity for labor and their transcendant genius. My blood fairly ran cold as I looked at the original works of these great mast ers.

the Louvre is situated in the palaces bordering on the Tulleries garden. We left the Louvre an d went to the Morgue where three dead bodies lay waiting identification. They were a horrible sight. In a glass case one child that had been murdered, its face pounded fearfully. On our way we saw the tower in which Marie Antoinette was imprisoned and from which she was taken for execution. We also saw the native habitation of Heloise and Ableard, and their sorrowful love story had adeeper meaning for me than ever before. We came back and walked through the Palais Royal, filled with rare jewels and everything else under the sun.

This evening was Madame’s Soiree. The parlor filled with guests. Mademoiselle Lita the opera singer sang for us.

[Without a specified location, I have thus far been unsuccessful in identifying the school run by Madame Tateman. I am not completely sure what Addie means by a Boulevard named Bois-de-Bologne, though I can say that she appears to have misspelled “Boulogne” as “Bologne.” The 1889 map on this blog shows a Boulevart de Boulogne running next to the park known as Bois de Boulogne, but I’m not sure why she would have taken that street to get to the park as per the entry since the street ran parallel to the park. The park’s name remains the same but in the intervening century-plus the road has been renamed Boulevard Anatole France. Comparing a modern map (link opens PDF) of Bois de Boulogne to the 1889 map on this blog shows the structure of the park itself appears to have changed little since Addie visited it. The park was one of many changes introduced to Paris by Baron Haussmann (photo of him here), the same person after whom the street where Addie was staying was named; he modeled it on large London parks like Hyde Park.]

[I imagine the Louvre is familiar to all readers. The English-language version of their website is here.]

[When I first read this entry, I was shocked both that a morgue had been open to the public and at the fairly nonchalant tone with which Addie seemed to me to report the visit in the diary, as if morgue visits were an everyday occurrence to Victorians. In subsequent research I discovered that the Paris Morgue was notorious for being open to the public, was frequently mentioned in Victorian tourist guide books as a potential destination, and was visited by many Victorian British writers who wrote about it in the English language. In the article “Returning the Look: Victorian Writers and the Paris Morgue” by Paul Vita (Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 25:3 [2003], pp. 241-256), Vita writes:

“The archives of the Musée de Police in Paris hold no records of how many people visited the nineteenth-century morgue, but a tourist attraction it was. . . . A large plate-glass window separated these two rooms—a sanitary measure, which also ensured that the experience was essentially visual. In 1867, this morgue was demolished, as part of the ‘Haussmannization’ of Paris (Schwartz 55), and replaced by a structure roughly four times the size of the original. Located at the end of the Ile de la Cité, the new morgue was a modernized version of the former: as Vanessa Schwartz points out, the modest Greek temple was replaced by ‘a generic administrative building—symmetrical, made of stone and supported by heavy pillars, with Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité written across the front’ (55). This new morgue heightened the spectacle of the first—adding curtains to conceal the changing of the scene, for example (Schwartz 57)—while it accommodated Paris’ growing population of unclaimed corpses and the thousands (often spurred on by a sensational or scandalous story in the press) who came to see them.”

On the blog Victorian Paris, blogger Iva quotes a lengthy passage about Paris Morgue visits from Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin (1867), including: “The morgue is a sight within reach of everybody, and one to which passers-by, rich and poor alike, treat themselves. The door stands open, and all are free to enter. There are admirers of the scene who go out of their way so as not to miss one of these performances of death. If the slabs have nothing on them, visitors leave the building disappointed, feeling as if they had been cheated, and murmuring between their teeth; but when they are fairly well occupied, people crowd in front of them and treat themselves to cheap emotions; they express horror, they joke, they applaud or whistle, as at the theatre, and withdraw satisfied, declaring the Morgue a success on that particular day.”

According to descriptions of exactly where the post-1867 morgue was located, it appears that on the 1889 map on this blog, the large sketch of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris curiously literally covers up the morgue’s precise location.]

[I have thus far been unable to determine the identity of the opera singer Addie calls “Lita.”]


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret Fortier
    Jul 22, 2014 @ 20:49:44


    Love what you are doing here, especially because of your explanatory comments. And because I’m a Francophile. I found a reference to Mlle. Lita in a review in the Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, Volume 67 dated June 15, 1889, p. 732., in the graph beginning Guillaume Tell. Given the review, not sure how long she stayed on the opera scene.

    Link here: http://books.google.com/books?id=qlQxAQAAMAAJ&dq=Mlle.%20Lita%201889&pg=PA732#v=onepage&q=Mlle.%20Lita%201889&f=false


  2. Trackback: Hanging Out at La Morgue in 19th Century Paris | Geri Walton
  3. Trackback: La Morgue, ieri e oggi - Bizzarro Bazar

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