Poetry & Novels

The wisdom of hindsight, by Madamoiselle Biard

5th October 2015
'Réflexion sage, mais un peu Tardive de Madamoiselle Biard,' by the Reverend Elie du Fresne (b. 1692), from his collected poems, Poésie, written c. 1713-1745. Be prepared for 18th-century attitudes! On the flyleaf of the cover is written, 'These pieces of poetry were copied by her late regretted Father, John de Havilland;' the identity of the Miss de Havilland in question is not known. The illustration is from 'La vieille,' or 'The Old Woman,' a song on just this subject, from Chants et chansons populaires de la France, Paris: Garnier Frères, 1854, in the Library Collection.

A m'en Pierro

17th June 2015
A poem about love, a proposal and marriage, by 'Nannon.' Love conquers all. First published in The Star of June 18, 1881, which provided Guernsey French vocabulary help for readers who might need it. The photograph is a carte de visite style portrait of an unidentified young lady, photographed by Maguire of the Grange, from the Library collection.  If you can tell us who this 'Nannon' was, please let us know!

My little brothers: Christmas with Victor Hugo, 1862

From the Gazette de Guernesey, Saturday 27 December, a report on Hugo's Christmas party for deprived children; a letter from Hugo to his wife, whose idea it all was in the first place; and another to the French publisher Castel, in which he plans to donate the proceeds of a new book of drawings to his poor Guernsey protégés. The editor of the Gazette at this time was Hugo's friend and disciple, Guernseyman Henri Marquand. The photograph accompanying this article is dated 1868. It was taken in March by Arsène Garnier. (Another very similar set of photographs was taken by a Jerseyman named Henry Frankland in February 1868; the Library has a photographic plate of one of these iconic images.) This particular photograph was popular with the public at the time; they could buy it in the local shops.

January 1793: Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand finds a Guernsey guardian angel

The Romantic author and politician François-René de Chateaubriand, wounded and weakened by dysentery, became extremely ill on a crossing to Jersey, on the way to his native Brittany to join royalist rebels. Chateaubriand managed to make it to Jersey, where he was delivered into the care of his uncle, the Comte de Bédée, but remained very ill for several weeks. He eventually went into exile in London. This is an extract from his memoirs, Les Mémoires d'outre-tombe, Book 10, Chapter III. The 1808 portrait by Girodet-Trioson is in the Museum of Saint-Malo.

A Link with the Past: Ah! Mon beau laurier!

Guernsey's favourite dance, the rather flirtatious 'Ah! mon beau laurier!.' The illustration is of a modern hurdy-gurdy, or 'chifournie,' used in the old days to accompany the dancing: with thanks to Guernsey Post Office, who also produced a superb video of the chifournie being played in Le Hurel barn in Guernsey. The chifournie has been replaced in Guernsey by the fiddle or accordion in modern times.

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