Saturday, October 31, 2015

October Offerings: Ten 18th Century Treats for Halloween

It's finally Halloween! To celebrate, I've gathered ten eerie 18th century treats this Halloween--hold out your trick'r treat bag and take a look!

1. Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully by Marin Marais

A 'tombeau' -literally meaning 'tomb'--was a style of composition created to commemorate the death of an individual, usually someone notable such as the aforementioned Monsieur de Lully. Despite the name, a 'tombeau' was not usually written as a mournful piece, although there are some existing tombeaus with elements that one might expect--such as repetitive knocking meant to imitate death 'knocking at the door.' In general, however, the genre was meant to inspire reflection on the lives and legacy of the deceased person.

2. The Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving

Irving, best known for his tale The Legend of Sleeping Hollow, was no stranger to ghost stories. In The Adventure of the German Student, a young student comes face to face with a young woman who was perhaps too well acquainted with the guillotine. It can be read online here. 

3.  The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano

The Ghosts of Versailles is a 20th century opera by John Corigliano. The opera features a cast compromised mostly of ghosts of the French court--namely Marie Antoinette, her husband, and a host of ghoulish courtiers. The original production was a lavish spectacle which was, thankfully, recorded for posterity. It can be viewed at the Metropolitan Opera On Demand service.

4. The Beast of Gévaudan 

The Beast of Gévaudan was a creature--likely a wolf or multple wolves--believed to be responsible for almost 200 attacks (including more than 100 fatalities) in the historical province of Gévaudan from 1764 to 1767. The attacks and subsequent legends which have sprung up about the creature have inspired novelists, filmmakers and historians. A selection of works includes the film The Brotherhood of the Wolf; the non-fiction book Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast by Jay M. Smith; and the novel Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs.

5. The First Entry of the Four Ghosts

An illustrated tableaux depicting part of a performance given at the Louvre in 1632. In this scene, the ghosts of spirits believed to haunt the Louvre grounds appear swathed in black robes.

6. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

In Revolution, a teenager named Andi must confront her own anger, despair and grief regarding her younger brother's death when she begins to read a journal written by a girl her age during the years leading up to the French Revolution; the girl, Alexandrine, is tasked to be a companion to the young Louis Charles de France, but finds herself fighting to keep his spirit alive under the guise of the firework-setting "Green Man" after Charles is locked in the Temple tower. Alexandrine, unbeknownst to her young charge, has another secret as well: she can see the dead. Revolution is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.

7. House of Wax (1953)

André de Toth's House of Wax tells the story of Henry Jarrod (played by the fantastic Vincent Price) who is renowned for his talent at sculpting wax figures. Henry prefers to create historical displays, and his masterpiece is a Marie Antoinette figure that is so life-like people say they can "see it breathe." His beloved works are destroyed in a suspicious fire, and when Henry returns with a brand new museum, his displays--and his behavior--are much more sinister.  House of Wax is available on Amazon Instant Video.

8. Unseen Versailles by Deborah Turbeville

 [credit: ©Deborah Turbeville]

Unseen Versailles is not your standard 'Versailles' photography book."Deborah Turbeville's 'Unseen Versailles' is compiled of works she created in the winter of 1979, on site at the chateau de Versailles during restorations being undertaken on the palace. Jackie Onassis, who commissioned the publication, wrote that she wanted Turbeville to "conjure up what went on there, to evoke the feeling that there were ghosts and memories." The results are eerie, haunting, and definitely worth checking out. The book is no longer in print, but check your local library or online for some glimpses at one of the must-read photography books focused on the famous palace.

9. Marie Antoinette: Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Colette is a special class trip to Paris and she is thrilled--at first. Gruesome murders in the heart of Paris begin to rattle the teenager, especially when she finds out that all of the victims have one thing in common: they are the descendants of those who betrayed Marie Antoinette. And Colette's family history may bring her closer to death than she thinks. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book formats.

10.  The Moberly–Jourdain Incident

 On the 10th of August 1901--coincidentally (or perhaps not) the anniversary of the attack on the Tuileries during the French Revolution--Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain took a visit to the palace of Versailles. After touring the chateau, they decided to visit the Petit Trianon. What happened next is still the subject of debate.

According to the pair's 1913 version of events, the two women appeared to walk into a time slip, seeing Versailles--and some of its inhabitants--as they were more than a century before. According to Moberly, "Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees." The women wrote they felt a sense of 'oppression and dreariness' come over them as they walked along. Moberly also claimed to see a woman sketching in a lawn-dress, whom she later believed to be Marie Antoinette herself. 

Notable Books:
  • The Trianon case: A review of the evidence by David Johnston 
  • The Ghosts of Versailles : Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain and their Adventure by Lucille Iremonger 
  • The Trianon Adventure: A Symposium, edited by A.O. Gibbons 
  • An Adventure (1913 edition) by Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain (Available Online)
The Moberly-Jourdan Incident also inspired a film: Miss Morison's Ghosts. It is available on DVD, but the DVD is out of print.


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