Summer Corner #5
Pillowcase Bag

A Childhood In Brittany


A good friend got this book at the local used book store A Childhood In Brittany by Anne Douglas Sedgwick. It looked really good, so I was thrilled to find it on-line. Now I have not read the whole book but bits and parts. I am enjoying it. Of course anything set in France over a hundred years ago, would thrill me. I love to read about how people lived, their customs, what they wore, how they thought, what they ate !! So check it out yourself and see what you think. Here is a small excerpt.

Quimper is an old town, and the hôtels of the noblesse, all situated in the same quarter and on a steep street, were of blackened, crumbling stone. From porte-cochères one entered the courtyards, and the gardens behind stretched far into the country.

In the courtyard of our hôtel was a stone staircase, with elaborate carvings, like those of the Breton churches, leading to the upper stories, but for use there were inner staircases. My mother's boudoir, the petit salon, the grand salon, the salle-à-manger, and the billiard-room were on the ground floor and gave out upon the garden.

The high walls that ran along the street and surrounded the garden were concealed by plantations of trees, so that one seemed to look out into the country. Flower beds were under the salon-windows, and there were long borders of wild strawberries that had been transplanted from the woods, as my mother was very fond of them. Fruit-trees grew against the walls, and beyond the groves and flower beds and winding gravel paths was an orchard, with apricot-, pear-, and apple-trees, and the clear little river Odel, with its washing-stones, where the laundry-maids beat the household linen in the cold, running water.

It was pleasant to hear the clap-clap-clap on a hot summer day. Is it known that the pretty pied water-wagtail is called la lavandière from its love of water and its manner of beating up and down its tail as our washerwomen wield their wooden beaters?

Beyond the river were the woods where I often rode with my father, and beyond the woods distant ranges of mountains. I looked out at all this from my nursery-windows, with their frame of climbing-roses and heliotrope. Near my window was a great lime-tree of the variety known as American. The vanilla-like scent of its flowers was almost overpowering, and all this fragrance gave my mother a headache, and she had to have her room moved away from the garden to another part of the house. How clearly I see this room of my mother's, with its high, canopied four-poster bed and the pale-gray paper on the walls covered with yellow fleurs-de-lis!

The wall-paper in my father's room was one of the prettiest I have ever seen, black, all bespangled with bright butterflies. Of the grand salon I remember most clearly the high marble mantelpiece, upheld by hounds sitting on their haunches. On this mantelpiece was a huge boule clock, two tall candelabra of Venetian glass, and two figures in vieux Saxe of a marquis and a marquise that filled us with delight. On each side of the fireplace were two Louis XV court chairs–chairs, that is, with only one arm, to admit of the display of the great hoop-skirts of the period. I remember, too, our special delight in the foot-stools, which were of mahogany, shaped rather like gondolas and cushioned in velvet; for we could sit inside them and make them rock up and down.



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The book looks wonderful. One of the great frustrations of my school days was that although I loved studying history it was always focussed on battles and treaties and so on and all I really wanted to know was how the ordinary people lived.


I'll have to look this one up as our friend, Raphael, is from Brittany! So descriptive!


I love it. Mom

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