Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Fudge family in Paris

One of my recent antiquarian purchases is 'The Fudge family in Paris' , a collection of satirical and comic verse letters which tell of the adventures of the Fudges, an Anglo-Irish family, in Paris after the end of the Napoleonic wars, when English and Irish tourists flocked to France again. Though supposedly found and edited by 'Thomas Brown, the Younger, author of the Twopenny Postcard', it is actually the work of the famous Irish poet Thomas Moore. First published in 1818, it was a massive hit straight away--my edition is from 1818 but it is the seventh edition! We get the perspectives of four characters: father Phil Fudge, children Bob and Biddy, and tutor Phelim Connor, each of whom writes several letters to their friends back home. Each character sees Paris through their own point of view and own obsessions: for Phil Fudge it's politics(his letters are toadying missives to his patron the British foreign secretary), for Biddy romance, for Phelim regret for Napoleon(a controversial stance in the day!)and for Bob, dandy and bon vivant, writing to his fellow gourmet Dick back home, it's the restaurants! He's constantly singing the praises of French food and wine, and listing all kinds of favourite dishes, like this description of a copious and well-liquored breakfast menu:

One's pate of larks, just to tune up the throat,

One's small limbs of chicken, done en papillotte,

One's erudite cutlets, drest all ways but plain,

Or one's kidneys--imagine, Dick!--done in champagne!

Then some glasses of Beaune, to dilute, or mayhap,

Chambertin, which you know's the pet tipple of Nap (ie Napoleon),

And which Dad, by the way, that legitimate stickler,

Much scruples to taste, but I'm not so parti'clar-

Your coffee comes next, by prescription, and then, Dick's,

The coffee's ne'er failing and glorious appendix,

A neat glass of parfait-amour, which one sips

Just as if bottled velvet tipped over one's lips.

After this gargantuan repast, off he goes sauntering to the boulevards to check out the world promenading there, especially the pretty girls--life's good, in Paris!

Bob keeps away pretty much from his papa's tedious politics apart from the odd dig(as above), but his one contribution to comment on world events is in this lovely bit when he muses about the post-war settlement and the opinion in much of Europe that the French should be made to pay heavily for the bloody wars they had inflicted on the whole continent under first the Revolution and then Napoleon. Yes, says Bob,they can all go to the devil, all except for their cooks:

But think, Dick, their cooks--what a loss to mankind!

What a void in the world would their art leave behind!

Their chronometer spits--their intense salamanders--

Their ovens, their pots, that can soften old ganders,

All vanish'd for ever, their miracles o'er,

And the marmite perpetuelle(never-ending pot)bubbling no more!

Forbid it, forbid it, ye Holy Allies,

Take whatever ye fancy, take statues, take money--

But leave them, oh leave them their Perigueux pies,

Their glorious goose-livers, and high pickled tunny!

Though many, I own, are the evils they've brought us,

Though Royalty's here on her very last legs,

Yet who can help loving the land that has taught us

Six hundred and eighty-five ways to dress eggs?

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