Friday, February 10, 2012

Sharing the Warm Fuzzies!

In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day, there's a couple of touching passages from Manon Lescaut that I wanted to pull out and present separately. They reminded me so much of talks my husband and I have had, I thought it might remind you of someone you love, maybe give you strength, give you renewed love, maybe just something to think about.

Come, my beloved Queen, said I, come, submit to all the rigours of our fate. Some day, it will perhaps please Heaven to see us happier....She put herself in my arms.. once alone with me, she murmured a thousand endearments, reproaching herself for being the cause of my misfortune. I assured her that I should never complain of my lot so long as she would continue loving me. It is not I who is to be pitied, said I... But it is for you, dear heart, that my heart is stirred. What a fate for a creature so charming! Heaven! how canst thou treat so harshly the loveliest of thy works? Why were we not born, you and I, with qualities that matched with our misery? We have been given intelligence, taste, sensibility; alas, a sorry use we make of them, whilst so many grovelling souls worthy of our fate, enjoy all the favours of fortune! Such thoughts as these pierced my heart with grief. But it was as nothing in comparison with the agony of thinking of the future: fear for Manon shrivelled my soul. She had already been in the Hopital (hospital), and even  had she left it with full consent, I knew that relapses of this sort were visited with dire penalties. I would fain have told her of my dread; I feared it might be too much for her. I trembled for her, without daring to warn her of the danger, and I clasped her, sighing, in my arms, to assure her at least of my love; it was almost the only feeling I dared utter. Manon, said I, tell me frankly, will you always love me? She made answer that she was very unhappy that I could have any doubt of it. Then, said I, I doubt no longer, and I can outface every enemy we have with that assurance.

Manon looked aghast at the sight of so forlorn a dwelling, but her distress was for me, far more than for herself. She sat down as soon as we were alone, and began to weep bitterly. I tried at first to comfort her; but when I gathered from her that it was I alone she pitied, and that in our common misfortune she only cared for what I must suffer, I affected courage and even gaiety enough to inspire it in her. What have I to complain of ? said I. I possess everything I desire. You love me, do you not? What other happiness have I ever aimed at? Leave the care of our fortunes to Heaven. They do not seem to me so desperate...And as for the poverty of our hut and the rudeness of our furniture, you may have noticed that there seem few people here better housed or better furnished than ourselves; and then you  are a marvellous Alchemist, I added, kissing her, you transform everything to gold. You will be the richest person in the world...

Then, she made answer: for if there never was such a love as yours, even so no one could be loved so tenderly as I love you. I am my own judge, she went on. I feel too well that I have never deserved the amazing tenderness you have for me. I have done you injuries that you could not have forgiven me unless out of the utmost goodness. I have been fickle and light, and even loving you madly as I always  have, I was wholly graceless. But you could not believe how I have changed. The tears which you have so often seen me shed since we left France  have never once been for my own misfortunes. I ceased to feel them as soon as you began to share them. I have only wept out of tenderness and compassion for you.  I cannot be comforted for having hurt you for a single moment in my life. I never ceased blaming myself for my inconstancy , and my heart melts to see what love has made you do for such a wretch  who was not worthy of it, and who could not atone even with her blood, she added, in a flood of tears, for half the sorrows she has cost you. Her tears, her words, and the tone in which they were uttered affected me so violently it seemed to me my heart was breaking in twain. Take care, said I, take care beloved; I have not strength enough to bear such tokens of your love: I am not use to this excess of joy.  O God! I cried, I ask no more: I am assured of Manon's heart; and 'tis all I have ever wished to give me happiness: I can never be unhappy now: felicity secure and firm at last. 

Ring a bell with anyone? :-)

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone --- ladies, please remember to treat your gents special too... not only about us... true love goes both ways and everyone likes to feel they're special to someone else ;-)

Manon Lescaut by the Abbe Prevost Dexiles

"Woman With Pearl Hairdress" by Jean Francois de Neufforge

I think the Abbe Prevost best summed up his work here in the "Note By The Author" (Preface to Manon Lescaut)

If the public has found something agreeable and interesting in the history of my life, I dare promise that it will not be ill satisfied  with this addition. It will see in the conduct of M. des Grieux a terrible example of the strength of the passions. I have to paint a blind young man who turns his back on happiness to plunge of his own free will into the worst misfortunes: who with all the qualities that go to form the brightest merit, chooses an obscure and vagabond life in preference to all the advantages of fortune and of nature: who forsees his misfortunes without wishing to avoid them; who feels them and is overwhelmed by them without availing himself of the remedies which are continually offered him and which might at any moment put an end to them; in short, an ambiguous character, a mixture of virtues and vices, a perpetual contrast of good sentiments and bad actions. Such is the substance of the picture which I am about to present to the eyes of my readers.

Abbe Prevost

Though Prevost is speaking mostly of Grieux, Manon's main love throughout the novel, "an ambiguous character, a mixture of virtues and vices" could well describe Manon, the sort of anti-heroine of the story. The Story of Manon Lescaut & the Chevalier Des Grieux is perhaps not what one would call a traditional romance (ie. perfectly gorgeous man meeting girl-next-door stunner and falling in love for forever) but it is more of a realistic romance. It's messy, ugly at times. Manon is a girl you can love and hate equally for her choices. You want her to grow up, yet you feel sorry for her losing some of her innocence too early. The poor girl makes enormously bad choices in men and finances, but in the end, her end doesn't seem all that just. Somehow, in some way, she makes her self likeable despite her behavior.

artwork from an early edition of Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut is the story of a young French girl, Manon, who is about to be confined to a nunnery for the rest of her days, a fate she herself does not want but feels no escape from, thanks to her father.  The same day that Manon is to take her vows, the narrator of the story, Chevalier des Grieux, sees her in the street just outside of the convent walls and is immediately smitten with Manon's youthful, innocent kind of beauty. Grieux ditches his original plans of touring the area with his best friend, Tiberge, and goes after the girl, much to Tiberge's annoyance. Grieux takes his mode of transportation, sweeps Manon away from her father and the convent, carrying them away as far as they can go on their limited income. 

French carriage
photo by Jorge Barrios

As you might have guessed, this plan of Grieux's wasn't thought out all that much lol. Those crazy kids ran out of money pretty quick and Manon was returned to her family... but then he steals her away again!!  And again they run out of money. So starts the pattern of Manon running with the impulses of her heart and worrying about the rest later (a tough mode to live by but one I've certainly experienced myself!).

"Woman With A White Hat" by Jean Baptiste Greuze

The bulk of the story is Grieux's retelling of all the financial mishaps he and Manon got into in the early days of their acquaintance and romance. They travel all around France, and even parts of England, trying out different "get rich quick" schemes Manon thinks up, as well as honest, manual labor when they get really desperate. Manon's trouble stems from the fact that she loves living the good life but hates that she should ever be forced to do any sort of serious, "blue-collar" type work to get the things she wants. She wants men to fawn over her beauty and just hand her jewels and dresses in luxurious fabrics. LOL, well don't we all! No peasant wants to be a peasant but Manon refuses to believe anything other than that she must be entitled to the finest in life, though she holds no titles, no education, nothing that would recommend her to the upper classes outside of her pretty face and fun-loving disposition. Wish I could have been there to tell her that's rarely enough! It might get you in the door, so to speak, but you're going to have to have something for those uppity-ups to want to keep you around... which really only leaves one easy (and I do mean "easy") way in in that time period.... that of a mistress to men of power.

Actors from Puccini's opera adaptation of Manon Lescaut

Grieux floats in and out of her life but always comes back. Manon, I think, truly loved Grieux -- though that's part of the fun of the story, the reader getting to debate whether her actions and feelings were real or if she was just playing a part and using Grieux as a toy. Grieux didn't have endless finances so Manon secretly took up with wealthier men on the side. For a good while she kept herself and Grieux in the lap of luxury without ever really explaining to him how she was doing that. But,as these things tend to, her secret leaked out one day and after he gets over his shock a bit, Manon somehow convinces Grieux to help her set up these trysts, reasoning that them working together can only bring them more money!

"In The Boudoir" by Ettore Simonetti

There is a distinct pattern throughout the story where these plots go really well at first and then fail utterly miserably. When they fail, what does Grieux do each time?? He runs to his buddy Tiberge that he left stranded in town the first time! Failed scheme after failed scheme, Grieux goes to Tiberge each time Manon gets him in trouble again or saps him of any savings he might have had. Grieux has to beg Tiberge for money or sometimes shelter... mostly money. What I found surprising was that no matter how many times this happened, no matter how many times Tiberge said "Seriously, this is the last time -- get yourself together!" , he'd always pony up more money the next time Grieux asked! That's the sort of situation where I can't decide if that makes for the most loyal, unconditionally loving friend or if you have someone that just can't learn to stop sticking their hand in the fire! Then again, Grieux says of this:

That human resolutions are liable to change has never been a matter of surprise to me: one passion gives them birth, another can destroy them. 
And then Tiberge's own response:

...the first thing I {Grieux} entreated of him {Tiberge} was to let me know if I might still look upon him as my friend, after having so justly deserved to lose his esteem and his affection. He answered me in the tenderest tones that nothing could make him renounce his friendship; that my very misfortunes, and -- if I would allow him to say so -- my faults and my disorders did but redouble his tenderness towards me; but that it was a tenderness mingled with the keenest pain such as one feels when one sees the beloved on the verge of ruin without being able to give him aid.

I don't know, that's a tough one for me. Granted, there's few things more irritating than a fair-weather friend, but shouldn't there be some cut-off? Some point where you say, "I love you but I can't let you take me down with you." ?? As a friend, if you don't set a boundary, are you really helping them or are you just enabling their bad choices? Is it heartless of me to think such a person as Grieux could use a good dose of tough love?? I've received a few doses from friends over the years and yeah, it stings at first, but it does set the senses back in order in a hurry!

"The Korin Brothers" by Mikhail Nesterov

Manon's biggest blunder in scheming involved a man referred to as "M. de G.M.", and later his son, G.M. Junior. G.M. Senior, an older, aristocratic man, is introduced to Manon and arranges to pay her a certain hefty sum of money for what is only described as "favors". By the way, there is nothing blatantly sexual (least not that I noticed) in this novel, it is only hinted at that Manon sells herself for money. Part of Manon's plan is that Grieux is to introduce himself as her cousin, or it might be brother, a relative at any rate, and a younger one at that. It's a bit of a hard sell but G.M buys into it. Manon somehow manages to keep him at bay as far as having to actually sleep with him and waits for a night when he is called away for work when she and Grieux try to gather up money and jewels, but not before attempting a quickie in G.M. bedroom! That little pause ends up being the undoing of them. G.M. comes home, understandably flips out when he figures out what's going on and swiftly has Manon locked up, but for some odd reason she's placed in the mental ward at the Common Hospital (that's what it's called in the book - I'm guessing it's another term for a general hospital). Grieux is sent to prison. 

Actors from Puccini's opera adaptation of Manon Lescaut

Grieux manages to escape from prison. Borrowing a gun from Manon's brother, and putting together some plans of his own, Grieux eventually manages to break Manon out of the hospital and does his best to "take her away from it all". They try to live a modest life with honest work and a small cottage but of course Manon gets bored with this and starts up her old tricks again soon enough. Shame is, the next man she sets her sights on to make her rich is none other than G.M. Junior. Junior, like his father, falls into infatuation with  Manon, until he too finds out he's been duped. Manon and Grieux are arrested again but work their connections magic and find a way to board a ship to America to escape persecution in France. A few rough months at sea later, they find themselves in what would become New Orleans, Louisiana. Grieux comments that " we had not been able to see the town from the sea -- it is hidden from the sea by a small hill"

Bummer for them, America doesn't hold all the hopes and answers they prayed for. I won't give away the big ending (and it's pretty dramatic) but I will give you a small teaser in saying it has something in common with this:

Grieux has an interesting way of making a girl feel special, telling Manon " 'tis a fate enviable enough for me to be unhappy with you."  Aawwww :-P

"On The Beach" by Edouard Manet

It breaks Grieux's heart to see Manon hurting (ahhh crazy, bewildering love lol) and his description of her suffering makes for a heartbreaking image. Looking back on her capture, he recalls:

Must I tell you what was the sorrowful subject of my talks with Manon during that journey, or the first impression of the sight of her when I got leave from the Guards  to draw near her waggon! Ah, words can never but half express the feelings of the heart; but imagine for yourself my poor mistress chained by the waist, seated on some handfuls of straw, her head leant despairingly against the side of the waggon, her face white and wet with streaming tears that forced their way beneath the eyelids that she kept perpentually closed. She had not even had the curiousity to open them when she heard the commotion among the Guards at the moment of our threatened attack. Her linen was soiled and disordered; her delicate hands bare to the harshness of the air; all that enchanting frame, the face that could bring back the universe to idolatry, was sunk in unutterable abandonment and despair. 

There's not a TON of action in this story, but it does serve as a sort of love lesson, the dangers of  lusting without loving, loving too hard, loving for the wrong reasons, even loving unconditionally. I think it will mean different things for different people. Manon Lescaut is an antique read but an easy read definitely looking into. As I said earlier, it's not your traditional love story but there are plenty of passages to stun you, make you nod your head in recognition, even moments where all you can say is "aaawww!" :-)

Happy Leap Year Love Month Everyone!!

"Woman With A Pearl Necklace"

**Barry, quit snickering ;-)**

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Today, February 7th, marks what would have been Charles Dickens' 200th birthday.

"Dickens' Dream" by Robert William Buss
(you may have seen this painting mentioned in
the 2010 film HEREAFTER)

What's your favorite Dickens' novel? I admit, I haven't read them all, but to date my favorites have been Nicholas Nickelby, Bleak House (two stories I wish to revisit soon) and of course the classic A Christmas Carol.  I played Mrs. Cratchit in my 4th grade class holiday play so I have a special attachment to that story :-D. Though I gotta say, in my opinion, the film adaptations have been done to death!

Dickens' work can be dense to get through at times, I struggled through parts of Hard Times but still enjoyed it. I appreciate Dickens today because he was one of the first authors I read that introduced me to the Victorian literature I love :-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Conclusion of Henry James' A Little Tour Of France - Loches, Toulouse & Bourg-en-Bresse

Chartes River


Loches is a brief stop on James' tour. The highlight is visiting the tomb of Agnes Sorel, longtime mistress of Charles VII. She died in 1450 at the age of 28, the general ruling being "complications during pregnancy" though the exact cause is not known for sure. Some historians speculate she might have been poisoned by a jealous rival or some other person who just wanted her "out of the way".

Sorel has the distinction of being the first mistress in the history of France to be officially recognized by the royal court. Go girl! I'm always interested in the stories of the court mistresses, simply because I'm fascinated by the amount of unacknowledged power they often had over the most powerful men in the world. When I think of that combined with wondering what they might be like in their quiet moments, what they thought about, what they might have regretted, the plots they might have thought out... There's endlessly fascinating stories there.

Agnes Sorel

There was a study done a few years back where scientists and historians worked together, studying fragments of Sorel's hair and skin, were able to do a face reconstruction, which you can read more about here. Pretty cool stuff!

 Tomb of Agnes Sorel

facial reconstruction study of Agnes Sorel

James also toured the nearby home of Jacques Couer , a French banker and merchant in Bourges. When I saw the pictures of this place, I was stunned at how similar the place looked to George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate just down the road from my house. I know Vanderbilt's vision for his home was inspired by European chateaus but the set -up between these two houses was strikingly similar.

Jacques Couer

"Jacques Couer's House At Bourges" by C.C. Payne

same type of L-shape gateway arches on Biltmore Estate
courtyard (formerly stables)
Though it's cut off in this photo, Biltmore has the same
L shape between main house and pass-thru arches 
as the Bourges house

Another funny connection between the two is James describing Jacques Couer as "A Vanderbilt of the 15th century".  :-) So I'm guessing business was good for Couer!

While exploring some of the statues and friezework in Bourges Cathedral, James makes an odd statement:

The portals, especially the middle one, are extremely interesting; they are covered with curious early sculptures. The middle one, however, I must describe alone. It has no less than six rows of figures -- the others have four -- some of which, notably the upper one, are still in their places. The arch at the top has three tiers of elaborate imagery. The upper of these is divided by the figure of Christ in judgement, of great size, stiff and terrible, with outstretched arms. On either side of him are ranged three or four angels, with the instruments of the Passion. Beneath him in the second frieze stands the angel of justice with the scales; and on either side of him is the vision of the last judgment. The good prepare, with infinite titillation and complacency, to ascend to the skies; while the bad are dragged, pushed, hurled, stuffed, crammed into pits and caldrons of fire. There is a charming detail in this section.

CHARMING?? The guy is talking about the pits of hell and he uses the word "charming"? That little bit just left me saying... ummm, okaaay, moving on... lol

On a lighter note, James also visited La Rochelle, a one time vacation hotspot where the gentry class would go to "take the waters", soaking to cure their ailments or just feel some cleaner air for a bit. The town now hosts an international film festival every year.

La Rochelle, France


Bourg-en-Bresse was the hometown of Duchess Margaret of Austria, daughter of Emperor Maximillian and  his wife, Mary of Burgundy. Margaret was also the aunt of Charles V. As a child, Margaret was betrothed to Charles VIII. She was released from the betrothal so that Charles could make a political alliance in marriage to Anne of Brittany. At one time, she was even considered as a potential wife for Henry VII. Instead, Margaret was married off to John of Castile, son of Ferdinand V, King of Aragon. John died within a year of the marriage. 

Duchess Margaret as a young girl
"Portrait of Margaret of Austria" 1490 by Jean Hey

Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo. 1666. Empress Doña Margarita de Austria in Mourning Dress.

John of Castille, Prince of Asturias

In 1501 she married the adorably named Philibert the Handsome, Duke of Savoy. Unfortunately, he died just 2 years later. Not sure what was going on with Margaret's husbands... almost makes her look like a "black widow" wife!

"Philibert the Handsome"

Embracing her two-time widowhood, Margaret went on to govern the Netherlands for 22 years until her death in 1530 at the age of 51. Before her death, she had the Royal Monastery of Brou built, with a mausoleum for herself and Philbert.  She only had an extra year with the second husband but maybe there was a better connection there than with John?

Above : Royal Monastery of Brou


Henry James seemed to have mixed feelings about this town. On one hand, he found the people of Toulouse dirty and shabby and the town having little to offer, but beyond that he explains that the people seemed extraordinarily cordial to tourists:

The shops are probably better than the Turinese, but the people are not so good. Stunted, shabby, rather vitiated {to have a blemish or stain} looking, they have none of the personal richness of the sturdy Piedmontese; and I will take this occassion to remark that in the course of a journey of several weeks in the French provinces I rarely encountered a well-dressed male... I hasten to add, lest my observation should appear to be of a sadly superficial character, that the manners and conversation these gentlemen bore (whenever I had occassion to appreciate them) no relation to the state of their chin and boots. They were almost always marked by an extreme amenity. At Toulouse there was the strongest temptation to speak to people simply for the entertainment of hearing them reply with that curious, that fascinating accent of the Languedoc, which appears to be abound in finial consonants...

James also noted in Toulouse:
The oddity is that the place should be both animated and dull. A big, brown-skinned population, clattering about in a flat, tortuous town, which produces nothing whatever that I can discover. Except for the church of Saint-Sernin and the fine old court of the Hotel d'Assezat, Toulouse has no architecture; the houses are for the most part are brick, of a greyish-red color, and have no particular style.

Church of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

Hotel D'Assezat

But the people are nice! There's that, right?! LOL

James visits the Pont du Gard aqueduct in Toulouse, recording his impressions of the Roman architecture:

Over the valley, from side to side and ever so high in the air, stretch  the three tiers of the tremendous bridge. They are unspeakably imposing, and nothing could be more Roman. The hugeness, the solidity, the unexpectedness, the monumental rectitude of the whole thing leave you nothing to say -- at the time -- and make you stand gazing. You simply feel that it is noble and perfect, that it has the quality of greatness. A road, branching from the highway, descends to the level of the river and passes under one of the arches. This road has a wide margin of grass and loose stones, which slopes upward into the bank of the ravine. You may sit here as long as you please, staring up at the light, strong piers; the spot is sufficiently "wild", though two or three stone benches have been erected on it. I remained there an hour and got a complete impression; the place was perfectly soundless and for the time at least, lonely; the splendid afternoon had begun to fade and there was a fascination in the object I had come to see. It came to pass that at the same time I discovered in it a certain stupidity, a vague brutality. That element is rarely absent from great Roman work, which is wanting in the nice adaptation of the means to the end. The means are always exaggerated, the end is so much more than attained. The Roman vigour was apt to overshoot the mark, and I suppose a race which could do nothing small is as defective as a race that can do nothing great. Of this Roman  rigour the Pont du Gard is an admirable example. It would be a great injustice, however, not to insist upon its beauty -- a kind of manly beauty, that of an object constructed no to please but to serve, and impressive simply from the scale on which it carries out this intention.

 Pont du Gard aqueduct in Toulouse

James goes on to explore Tour Phillipe le Bel in the town of Villeneuve-les-Avignons. Viewing the castle, James lets his European wit fly for a minute before turning poetic:

...Every dark hole in Villeneuve is called a dungeon; and I believe it is well established that in this manner, in almost all old castles and towers, the sensibilities of the modern tourist are unscrupulously played upon. There were plenty of black holes in the Middle Ages that were not dungeons, but household receptacles of various kinds; and many a tear dropped in pity for the groaning of the larder and the faggot-nook {fireplace}. For all of this, there are some very bad corners in the towers of Villeneuve, so that I was not wide of the mark when I began to think again, as I had often thought before, of the stoutness of the human composition in the Middle Ages and the tranquility of nerve of people to whom the groaning captive and the blackness of a "living tomb" were familiar ideas which did not at all interfere with their happiness or their sanity. Our modern nerves, our irritable sympathies, our easy discomforts and fears, make one think (in some relations) less respectfully of human nature.

Tour Phillipe le Bel 

So that's it on this one folks. James covered a number of other towns but these were the places that jumped out at me while I was reading.   Hope this helps as a visual guide if you decide to delve into this book. Since it's February, the month of valentines, I think next up will be the French love story (of sorts..  you'll see what I mean), Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost.


the town of Villeneuve-les-Avignons

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Henry James' A Little Tour Of France - Bordeaux, Chambord



The port city of Bordeaux is primarily known for its famous wine industry and beautiful countryside. Wine production has been a major part of the area's economy since the 8th century and even now, every two years the town hosts VinExpo, a convention for wine professionals.

Place Tourney, Bordeaux, early 1900s

 Chateau Villandry in Loire Valley area
the last French chateau built during the Renaissance era

James' tour of the area consists largely of his walk around shopping district, Porte du Caillou, which even today maintains its beautiful medieval architecture. The town of Bordeaux was the setting for parts of Honore de Balzac's Comedie Humanie. James mentions his appreciation for and interest in Balzac and his works quite a bit throughout this book.

Porte du Caillou, Rue du Palais, Bordeaux
(Steel engraving 1845, drawn by T. Allom, engraved by J. Carter)

The word "caillou" is French for pebble or stone, but in some translations can also mean "bald". Makes sense now since caillou just reminds me of one of that cute cartoon sometimes shown on PBS - Caillou!  Anyone else ever watch this show? I don't see it on much anymore but I always thought it was pretty adorable. The series was based on the children's books by Christine L'Heureux.

tv cartoon character Caillou
The show featured a little boy who was bald, 
the stories were basically everyday events told from
a child's perspective, full of innocence and humor.

Also visited is nearby Biarritz, a coastal vacation spot for the wealthy and famous during the early 20th century. Such notables to use the area as an escape included Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, and CoCo Chanel, who even opened one of her stores here. Even before the celebrities discovered the beauty of the area, Empress Josephine (wife of Napoleon Bonaparte) had a palace built here. The palace is now the Hotel du Palais. 

postcard featuring Biarritz in the early 1900s

lovely Biarritz

Empress Josephine's former palace,
now Hotel du Palais in Biarritz


James' time in Chambord was a whirlwind of chateau tours, beginning with Chateau de Chambord, a residence belonging to Francis I. His object of desire, Comtesse de Thoury, lived in the area so he had the place built as sort of a love memento, architecturally proclaiming his love for her. 

Chateau de Chambord

 Francis I

Comtesse de Thoury

Chateau de Chambord continued to change royal ownership over the years but use of the residence declined after the reign of Henry IV. It was sometimes visited by Louis XIV but he preferred to stay at Fontainbleau, so over time the place was left mostly abandoned. How sad is that!

In 1725, Stanislaus Leczynski, the elected King of Poland, moved in after he was ousted from his throne. He stayed at Chateau de Chambord as a place of refuge for 8 years and ended up marrying his daughter to Louis XV. In 1748, Maurice de Saxe (another ancestor of author George Sand) was given Chateau Chambord in recognition of his military accomplishments. He died at the estate 2 years later. A group of Quakers in 1791 put in a request to use the chateau, perhaps as a meeting house. Not sure if that was ever granted. Funny though, I thought Quakers preferred simplicity, wonder what they planned to do with this place 'cause this isn't exactly your run of the mill, barebones house!

Aerial view of Chateau de Chambord

The most interesting story attached to this chateau was one involving Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon offered Chambord to Berthier, a marshal for Napoleon. Not sure what the guy did to be rewarded such an estate but it must have been something pretty major! After Berthier's death, his widow -- the Princess of Wagram -- hmm, just realized maybe he got the estate because of his wife's title? -- his widow gave the estate / land title to the infant Duke of Bordeaux, a potential King of France. The duke later changed his title to Comte de Chambord, but the estate was taken away from him under the government of Louis Phillipe (I guess on a whim?? Couldn't figure that out). It took him 25 years and a ton of litigation to have his property and title reinstated to him. 

Other chateaus visited:

Chateau de Cheverny, near Russy Forest in the Sologne countryside

example of Sologne countryside :-)

Chateau de Blois, also belonged to Francis I

 Chateau de Langeais
Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII were married here
in the Great Hall here in 1491

wax figures in Chateau de Langeais depicting the marriage of 
Anne & Charles

James also went through nearby Tours, the birthplace town of Honore de Balzac, mainly to see Chateau le Tours and the attached Tour de Guise -- a tower of Chateau le Tours where Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Guise and Prince of Joinville, was imprisoned (on the order of Henry II of Blois) after his father's assassination in 1588. He was held there for three years before escaping in 1591.

Chateau le Tours
the prominent tower on the left is the Tour de Guise

While in Tours, James also visited St. Gatiens Cathedral, which holds the tombs of two of Anne and Charles' children who sadly died in infancy. They were originally held at the Basilica of St. Martin's in Tours, until an attack on the church in 1797 (during the French Revolution) left it almost entirely destroyed. The tombs were unharmed and moved to St. Gatiens in 1815. 

Above: St. Gatiens, then and now

two children of Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII
now resting at St. Gatiens Cathedral

Hotel de L'Univers, near Lussat
Where Henry James stayed while exploring
Chambord & Tours

Square in Tours

Some pretty amazing homes here, huh! Next post, we wrap up James' little French walkabout!