Tag Archives: transcription

COMING SOON: The Elbeuf Letters in Translation

A quick update on the progress of one significant part of this project: making translated extracts from the duchess’s Letters publicly available (and for free) via a fully searchable database. All translation work is now complete, and the Team are now working with the University of Exeter’s Digital Humanities Lab on the final stages of the database and website design.

The public launch date is mid-August 2021, and it will be accessed through the same address as this blog: http://revolutionaryduchess.exeter.ac.uk. Subscribe to this blog to get an alert, or simply check back at this address again from the second half of August.

The database, ‘Revolutionary Duchess: The Elbeuf Letters, 1788-1794’, will give unprecedented access to this remarkable source, translated into English for the first time. Features include:

-Extracts from 23 Letters and 8 shorter note entries, written between December 1788 and January 1794 and totaling over 12,000 words

-For the first time in English, access to a unique voice on key events in the French Revolution including: the Fall of the Bastille; the Great Fear; the Flight to Varennes; the fall of the monarchy on 10 August 1792; the September Massacres; and the executions of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

-Detail on the everyday, lived experience of Revolution, both in Paris and in the countryside, including: popular violence; Revolutionary political culture; emigration; conspiracy fears; and the infrastructure and impact of the Terror.

-The database is fully searchable, with embedded links in each extract giving the reader information about who and what the duchess is writing about

-The duchess’s writing can be accessed chronologically or browsed by theme. The material is also listed via the people, places and organisations mentioned in each extract.

Please keep an eye out for the launch announcement in mid-August 2021. We are looking forward to sharing this exciting new resource with you all!

Decipher the duchess. Part 2c

Now for the full transcription and English translation of the start of the duchess’ letter from her country estate in Moreuil. It is the end of August 1790 and it seems that her family retreat is no longer a sanctuary from the revolutionary turmoil she has been reporting on from Paris and elsewhere across the country…

Line 1: A Moreuil ce lundi 30 aoust 1790

Line 2: Je voûlois vous cacher [[inserted interline word]Mde] l’insurrection que j ai eu honneur d’avoir enfin icy,

Line 3: mais Mde Rougé Mortemart en ayant été effrayé pour ses enfans les à menés à Paris

Line 4: pour les faires passer à Heydelberet [Heidelberg] , et durant les huit iours qu elle à été en cette

Line 5: ville, elle l à dit à de mes amis, qui en ont fait grand bruit.

Words in [bold] are editorial comment.

Translation:

Moreuil. Monday 30 August 1790

I wanted to conceal from you, Madame, the insurrection which I had the honour of finally hosting here, but it made Madame Rougé Mortemart so terrified for her children that she took them to Paris in a bid to get them to Heidelberg, and while she was in the city for eight days she told my friends about it and this created something of a sensation.

Madame Rougé Mortemart was Victurienne-Delphine-Natalie de Rougé, marquise de Rougé. She was a relation of the duchess (the wife of her deceased first cousin once removed), and Simon will be writing a post shortly about Elisabath Vigée Le Brun’s celebrated portrait featuring Madame Rougé and her children (two boys). She is not mentioned previously in the Moreuil section of the Letters so it is unclear how long she has been staying there, but we know that the duchess took a close interest in this part of her extended family — not least because, in the absence of any children herself, Madame Rougé’s eldest son stood to inherit the major part of the duchess’ property.

The ‘insurrection’ which had so terrified Madame Rougé (but apparently not the defiant duchess) took place earlier in August. It had begun with attacks on the wooden posts used to Continue reading

Decipher the duchess. Part 2b

Here is some more help for those of you attempting to transcribe this next section from the Letters, which sees the duchess face a new revolutionary threat in her previously safe country retreat at Moreuil in Picardy.

Line 1: A Moreuil ce lundi 30 aoust 1790

Line 2: Je voûlois vous cacher [[inserted interline word]Mde] l’insurrection…

Line 3: mais Mde Rougé Mortemart en ayant été effrayé…

Line 4: pour les faires passer à Heydelberet [Heidelberg]…

Line 5: ville, elle l à dit à de mes amis…

Words in [bold] are editorial comment.

Can you now work through the rest of lines 2-5? The Project Team will provide the full transcription and a translation in the next post in this series.

Decipher the duchess. Part 2a

Here is another opportunity to work with the original manuscript and test yourself against the Duchess’ handwriting, as part of our ‘Decipher the duchess’ series.

As we saw in her letter of 16 July 1789, the duchess was in Paris for the fall of the Bastille. The new political conditions signalled by this event set off a first wave of emigration by disenchanted and apprehensive noblewomen and men, including the King’s brother the comte d’Artois. The duchess herself left Paris on 27 July, but she did not leave the country; instead, she travelled eighty miles north to her country estate at Moreuil in Picardy (now in the Somme department). She remained there until March 1791, making only one visit back to the capital early in 1790. The duchess clearly regarded Moreuil as a sanctuary from the revolutionary turmoil in Paris and elsewhere, but the letter we are going to work on describes the moment when this protective bubble was finally pierced. Here is the opening paragraph of her account (click on the image to enlarge it):

There are five lines to work through. Here are some clues to help you get started:

Line 1: Provides the letter’s location and date

Line 2: Begins: Je voûlois vous…

Line 3:

Line 4: Begins: pour les faires passer…

Line 5:

More clues will be provided next week, and a full transcription and translation will follow.

Good luck and enjoy the challenge!

Decipher the duchess. Part 1c

In this ‘Decipher the duchess’ series of posts we are working through the entry for 16 July 1789, in which the duchess provides a description of conditions in Paris in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Bastille two days earlier. Here is the relevant section of the manuscript again, with lines added for guidance:

And below is our own completed transcription. Remember, [square brackets] indicate a questionable or assumed reading of the manuscript by the Project team.

Line 1: A Paris ce 16 juillet 1789.

Line 2: J’[essai] Mde que ce petit Papier vous passe. On juge qu’il y à dans notre Peuple [300000] hom.

Line 3: armées. je ne sai point encore, de vos Amis tués. Le courage me soutient fort, je me porte

Line 4: bien, mais je ne sais si nous sommes Anglois, ou Turcs, car on porte les tettes dans les rues,

Line 5: mais je sais que tout noble est enfermé à Paris. demandé pour nous une bonne fin! je vous

Line 6: ecrirai si le seigr m’en procure un jour le Moyen.

We are also translating a substantial part of the Letters as part of the project (there will be an update about this on the blog in the near future). Here is our English version of this entry:

Paris 16 July 1789

I am trying to get this note to you, Madame. They estimate that there are 300000 armed men in amongst the people of the city. I still have no news about your friends who have been killed. Courage sustains me greatly. I myself am well, but I do not know if we have all turned into the English or the Turks, given that heads are being carried through the streets. What I do know is that anyone who is a noble is trapped in Paris. Pray we get a happy ending! I will write to you if one day the Lord grants me the means to do so. Continue reading

Decipher the duchess. Part 1b

Here are some more clues to help you work out what the duchess was writing on 16 July 1789, during a significant phase of the early Revolution in the capital. Go to part 1 in the blog below for an introduction to this entry.

Line 1 begins: A Paris…

Line 2: J’[essai] Mde que ce petit papier vous passe…

Line 3: armées. Je ne sai point encore, de vos amis tués…

Line 4: bien, mais je ne sais si nous sommes…

Line 5: mais je sais que tout noble…

Line 6: ecrirai si le seigr

[Square brackets] indicate a questionable or assumed reading of the manuscript by the Project team.

This should give you more of an idea of the shape of the duchess’ handwriting. Use this as a template for unpicking other sections of the entry. We will provide a full transcription and English translation next week. In the meantime, happy deciphering!

Decipher the duchess. Part 1a

We would like to give our blog readers the chance to work with the Elbeuf Letters for themselves – with a little help from us. As you will see, the duchess’ script has idiosyncrasies in shape, spelling and grammar that are a challenge when it comes to transcribing her writing. Why not have a go yourself at deciphering this entry from 16 July 1789? In it, the duchess reflects on scenes of violence and tension on the streets of the capital in the aftermath of the storming of the Bastille two days previously.

Detail from AN F7 4775/1

Click on the image to enlarge it. And here are some clues to help get you started:

  • Line 1 is an entry heading. A very similar (and more legible) heading can be seen below     line 6
  • The first sentence (line 2) reads: J’[essai] Mde que ce petit papier vous passe. Translation: ‘I will try to get this note to you, Madame.’ [Square brackets] indicate a questionable or assumed reading of the manuscript by the Project team.

We will post more clues next week, followed by the full transcription complete with our English translation. Why not subscribe to this Project Blog (see right) to receive updates automatically?

If you are interested in learning more about palaeography (the study of old handwriting), there is an excellent interactive guide to reading English scripts from c.1500-1800 on the National Archives website: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/default.htm. See also the Newberry Library’s offering for French scripts: https://paleography.library.utoronto.ca/.

Welcome to the ‘Revolutionary Duchess’ Blog

The project team is delighted to announce that we have now completed a first draft of our transcription of the Duchess of Elbeuf’s Letters. We look forward to sharing our findings with you over the next year, and to hearing from many of you through the comments section of this blog (the links in the ‘Meet the Team’ tab also give you the details for contacting any of us individually).

Here is how Innocente-Catherine Rougé, Duchess of Elbeuf’s distinctive commentary on events in Revolutionary France begins:

Detail from AN F7 4775/1

Continue reading