Thursday, September 30, 2010

I bet he would be great at NaNoWriMo

Balzac's amazing productivity has other sources besides copious quantities of caffine. It seems to be attributed to a. a lot of debts, b. the necessity of making more money and c. self-will.

In an interesting combination of tthe three, Balzac was once called to court, having recieved several advances on a novel that was due two months ago. He was charged and his extremely angry editor demanded a novel within twenty-four hours.

Balzac managed to extend his sentance to twenty-four days, filled said days with coffee and had a finished novel in twenty.

(He did, however, lock himself in a room for twenty-four hours with nothing besides his writing supplies, coffee and a chamberpot and produced a short story. The Amateur Historian would like to profess her total lack of surprise that Balzac had heart troubles later in life and eventually died of a heart attack.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz

I have, in the past, provided a list of guidelines to becoming a romantic poet. Now, Gentle Reader, I can just hear your protestations: "That's all well and good, but I prefer the novel!"

But of course, Gentle Reader! If you want to be a prolific Romantic novelist (well technically realist), try Balzac's routine:

1. Go to bed at 6pm.
2. Wake up at 1 am. Have coffee.
3. Write until 8am, at which point have more coffee, followed by a garganutuan meal of a consomme, steak, a salad, a desert and more coffee.
4. Write/correct printer's proofs/attend to extensive corespondance until 4pm. Have coffee.
5. Visit with friends until 6pm, then eat again and go to sleep.

The real secret to this success, however, is the fifty cups of coffee Balzac consumed every day. In fact,his first debt was to a servant at his boarding school, for coffee and sugar.

In short, Gentle Reader, coffee is the opium of novelists. Better go dig out those Starbuck's gift cards!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Certain Regal Noncomformities

The Amateur Historian is a great admirer of the play The Madness of George III, which became the excellent (if somewhat horrifying, when one sees the medical treatments in vogue in the eighteenth century) film The Madness of King George. The playwright, Alan Bennet, said that one of the reasons he chose to write about George III was because he liked his sense of humor and offers this example.

One day during the king's illness, the king's equerry, Manners, saw that His Majesty had decided to hide underneath a couch in lieu of waiting for his dinner. With perfect composure, Manners set a place on the floor in front of the couch, bowed and began to walk out backwards.

The king, still under the couch, replied, "That was very good... manners."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

La Jaconde

On the subject of Napoleon and Josephine's boudoir, once Napoleon became First Counsol, he and Josephine moved to the Tuileries palace. Josephine did not like their lodgings, first of all because she felt haunted by the spirit of Marie Antoinette, and second of all, because she objected to Napoleon's sense of interior decoration.

That is to say, Napoleon had hung the Mona Lisa in their bedroom and Josephine got extremely jealous of the painting and had him move it- first to his bathroom and then to the Louvre, where it hangs to this day, amid all the other bits of cultural patrimony Napoleon took from other parts of Europe and neglected to give back once he was deposed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

om nom nom Napoleon

Lap dogs were common accessories for both men and women in the latter half of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth century. In fact, when strolling through a gallery of eighteenth century portraits, one often begins to think that we have spent the last two hundred years in the perfection of the pug.

Pugs were also a favorite of the Empress Josephine. Before she married one Napoleon Bonaparte, she had a pug named Fortuné, with whom Napoleon did not get along. Fortuné returned the compliment in full and, on Josephine and Napoleon's wedding night, bit the future emperor in the calf.

It is rumored that once Josephine became Empress of the French, she sent messages to her husband by hiding them under Fortuné's collar. One would hope that Fortuné still did not have its particular taste for greatness.