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The Wives of Paris

Monday, February 22, 2010

I love it when an ad starts out as curious, moves on to interesting, and ends full throttle in pretty friggin' cool.

Any lady, possessing wealth, rank and beauty, a warm and loving disposition, who is capable of making a man perfectly happy, and who wishes to secure a partner for life - the disappointed applicant for the "Wives of Paris" will be happy to meet her this evening in Pere Jolicœurs Cardents, at Laura Keene's, at 9 1/2 o'clock. H. Latuille.

Well, this little ad is just chock full of fascinating tidbits.  A couple of them I wasn't able to make heads or tails of - the Pere Jolicœurs Cardents, for example.  Presumably this is French, and I know "pere" means "father."  But that's as far as I get.  Perhaps "Jolicœurs Cardents" is the name of a priest?  I also couldn't figure out if "H. Latuille" was possibly a pseudonym.  Any French speakers who could weigh in on this, please feel free to comment.

But, luckily, a little bit of research clued me in to the rest.  For example, I was quickly able to discover that the "Wives of Paris" was a play, and not only that, I have an ad for the production (I'm ignoring all formatting in my transcription):

Jane English's Theatre (at Laura Keene's) Immense Success of the Wives of Paris performed every evening.  Seats Secured During the Day.  Mlle. Marie and Agouste, the finest dancers in the world.  Every Evening of the Week.  And Wednesday & Saturday afternoons will be performed an original, emotional, sensational, local Comedy, called the Wives of Paris; or the Belles of Notre Dame which will be produced with New Scenery, Dresses and Appointments, bringing into requisition a Full English Dramatic Company, combining with the popular Troupe St. Denis Milner Operatic Corps.  Angelo in his great act of Zampela demonstration.  Fifty Ladies and Gentlemen in the Songs and Choruses During the piece, Grand Carnival and Bal - New Groupings and Dancing Fantastique, arranged by Mons. Agouste.  "We Are All Here!" Combined in the New Comedy of the age, Wives of Paris.  A play which will strike a common chord in every breast, without drawing the curtain of domestic intercourse and violating the sanctity of private life by exhibiting mournful scenes of domestic strife and private scandal.  The characters and incidents are full of Music, Song and Flowers, Genuine Humor, Escapades of Drollery, Instructive - Suggestive - Directive.  Matinees Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.

So that was pretty neat to find, even though I don't actually understand what the advertisement is saying or what the show is about.  But I wasn't satisfied with this ad, oh no, I wanted to be truly thorough, so I looked up Laura Keene, and it turns out she actually was somebody, and even somebody pretty interesting.  She was an actress and a theatrical manager, and it just so happens that she was performing at Ford's Theater the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  Well!

But even this wasn't enough for my inquiring mind - I wanted to know more about this particular show.  So I dug a little deeper and found a mention of the "Wives of Paris" in the New York Times.  They weren't so blown away.  The paper quotes from another announcement, "a document which also breaks out into the following luxuriance of thought and language: 'Exhibiting...a series of striking incidents in the careers of others whose chequered and fortutous lives, freely mingled in the tumultuous sea of pomp and pleasure, are clearly perceptible in every scene, and can be easily identified by their close resemblance to the originals.'  If this is a specimen of the literary merits of the new production, the frequenters of Laura Keene's are likely to enjoy a high intellectual treat to-night."

No review anywhere that I could find though, so we will all have to be satisfied with that.

Now the matrimonial ad itself is clearly tongue-in-cheek; it was published after the show debuted, so presumably this guy saw it or heard about it and is making some kind of joke regarding it.  I'm not really sure what he means by "the disappointed applicant for the 'Wives of Paris.'"  Couldn't get tickets?  Somehow that seems too literal.  I always find it interesting when men say they want to meet a woman capable of making them happy.  I wonder in circumstances such as these if they are misogynistic jerks, joking, or genuinely sincere.  After all, there were still a lot of people out there who thought the woman's role in a marriage was, in fact, to make her husband happy (and have lots of kids).  I'm not condoning this attitude, but I suppose this guy could just be articulating what a lot of people believed.  However, he might not be the best example to discuss that issue, since this ad seems to be intended for humor.

Whatever the case may be, it sure is a fascinating little piece of history, folks.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Anonymous February 22, 2010 at 8:20 AM  

I'm not sure what "cardents" means, but you are correct that "Pere" means "father" (either in a general or religious sense) and "jolicoeur" looks like a combination of "joli", meaning pretty, and "coeur", meaning heart. Hope this helps!

Pam February 22, 2010 at 9:18 AM  

Well - that's more than I had before. Maybe it's some kind of pun or joke from the show - maybe a character?

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