As far as is known, no Jemima ever went from Brighton to the Paris Exhibition of 1867, but if she had, these might have been her letters to her friend Emily.
* * *
At last! Father has said we can go to the French Exhibition in Paris in September. First, he says we must all improve our French. Father is a little distrustful of the Parisians, so he says we must at least know what they are saying. Mother and I will go to Mlle Witter in Holland Road (such a nice safe area of Hove, Father says) but Father has chosen to go to Mons. Lamette in East-street.
I wish I could go there too. All the best shops are in East-street. Why, I could even practice my French in some of them. I would so love to buy a hat from Mons. de Normanville or a gown from Madame Virginie – just look at her advertisement which I have cut out for you.
Perhaps Father will let me go there nearer to the time of our departure. East-street is so chic.
Brighton, April 1867
More exciting news. Two whole weeks! Father says we are to go to the French Exhibition (Mlle Witter calls it l’Exposition Universelle) for two whole weeks and we are to have season tickets. Tomorrow we must go to Mr. Hall’s photographic studio in North-street. It is to have our photographic portrait taken for the ticket of admission. I hope it will not be too difficult to stand still for all the time it takes to make the portrait.
Brighton, July 1867
Mlle Witter is making me work so hard, but my French is improving. Father is proud of me. The photographic portraits we had taken were excellent. I am enclosing one of Mother and the other of myself.
Father has booked the travel with Mr Cook and we travel by train via Lewes and then take the boat at Newhaven. I do hope it will not be all too crowded. Mother hates crowds.
Father saw this advertisement in the Brighton Gazette (I hope you are putting all these cuttings in your scrapbook album) so he has rented the apartment in the Boulevard St Martin for the whole of September. Boulevard sounds so exotic! We will have time to see the exhibition and the rest of Paris.
I do hope you will not be too jealous. I promise to bring you back a small memento.
Brighton, August 1867
If only you could see my new travelling dress. Father said the clothes in East-street were too expensive, but he did allow me to go to Western-road to buy a new dress, cloak and bonnet.
And (please, never say that I have told you this), while we were in Western-road, Mother went to Mrs Perry in the next shop and bought what she calls French stays.
Oh, Emma, only three more weeks before we set off.
Paris, September 1867
We are here! The apartment is quite a long way from the exhibition and it is almost impossible to get a cab, but I love walking through Paris and sometimes we take an omnibus. Can you believe that one day, as we were walking along the Rue de Rivoli we came across a shop selling the Brighton Gazette. Now who on earth would want to read the Brighton Gazette when they are in Paris? Not even Father. To reach the exhibition ground we had to cross the Seine by the Pont d’Iéna and through the entrance gates onto the Champ de Mars.
The exhibition ground is vast. The agricultural section is even further away, on an island in the Seine. I am so glad that Father did not want to go there. I certainly did not want to look at exhibits such as pedigree wheat, even if it did come from Mr Hallett at Manor Farm in Brighton.
Of course, Father wanted to see everything else! It was so tiring, day after day, walking round the pavilions of all the different nations (some were exotic, but others were, frankly, of little interest to me). And then there were the days that Father wanted to spend in the huge halls where there was, well, everything. Father’s calling me. We are going out again. Another exhausting day in view. I will write to you again when I get home to Brighton.
Brighton, October 1867
Our Parisian adventure is over. It was so exciting. On the last day of our visit, Father insisted that we all go to see the English exhibits. I think he secretly wanted to see what was from Brighton and we were all a little disappointed.
Mr. Lacy from Withdean Hall was exhibiting an odd sort of door, but I did not really understand what it was for. This is how it was described in the catalogue.
I think it says that Mr. Lacy’s door opens to right or to left. Ah, well, I suppose that might be important. I had thought we would see Mr. Hamilton’s Sybarisian couch. In February he announced in the Brighton Guardian that it would be shown in Paris, but we could not find it amongst the exhibits. No matter, I had already seen it in his shop. It is a strange looking piece of furniture designed for invalids.
If course Father had to go and look at a section called “Specimens of the Periodical and Ephemeral Literature published in the United Kingdom during the year 1866”. Oh! how tedious. There was a display of one copy of every single Brighton newspaper from The Fashionable Visitor’s List to the Brighton Examiner (not to mention two editions of Matheison’s Brighton and Suburban Directory that I had never even heard of). Really, Emily, why did anyone want to display newspapers … and even worse, there was a printed report on the Sussex County Hospital and on the Brighton Infirmary. I know such matters are important, but just looking at a sheet of printed paper seems to lack any point.
The highlight for me was seeing the photographic exhibitions. I’m now an expert as you know! There were exhibits from Mr Mason of King’s Road as well as from Messrs Lock and Whitfield (they sent that beautiful portrait of the Princess of Wales in that delicate white muslin dress – we saw the portrait in their studio in King’s-road, you must remember). The highlight for father was, of course the exhibit sent by Father’s friend, Mr Merrick in Western-road.
I was so surprised to see these exhibits from Brighton. Just imagine, to go all the way to Paris and then to see names that I already knew. But it was wonderful. Oh, Emily, how I wish you could have been with us.
Brighton, November 1867
Father gave me his copy of the Brighton Gazette and, as you will see, they did not seem to have liked the French Exhibition at all. I have cut out the article for you.
I did not think it was sham at all. Father says it is because the very first Southern Counties Association Exhibition (a very small version of the French Exhibition, I think) held in Brighton in last July did not attract as many visitors as it should have done. That was because so many people – like Mother, Father and me – had gone to Paris and did not want to bother with an exhibition in Brighton.
This evening, Father and Mother will be going to the North-street Chapel to hear Rev. Arbousse Bastide give a lecture (in French, no less) on “God’s work done by the various religious societies at the Paris Exhibition”. Thank goodness they did not want me to go with them.
It will soon be Christmas and you will come and stay with us again. I am so longing to tell you so much more about our trip to Paris.
Yours for ever, Jemima
4 thoughts on “Brighton goes to the Paris Exhibition”
If there had been blogs in 1867, there might well have been a series of posts similar to these lovely letters.
A well research and imaginatively composed piece of work. A real gem.
Thank you for your kind words. I often find it easier to write in the first person and I feel it makes the post a little more lively.
I found your website when I was looking into my family history.
Madam Virginie mentioned in the advertisement was Virginie Dawney who was my great great grandmother!
That’s wonderful. As her family name is quite English, was she a French lady who married an Englishman, or an English lady who, very sensibly, thought trade would be better is she gave her business some French styling.