Jack Brown or the living parcel

On the 18 March 1895, this strange tale appeared in more than a dozen French newspapers.

Gil Blas 18_3_1898

[Jack Brown or the living parcel

An elderly man, whose strong English accent left no doubts as to his nationality, appeared last evening at the post office in the rue de Choiseul.  He asked for hospitality overnight, saying that he was penniless and reduced to vagrancy.

When he was taken to the police station in rue Marsollier yesterday morning, he gave more or less this account, in a mishmash of English and French:

“Name of Jack Brown.  64 years old, retired non-commissioned officer in the English army, two stints in the dragoons of Her Gracious Majesty …

At this point he saluted respectfully and continued:

“Live in Brighton, three shillings pension a day.  Two nights ago, in Brighton with friends, drank more than usual.  My friends – played a joke, très common in the England – sent me to Paris as a parcel; sewed label on my back: ‘Jack Brown en route for Paris’; Brighton – Paris ticket stuck in my buttonhole.  Me completely drunk …”

“It’s disgraceful, getting that drunk on gin …” exclaimed the police inspector.

Non” he replied, “it was whisky, très bon… ]

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Brighton goes to the Paris Exhibition

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.

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Brighton,March 1867

Dearest 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. Continue reading

Not all sweetness and light (1)

On Friday 23 August 1816, Captain Cheeseman, master of the Neptune packet boat, returned to Brighton.  He brough disturbing news for all his fellow mariners, for their passengers and for trade with France.  During the night of 19-20 August, Captain Thomas Partridge of the Nancy had been shot by French customs officers just outside the port of Dieppe.

Cotman V&A cdb01178-va-ss

Dieppe Harbour 1823 (John Sell Cotman) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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First check your facts, M. Conty

In 1888, the 4th edition of Conty’s guide to London was rushed onto the streets of Paris so that any M. and Mme Dupont could venture safely across la Manche [the English Channel]. As part of their trip, Conty strongly recommends that they spend a day in Brighton.

Source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

Source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

[To leave London without having seen Brighton (pronounced Brahaictonne) and its splendid aquarium would, in our minds, make for an incomplete trip.

Let’s just note for the record that Brighton, the land of pretty English girls, is the Dieppe of England and that, on a sunny November day, it reminds us somewhat of our beautiful town of Nice.]

Is that what they call a back-handed compliment?

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Free champage for all passengers!

The Eclipse drawing

Source: The British Newspaper Archive

The Eclipse and the Talbot

Journal des débats politiques 7 June 1831. Source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

[The steamers Eclipse and Talbot plying between Brighton and Dieppe belong to the General Steam Navigation Company.  The company … not only asks for no fare but feeds the passengers during the crossing, and includes a bottle of Champagne.]

Too good to be true? Not if you were travelling in June 1831.  The General Steam Navigation Company was anxious about serious competition from the Camilla and the Earl of Liverpool steamers, both based in Southampton.  The author of the article predicted that l’une des deux entreprises ne peut tarder à crouler [it won’t be long until one of the companies goes under].  He then went on to warn: alors, les passagers futurs rebourseront les frais des galanteries faites aux passagers actuels [so future passengers will pay the cost of the perquisites afforded to today’s passengers]. 

BTW.  Is any of the above true?  Or is it a figment of the French imagination?  An expression of French admiration / scorn of the English market economy?  There is no trace of any such ‘bargain’ in the English newspapers of the time.

fin symbol

Thomas Thornton’s Trip to France – 1802

Thomas Thornton - Copy

Frontispiece to ‘A Sporting Tour through Various Parts of France, in the Year 1802’ by Colonel Thomas Thornton

Colonel Thomas Thornton was a keen hunter.  To France he would go, to hunt and kill wolves, foxes, wild boar and virtually anything with wings.  To reach France for his hunting holiday, Colonel Thornton travelled from his home in Yorkshire to take ship at Brighton.  He was not impressed by the town: Continue reading