Sunday, June 30, 2013

Post Cards from Paris: a Thought and a Kiss

Vintage post cards of Paris (or anywhere, for that matter) are delightful, and are easy and unique souvenirs to bring home.

This is a sweet one -- Une pensée de Paris, a play on words since pensée means both pansy and thought.  Say it with flowers:   Thinking of you from Paris.  With the requisite monuments, of course.

The correspondence on the reverse side of this post card was tame, a perfunctory "Tous mes remerciements, Joanne."  The card was addressed to Monsieur et Madame Giraud, 40 rue de la Station, Ermont, which is just north of Paris.  I did a little research:  here is rue de la Station at about that time.  Probably late 1800s.

It's innocent enough, tiptoeing into someone else's thank-you note.

It is another matter entirely to stumble upon an ancient post card containing a woman's bold and feverish declaration of love, which, I fear, may be unrequited. Reading a love letter meant for private eyes feels intrusive ... and yet it causes insatiable curiosity.

Un Baiser -- A Kiss.  The photo may be the woman herself. (To me it looks like a studio portrait turned into a carte postale.) What do you think?

The reverse:  no address.  I'm not sure how the post card was delivered, because it was stamped and metered on the photo side.  It was written probably about 1903.

The message?  I got so sad reading this.  (Translation at the bottom.)   The age old story.

Bien cher et tendre,
L’accueil que vous ferez à ma lettre me cause une inquiétude pénible. J’ai longtemps combattu avant de vous faire l’aveu de ma tendresse. J’ai vingt fois déchiré des lettres commencées enfin mon chéri mon cœur la emporte sur toutes mes craintes. C’est sans doute avoir de l’audace de vous faire un semblable aveu mais il est sincère et je n’exagère pas ma situation, si je vous dis que lorsque je vous ai vue[sic] la première fois j’ai senti un transport qui m’était inconnu. Je ne vous propose pas mon chéri de partager une affection passagère qui n’a rien de sincère ni de durable. Je désire m’unir a vous par les liens du mariage et tous mes vœux sont que.. liens nous unissent a jamais. J’espère que vous daignez répondre à mes sentiments. J’attends votre décision, je l’attends avec impatience et […] quelle ne soit pas désespérant. Je vous en supplie soyez sincère et franc n’ayez aucun détour, car voilà déjà de longs jours que je vous connais, vous avez du remarquer tout le bonheur que j’éprouve lorsque je suis près de vous. Je vous aime de toutes les forces de mon âme. O vous si charmant et si doux, auriez- vous la cruauté de repousser l’amour le plus vrai et le plus sincère. Si vous ne pouvez pas me donner des sentiments aussi affectueux que ceux que je me sens pour vous, laissez-moi au moins l’espérance un mot de grâce sinon, chéri dites-moi que je puis vous chérir et vous aimer. Veuillez agréer cher bien aime avec mon profond respect l’assurance de mon amitié et de mon dévouement. Votre amie qui vous aime. 28.16

Quickly translated:

"My tender darling,
Thinking about your potential reaction to this letter causes me painful worry.  I have been so anguished about expressing my feelings to you.  I have begun and then torn up letters to you twenty times, because, dear heart, therein lie my fears.  It is certainly bold to make such a pronouncement to you, but it is sincere and I am not exaggerating my current situation if I tell you that when I saw you the first time I felt transported in a way I'd never felt before.  I am not asking you to share with me a fleeting affection, which is neither sincere nor long-lasting.  I want to be united with you by the bonds of marriage and my only wishes are that we be united forever.  I hope that you will return the feelings.  I await your decision, I wait for it with impatience and [hope] that it will not be disappointing.  I beg of you, be sincere and honest, don't beat around the bush, because I have already known you for so many long days, and surely you must have noticed the joy that I experience when I am near you.  I love you with all the force of my soul.  O you so charming and so kind, would you be so cruel as to reject a love so sincere and so real?  If you cannot love me in the same way that I love you, please give me at least a kind word, dear one please tell me that at least I can love you and cherish you.

Please accept dear one with my profound respect the assurance of my friendship and my devotion.  Your friend who loves you."

Parting thoughts:

1.  What do you think the response was, if any?

2.  I am amazed that even love letters are closed with "Veuillez agreer....l'assurance de etc etc."  That formula is really, really ingrained in the culture!

3.  Was 28.16 a code name?


Anonymous said...

Do you know "Le Sonnet d'Arvers," Polly? This is what the letter made me think of... - Ariane

Mon âme a son secret, ma vie a son mystère :
Un amour éternel en un moment conçu.
Le mal est sans espoir, aussi j'ai dû le taire,
Et celle qui l'a fait n'en a jamais rien su.

Hélas ! j'aurai passé près d'elle inaperçu,
Toujours à ses côtés, et pourtant solitaire,
Et j'aurai jusqu'au bout fait mon temps sur la terre,
N'osant rien demander et n'ayant rien reçu.

Pour elle, quoique Dieu l'ait faite douce et tendre,
Elle ira son chemin, distraite, et sans entendre
Ce murmure d'amour élevé sur ses pas ;

À l'austère devoir pieusement fidèle,
Elle dira, lisant ces vers tout remplis d'elle :
« Quelle est donc cette femme ? » et ne comprendra pas.

Anonymous said...

Dear Polly,

Thank you so much for such an interesting post!

I see nothing has changed through the years...

A letter like that would make any man head for the hills as fast as he could no matter what century it was written.

Certainly, she was a brave lady...but if he really was into her she would not have needed to throw herself at his feet. It makes me so sad!

A woman has the perfect right to love a man without his permission. It's not his problem...but God forbid the minute he finds out!

Maria O. Russell

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Ariane, I didn't know Le Sonnet d'Arvers, but this letter did remind me of another poem -- I'm trying to recall -- which I think was by Christine de Pizan in the 15th century. Which reminded me of a story "The Phone Call" by Dorothy Parker (who wrote actually on many troubadour themes). My French lit recall is too rusty! Thanks for this poem.

Maria -- agreed. I cringed and yet wept for this woman as I first read the letter.
Do we think he ever responded?

Anonymous said...

If he was a player, maybe he responded?

If he was a decent man, would he respond?

Or he would probably just let things dangling in there?

You know, as long as they don't respond, everything is fine...nothing really happened...

I wish I knew!


K said...

Maybe the assumption of the note having been taken well is in order...considering it still exists. Unless she never really sent it (or somehow got it back before delivered with the non-address). If the guy recieved it and was annoyed or disappointed, why keep it? Unless he secretly felt the same (wether he expressed it or not to her). I mean, if you recieved a love letter from someone you did not love in return, would you treasure or keep it in good care to last through the years?

Padraig said...

Please note : the price for sending a postcard in insouciant 1907 was 5 cts... (Une pensée de Paris)

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