This is a quote by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), a hugely innovative and influential French poet. He had a far darker perspective than the preceding Romantic poets, though he was influenced by them. His focus on 'the city' was an important departure; he is also noted for his focus on the individual and explorations of human behaviour thought of as immoral or decadent. He is most famous for his collection of poems, 'Les Fleurs du Mal' ('The Flowers of Evil'), published in 1857. The unapologetic discussions of sexuality and death attracted much controversy, but also admiration from many of his contemporaries. Baudelaire had travelled in his youth, making it as far as India, and the richness of foreign culture proved a great influence on his work. He famously had a mixed race mistress, Jeanne Duvall, for twenty years; Angela Carter wrote a short story about her called 'Black Venus' (see below).
Baudelaire also worked on some much admired translations of Edgar Allen Poe, and was a fierce defender of many modern artists such as Édouard Manet and Eugène Delacroix, as well as the composer Richard Wagner. Prone to bouts of extreme melancholy and indolence, drug taking and debt, Baudelaire died aged only 46 of syphilis. Buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse (in good company); he was survived by his beloved mother. Despite an output far less prolific than other poets, his influence and legacy were huge. Younger writers often paid tribute to him, and he is considered an instigator of both the Symbolist and Modernist movements. He has been referenced by such diverse people as T.S. Eliot (in 'The Wasteland') and the modern electro-band Goldfrapp (the song 'Ooh La La').
Etruscans were an ancient civilisation who dwelled in the area of Tuscany in Italy. Evidence of their existence is dated as far back as 800BC. As with other ancient cultures, their artistic abilities were considerable, and far advanced compared to certain contemporaries. Along with wall painting, metalwork (including jewellery) and bronze work, they are well known for the pieces which were used in burial rituals. Like the Egyptians, they crafted sarcophagi to house the remains of the dead. Incredibly detailed and anatomically correct sculptures of the deceased were carved onto the lid. The Etruscans differed in that they also cremated their dead, and placed the ashes in large terracotta urns with the head of the deceased sculpted on top. The best examples of these, crafted by skilled artisans, are truly remarkable and rather unique.
Breaking Wheel was an execution device that began to be used in the Middle Ages. It was especially cruel, and most of Western Europe used it one time or another. The victim would be tied on a large wagon wheel or cartwheel and then beaten to death with an iron cudgel or wooden club. In some cases, a merciful coup de grâce would be administered, but sometimes the victim could take several days to die, left tied to the wheel with horrific injuries. Despite being so utterly and unforgivably barbaric, it was used in Germany as (relatively) recently as 1841. A popular firework, the Catherine Wheel, is named after this instrument. The namesake is St. Catherine of Alexandria, a martyred saint from the 3rd Century AD. Legend states she was sentenced to be executed on the wheel, only for it to break when she touched it; she was beheaded instead.
The Rack is another well known torture device, used to inflict enormous amounts of pain - either as a punishment or interrogation technique. The victim would be tied to a (usually wooden) frame by the wrists and ankles, and then stretched via a roller and ropes. Bones would dislocate, and often break, and tissue, muscle, ligament and cartilage would tear. Like most of these awful pieces of equipment, it began being used in Europe during Medieval times. Many historical dramas will often have the obligatory 'rack' scene.
catafalque is a raised platform used to support the coffin, casket or body of a deceased person. They tend to be most recognisable these days when a monarch or leader has died and lies in state for a time. A famous Renaissance catafalque was the one designed for Michaelangelo's funeral by his fellow artists in 1564.
Dresden is a city in Germany well known for its manufacture of porcelain. Its manufactory was established in 1872 and pieces were trademarked by 1901. A key characteristic of this porcelain was the use of flower modelling in the decoration, largely thanks to the skills of Carl Thieme, who died in 1888. The use of flowers gave a sense of elegance and fragility, whilst keeping a strong impression of embellishment. Along with clocks, ornaments, dinner services, candlesticks and vases were among the items produced.
This term was used by Europeans to describe the Americas, since their official discovery in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. It was coined in the same year by a Spanish scholar named Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, and soon entered the public consciousness. It continued to be used for several centuries, but is generally seen now as archaic.
Carl Czerny (1791-1857) was an Austrian pianist who was once taught by Beethoven. Born into a very musical family, he showed prodigious talent at a very young age. Despite his abilities, he was uneasy about performing in public, so focussed more on composition and teaching. His exercises, or Études, became very popular; they concentrated on the player developing a thorough and rigorous technique. He had a number of notable students, including Franz Liszt.
Bach's value as a teacher is shown in these lovely descriptions from pupils.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer. He was a skilled player of the piano, organ, harpsichord, violin and viola, as well as a teacher of many notable figures. He is seen as epitomising the Baroque style which had been dominant for some time, and his pieces are admired for their technical brilliance as much as their beauty. Bach's musical career began at the age of fourteen, when he was awareded a prestigious choral scholarship. He was so dedicated to his vocation that he once completed an 800 mile round trip - on foot - to stay with the famous organist Dietrich Buxtehude. A paid position at the Weimar court from 1708 allowed his work to flourish. He went on to accept Director of Music posts around the country, until he died aged 65.
Pandora is a figure from Greek mythology. She was said to be the first mortal woman on earth, and was blessed with gifts such as beauty and musical ability by the gods. The box she possessed was in reality more of a jar, and it was said to contain all the evils of the world, such as poverty, disease, misery, grief and death. She was never to open it, under any circumstances. Curiosity, however, led her to do so, and thus eveil escaped. Upset and afraid, Pandora waited for Zeus to punish her, but instead, she heard a voice call her from the jar. It implored her to open the jar a second time; she did so, and out flew Hope, to soothe mankind. It is rather fascinating to compare this myth to that of Eve and the forbidden fruit. Pandora is allowed to correct her error, in a wonderful way, but Eve is degraded and banished...why?
The Mark of Cain is referred to in the Biblical Book of Genesis. Cain is the eldest son of Adam and Eve, and murders his brother Abel in a pique of jealousy. This greatly angers God, who curses Cain, saying that he will no longer be able to till the land and grow crops, but must wander the earth alone. Cain says he will surely be killed if this happens; God responds that this is not so, and that "if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer seven times over". He then sets a mark upon him to signify this. The actual definition of this 'mark' has been debated for centuries, but in common parlance it is used to describe a person carrying guilt, often because they have killed someone. A famous example of its use was in the eve-of-battle speech by Colonel Tim Collins in Iraq in 2003. He warned his troops, "I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts; I can assure you that they live with the Mark of Cain upon them".
A martyr is somebody who dies for their beliefs, usually in the name of religion. Many female saints, including Cecilia, Catherine of Alexandria, Perpetua and Joan of Arc were martyrs. In this instance, it seems the Marquis views his wife as pure and unsullied; the painting of Saint Cecilia (patron of musicians) demonstrates that he has been planning to commit murder all along.
Eve was the first woman to be created by God, according to the Biblical Book of Genesis. She and her husband, Adam, were forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, but Eve succumbed to temptation through the persuasions of a serpent. This resulted in the couple being expelled from the Garden by God. Eve's story continues to stimulate debate; many see it as the basis for the inherent misogyny within Judeo-Christian culture. Others view her as a symbol of power, as she consciously seeks out knowledge, asserts her independence, and becomes the mother of humanity.
Turnbull and Asser is an exclusive and traditional British clothier. It was established in 1885 and moved to its present location on London's Jermyn Street in 1903. They have a Royal warrant from Prince Charles, who is one of many high profile gentlemen to enjoy their clothes. Their shirts are especially popular, and are often sold in bold, striking colours. They offer a bespoke service, and all shirts are made in the UK. Two stores have opened in the USA since 1997, in Beverley Hills and New York. There is also an online service for customers.
Bastille prison was stormed. The passing of the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' called for aristocratic power to be abolished, and asserted the rights of the citizen. Individual aptitude was to be the new criteria for public office and power, not inherited priviledge or the 'divine right of kings'. The Republic was officially declared in 1792, leading to the arrests of the royal family for treason. The struggles against this new regime, both domestically and from abroad, precipitated the blood soaked Reign of Terror in 1793.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was an Italian composer. Best known for his operas, his work is still regularly performed; many people will be familiar with his music even if they have never set foot in an opera house. Some of his best known works are Aida, Rigoletto and La Traviata. He was born in the province of Parma, in a town now named Roncole Verdi in his honour, and went to study in Milan when he was twenty, returning to his home town to become the music master. His work is known for its lush, melodic beauty, and great characterisation. Verdi died at the age of 87, following a stroke. A state funeral was held in his honour, where choirs and orchestras performed his music; no public event in Italy has ever been larger. Along with Puccini, he is regarded as the master of Italian opera.
A famous character in Greek mythology, Medusa was one of the Gorgons. According to Ovid, she had once been a beautiful woman and a priestess in Athena's temple, but she angered the goddess when she was raped by Poseidon there. As punishment, Athena turned Medusa's hair into serpents, and made her face so awful that to look at her turned men to stone. She was beheaded by Perseus, who then used the head as a weapon before presenting it to Athena for her to place on her shield. In recent years, Medusa has been reclaimed as a feminist symbol, as demonstrated in this poem by Carol Ann Duffy. Instead of representing terror, many people now view her as a potent representation of female rage - certainly appropiate for here for our narrator's Maman. Medusa's image is also part of the logo of the fashion house of Versace.
Here we are! This story provides a basis for 'The Bloody Chamber', but its mention in the narrative clearly shows how Carter aimed to do more than a simple retelling. A French folktale, it was written by Charles Perrault and published in 1697, in 'Histoires ou Contes de Temps Passé' ('Stories or Fairy Tales from Times Past'). It is the story of a wealthy nobleman who murders a succession of his wives. The unexplained disappearances of these women and the strange colour of his beard cause people to avoid him, yet he succeeds in marrying the youngest daughter of a neighbour. Soon after the marriage, he tells his bride he must go away on business…and leaves her a bunch of keys. She is given free reign of the château, except for one room. When temptation becomes too great she unlocks the door, only to find the floor covered in blood and her dead predecessors hanging from hooks on the wall. Bluebeard returns; seeing she has disobeyed him, he says he will behead her immediately. He gives her permission to says her prayers first, so she locks herself and her sister in one of the towers. They wait for their brothers to come and rescue them, as the furious Bluebeard attempts to break down the door. In the nick of time, the men come, killing Bluebeard and making their little sister a rich widow. As with all folktales, there are several sources, believed to be an influence. The best known is the 15th Century Breton serial killer Gilles de Rais. Another is the Breton king Conomor the Cursed, who was said to murder his wives when they fell pregnant. He was also rumoured to be a werewolf.
Although he did not coin the term ‘fairy tale’, Charles Perrault (1628 – 1705) was the writer who instigated the genre. As well as the above story, he wrote versions of ‘Puss in Boots’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Cinderella’, which in turn became the basis for the ballets, plays, pantomimes and cinematic tellings we are familiar with today. The roots of all these tales are, in some cases, hundreds of years old, and would have originally been passed down in the oral tradition.
Perrault was born into wealth in Paris, and received a good education, later becoming an adviser to King Louis XIV. He was actively involved in the arts and literary debate, being a particular champion and defender of modern literature – interesting, given his later choice of subject matter. Aged 67, he published ‘Histoires ou Contes de Temps passé', which contained the stories he is best known for. The notion of fairy tales having a ‘moral’ may have been influenced by his admiration for Aesop’s ‘Fables’.
Angela Carter published a translation of Perrault’s tales in 1977.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, and was also the capital of French Indochina from 1902-1954. The French founded the first three European-style universities in the city, which still exist as Hanoi Medical University, Hanoi National University and the Vietnam Academy of Fine Arts. The City is the most important centre of education in Vietnam, meaning prospective students from all around the country travel there in the summer to take their entrance exams; many will continue to live and work in the city after completing their studies. Much of the architecture remains in the French style, although with over a thousand years of other history there is plenty to demonstrate the presence of other eras and dynasties. The site of the city's oldest university, the wonderfully named Temple of Literature, still exists in the Old Quarter; it was founded in 1070. Hanoi also boasts a plethora of museums and art galleries, making it an important cultural centre. Geographically, the city is built on the low land between two rivers, and has many lakes. The old temples dotted around the shores add to the lovely scenery. The city's second airport is currently being built, and will be the largest in Asia, therfore adding to Hanoi's prestige, hopefully increasing both further investment and tourism.
The Opéra Nationale de Paris is the leading opera company in France, similar to the Royal Opera House in London. It has existed in various forms since 1669, when it was established by Louis XIV to popularise opera amongst the people. The King, a skilled dancer, also encouraged the development of ballet. After the Revolution, the company was renamed the Théâtre de la Republique; and in 1802 it was changed again by Napoleon. It continued to be known by different names throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries until its present title was decided upon in 1994. Its current location is at the Opéra Bastille, but at the time our story is set, it was at the Palais Garnier (ballets are still produced here). The spectacular Palais was built on the orders of Napoleon III over a fifteen year period, and was completed in 1875. It is especially famous for its grand staircase, formed of marble underneath a ceiling painted with musical allegories. There is also a library-museum, containing three centuries worth of records of the Opéra's history.
An interesting name for our Beast. Despite being of French origin, Lyon is a well known English surname. It may make readers recall the quintessentially English J. Lyon's and Co. Tea Rooms, which were popular in post-war London; Carter refers to them often in her novel, 'Wise Children'.
By giving the heroine of this tale the name of 'Beauty', Carter asks us to recall the original European of 'La Belle et la Bête', or 'Beauty and the Beast'. The first known written version of the tale appeared in 1740, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and has since been retold through every artistic medium. The girl 'Beauty' is not just physically attractive; she is deemed to be gentle, kind hearted and innocent, which (seemingly) sets her in opposition to the Beast.
A white rose is a symbol of purity and innocence, and has often been associated with girlhood. Roses in general are a traditional symbol of love, so it is a rather lovely thing for a father to give to his daughter - or at least attempt to.
Kate Bush used the white rose as a motif in her beautiful song 'Under the Ivy', which can be heard below:
This is a clear reference from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll, which is a tale firmly in the public consciousness, perhaps as much so as the traditional folk stories Carter explores. When Alice follows the white rabbit down the burrow, she finds herself in a hall, surrounded by a number of locked doors. She finds a key which fits one of them, but the door is too small for her to fit through. She then notices a bottle labelled 'Drink Me', which makes her shrink so small she cannot hold the key. A cake labelled 'Eat Me' then causes her to grow so large that she hits her head on the ceiling.
style of furniture which became fashionable during the reign of Queen Anne of England in the 18th Century. It marked the transition of furniture becoming a fashion statement as much as a practicality. New pieces such as writing desks, card tables and tea tables began to be produced, and visual features such as clawed and ball feet were popular. Items were also made to look more exotic through the use of lacquer and verneers.
Madame d'Aulnoy (1650-1705), a French writer who specialised in fairy tales. A member of the nobility, she travelled widely in Spain and England, which helped inspire some of her stories. Her first collection was published in 1697, and was called 'Les Contes des Fées', or simply 'Fairy Stories'. The second collection, 'Contes Nouveaux ou Les Fées à la Mode' - 'New Tales, or Fairies in Fashion' - was published a year later. Both books were extremely popular, although the often violent descriptions meant that were generally enjoyed by adults. Themes of transformation were common throughout her tales, whether for good or for ill. Although not translated into English as her contemporary Charles Perrault, she nonetheless proved very influential - not least for being the first writer to coin the phrase 'fairy story'.
King James Bible, Book of Revelation, Chapter 4, Verses 5-7:
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.
These four beasts, respectively, are said to represent Mark, Luke, Matthew and John, the authors of four of the Gospels. These also tie into the Old Testament descriptions of Ezekiel and David, which speak of "winged creatures" in relation to an Apocalypse. The tone of the four New Testament Gospels are said to be demonstrated by the creature each writer represents: Mark's Gospel begins with a description of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, and the strong opening verse of "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before me" has been compared to a lion's roar in its power and authority. Matthew is a man because of the recognisably human way he describes Jesus; John is an eagle because of the ethereal qualities of his writing. Luke, the calf, is considered the be the most forthright and 'bullish' in terms of creating an orderly document to give to his community.
Mark is the patron saint of Venice, reportedly because in the 9th Century two merchants stole his remains from Alexandria and brought them to the city. He is depicted in the city's logo, and a statue of him in the form of a lion is situated on the clock tower above St. Mark's Square.