Sunday 3 June 2018

The Brontë Brussels Calendar: June 1842

1 June, Wednesday – Weather: 8 to 23 C, cloudless

2 June, Thursday – W: 12 to 18 C, clouded, with a little bit of rain
On this day Charlotte finished writing her Anne Askew devoir.

3 June, Friday – W: 7 to 19 C, some clouds in the morning, a sunny afternoon
Abraham Dixon, in Ostend, continued writing a letter to his daughter Mary, in England, begun on 31 May: “John Taylor arrived in Brussels on Friday evening last, he & Martha arrived here on Wednesday, & yesterday (Thursday) they left for Calais, will be in London most probably this evening, in Birmingham on Monday & in Leeds towards the end of next week.”
The newspapers reported about the failed attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria, on 30 May. It was a continuing story for some time, up to the end of the trial (forced labor in Australia, the verdict was for that man).

4 June, Saturday – W: 8 to 22 C, a very sunny day

5 June, Sunday – W: 14 to 22 C, another sunny day
Both L’Indépendant and the Journal de Bruxelles had four extra pages, recording exactly what everyone had said in the final debates on the 4th in Parliament on the main part of the  proposed loi communale, the nomination and appointment of mayors. The proposal of the government – the king gets the right to do that – gets the majority of votes.
L’Indépendant reports that the people of Brussels have so far raised a sum of 11,000 francs for the victims of the Hamburg fire disaster ( 29 May).

6 June, Monday – W: 12 to 24 C, no clouds at all
It must have been another Catholic holiday. The Journal de Bruxelles (a day later) wrote about ‘superb’ weather during the various processions in the city and in the faubourgs.
On this day, the Belgian King and Queen leisurely walked through the Park for some 45 minutes, the papers reported. Missed by the Brontës though, obviously. It would have been wonderful to see Charlotte’s observation of that.
At nighttime a number of young Englishmen who, no doubt drunken, “s’amusaient a briser [wreck] la lanterne du local de la Société de la Grande Harmonie.” They were arrested and brought to the Petits-Carmes prison.

7 June, Tuesday – W: 10 to 24 C, somewhat clouded

8 June, Wednesday – W: 14 to 27 C, fairly clouded
This day saw the beginning of a heatwave. This June in general was a truly warm month, with 9 days of 25 C or more. Charlotte must have had these days in mind when in Villette she wrote about “the heat of June.” (June 1843 saw no heat.)

9 June, Thursday – W: 13 to 28 C, cumulus clouds

10 June, Friday – W: 14 to 29 C, quite cloudless
The Journal de Bruxelles reported that in the country the grain and corn plants were suffering much because of the drought.
In the evening another concert for the victims of the Hamburg fire disaster was to be held in the Park, by musicians of the Réunion Lyrique. The entrance fee was 1 franc. Because the city had just decided to open the Park to visitors in the evening the concert was eventually held at the Waux-Hall, still attracting about 3000 people.

11 June, Saturday – W: 15 to 30 C, some clouds
L’Indépendant, for this day, reported two days later that the Observatoire had measured “29 degrés de Reaumur,” in the shadow. That corresponds with more than 36 C. It could indicate that the warmth measurement in Celsius centigrades doesn’t entirely correspond with that of nowadays, or that the centigrade measurement system had not functioned well.  

12 June, Sunday – W: 20 to 30 C, cloudless
L’Indépendant wrote that the inhabitants of the St. Gudule quarter were surprised and dissatisfied to see that the clock of the cathedral was still not working, after the restoration works. While, the paper added, there were few “horloges publiques” anyway in the city, and some of these gave the wrong time, or weren’t working at all. ( 13 June)
In an advertisement in the paper the General Steam Navigation Company announced a big reduction in prices (“Grande baisse de prix”) for their ships’ journeys between London and Belgium. This had to do with the entrance of a Belgian firm on this market, the Société Anversoise.

13 June, Monday – W: 14 to 25 C, some clouds
The heat, that newspaper wrote on this day, continues to be on a very unusual high level for this time of year. Everywhere in France, Germany and Holland people complain about the warmth. Some Dutch towns were facing drinking water problems. Luckily though, this day brought less warm weather.
L’Indépendant also reported that one of the men who had stood trial in the plot against the state trial in March, Pierre-Jean-Joseph Parent, had been arrested at his home at the Rue de la Madeleine on Saturday, for a “scandalous writing.” Parent had written a “brochure” about that trial (Le Complot et le Pouvoir – The Plot and the Power), denouncing it as a farce. A large number of these brochures were seized by the police, but Parent was released soon. The case was brought to court though.

The right time was eagerly sought, in Brussels in 1842. Few people could afford a watch, and there were few public places where one could find it. This obviously attracted criminals. L’Indépendant (on the 17th) reported that on this Monday, at about 10 am at the Marché-aux-Grains, a watch was stolen by a woman from a gentleman. She had accosted him, to ask what time it was. The man, “too confidently,” took out his watch, which was then violently gripped from him by that woman. She ran and got away with it. (At a later time we will speak about time and crime at more length, in a separate article.)

14 June, Tuesday – W: 14 to 25 C, fairly clouded
The newspapers carried complaints about naked men in ponds, in several towns around Brussels, “au grand scandale des promeneurs.” In some towns this bid to seek some coolness, in this excessively warm period, was followed by being arrested. But in Ixelles, the Journal de Bruxelles complained, the police didn’t act. A day later, L’Indépendant reported that as a result of going into the waters several people had drowned.
In the morning, between 8 and 9, several convicted criminals were paraded to and exposed to the public at the Grande Place, in straightjackets.

15 June, Wednesday – W: 14 to 21 C, clouded
The newspapers had more about the unrest in Ireland, “driven by hunger,” which had started a few days earlier. On Monday they had already reported that two people were shot dead by the police, in Clare. Now they wrote that more people, had been shot dead, on Saturday. The papers quoted (the still renowned) Daniel O’Connell, MP for Clare and Lord-Mayor of Dublin, who warned of unrest and immense poverty among the Irish in the Manchester and Glasgow areas. The biggest problem was unemployment, he said. In Ireland people were also suffering from three failed harvests, and this was even one or two years before the potato blight disease entered the country, which led to the Great Famine. The Belgians obviously felt sympathy for the Irish, Catholics too.

16 June, Thursday – W: 10 to 21 C, quite bright
The Journal de Bruxelles reported that in the Park two new marble busts were being placed, “representing two warriors of our national history: one of Ambiorix, chief of the Eburons, the other of Cingetorix (Vercingetorix), chief of the Treviriens during Ceasar’s fourth campaign against the Gauls.” One of them was sadly vandalized some years ago.

17 June, Friday – W: 12 to 19 C, quite clouded
A Dutch newspaper (Algemeen Handelsblad) quoted a correspondent in Flanders who stated that the “misery is now getting so great here in these areas that each day one can see in each village hundreds of miserable people, barely clothed, begging.” The Dutch papers also had reports about large groups of unemployed labourers roaming around and causing unrest.
There is very little sign of such unrest and distress in the Brussels newspapers though.

18 June, Saturday – W: 9 to 19 C, clouded, some rain in the evening

19 June, Sunday – W: 13 to 21 C, pretty clouded

20 June, Monday – W: 13 to 24 C, somewhat clouded, and finally a good amount of rain
The Belgian King and Queen left for Ostend, by train, on their way to the annual visit to England and Queen Victoria (he was her uncle). Next day at 8 am the ship they were on left Ostend, and on Wednesday at 11.20 am they arrived at Buckingham Palace.

21 June, Tuesday – W: 15 to 21 C, clouded, with a lot of rain between 11 am and 4.30 pm
Crucially, for agriculture, and any plant and tree, it had finally rained again. Without it the harvests would have been disastrous.
Amidst reports of more unrest in Ireland (in Galway there was “general anarchy and the people die from hunger”), the papers reported that manufacturers in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scotland were convening to call upon Parliament to do something about the “distress of the working class.”

22 June, Wednesday – W: 13 to 23 C, sunny morning, then clouds and rain beginning to fall by late afternoon

23 June, Thursday – W: 11 to 20 C, fairly bright
On this day Charlotte finished writing (as it turned out, the first version of) her devoir named Portrait: Pierre l’Hermite. It is interesting that again she finished a devoir ( 2 June) on a Thursday, a half-holiday. Would she have used that free time to work on them? Or would she have worked hard to finish them by the end of the morning to be able to enjoy that afternoon off?
L’Indépendant wrote about the rumour that an independent republic of Catalonia had been proclaimed. While this turned out not to be true, there was clearly some separatist unrest. In December 1842 Barcelona was bombarded by Spanish troops.

24 June, Friday – W: 14 to 23 C, clouded, and windy

25 June, Saturday – W: 13 to 22 C, clouded

26 June, Sunday – W: 14 to 20 C, clouded, rain all night till about 11 am

27 June, Monday – 10 to 18 C, sunny morning, somewhat clouded afternoon

28 June, Tuesday – 11 to 22 C, sunny, with some cumulus clouds

29 June, Wednesday – W: 12 to 27 C, very sunny, and very warm again
It was a Catholic holiday, that of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
L’Indépendant had a lengthy piece about the Park. The paper supported the idea that it should have an iron gate around it, rather than the hedges that were now used to fence it off. In the plan that had been drawn up the three “grand portes du Parc” would be preserved and some more would be created (opposite the palace for instance). The newspaper donated 25 francs to the public funding.
The Journal de Bruxelles had alarming figures on child labour. In Gent for instance, they wrote, a third of the 30,000 labourers were children, the youngest being only six and a half years old. The paper pleaded for a minimum age of 10, and children must be able to read and write before they were allowed to work.

30 June, Thursday – 15 to 29 C, quite clouded
The Journal de Bruxelles that all of western Yorkshire was in turmoil because of the raising of import tariffs by the German Zollverein for foreign linen and cotton. The main manufacturers had convened in Bradford to address the problem.
The paper also reported that St. Gudule cathedral now had some new stained glass windows.

Sometime in June Emily wrote her devoir Portrait: Le Roi Harold avant la Bataille de Hastings. "Héger’s version, Portrait: Harold la veille de la Bataille de Hastings, also dated “Juin [18]42,” is clearly a later revision” (Sue Lonoff, The Belgian Essays, p. lxxx).

Eric Ruijssenaars

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