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p. 431Explanatory Noteslocked

p. 431Explanatory Noteslocked

  • Brian Nelson
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4

land of wheat: the Beauce is a great wheat-growing area and one of France’s most productive agricultural areas generally. It is situated south-west of Paris, between the Seine and Loire rivers. It now comprises the département of Eure-et-Loir and parts of Loiret, Essonne, and Loir-et-Cher. The major town of the area is Chartres.

rooks: Zola’s model for Rognes was the village of Romilly-sur-Aigre, several miles east of Cloyes and about 15 miles south of Châteaudun.

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9

Plassans: Plassans, based on Aix-en-Provence (where Zola spent his childhood and youth), is the fictional town that is the origin of the Rougon-Macquart family. It is the setting of The Fortune of the Rougons and The Conquest of Plassans.

Solferino: the Battle of Solferino on 24 June 1859 resulted in the victory of the allied armies of France, under Napoleon III, and Sardinia, under Victor Emmanuel II, against the Austrian army under Emperor Franz Joseph I. The battle at Solferino (in present-day Lombardy) marked a decisive step towards the unification of Italy. The reference indicates that the novel opens towards the end of October 1860.

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two months: in reality, the price of wheat fluctuated, but remained relatively stable, during the 1850s and 1860s. An agricultural crisis did not develop until 1879/80, when competition from abroad, especially the importation of cheap wheat from the United States, began to drive the grain price down. In other words, Zola is transposing onto the Second Empire (1852–70) the economic conditions of the 1880s.

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15

Algerian campaigns: the conquest of Algeria was initiated in the last days of the Bourbon Restoration of Charles X (1820–30) as an attempt to increase his popularity amongst the French people, particularly in Paris, where many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars lived. Military conflict lasted throughout the 1830s and 1840s. From 1848 until independence in 1962, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France.

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16

pig-headedness: buté in French means ‘pig-headed’, and ‘Buteau’ shares the same second syllable as taureau (bull).

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34

La Trouille … little brat: among other things, trouille means ‘brat’.

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personally: in February 1848 demonstrations and rioting in Paris led to the fall of King Louis-Philippe and the declaration of the Second Republic (1848–51). In December 1848 Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected president, and civil liberties were curtailed. On 2 December 1851 Louis-Napoleon seized power in a coup d’état (this is the background to The Fortune of the Rougons). The following year he p. 432proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III, inaugurating the Second Empire (1852–70).

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57

for centuries: wolves were to be found in the Beauce until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

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58

Orgères … sixty years later: Orgères (or Orgères-en-Beauce) is a commune in the département of Eure-et-Loir, 18 miles from Châteaudun and 25 miles from Chartres. In 1870 its population was about 500. The Roasters (‘Chauffeurs’) were a gang of bandits who plagued the Beauce from 1785 to 1792.

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66

Jacquerie: an insurrection of peasants against the nobility in north-eastern France in 1358—so named from the nobles’ habit of referring contemptuously to any peasant as Jacques or Jacques Bonhomme.

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67

Louis XVIII, Charles X, Louis-Philippe: Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI (executed in 1793), became king after Napoleon was deposed and sent into exile on the island of Elba, thus restoring the Bourbon dynasty. He died in 1824 and was succeeded by his brother, Charles X. In July 1830, three days of revolution forced Charles X to abdicate. Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans, became the ‘Citizen King’, beginning the so-called July Monarchy (1830–48).

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73

May morning: Part Two of Earth begins six months after the events described in Part One.

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74

Directory: the Directory was the French Revolutionary government set up in November 1795. It was an executive body of five members including the young general Napoleon Bonaparte. It came to an end with the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) in which Napoleon overthrew it and replaced it with the Consulate (1799–1804).

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84

sheep pest: an infectious disease caused by a bacillus.

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86

Voltaire armchair: an armchair with a low seat and a high back, named after the French writer Voltaire (1694–1778).

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98

a child: the second-person singular pronoun tu is normally used when addressing a friend, a relative, or a child and also normally among young people; the second-person plural pronoun vous corresponds to less informal usage.

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118

Compiègne: the Château de Compiègne, located in Compiègne in the Oise département, was a royal residence built for Louis XV and restored by Napoleon. It was one of three seats of royal government, the others being Versailles and Fontainebleau. From 1856 onwards, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie made it their autumn residence.

Tuileries: the Tuileries Palace was a royal and imperial palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine. It was the usual Parisian residence of most French monarchs, from Henri IV (r. 1589–1610) to Napoleon III, until it was gutted by fire during the Paris Commune in 1871.

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119

treaties of 1861: a free trade treaty between France and Britain was signed on 23 January 1860 and was followed the next year by similar treaties with most other European countries.

p. 433Wheat is sellingproduce: this was the price of wheat when Zola visited the Beauce in May 1886. He projected this parlous state of affairs back to the early 1860s, when the price was in fact nearly twice as high. The perceived crisis of French agriculture did not become a concern until the late 1870s and thereafter.

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122

code civil: Ian Littlewood, in his excellent France: The Rough Guide Chronicle (London, 2002), writes: ‘For centuries the French legal system had relied on a mixture of Roman law in the southern parts of the country and customary law in Paris and the north, with much that concerned family life coming under the control of the Church. The period following the Revolution [of 1789], when so much of the old order, and the privileges enshrined in it, had been demolished, was an ideal moment to formulate a new civil code based on principles of reason rather than on the prejudices and special interests of the past. Napoleon set up a four-member commission, subject to frequent interventions by himself, to carry this out. The three books of the code deal respectively with the laws of persons, of goods and of contracts. The operation of the law is separated from political and ecclesiastical considerations, and central to it is the principle of equal rights and equal treatment for all citizens’ (p. 219).

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154

bouchon: a game played with cards and corks.

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161

A year went by: the action of the first two chapters of Part Three takes place in the summer of 1864; that of the third chapter takes place in July 1865.

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191

the man of 1848: on 24 February 1848 there was a revolution in Paris. Demonstrations and rioting led to the downfall of the ‘Citizen King’, Louis-Philippe (r. 1830–48) and the declaration of the Second Republic. Political clubs sprang up to debate ideas, some of them extravagantly utopian, for radical social reform.

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276

when the Cossacks were in the Beauce: a reference to the invasion of France in 1814 by the coalition European armies, including Cossacks.

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278

five years: in fact seven years have gone by since the division of Fouan’s property.

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284

upcoming elections: Zola puts the elections in July 1868, whereas they actually took place in May 1869.

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358

married for two years: as in some of his other novels, the implications of some of Zola’s chronological references do not stand up to scrutiny (cf. note to p. 278). If Jean and Françoise married in August 1869, and have been married for two years, the present action must be taking place in February 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War (whose imminence is announced at the end of the novel). But this is an inconsequential point, given the overwhelming general verisimilitude and the essentially poetic nature of his representation of the peasant world.

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380

the number 214: higher numbers spelt exemption from military service.