The gentlemen galloped off, mistaking my nose for a blunderbuss.

Timorous Tifarès could already see dark night in its mournful attire: its owl-drawn chariot with wheels made out of Purgatory souls bent into cycloids, giant bats with horseshoe-shaped noses flapping their wings to make it fly: two vampires mounted on werewolves were driving it, and three ogres riding white-tailed eagles were in the lead, crying “Whoo, whoo” in order to get daylight’s chariot stowed away. Terror, a member of this mournful cortege, no sooner noticed timid Tifarès’s shriveled-up heart than it made its home there, with all the alacrity shown by a bodyguard of the Marshals of France who, after three weeks of not dining at any gentleman’s expense, now by the grace of our King and lords marshal stands guard in the house of some provincial against whom he has conceived a grudge.

— The Bohemians
, p 11

Warning, pseudo-classical naughty bits ahead:

The two armies that must decide the fate of both Brutiens and Galles were now but a league apart, the sun had traveled a quarter of its career, and fierce Mars, thirsty for bloodshed, had just stripped off the godly armor forged for him by the cuckold Vulcan, who works night and day in a Sicilian cave for his heavenly wife’s lovers and bastards. Brandishing his lance and a barbed spear like the ones used by Africans, the god of war tapped his foot and foamed at the mouth, impatient for the moment when he would be awash in human blood. Just so, impeded by the tight virgin charms of a young nun, will a hearty Cordelier gasp, sweat, squirm, and shudder with rage. Sometimes he may use his hand to guide his lance, then again use the strength in his loins to push it; the bed trembles under these vigorous blows; the only thing that can calm the lubricious ardor of the intrepid Franciscan is blood flowing from the broken hymen and merging with a torrent of semen; and he bathes in this mixture several times, withdrawing only to feel anew the burning desire to plunge back in. Meanwhile Apollo, never any too fond of Mars, has taken wicked pleasure in sunburning his warlike colleague in order to increase his ardor, while in Jupiter’s closet Fate has donned her spectacles, eager to read the names of mortals whose competition to kill or maim each other would be contributing to Olympian entertainment later in the day.

— page 59.

The Marquis de Pelleport wrote Les Bohémiens (probably) in 1788 in the Bastille. Robert Darnton says: “Anne Gédéon Lafitte, marquis de Pelleport, was, according to everyone who met him, a scoundrel, a reprobate, a rogue, a thoroughly bad hat. He charmed and seduced wherever he went, and left a trail of misery behind him. He lived miserably himself, because he was disowned by his family and relied on his wits and his pen to escape destitution. He was an adventurer who spent most of his life on the road. His itinerary led him along the routes that connected Grub Street, Paris, with Grub Street, London, and his novel provides a picaresque account of them.” (Introduction, p. xi.)

Not all Darnton‘s or the translator, Vivian Folkenflik’s, careful commentary can make Les Bohemiens coherent or persuade me it was fully intended, but it’s a cranky and revealing view of one margin of 18C France.


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