For some reason, this series appeals to me and I always wondered what the missing images were and whether they included any of the girl washing up or grooming herself. It turns out there is a card featuring a bathing scene. Unfortunately, the quality of the image does not allow the text to be translated like the others and anyone able to provide a better scan of this card—or any of the other missing cards—is encouraged to come forward.
A lot of charming postcards were made in the Victorian and Edwardian periods and when I came across this, I felt it was typical of the genre. A lot of series were based on some sequential logic like the days of the week, the four seasons or a range of birthdays. This one had a different approach: covering the sequence of activities a little girl performs in a day. This one is called La Journée de Suzette (Suzette’s Day). At first blush, it would seem a delightful peek at the details of a girl’s life. However, each scene is really an idealized and mundane version of how her society would like her to be. There is no sense of the girl having a personality or an inner life and she dutifully plays her role creating a nostalgic but emotionally flat experience for the viewer. This portrayal of the little girl is emphasized in some of the poetic passages.
Even though Armand Gaboriaud is cited as a prolific poet and novelist—sometimes under the alias Marcel Houjan—little biographical information is available on him on the internet. It appears he not only wrote the short poems on the postcards, but was an amateur photographer as well. Most of his work takes this format and most were published just after the the turn of the 19th Century. These particular cards were produced in 1903 or earlier. Most of his images have young women and some sentimental poem, but apart from Suzette only one other series—Paul et Virginie—seems to feature very young people. I could find only six images from the series and only five are presentable here.
I was planning to just use a free translation program to give the readers a gist of the poetry here, but that style does not translate well by machine. I am grateful that an artist friend of mine was willing to translate these short passages for this post.
“While sleep sprinkles it’s golden grains on baby resting in Morpheus’ arms, a marvelous dream, like a fairy tale, makes her smile, and baby thinks about having fun again.”
“It’s time to wake up, time to pray. Suzanne gives her heart to dear little Jesus, and says, ‘Protect me, good father and good mother, if I have disobeyed, I won’t do it again!”
“Suzann has a very hard time getting dressed by herself. She puts on her corset, her stockings and her shoes. As you can see, Suzanne is a big girl; she turned 4 last year!”
“Finding just enough space to write a few words on this picture postcard, after a short time, and after a bit of effort, it’s soon finished, and Suzanne brings it to the mailbox right away.”
The postcard image to Number 7 is in poor condition. It depicts Suzanne sitting at a child’s table setting feeding her doll.
“Suzanne is back home again, her mother’s heart makes her think of her child! It’s time for her beloved doll to eat, so Suzanne responsibly feeds her.”
“Suzanne has a date with a friend. They’re going to take a walk, each with her own doll. They are going to have fun, sitting and playing from time to time during their walk. It is like this every day.”
I was unable to determine how long the entire series is—clearly there are at least 8—and what the subjects of the missing cards are. Anyone knowing more about this series or biographical information on Gaboriaud are encourage to share this information.
About the sixth image that is “not presentable here”:
Could you verbally describe it?
Superficially, it is just another mundane scene. “Not presentable” is perhaps misleading. There were a lot of marks on the image and it would have difficult to clean up. I plan to present a revised post with all 10(?) postcards and Christian has graciously offered to update the translations.
As a native French speaker, I can read the small caption in the first image:
Puis il faut procéder aux soins de la toilette,
Dans un bain parfumé, Suzanne entre gaiment,
Et quand le bain est pris, la petit coquette
Met à contribution les parfums de maman.
(NB. There is a misspelling, ‘gaiment’ should be ‘gaiement’.) I translate as:
Then one must get down to the care of washing and dressing,
In a perfumed bath, Suzanne enters gayly,
And when the bath is taken, the little coquette
Makes use of Mom’s perfumes.
I can also copy and translate the other bigger captions if you need.
Thank you kindly. I will take you up on your offer when I can get good scans of the entire series (should be sometime in 2016). -Ron
That’s a lovely set of photos – that embody a belle-epoque conception of childhood. But the girl’s personality shines through the slightly turgid settings – she clearly enjoyed being photographed.
As to the mystery word – it is ‘soins’ – literally meaning ‘care’ or ‘attention’ – the phrase ‘soins de toilette’ doesn’t really translate literally into English – but just means something like ‘having a wash’.
Thank you Billy. I am always very grateful of readers who help us with corrections and filling in any missing details. Thank you for your work. -Ron
Gosh, you do get about, don’t you? This is perhaps the third side you’ve been on since I last commented – I’m glad to see that I can now anonymously use whatever name I like here, without having to log out of some popular blogging software.
There has been some surprising success in crowdsourced reading of unreadable texts. To me, the first image reads something like:
“Puis il faut procéder aux [solice/soire?] de la toilette, dans un halo parfumé, Susanne entre gaiment et quand-ié bain est pris, la petit coquette met à contribution les parfums de maman.”
My primitive schoolboy-level-French suggests this means:
“Then we must proceed to the privacy(?) of the toilette, in a fragrant halo. Susanne enters gaily, and when the bath is taken, the little coquette puts on a contribution of Mom’s perfumes.”
I prefer fairly strict translation, so have kept the loan-words “toilette” and “coquette”, as we don’t really have any good native words for them. Which is exactly why we stole them from the French! Bath/bathroom and flirt/temptress would imply things entirely lacking in the French terms, which I would translate more like “morning ablutions” and “one who innocently plays at attracting men without understanding what that implies”. It says a lot about English that we have no native word, nor even a short phrase, to denote that most common of girlish activities. Perhaps “playing dress-up” comes closest.
Perhaps some helpful native speaker might know straight away what that one uncertain word might be, and spot any other errors in my transcription/translation?