Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh la la! Why I Love the 17th Century

Our week in the 17th century with the Hoydens and Firebrands comes to a close with our final guest post, this time from Sandra Gulland.


The 17th century was a period of vast change, bridging the Middle Ages and the Englightenment. Everything was happening, everything changing— and that makes for great stories.

I adore the 17th century, especially the later half, in France. The French experienced this exciting period of time in quite a different way from people in England. The 17th century in England was torn by revolution, witch-hunts, the Black Plague, and the Great Fire. Although France also suffered witch-hunts and Plague, it was not nearly to the same degree. In France, the 17th century was a period of great cultural flowering. In France, it was a party.

During this period, for example, the French discovered comfort (eyed with puritanical suspicion across the Channel), fresh vegetables (and all that we think of when we think of French cuisine), and privacy (and the romance that came with it).

Before the concept of privacy was born, people were always in company. A bathtub would be set up in the warmest room — usually the kitchen. With the concept of privacy, however, things changed: the lay-out of rooms, how one slept, bathed, relieved oneself.

The comfort revolution began with French gowns (enough of that rigid corset!), and from there came such innovations as the chest of drawers (instead of trunks) and padded armchairs (instead of wooden stools). The armchair led to the invention of the sofa  . . .  and, with that, of course, came the complete unraveling of all moral standards.

Oh la la!

(Illustration: Jean François de Troy’s  painting, "Reading Molière," illustrates the relaxed clothing, furniture and social interactions that came into vogue in France during the later part of the 17th century.)

Sandra Gulland is author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun, which is set in the 17th century court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. She is currently writing another novel set in the same period.



  1. I've really enjoyed reading these 17th century posts. Thanks - very interesting.

  2. Great post by Sandra! I did not know about the comfort wave in 17th century France. Very interesting!

    I'm finally going to read the first book in the Josephine B. trilogy this year and I can't wait! I've heard such great things about it.

  3. What a wonderful post! I adore the 17th century as well, especially in many perfect readings for my Oh La La Challenge;)

  4. Cat, I am so glad you enjoyed reading these posts! I enjoyed them too, and I am very grateful to the Hoydens and Firebrands for agreeing to do them.

    Michelle, you have a real treat in store when you read the Josephine B trilogy

    Ms Lucy, don't forget to check out the other posts this week which were all about the 17th century!

  5. Wow! I love your new blog design...good job :)