Marie Antoinette Online Forum

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Author:  victoire [ Fri Mar 20, 2009 1:46 am ]
Post subject:  laudanum?

Was laudanum (or something similar) available in 18th century France? When I have come across references to it, it's usually in the context of the 19th century.

Author:  jimcheval [ Fri Mar 20, 2009 3:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: laudanum?

This source said that it had been known in Europe since the sixteenth century:

In France, it was certainly available but still seemed to be for medical uses, as for this cancer treatment:

Bibliothèque physico-économique, instructive et amusante.
1785 (A4).

This was for livestock:
1786 (A5)

A 1792 item says that rich people kept it around to use for wasp stings:
Les gens riches, qui ont chez eux de petites apothicaireries, y confervent du laudanum, préparation d'opium. S'ils n'ont pas de laudanum au rems des guêpe..

And if they didn't have any, some had poppies in their garden with which to make it (!).

There's a larger point about drug use here which I've never considered before. In fact, with all the decadent behavior one encounters in the Old Regime, drug use isn't much if at all. Perhaps because alcohol was already so ubiquitous (coffee and tea made it less so as the century went on)?

Even Wolfgang Schivelbusch, in his Tastes of Paradise, which traces pleasures such as caffeine drinks, tobacco, etc. refers to opium as a nineteenth century (and initially working class) phenomenon. But it was also considered perfectly normal initially.

So yes laudanum existed in France in our period, but not in the way it would in England a century later.

Author:  jimcheval [ Fri Mar 20, 2009 4:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: laudanum?

I forgot one way opium (though not laudanum, so far as I recall) was used in Old Regime France:

The honest M. Chabrit, reduced to six hundred pounds of income, allowed himself to think, in one of those unhappy moments which makes one see things as they are, that in his position it was infinitely preferable to die than to live, and he had recourse to a strong dose of opium; he was found dead in his bed. This unfortunate man was in too much of a hurry; because, on the very morning when he had just ended his course, a friend was going to inform his that he had obtained from the controller general a pension which would have met his needs.

She could not find among the blooming youth surrounding her and courting her, any mortal to replace him in her heart, or to console her for her loss. She coldly decided to remove herself from all the pleasure of the life she enjoyed and last week she took enough opium to put her to sleep forever.

Author:  victoire [ Sat Mar 21, 2009 1:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: laudanum?

Thank you again, Jim. for the information! Maybe you should teach a class about 18th century France... (It would be fascinating.)

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