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Cook’s Traveller’s Handbook for Normandy and Brittany Part 2

OLD GUIDEBOOKS MAKE INTERESTING assessments, if occasionally lacking in terms of today’s P.C. niceties. Yesterday in Part 1, Thos. Cook & Son introduced us to Normandy and Brittany, 1923. Today, the handbook shares its views on inhabitants of these two provinces in northwest France.

Image from Cook’s Traveller’s Handbook for Normandy and Brittany.

Cook’s Personality Profiles. Cook’s wrote (in a pre-P.C. 1923), “The Norman of to-day is the counterpart of his forefathers who landed at Pevensey with William the Conquerer in 1066. He is hardy, big-framed, bull-necked, hook-nosed, and eagle-eyed…. He is fierce and eager in asserting his rights and protecting his interests. In a word, he applies to trade those aggressive and acquisitive qualities which formerly developed themselves in less peaceful pursuits. He is keen in pursuit of gain, and grasps with firm hand what he gains.”

Yes, I believe I know the type. Add the matter of illegitimacy, and you’ve got a real character.

Of Norman women, Cook’s wrote, “His women are portly, comely and gracious to strangers, but always with an eye to business, and in no country in the world is there so high an appreciation of the ‘petit sou’—a quality which all Frenchwomen inherit, more or less.” 

Talk about painting with broad brush.

Cook’s Breton. As for those inhabiting Brittany, Cook’s wrote, “The Breton of to-day is the Celt of Julius Caesar. He is brother-in-blood to the aborigines of Great Britain, and speaks their language. In character he differs only from the Druids of prehistoric times in so far as the superstitions of Christianity have replaced those of Paganism.”

Well, that’s likely to win votes, isn’t it?

Cook’s continued, “He is spare in figure, haggard in feature, and wild-eyed, like a trapped animal…. Even in his dress he adheres to fashions adopted by his ancestors many centuries ago, and in some districts clothes himself in goat-skins, like the Celt of prehistoric times.”

Of Breton women, Cook’s said, “The Bretonnes, like the men, are spare in form, their eyes are wild, and their features haggard. They have a general appearance of being overworked and prematurely aged. Their costumes are primitive and picturesque.”

At this point, I’m not sure which I’d rather visit, Normandy or Brittany. Primitive and picturesque costumes may be the clincher, though. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022  

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