FNQ: Bourne People
Latest edit 5 Nov 2008.
Interactive version ©2006 R.J.PENHEY With
thanks to the trustees of the Willoughby Memorial Library.
The Bourne Archive
Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector
Part 25. April 1895.
This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in
which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with
some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so
qualifying as ‘notes’.
Charles Worth. – On 10 March there died in Paris a native of the Fens who had made for himself a world-wide reputation.
Many of the London
papers, besides obituary notices, had leading articles upon his remarkable
career. He was born in 1825, and for the last 35 years had been “the elegant
arbiter of French and even universal fashion in woman’s dress.”
The following is a portion of the leading article in The Daily
Telegraph of 12 March : –
was also, it seems, a Lincolnshire
man. That, after all, is perhaps the most astonishing thing about him, and the
most fruitful in moral lessons. For it is surely as disconcerting a rebuke as
was ever administered to the vanity of race. M. Frederick Charles Worth was a
native of Bourne,
in the county above-mentioned ; and he was started in
life as a printer’s apprentice, just as Norval was
originally intended for a shepherd. Ambition and the thirst for adventure, are not confined to the Grampian
hills, and the youth, after only seven months in the composing-room, came to London and obtained a situation
in the house of Messrs. Marshal and Snelgrove, or, according to another
authority, in that of Messrs. Swan and Edgar. Here he remained for seven years,
though he had little opportunity of developing his special talent, spending most
of his time at the desk. But it was soon discovered by his employers that he
showed a precocious intelligence in suggesting modifications which should be
introduced to adapt French goods to English taste. London, however, could not long confine him.
To go to Paris
became the dream of his life, and in 1846 he had a chance which he did not miss
of “entering the house of Gagelin.”
After twelve years he set up in partnership with a Swede, and, taking the tide
of Imperial luxury at its flood, he was borne on it to fortune. He was “taken
up” by the Empress, if such a phrase can be used without irreverence to such a
man, and in a short time acquired that supreme position in the world of
millinery which he never afterwards lost. He retained it only by the unwearying
application of his matchless ability to the varying requirements of his art,
and by the performance of such acts of self-sacrifice as that of “evolving,”
after a sleepless night , the idea of a costume “which
was supposed to embody the first faint beginnings of dawn as seen by the
man-milliner in the eastern sky.” But that all his industry and ingenuity
should have enabled this Englishman of the English to lord it in Paris, the home of
fashion, is surely an extraordinary circumstance, full of encouragement to our
own people, and not free from a touch of the humiliating for out nearest
European neighbours. What may we not hear next of celebrities renowned for
their skill in sister arts associated with the genius of the French nation?
That Vestris, the
“god of the dance” was a Welshman,
or that Carême was born in Aberdeen? Even these would
be less surprising revelations. “The shepherd in Virgil became acquainted with
Love,” writes Dr. Johnson,
“and found him a native of the rocks.” What would he have said if he had made
the acquaintance of the Graces,
and discovered that they had been “raised” in the fens?
put this in because of its connection with Bourne but also because it is a
clear lesson in the need for not simply believing all you read. On the other
hand, there is some truth in it so it illustrates the wisdom of not dismissing
information out of hand. Here, the verification is quite easy. It becomes much
more interesting when we are dealing with that other Bourne character,
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