Droll Tales 13

In truth, I am not sure how take the third tale of the second Decade of Honoré de Balzac’s scurrilous stories. And I am not sure that the publishers and their illustrators are either.

No doubt packed with the author’s double entendre one could take this as what The Folio Society edition entitles “The Edificatory Conversation of the Nuns of Poissy” – perhaps that is also tongue in cheek? – or do we understand the warnings against male fleas to be the consequences of consorting with men? Repeated reading suggests the latter to me – but also that there are many ways of getting round the difficulty. After all, this convent was the butt of jokes.

Mervyn Peake’s illustration demonstrates one refuge for disappointed suitors.

“The Merry Tattle of the Nuns of Poissy” is the preferred title of Gustave Doré’s publishers, while those of

Jean de Bosschère who, true to type is sure of how to interpret the prose, prefer “The Merry Quips of the Nuns of Poissy”

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/ except that the second Decade is published by New York’s Covici, Friede in 1929. It is America’s first edition thus and is a limited copy. The illustrations are not protected by tissue but the book’s condition is good and is covered by a cellophane wrapper. 


    1. Yes – Balzac is attempting to replicate a not dissimilar period. Thanks very much, Robbie

    1. Thanks very much, Laurie. Balzac is attempting to replicate a not dissimilar period.

  1. More amazing illustrations!
    Ha! I’ve always enjoyed double entendre humor! I’ve been known to work some into conversations just to see if anyone notices and says something.
    A pun, a play on words, and a double entendre walk into a bar…
    No joke.

    What do you call someone who tortures you to death with wordplay and double entendres?
    PUNisher HA!!!

    1. Sometimes people don’t get mine and I am left wondering whether they thought I was being serious. Thanks very much, Carolyn X

    2. I get in trouble with mine, yet they are fun to construct! Of course, most just pop out of nowhere, the most fun – and dangerous ones. One from my youth that I’ve tried to forget. It takes place in Germany. We were going from Heidelberg to Kaiserslautern. Piles of sugar beets along the road intrigued and baffled my rider. “Doug, I see those piles everywhere. I wonder what they are all about.” “Beats me,” said I unhelpfully. (I come from a part of the USA where sugar beets are grown and processed into sugar, so I knew what the piles were all about. I never told my friend what they were. I suppose the shame of it is why I still remember this particular double entendre.)

  2. I was once on a train heading eventually to Switzerland. Paris to Strasbourg. On that train, a young child was really crying. A chap came over with a sketch pad and started drawing doing cartoons. They were brilliant (and drawn in seconds on a shaking train) and the child loved them. Apparently from what he was saying, he worked for a leading French satirical outlet as their lead cartoonist.

Leave a Reply