A Suicidal Cook


I have discussed already the suicidal painter, Lemoyne; now comes the time to address the suicidal cook Vatel. It is pretty much the same story, for both of them were failing to meet the standards to which their vocation aspired; and in both cases two or three versions of the event exist. To understand why exactly these exacting souls decided to take their lives, we would have to grasp the XVII and early XVIII century idea of honor, which oddly enough resembles the thought process of a Japanese samurai. Later on even the army rejected such high standards of honorable service. In the post-1815 France a vague memory of those feudal ethics helped Aimée Coigny make a point about the Napoleonic Wars, “Our defeated generals do not consider suicide, they are too busy writing memoirs.”

Back to Vatel. The anecdote of his demise, as “witnessed” by Madame de Sévigné, blames the domestic’s discomfiture on a late delivery of groceries; whereas the epistolary narrative of Bussy-Rabutin describes a reprimand Vatel received from the master of Chateau Chantilly on the occasion of Louis XIV et al arrival there — the food service for 2000 guests was not prompt enough. There is however one more version of the incident, the one, as you can see yourself in the picture above, involving a certain female courtesan, but that does not make as good a story.

And here you can visit the Suicidal Painter

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This entry was posted in Court, Courtiers, Louis XIV, Madam Sevigne, Napoleon. Bookmark the permalink.

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