Émile Friant (Dieuze, 1863 - Paris, 1932), The Lovers, 1888

A little more Friant ?

Nancy, 20 September 1888,

Dearest Henriette,

I write to tell you about my latest meeting with the master-glassmaker’s son, Lucien. He asked me to meet him at the new bridge on Sunday afternoon. I wore my dark blue dress, which I think suits me well, along with a brown velvet collar and a red belt. I hope I didn’t overdo it? I wouldn’t want him to think me forward… I put up my hair in a bun and wore my hat – which I soon took off again, the privilege of a city girl in the country! He hadn’t made much of an effort, but he has such charming eyes! Like his father, he works in the nearby glass factory, for Auguste and Antonin Daum. He’s one of the carvers, he started out five years ago! He talked to me a lot about his work and his hopes. He’s something of an artist and has the soul of a poet!

The banks of the Meurthe are so romantic at this time of year! The setting was idyllic – despite the constantly cloudy sky that we have at the moment – the trees - the willows, the alders and the oaks - are starting to take on warm colours and the river, which is still a little low after the summer, is showing its sandbanks and marshes with their impressive plant and animal life. We walked the length of the Malzéville path and saw several herons and voles and even a large coypu! Lucien asked me if I’d like him to catch it and give me its fur! It would make a nice jacket or muff, don’t you think? I know that in Paris you adore this coarse animal’s fur! The paths along the Meurthe are very busy on Sundays: the washerwomen leave their platforms to the fishermen and a few children playing ducks and drakes. It’s a pleasant setting for the many people out walking, families, couples and young people like us! Obviously, not all these good people looked at me approvingly! But I am 18, for heaven’s sake! I want the freedom that you say you have in Paris… but in the end I’m perhaps better off here in Nancy.

We walked all Sunday afternoon until we reached our starting point on the footbridge. I listened to him talking for a while longer, lulled by the smoke of his cigarette. I didn’t want to leave and I don’t think he did either…  We were soon brought back to reality by the bells of the three surrounding parishes! Lucien starts work at five o’clock tomorrow morning and I still have quite a few jobs to do before bedtime. He promised to see me again the following Sunday.

Write to me regularly, dear Henriette, your letter brighten up my daily life and I can’t wait until next Sunday!

Your beloved cousin, Élise