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Picturing a World

Beggar's Polka

Hippolyte Grandcourt is a wholly imaginary character whose presence enabled me to incorporate anecdotes about Paris beyond the action of the novel. Don't rely on him to tell the exact truth; don't even rely on him for anecdotes that exactly replicate my sources. He was not, for instance, present when Offenbach handed the mendicant his Beggar's Polka.

The music of Jacques Offenbach is specially associated with the Second Empire of Napoleon III—he's the composer of the Galop Infernal (1858) that we all know as the music to the can-can. For a short while after the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, German-born Offenbach was out of favor in Paris, but he reestablished himself there, as this caricature indicates.

Jeanette's enjoyment of caricature was widespread in the 19th C. I imagine her employing the large heads characteristic of Gill and others of the period.
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