Interviews with Jehan du Lac

For an example of what someone around le Poulet Gauche is like the following are various "interviews" with Jehan du Lac. Use them to inspire you to think about what your own persona thinks and feels.

Interview topics:

The Little Things

Jehan's answers to the questions posed by His Grace Duke Cariadoc in his essay, Little Things.

What kinds of money do you use? What are the relative values of the different kinds? How much does dinner at the inn cost? How much does a horse cost? How much does a skilled worker make per month?

We use all kinds of money: mostly French (dixaines, douzaines, testons, écus), but also Spanish, English, Flemish, Lotharingian, Italian, etc. When we keep the account books, it all gets reckoned up in terms of denier, sou (= 12 denier), and livres (= 20 sou). Cost of dinner depends on what kind and what inn. Probably 10 sou -- a douzaine would do it. A horse costs 40-50 escus (120-150 livres). A skilled worker, without keep, probably gets a teston or a little more for his trouble -- about 10-15 sou a day. Less in winter, because the day is shorter.

What system do you use to describe what time it is? When does one day end and another begin? How do you tell time (sundial? clock?)?

A day is divided into hours. We start counting the hours at sundown. You know how holidays always start in the evening, like at Christmas or St. John's Eve. You can usually tell what time it is by listening to church bells, which ring every 3 hours for the office. Some towns have mechanical clocks, but I certainly don't own one. We do have an hour glass -- Jeanne-Marie sometimes uses it.

What system do you use for describing dates? What is your calendar like?

The late Pope Gregory took 11 days out of the calendar. The king and the courts are using this new system of dates, but we Huguenots think it's a popish conspiracy.

Can you read? If so, what have you read? What poems, tales, etc. have you heard told?

Yes, I can read. My mother insisted that it was important to my spirtual welfare. We have in this house 1.) a Bible 2.) Marot's Psalms 3.) an almanac 4.) Amadis de Gaul 5.) some poems of Ronsard 6.) Montaigne's Essays. I know that #4 is vanity, #5 is probably a sin, and #6 is a bit of foolishness, but I have my weaknesses. I spend money on assorted pamphlets and broadsides, especially when they're written by my side. I read the Leaguer ones too, and my family know that is usually good for a couple hours of ranting on the subject.

I've seen mountebanks and actors perform various stories, we've even had them here at the inn. We've got our share of raconteurs here, too -- one fellow in particular that manages to keep himself fed telling us the tales of "Orlando Furioso" -- an Italian story about the paladin Roland and his companions.

What do you know about history? Have you heard of Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? Charlemagne? Vergil? Saladin? What do you "know" about each?

Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar among the immortals of chivalry of ancient times, of course I know who they are! And Charlemagne was 8 feet tall and lived to be 100 years old. The tales of his paladins are well known. Vergil was a Latin poet. I know people fond of quoting him, but I don't know much Latin myself. Saladin was the most chivalrous knight of the Saracens.

What do you know about geography? What is the most distant country you have heard of? The most distant country you have met someone from?

I've heard of the Indies, both West and East. I've met, fought, and/or served with Dutch, Spaniards, Italians, Englishmen, Swiss, Germans, Albanians (very sought after for light cavalry in our armies). I've seen black moorish sailors, some of them on English ships. We even have a moorish servant in our tavern right now -- quite a beauty, in fact. Gaucher has seen the body of a dead red man that was being exhibited by a mountebank in our town.

Who is your immediate overlord (title and/or name)? Who is your ultimate overlord?

Calais, is a chartered city with echevins and a maire (aldermen and mayor). The governor was killed in the seige. I suppose "Overlord" here means the governor of Flanders (now that the Spanish have taken us), so that would be Archduke Albert of Austria, who ultimately answers to Philip II, King of Spain. My real king is Henri IV of France.

What is your religion? What duties (prayers, fasts, dietary restrictions, etc.) does it impose? What do you (your persona) know about its doctrines and history?

I follow the Reform. There are no fasts or dietary requirements - we are saved by God's grace and all our righteousness is as filthy rags, as the prophet says. It is my obligation to try to understand the word of God, and as the head of a house to encourage my family and servants in the same.

What do you eat for breakfast?





Herring. [ed. note: the landlord here is being satirical, because herring is such a noteworthy product of the region. In fact, for dinner besides the said herring (served fresh this time), there was the usual bread, some boiled crayfish, pickled artichokes, and yesterday's meat pie with leeks.]

What do you drink?

Beer. And yearn for the wine of Bordeaux.

Where do your food and drink come from? How is the food cooked (style of cooking, tools, how does the oven work, etc.)?

The market. We buy bread from the baker and meat from the butcher or the charcuterie. We brew our own beer here, and have a couple chickens in the yard. Food is cooked in the hearth, in an iron cauldron or redware vessels. We have no oven, as such.

What sorts of wild animals live in your area? Which are dangerous? Which are good to eat? How are the latter hunted?

Here in Calais? I'd say rats are at the top of the list of "wild animals." Gaucher is very fond of his ratting terrier -- it's the best in the neighborhood, as he has proven in occasional contests.

What clothes do you wear? What are they made of? Where do they come from?

I wear a shirt, doublet and/or jerkin, gallygaskins (usually), hose, shoes with laces but no heels (boots for riding), hat, cloak. My shirt is made of linen, and the rest of wool, although I have a pair of silk hose. The tailor makes the suit, the seamstress my shirts and linens. They live in town and I visit their shops. The women in this house sometimes put themselves to making and embroidering some bits of linen, but for the most part they are too busy at their trades.

What crops are grown in your part of the world? What goods, if any, are exported, and how are they transported? What goods are imported?

The soil is fertile around here, and they grow wheat, barley, hops. Vegetables include artichokes, leeks, cauliflower, endive. Calais is a major import/export port for the cloth trade between England and Flanders. It also exports a lot of herring, usually salted and/or smoked, sometimes pickled. Goods usually travel by ship, but there are important overland routes to the cities of Flanders and Picardy, not to mention Paris.

What language(s) do you speak? What language(s) do other people in your town (city, barony...) speak?

I speak Gascon and French, a bit of German. Others in Calais speak Spanish and English, and of course, Flemish. Gaucher is especially good with languages.

If you or one of your friends wrote a poem, what form would you use?

I might attempt something like a sonnet in imitation of Ronsard, but I'm no poet.

What about a song?

No idea. I love to listen to music and think it well worth the beer to have good singers in here. Of course I sing psalms with the rest of my co-religionists, but I'm ignorant of musical forms.

What "mythological" beasts do you know about? Which ones do you believe in? What do you believe about them?

I know there was a plague of loup-garou in Gascoigne a few years back, because the peasants sent a delegation to complain to the king of it. They eat small children and such.

Jehan du Lac on Religion, Faith, and Philosophy

These questions were followed by another set, posed by the scholar Master Anton of Winteroak. Herewith is another interview, in response to some of his questions.

What faith are you? How ecumenical are your beliefs? How tolerent are you of other faiths? Do you want to convert them for their own good? What regular things do you do to express or maintain your faith?

I'm Huguenot, which is a calvinist. For a Frenchman like myself there are only two likely choices: Protestant or Catholic. Of the Catholics I notice two kinds: the fanatic extremist, probably a member of the Holy League trying to dethrone Henri IV, and the moderate politiques like my uncle's late neighbor Monsieur de Montaigne, who are willing to let the Protestants live and would rather have a good, strong, legitimate government than force their religion on us.

My beliefs are not particularly ecumenical, since naturally, we practice the REAL christianity and the Catholics are mired in popish superstition. As for tolerance: I've had to learn it. After surviving the St. Bartholomew, I could not accept Calvin's admonishment to submit to the civil authorities. In my desire for vengeance I would have pulled down the throne of France if I could have. When Charles IX perished sweating blood, I was only too pleased at God's judgement. I have no doubt that the late Queen Mother must be roasting in hell now.

However, Henri de Navarre has always had both Protestants and Catholics in his service and he has been firm about insisting we get along. In the days at Nerac, quarrels between the factions were rather strictly dealt with. He has said, "Being all of us Frenchmen we should be able to live in Christian amity. Those who follow their own consciences sincerely are of my religion and I am of the same religion as those who are good and brave." It has sometimes been a hard lesson.

I confess to being disappointed when he abjured the faith in '93 but I would say no wrong word against him. He sold his own soul for peace in the kingdom. I still think he favors us and that we will be safe under his rule.

How do I express my faith? If I am completely honest about my life, I would have to say that part of the answer is: to make war. To be who I say I am has meant to fight for the right to survive for the last 20 years. Nowadays, it is a less vigorous exercise. I read the Bible to my famille regularly. As bad as I am at it, we sing Psalms. When we can, we go to hear preachers and occasionally participate in the Lord's Supper. In Calais, there was a pastor here but now with the Spanish it is not safe. Any gatherings are secret. I am certain the king will redeem us, or I would be thinking about leaving town.

What philosophers are you familiar with? Are you a nominalist? What system of ethics do you follow? or are you free from ethics because you are moral, or perhaps because you believe in predestination.

I know little about philosophy and am not particularly introspective. My life can't afford much self-reflection. I don't read Latin or Greek, although there are many translations into French of the ancient philosophers to be had. I don't know what a nominalist is.

I have a copy of the said Monsieur de Montagne's book, partly because I can't believe that a local fellow actually published one! C'est très drôle. It's an odd book, full of his private thoughts just like he might tell you if you were sitting around after dinner with a good wine and nothing to do. I have trouble with the Latin quotations in it, but I like it anyway. I don't actually know him well in real life, but reading his book makes me feel like I do. Most of what I know about the ancient philosophers comes from there, since he is very learned about them. It never paid much attention to my tutors on these subjects when I was young.

The only kind of answer I can give you about a "system of ethics" is: Christianity. Of course, in pursuit of the right to practice that properly I have sacked churches and killed monks and stolen what I needed to keep an unpaid company alive in the field. Soldiers are practical men. I am not gratuitously cruel, however, and have never tortured anyone for ransom or any other reason. I still feel bad about how that village got burnt.

I do believe in predestination but I have never read Calvin's "Institutes", and frankly, I couldn't explain the fine points to you. I spend no particular time searching my soul for signs that I am one of the elect -- that will be an exercise for a more brooding breed of Calvinist yet to come.

I hold to my religion because:

1. My mother saw to it.

2. My family linked its fortunes to the Bourbons, and the Prince de Condé and the King of Navarre were Protestant.

3. There was a joyous exhilaration in it when I was young. The corruption and injustice of the Church would vex anyone, and the feeling of freedom to read and interpret God's own word is hard to explain to this generation.

4. The St. Bartholomew and the years since have cost too much. To deny that all that suffering wasn't for the Truth would be worse than death.

I remember Coutras, in '87. I was certainly no longer young and rash then, but I remember sitting my horse in the morning fog, seeing Joyeuse's huge and glittering Catholic army advancing on us. To the sound of artillery our troops began to sing the psalm

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the charge I felt such a fierce joy that I still cannot forget the moment. On that day I became convinced of Navarre's destiny, and no one can tell me I was wrong. Not about my God, not about my king.

Jehan on love, marriage, and family

M. du Lac? May I ask you some questions about your family?


Gaucher is your step-son? son-in-law? And that red-headed young lady is your daughter? Is she his sister?

After a fashion. Gaucher is the son of my wife, Margot is my natural daughter.

I see. Is that sort of thing very common?

What sort of thing?

Ah, illegitimate children, here together in the family with you?

Common enough. The king himself keeps his bastards with him. Not that I can compare myself with the king in any way, of course. But what would you have me do? Send her out on the street to starve? To follow the army like her mo... Mordioux! this thing keeps going out! <fiddles intently with his clay pipe>.

I haven't met the lady of the house.  She doesn't mind?

She died in the autumn, just about two years ago now. That was the first of the bad years we've been having ... the summer was very cold and rainy, the crops all around here rotted in the fields. We had coals in our bed in July. She was always a very sanguine sort of woman, high-blooded and vigorous... it's as if it quenched her fire. She developed some kind of maladie de femme... we had the old wives in here coming and going with their possets and charms. It did no good at all, of course. I even had a doctor in who said he had book of all these women's mysteries, but I think he made her suffering worse and in the end I threw him out on the street and his money after him. I'm no stranger to death, but I'm afraid I begrudged God that one for a while. <draws on the pipe and sits for a while intent on the great plume of smoke.>


A sovereign remedy for a wet humour, n'est-ce pas?

How long were you married?

I came here after the Ivrey. When I first met her, she thought I was the Angel of Death himself. Gaucher can tell you the story... he always makes everything seem more colorful than I remember it.

And have you been married before?

No, never. I kept a woman in the town when I was at the garrison in Montauban, one or two others over the years. I have never been in a position to offer marriage to anyone. Although my family is ancient enough, I myself do not have any land. And what you see here comes from my wife. Although some would have it that I did her to the honor to marry into the third estate (and this is not entirely untrue), the fact is that she's the one that gave me a home. When one gets to be my age, one has to be practical about such things. We Gascons are proud, but I've seen many proud men come to a sorry end in these times.

So what about Jeanne-Marie? What is she in this family?

Ah, she she keeps the keys in this house. Prone to fits of choler, perhaps you've noticed? but a very fine cook. And does a good job with the girls. Life is much better around here since she came. I think Gaucher is sweet on her, but he's afraid to tell me. She's a Catholic, you know. My family conspires all around me and I choose not to notice, but it's amazing how there's never any good meat in the larder on a Friday. Still, he could do worse and I would like to have grandchildren in the house before I'm gone. I suppose it's for the best that there's no one to make Gaucher worry for his inheritance.

Home to Poulet GaucheBack to La Famille Bibliography

-c. t. iannuzzo