The other day I was re-reading Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s “Beauty and the Beast.” I came upon a passage in which Beauty is investigating the rooms of the Beast’s palace and she finds one with several windows. Only, these windows look out onto theatres and festivals in far away cities. Beauty can open the curtains and watch operas, comedies, puppet shows, tragedies and the to-ing and fro-ing of their glamorous audiences. However, after a while, she becomes disturbed by her nightly dreams of a beautiful lover and her daily existence in the home of the beast. Villeneuve tells us, “The only distraction she could find was in the theatre. She attended an Italian comedy, but after the first scene she departed for the opera, which she left almost as quickly. Her melancholy followed her everywhere. She opened each of the six windows many times without finding a minute’s respite from her cares.”
She’s channel surfing! She doesn’t quite have a remote, but her cable plan seems pretty good, actually.
After this, I noticed in Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy’s “The Golden Branch,” a reference to an ancient book with vellum pages and gold and enameled binding. Only, the hero “suddenly noticed that on one of the pages, with an illustration with musicians, the figures began to sing; on another page, where players appeared at Basset and Trictract, their cards and dice were in motion. Turning the page over, he saw people dancing at a ball; all the ladies were in full dress and marvelously beautiful.” There’s even smell-o-vision when he turns the page to an amazing dinner party. One of the guests directly addresses the reader.
An ancestor of the Kindle or iPad, possibly?
I think I’m going to be keeping an eye open for further references.
Further information on quotes
“Beauty and the Beast” quotes from:
Zipes, Jack (Trans. & Intro). Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: NAL Books, 1989, p180.
“The Golden Branch” quotes from:
Zipes, Jack (Trans. & Intro). Beauties, Beasts and Enchantment: Classic French Fairy Tales. New York: NAL Books, 1989, p364.