(I found this moving account of my great, great uncle David’s struggle to learn a foreign language and the methods they used to teach French to those who were ungifted linguistically. His words are taken verbatim from a secret diary he kept when he was 19 years old).
In 1885, when I was 19, my parents told me that I needed to pass the Civil Service exam so I could work in the British Colonies. Part of the exam was in French conversation. I knew I would fail this as I was only just able to write French never mind speak it. It was decided that over the summer of 1885 I should attend an intensive tutoring course at the home of friends of our family who often employed foreign teachers to teach their own children as well as others.
Having packed my bags I took a train from St. Pancras to Nottingham station and was met by a ‘fly’ which carried me and my luggage to Newbeck Hall. At the hall I was met by our friends whom I’d not seen for several years and who made the usual comments about how I’d grown, and how were my parents and so forth.
I was taken to my room on the second floor of the old rambling house and after washing and changing for dinner I descended to the ground floor to meet the children and their new tutor.
As I entered the drawing room I saw two charming blonde haired young ladies of my age and an older lady possibly in her 30s. Anna and Sarah were the daughters and had just turned eighteen. I had forgotten that they were twins. Both wore simple pleated calf- length dresses and I hugged them and kissed them on both cheeks and on their lips which made them both laugh. The dark haired older lady was introduced as Marie, and was from Paris where she taught English at the Sorbonne. She was quite slim and tall and not bad looking for a 30-something year old. She had a nice shapely bottom under her bustle and a decent bosom. I shook hands and muttered something in French which she did not quite understand. The smelled of expensive Parisian perfumes.
After dinner at 8.00pm it was decided that the four of us should withdraw to the schoolroom at the back of the house overlooking the lake to talk about the eight week course we would follow. The room was sparsely furnished but had a very large round table at the centre, covered in a thick green velvet tablecloth. Various oil lamps were positioned on it and had dining chairs around it. The floor was covered in an ornate Persian carpet and there were two sofas next to a wall. There was a tutors table and chair in front of the window.
Miss Marie. as our tutor insisted on being called, appeared rather serious and reserved but I thought she may become more cheerful as the course progressed. She told us, as we sat on the sofas, that her teaching methods were ‘unorthodox’ but she usually got good results. By way of assessing our conversational standard she asked each of us a few questions in French starting with Anna. She was hopeless at answering, and was clearly unable to pick up even the basic concepts. Sarah was better and I was somewhere in-between. Miss Marie launched into a conversation on the weather and we were obliged to join bahis siteleri in. Our attempts were miserable, only being able to describe the temperature and whether it was windy or not. All in all she thought we were pathetic and deplorable.
“You English are all the same. Although you have your British Empire you cannot be bothered to learn even one foreign language. Pah! “Miss Marie pretended to spit, in a typical Gallic fashion. ” Pah! pah!” she admonished us scanning the room under her thick eyelashes and looked at us all in a challenging fashion. Her accent was very attractive and her full lips pouted slightly.
“I have decided that tomorrow, if none of you are any better, you will each receive punishment in front of the rest of the class, yes?” Anna looked at Sarah. Sarah looked at me and I looked at Anna. “Err Miss Marie what sort of punishment would that be please?” said I.
“Well we will discuss that now David. I understand I cannot smack any of you or hurt you as your parents are against such things however I do understand that the British hate one thing more than anything else!” she said sneeringly.
“Please tell us Miss Marie,” Anna said, crossing her feet and brushing down her skirt hem which had attracted my attention.
There was a long pause as Miss Marie thought out how to phrase it. She then replied. “Embarrassment or l’embbaras en francais.”
“We do not understand.” Said Sarah with a quizzical expression on her beautiful young face, her lips seductively apart.
“Well Anna I think you all know more of the French language than you admit to, but for some reason you feel embarrassed at having to speak it, therefore you do not. We have to find some things which you find more embarrassing which you will be forced to do if you cannot find the correct words in our conversations tomorrow. You understand? Yes?”
“I think so,” Anna replied. “So if we are embarrassed at speaking French out loud and make a mistake you will find us something more embarrassing to do which will make our initial embarrassment seem quite insignificant.”
“Yes, if you like, but you will also be punished if you make too many mistakes as well. It is all very well finding courage to speak but you must also have a good vocabulary and know your tenses,” said Miss Marie, now somewhat forceful and insistent in her manner.
“I would like to find out what you find most embarrassing, bearing in mind we will only be in this room for the next eight weeks. David, what embarrasses you?”
“Well I’d hate to have to wear a dunce’s hat and sit in the corner and that sort of thing.” I remarked casually.
” I don’t think that is so embarrassing David, please think again.” She sneered.
“Well I’d hate to have jelly in my hair.” Both girls giggled at my reply but Miss Marie did not respond.
“No David, no,” she stood up and walked towards the window and turned to face us. “The English are most embarrassed at being seen to be foolish, particularly when it comes to parts of their..err…anatomy.” she responded somewhat hesitantly.
“You see the English prefer to cover themselves up canlı bahis siteleri and are very modest about their clothes and general appearance. Today, in the reign of Queen Victoria, they do not wish to see feet, legs or underwear or anything to do with bodily functions. They wear heavy clothes to hide any impropriety and even hide table legs with long tablecloths.”
“The Italians are similar. One eighteen year old boy, whom I taught last year, was embarrassed to see women’s legs and petticoats. He was also embarrassed to lie on the floor in front of a woman as Italian men are very proud and to be seen on the floor is a sign of weakness. I punished him with his poor conversational French by insisting he lie on the floor face up in front of me while I raised my skirt and petticoats and walked backwards and forwards over him with my feet on each side of his body. After a few days of this treatment his French improved”
I almost spluttered “Lucky chap.” But kept my thoughts to myself.
“Tomorrow, therefore, I will decide, and make a list of which punishments are most fitting for all three of you. We will start our lessons at 9 o’clock precisely, yes? Meanwhile you can be thinking of what I have said so I can add to the list when we meet again.”
I went to bed in a state of excitement and confusion. I got undressed, put on my pyjamas and snuggled under the heavy bed covers. I undid my pyjama trousers and slid them down to my knees. I could not help thinking about the Italian boy with his head under Miss Marie’s skirt and petticoat. I imagined myself in his position my tongue out staring up her legs and breathing in her scent with all the froufrou lacy layers brushing against my hair and chest. My penis slowly rolled into an upright position and in the darkness I wanked myself furiously imagining the French tutors legs spread over me. I bucked a huge orgasm which slimed stickily across my chest and into the sheets. I fell asleep fully sated and relaxed.
Next day was a Monday. Our breakfast was taken in the east wing where sunlight streamed through the tall windows. Charlotte, the youngest maid, ensured we had had enough to eat. My two friends sat opposite me eating toast and butter. They were talking excitedly and giggled inside their periwinkle blue striped dresses. They also wore starched white aprons trimmed with eyelet and broderie anglais edging. I admired their beautiful animated faces, their upturned noses and wavy fair hair which cascaded down their backs restrained by Alice bands. To me they reminded me of two little ‘Alices’ ready and eager for their ‘Adventures in French Conversation Land’ (I would have preferred my beautiful eighteen year olds to be having ‘Adventures in David’s Bedroom Land’, with my trousers off and my willy out.)
Three of us made a hasty dash to the schoolroom where Miss Marie was waiting for us. I almost stumbled when I saw what she was wearing.
She was not wearing the previous evenings tailored bustle dress. Instead she was wearing a tight bodiced, dark grey, full skirted, crisp cotton dress. It was gathered at the waist, and extended in several loose canlı bahis pleats and flounced tiers to the ground. The dress was very wide where it almost reached the floor and made a swishing sound as she turned and walked. The dress moved in such a way as to suggest it was held out by several layers of cotton petticoats.
My eighteen year old brain kept thinking about what she said the night before about the Italian boy. I had not imagined her, in my dream, wearing such a voluminous skirt.
“Welcome class. Do sit down and listen to what I have to say. Last night we agreed that the only way that we would get you all to join in would be to punish you by means of embarrassment should you make mistakes with your grammar.” She smiled contentedly.
“Anna and Sarah will be punished as follows. For minor mistakes you will sit with your knees apart like so.” Miss Marie sat on her tall tutors chair and moved both her feet and knees apart in a very indecorous pose. I was enjoying the view as she looked like a prostitute. Anna and Sarah looked horrified as they had been taught that young ladies should always keep their knees together.
“Miss Marie we won’t do it, it looks very rude and we will tell mother,” said Sarah.
“It is too late; she knows of my methods, that is why I am here.” She continued.
“For more major mistakes you will pull your skirt up to your knees to expose your petticoats, like this.”
Before I had time to gulp Miss Marie had reached down and pulled her long skirt up to her knees and there underneath was the most exquisitely ornamented wide underskirt I, or even the girls, had ever seen. Here was tier after tier of pleated flounces in fine Spanish broderie and fine Spanish scalloped cotton lace. Each overlapping hem was different. Some had French guipure edging others had broderie. The whole petticoat was pure white and the stitching was perfect.
“Goodness,” both girls exclaimed admiring the fine stitch work.
Miss Marie gleamed at them and lifted the outer petticoat to reveal another one of similar quality. This time she told us it was a ‘Venetian petticoat’ and was again a multi-tiered overlapping flounced design in much finer cotton with rose-pointing on each hem. This again was of the purest white.
With almost theatrical aplomb she lifted up this petticoat to reveal yet another fine cotton petticoat edged in Alencon lace which again had multi-tiers, much narrower and finer than the others.
“These are both French,” she said proudly and lifted this out of the way to reveal another edged in Chantilly lace, and yet another one underneath which had a scalloped edged hem, again trimmed with delicate Chantilly lace. She would not lift the final one underneath that as it would expose her loose legged cotton knickers, stockings and her legs.
The girls clapped their hands innocently and giggling loudly, their small breasts wobbled inside their dresses as they smiled with joy at seeing Miss Marie’s under trappings. I couldn’t believe my luck. My schooldays had been spent dreaming about women and their undergarments and here I was about to spend eight weeks with three women all. Presumably, about to display their wares. I looked at Sarah and Anna, and at the way both their young bodies moved under their dresses, and subconsciously licked my lips.
(Continued in part 2)