Translation of letter from Clotilde Brière describing the hardships of living in wartime France. Page 2.
Transcript: ...to transform his car into a "gazogene". I do not know whether you are familiar with this: a sort of little engine at the back of the car, that is run on wood embers. This entails many inconveniences, but almost all the authorized cars run by civilians, are of this kind. Then the doctor finds that there are no more wood embers! He tried to construct a furnace that would fabricate these, but wood is beginning to lack. As a result, the doctor will remain at home and the peasants will be brought to him on their wheel-barrows or towed by their bicycles, on condition that the Germans on retiring, left them their wheelbarrows, a horse or a bicycle. It is not good to be sick. One can be almost sure not to find one half of the remedies.
But the greatest worry is food, especially the burgesses are reduced to famine. It was necessary to run about a lot around Brissac first on foot, then on the bicycle, which disappeared with the Germans, to procure necessities. One fall, I sent 120 kilos of beans & 70 kilos of wheat (it is ground in a coffee-grinder for making soup) in quantities of 2, 5, or 10 kilos, to friends or proteges in Paris. It was not permitted, so it had to be packed well in spite of the scarcity of boxes, cartons, string and paper! My husband helped me. We weighed pound by pound on a small weight that was loaned to us. If my husband was distracted for one minute, the bag that he held would slip and the grain would spill out. While we were on all fours to gather it up, we would forget to count the pounds and would have to start all over again to count the pounds. My husband would then say gaily: "You will see, we will become very clever and will acquire a taste for this. After the war we will set up an "epicerie" in Paris and call it "Au Souvenir de Brissac." It will be vaulted in arches and the bags will wear colors of the House of Brissac: yellow, black and silver. This prospect has greatly amused those of his ancient pupils who benefited from these parcels! Without these gifts from the countryfolk, Parisiens would have died of hunger. Many have disappeared in spite of this help, prematurely, or have become tubercular.
At times, it has been difficult to maintain correctly the history of art, during the five years at Brissac. nevertheless, I have drawn up a long study on the "Danae" of Rembrandt and two monographs on Intimate Dutch artists, on the order of those I had already published, but in greater detail, one on Cornelis Bisschop, the other on Pieter Janssens Elinga. I have a third started on Esaias Boursse. I left many omissions that could not be completed. If the letters really arrive, I will ask many questions of the Frick Library. But this work, so long and so frequently interrupted by circumstances, will it ever lead to the volume on "Pieter de Hooch and the Genre Paintings of Holland" of which these monographs form chapters. Actually, I am the only one who knows this subject and it is melancholy to think that the history of Dutch art may never gain from this work.