The Frenchman’s Diary is a short standalone story, set in Britain and France 1887-1893.
The first part is the translation of part of the journal of a French farmer who visits eastern England in 1887, and thereafter tries to reproduce vinery back home in France.
The second part is the report of an assessment committee at the Institute of Vinery, back in Britain in 1893, trying to piece together the fate of the farmer.
The story provides a quick overview of vinery, of the sociopolitics of the Commonwealth, and of attitudes to vinery in non-Commonwealth countries.
It is has no real connection with any of the main texts in the Viner Codex series, though it might be noted that the translator is Aloysius ‘Alice’ Porter, one of the minor characters in The Viner Journey.
Some of the people who appear in the story are real in our timeline, such as the Earl of Leicester, William Coke, who – as in the story – really was a famous agriculturalist with a strong egalitarian streak, and whose family did indeed commission the famous style of hat “created by the brothers Bowler”. The portrait of the Earl with all of his staff does exist, though in our timeline is actually of one of the Earl’s modern-day descendants.
Most of the characters are, of course, more fictional, though the Earl’s factotum Bernard Matthews is a happy tribute to a present-day firm of turkey-breeders. Two people who make a brief appearance on a train bear a noticeable resemblance to a certain fictional detective and his sidekick, though the Frenchman never does get round to asking their names.
The places referred to in the story – such as Harwich, Colchester, Norwich, Holkham and Cambridge – do all exist in our own timeline, with much the same histories, geographies, facilities and infrastructures. The fictional vineries in Colchester are based on real horticulture firms of the period; they also make much more of an appearance in The Viner Journey.
Last Update: August 28, 2017