September 1st, 2008


Dancer's Wages in 1875

Where/When Paris 1875-ish
Search Terms "Life of a Ballerina", "Ballerina + 19th century Paris", "19th Century Paris", "Wages of a dancer + 1875" + "Paris Opera House + wages + history" and "memoirs of ballerinas + paris + 1875" (all with different arrangements of quotes)
Also checked back in the archives here. Found out she'd probably be middle class, but given the time period that could still mean a large gap in terms of pay between her and, say, a girl selling birds in the streets.

So my main character is a member of the corps de ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance, which has just been moved to the Paris Opera house since the old Academy burned down. (From my understanding of it's workings, she's not a student anymore and has moved from the academy portion to the performance portion. Feel free to correct me should I be confused on that point.) She's talented, and very, very good, but given the competitive nature of ballet and the fact that during that era how much you brought in from the Solicitors she's not the Prima. (yet)

I have learned more than I ever thought possible about pointe shoes. I know too much about costumes of the era, the hierarchy of ballet dancers, and I have been sufficiently chastised for calling all ballet dancers Ballerinas.

I know the layout of the Paris Opera House, it's history and the history of the old Academy of the Arts. Though I have not learned how to add all the pretty accent marks without copy and pasting. :) Still, all that aside I cannot find much about the more everyday kind of aspects of a dancer's life in this time period.

I know that dancers, especially professional ones, go through their shoes in only a few months.
So, what I'm wondering is: Would dancers at the Opera House be paid enough to afford shoes so frequently? I mean it seems like they couldn't possibly make enough to replace shoes all the time, AND afford food, lodging, clothes, and the like, but the Opera House also trains their dancers, so these girls (and guys) have to be skilled. I can't imagine they'd drop a truly talented dancer just because she can't make enough to afford her own shoes so I have to imagine they make at least that much, but I thought ballet slippers were just like silk socks so what I assume isn't a really reliable thing....Maybe I'm totally wrong and they made enough to live comfortably and buy all the shoes they could want.

This wondering about her economic state brings up a few other questions: Would my dancer get paid less during rehearsals? Would it be a lump-sum for actual productions or would she get paid for each night she performed?

As long as I can pick the brains of such brilliant people I would love a source like a memoir or something with information about what life would have been like in general for someone studying and/or working at the Opera House, but honestly I'll be ecstatic just to get these questions answered.

Thanks in advance!
  • nostoi

Number of lighthousekeepers rules change

Hello :)

I am writing a short story set in a lighthouse in England, UK. At one time lighthouses were manned by two men at a time, but because of a case where a keeper murdered his fellow keeper, Trinity House (I think) brought in new rules whereby there had to be three keepers at a time. I remember reading about all this about ten years ago.

I cannot find details of the case in question (not important) but likewise I can't find anything about exactly when the rules changed. This is an integral aspect of the plot which I need to know in order to set the story in the correct time period, and I would be very grateful if anyone knew the answer to this or who can point me to where I can find out.

Thank you. :)

Living with paraplegia: sex, drugs, and government jobs

So, I have a character who I need to paralyse below the waist, or, preferably, just let him lose motor control of his legs via an unnamed combination of drugs (exactly what isn't important to the plot) that end up his taking away his motor control. Is there a plausible way for me to do this?

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Finally, my character is an FBI Agent who was injured in the line of duty. I've googled 'FBI','paralysis', and 'disability' in just about every combination I can think of, and nada. Would he be able to continue working in the FBI in any capacity at all? Before his injury, he was a field agent and the team jock; however, he's smart, analytical and very likely has enough skill with a computer to become a technician. Would he be able to stay with the Bureau or be forced to quit on account of his disability?


Progression of untreated chronic mercury poisoning

Location and date; Victorian England; around 1870 or so.
Search terms used; various combinations and permutations of chronic mercury poisoning progression symptoms.

I have a character who has chronic mercury poisoning. He's suffering various neurological symptoms (mood swings, personality changes, memory disruption, isordered sleep) as well as some more obvious physical symptoms (damage to gums and teeth, drooping facial muscles, drooling, squamous hands/fingers, digestive complaints). His exposure has been to small amounts of elemental mercury, over a period of years (he's an alchemist; this is a slightly alternate universe, in which alchemy is still around well into the 19th century). What I can't find is how fast the symptoms will develop, and how long he will live once they do; most of the case studies I've seen were either fairly large doses which were fatal within days or weeks, or they were chronic cases which were diagnosed and successfully treated. However, given that, around the period I'm looking at, hatters were generally thought to be mad, an that this was due to chronic mercury poisoning, I'm assuming that it's possible to live for a reasonable length of time while exhibiting symptoms. My character will not receive any medical intervention, and indeed while he will know that he is ill and probably dying, he won't know that it's due to mercury. So, are we looking at a few months from first symptoms to death? Or a few years?

Also, am I right in assuming that the damage, once done, is basically irreversable without treatment, even if he isn't exposed to any more mercury? That is, if he gives up using mercury, will he still continue to suffer the symptoms and eventually die, or will he recover completely once the mercury is out of his system?

Many thanks!