04 January 2013

Jean Furcy Tourrier

Jean Furcy Tourrier was born in about 1799, apparently in Paris, France. He arrived in England some time before 1830, when he first advertised French classes:

METHODE-JACOTOT. - The great success that Mr. Jacotot's Method meets with on the Continent has induced Monsieur TOURRIER, Professor of French and Drawing, not only to give it a serious study, but to try it in one of his establishments, and from the rapid improvement, especially in the pronunciation, he no longer hesitates to adopt it, and intends forming CLASSES, either at home or abroad. He will form on the 15th of August an evening class in the city. Mr. Tourrier has in the press a Treatise, in which he will display verbatim la methode Jacotot. Apply at 41 Great Portland Street, Portland Place, on Mondays and Thursdays, till 12 o'clock; or at Mr. Price's 7 Cateaton Street. The Times, 2 Aug 1830, Issue 14294, p.2.
He married Constantia Eleonora von Holst at St Pancras Old, St Pancras, London, on 20 June 1833. Jean was about 34 years of age, Constantia 28 years old.

As well as teaching French, Jean Furcy Tourrier also wrote many books about learning French, the first one published in 1830, the last one in the 1860s, and many are held by the British Library. He was apparently known in France for teaching in London using the Jacotot method - a method of teaching languages devised by Joseph Jacotot. Jean Furcy Tourrier apparently built up quite a good career in London and taught at many different colleges (such as the Westminster School - apparently for 14 years, London Academy of Music, Cavendish College, Northumberland College for Ladies, and Notting Hill College for Ladies). He also taught day and evening classes in many locations across London (e.g. Islington, Highgate, Notting Hill, Kensington, Hammersmith, Richmond, plus his own residence) and offered private lessons, both in London and abroad.

Evidently a claim to fame, according to the introductory pages of a number of his publications, Jean Furcy Tourrier was French Master at Westminster School for 14 years, and reader to HRH Princess Sophia. I puzzled over this idea of being a "reader" to a princess for a day or two (what did it mean?) until I remembered something I had read about Princess Sophia - she was blind for over ten years before her death. Perhaps he was simply her reader - someone who read things to her because she herself could not. How he might have landed a job like that is an interesting question!

Jean Furcy Tourrier was also an artist and taught drawing. As far as I know, none of his works have survived. I have found that he exhibited a fair number of works in the exhibitions of the Royal Academy in 1838, 1839, 1843, 1845 and 1846. All the works were landscapes, most of them entered in the Drawing and Miniature category - I suspect they were all drawings. Two of his sons were also artists - Turban Holst Alfred Tourrier (known as Alfred Holst Tourrier, many of his works have survived) and Gustave Leon Furcy Tourrier (apparently not as well known or prolific as his brother). Both the sons painted in oils, though I'm sure their father would have given them a good foundation in drawing.

Jean Furcy Tourrier also seemed to be a bit of an inventor, and twice registered petitions for patents for wildly different ideas. The first, with his petition registered on 16 February 1859, was for the invention of "preventing oscillation of the last carriage of a railway train, and giving rigidity and steadiness throughout the train" (London Gazette, Issue 22236, p.1012). The second, the petition registered on 21 January 1862, was for the invention of "an improved method of, and apparatus for, warning adjoining houses by means of air chambers attached to grates in the party walls dividing houses" (London Gazette, Issue 22596 p.667). It makes me imagine him sitting at home, or on the train, thinking, dreaming up new ways to make things better.

Although Jean Furcy Tourrier was from France, it is possible he had a sister living in London at least for a time as well. Louise AglaƩe Tourrier married Louis Charles Emiland Manneville at St Anne's Soho, Westminster on 16 December 1827. Louis was himself born in England, but possibly his parents were both French (Louis Athanase Manneville and Catherine Jauvet). Louise was born in France - I have seen a record of her arrival in England, returning after 5 years away, from Boulogne in France, and she is recorded as a native of France, her occupation "Lady". I have nothing concrete to prove this assumption that she is Jean Furcy Tourrier's sister, apart from the fact that the dates are similar, and a variation of her middle name was used for one of Jean and Constantia's daughters - Georgiana Eleonora Aglae Tourrier.

Jean Furcy Tourrier died on 26 January 1867, aged 68, and was buried in Kensal Green. He apparently worked right up until his death, as the Northumberland College for Ladies was still advertising him as their French teacher a week before his death.


  1. Thank you Prue. I was fascinated to read about my great-grandfather as I knew next to nothing about him; apart from one of his books, now sadly , lost. I believe he was rather full of himself and the introduction to his book had a lot of boasting about being a 'reader' to Princess Sophia.
    I'll send more about my mother and father if this would interest you. Any information I have about my grandfather is rather sparse. Much of it was lost while I was living overseas.
    Regards, John Tourrier

  2. My next step was to look into more about the children of Jean Furcy and Constantia Eleonora Tourrier, so whatever information you have on the Aussie Tourriers would definitely be appreciated!


  3. Great research! It's amazing how much information you were to find about someone who lived so long ago. I was especially surprised that you were able to find a college document advertising him as the school's French teacher two weeks before he died.

    1. Thanks ahundredyearsago! It was an advertisement in The Times listing him as the French teacher for the college.

  4. You might be interested to know about a painting by Turban Holst Alfred Tourrier (known as Alfred Holst Tourrier) recently purchased by a private collector in Southern California - THE KNOHL COLLECTION. The painting is beautifully executed and is called: Henry II of France and Diana of Poitiers witnessing the execution of a Protestant, 1870. It was exhibited at the London, Royal Academy in 1870, no. 112. Check out the website: www.theknohlcollection.com to see the image. Thank you for the biographical information.