This is the central site for a long-term project to research, examine, and respond to the radical collective of writers, theorists, architects, and visual artists who operated in Paris between 1829 and 1835 under the names of the Jeunes France & the Bouzingo, and through them to build a critical understanding of French Romanticist subculture through the historical lens of a continuing politically vigilant Anglophone avant-garde.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Late November Update

Things progress! Some recent updates:

  • The most exciting news: new translations have been posted of three prose-poems by Aloysius Bertrand. These have been translated by Jonah Durning-Hammond, who is responsible for the translation of the fragments of the novel Sodom & Zion by Dondey (O'Neddy), mentioned in previous updates and linked to in a sidebar along the right of the blog. The first, which dedicates his collection Treasurer of Night to Victor Hugo, is a fascinating explication of the attitude of the Jeunes-France toward their place in the developing Romanticist/ avant-garde canon, and the strategies used to ensure their potential rediscovery (see my copious intro and notes to the piece). The other two are strange and haunting texts thoroughly encoded with alchemical iconography and subtexts. Many thanks to Jonah for taking these on!
  • We are not alone. In the course of research I learned that John Emerson has been looking into the Bouzingo and the surrounding 19th Century counterculture for some time, and with access to a wider range of materials, being francophone. HIS BLOG has a good deal of valuable information, and is worth spending some time with. The analysis comes from a politically engaged, countercultural perspective and not only supplements what we've been able to turn up so far, but sometimes comes to somewhat different conclusions which should make for good discourse as things develop.
  • One vexed question that Emerson's blog throws considerably more light onto is the issue of what this group were called. Still something of an open question, though his research helps us to map out the territory of that question. First, every name applied to them (Bouzingo, Jeunes-France, and Cénacle) was at some time applied to other, less defined groups as well; most or all of these names were first applied by parties hostile to the group, and then claimed (possibly) by (at least some) of them. At points two or three names were probably used simultaneously. There were a number of variant spellings used for both 'Jeunes-France' and 'Bouzingo', often intentionally misspelled. Some members seemed to prefer certain names, while others preferred alternatives. This issue warrants its own more extended post, which I'll get around to at some point. But I increasingly get the feeling that 'Bouzingo' was not the favoured term. While continuing to use all three names until this question is clarified, I am generally opting for the name 'Jeunes-France', which seems, all averages being worked out, to be the term that the largest number of the group would have the most agreement with the largest part of the time...
  • I have unearthed a Review of Rhapsodies, by Petrus Borel from the Revue des Deux Mondes, Vol. V, Jan.-March 1832, under 'Book Review' and 'New Literature'. I give the exact information because the site keeps moving the page so this link is likely to be broken in a month or two. Take a look around, you should still be able to find it. The Revue des Deux Mondes appears to have been a Conservative paper prior to the July 1830 Revolution, but then fell into the hands of the Cénacle Romanticist group, with regular contributions by Vigny, Hugo, Dumas, Sue, Nodier, Saint-Beuve, Janin, Musset, Michelet, and other Liberal Romantics. The review here presages the impending split between the Liberal Cénacle (most of whom accepted the July Monarchy and were focusing on disseminating Romanticism to a broader public) and the radicals of the Jeunes-France. The article is in French naturally. The link above is to the google-translated version of the page, for the French version CLICK HERE. The reviewer is anonymous; I am currently trying to puzzle together a hypothesis as to their his identity. He gives an indignantly negative review (despite conceding Borel's promise), which indicates how volatile Borel's Preface (see Joseph Carter's translation in the TRANSLATIONS tab) was within the internal politics of Romanticism itself. The poems themselves are scarcely mentioned except in passing, the Preface being the clear focus of the attack. And even the Republican politics of the manifesto are not the nub of the issue for this reviewer; what he takes issue with above all is Borel's attack on the aristocratic airs of the previous generation of Romantics. When Carter first sent me his translation of the Preface, one of the most obscure parts of the text to me was the passage: "If I have taken pleasure in spreading my poverty, it is because our contemporary bards stink me up with their pretended poems and pashalic luxuries, their aristocratic curve, their Ecclesiastical childishness and marginal sonnets; to hear them, one would believe to see them a hair sweater or coat of arms at the flank, a rosary or a merlin at the fist." Only after reading Bénichou's study of Romanticism did I come to recognise that this was a dig at the Cénacle group, or elements of it, referring simultaneously to their mode of literary self-presentation, their support of the re-instituted 'Liberal' Monarchy, and the recent Catholic-Monarchist past that many of them shared. This very passage evidently struck quite a nerve within the Cénacle, and the reviewer spends half the article responding to it in a rather frantic and indignant fashion.
  • Tomislav Butkovic has located a copy of Hugo's Hernani, the performance of which was so central to the formation of the Petit-Cénacle/ Jeunes-France, illustrated in part by Achille Devéria, who led a 'Romanticist battalion' at the 'Battle of Hernani', in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. Earlier this week he went to take a look at the book in the flesh, as it were, got some photos with the help of Tsubasa Berg. This turns out to be an edition from the 1890s with only a frontispiece by Devéria, a portrait of Hugo; the other illustrations are by an academic artist named Arturo Michelena. The publisher seems to have vaguely focused on geological publications... However, the museum is opposed to people having access to the materials that it is their social mandate to give people access to, and though the book is not on display we are not allowed to make the copyright-free plates available. This is part of a research project and at some point in the near future there will be a text coming out of it, which should help to throw some more light on the relationship of the group to both the text of Hernani and the experience they shared of the 'Battles' of its theatrical run.
  • A small extra tidbit on Bibliophile Jacob, aka Paul Lacroix, the father-in-law and collaborator of Jehan duSeigneur. Turns out that in addition to his pamphlet on Sade (and his central role in the Romanticist historiography of the Middle Ages and Renaissance) he was the author of a definitive history of Prostitution from ancient times to the present. Vol. II is even available in English translation (not sure what happened to Vol. I). Lacroix also co-edited an edition of Villon, the medieval poet, scholar, thief and murderer who was a major model for the Jeunes-France. I am attempting to figure out whether THIS BOOK by Lacroix is the one on which DuSeigneur collaborated; further updates will let you know if so.
  • And finally, I've found that a horror anthology series produced by Ridley Scott, 'The Hunger', made a half-hour adaptation of Le Morte Amoureuse, a short Gothic tale by Théophile Gautier. The episode is called 'Clarimonde', from the end of the first season, and is available through Netflix, including on Instant Watch. I've seen 'Le Morte Amoureuse' translated as five unrelated titles, but never as its actual translation, which I think is something like "The Loving Dead" (correct me if I'm wrong, actual French-readers). The adaptation's pretty decent, though there are naturally some changes in the story; in particular it bothers me that the woman has short hair in 1835, but what can you do. The original is a great piece, and was published in 1836, so was being written right around the time the Jeunes-France were beginning to drift apart and the Bohême Doyenné group was constellating.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Toward-the-end-of-October Update!

A few interesting bits and bobs that have turned up in research, updates, and links:
  • Jonah Durning-Hammond, translator of the remaining fragments of Dondey's/ O'Neddy's Sodom & Zion (see previous post) is on board to help with translations, and is currently looking at some work by Aloysius Bertrand.
  • An interesting connection: Jules Janin, the Frenetic satirist who wrote The Dead Donkey and the Guillotined Woman, a favourite book of Borel, Gautier (see Gautier's sonnet on the 'translations' page), and others, condemned Borel's novel Madame Putiphar in 1839 for it's sympathetic portrayal of the Marquis de Sade (whose mother spent the last years of her life in a convent on the same street as the last Bouzingo commune). Turns out that a couple years earlier, Janin had also attacked, on similar ground, a sympathetic pamplet on Sade by the Romanticist writer/archivist/publisher 'Bibliophile Jacob' (Paul Lacroix), who was the father-in-law and main collaborator of the ex-Bouzingo Jehan Duseigneur. By the time that this pamphlet was published, Duseigneur was already married to Lacroix's daughter and converted to socialist christianity, and was creating statuary for catholic churches whilst developing with Lacroix a theory of medieval religious art. This connection suggests certain limits to the orthodoxy of Duseigneur's brand of Catholicism...
  • According to Mario Praz, the British novelist-of-manners William Thackeray read and disliked Borel (by all accounts a mark in the latter's favour), picking Champavert out as an exemplar of the deplorable taste of the Frenetic Romantics in an article of June 22, 1833.
  • For some texture on the political, literary, and social discourse of Liberal circles in the wake of the July Revolution, check out (via google translate if necessary) the online transcriptions of the Revue des Deux-Mondes. The journal seems to have begun as a conservative paper but after the revolution fell into the hands of the Cénacle circle and Liberal (not radical) Romanticism. Of particular interest is THIS ARTICLE, a review of the year 1832, by co-founder of the Cénacle group, Alfred de Vigny. It would no doubt be more helpful to those who can read French fluently, but among other relevent issues Vigny comments upon the fallout of the July Revolution, including the rise and fall of the Saint-Simonist communes, which served as important models for the activity of the Jeunes-France in that year, and reviews a novel which apparently proposes its own proto-socialist model, with the implication that such undertakings were quite common at the time. He also revues a collection of poems by the recently deceased writer and publisher Charles Brugnot, a close friend and collaborator of the Jeune-France Aloysius Bertrand. Interestingly, one of Brugnot's poems quoted by Vigny contains as epigraph the same quote from Wordsworth's Prelude used as epigraph in Gautier's sonnet (the same that quotes Janin's Dead Donkey, on our 'translations' page). Gautier's poem had probably been published in 1830, but the book was never distributed due to the Revolution breaking out the following day. It may or not have appeared in a journal in the interim, but was published again in the same year as Brugnot's collection. The transmission was most likely based on seeing the poem in manuscript form, especially interesting given the poetics of epigraph that is a major theme in Gautier's poem (see my notes on the poem) and which Brugnot was expanding.
  • There are several places where Tristan Tzara cites Frenetic Romanticism, and Borel and Nerval in particular, as models for his conception of Dada and of a poetics that was inscribed within society and outside literature. Until my books are unpacked from the storage unit where they are now imprisoned, I cannot look all of these up. Breton discusses the Bouzingo in the same connection in his Anthology of Black Humour and various Surrealist manifestos (also currently inaccessible to me). But HERE'S an interesting passage concerning Tzara's drawing the history of Sound Poetry back through the Symbolists to Borel, Nerval, and their fellow Frenetic, Charles Lassailly.
  • Another interesting bit on Borel: it appears that his son, Aldéran, was named after one of his own characters from Champavert. In the story Aldéran is murdered by a cuckolded husband, his skin stripped, and is turned into an anatomical showpiece. Hm.
  • And, here's the front page of the February 1844 issue of Satan, the satirical journal of politics, writing, and art edited by Francisque and Petrus Borel. This is the first issue under Borel's editorship:


Sunday, October 3, 2010


I've been updating the site over the past week or two with new texts and research; here's what's new, to spare you searching through everything:

  • A new, huge biography of Petrus Borel, one of the group's principal organisers and theorists. Borel had as great if not greater influence than anyone on the direction the group took; AND there is a book-length biography available in English (Enid Starkie's 'Petrus Borel, Lycanthrope'). So this bio could serve as a pretty good general introduction of the group's activities and trajectory.
  • Additionally, due to the tiny typeface on the blog, I've made it possible to download PDF versions of the three bios that are up so far (Borel, Bouchardy, and DuSeigneur). The Borel bio is fairly thoroughly cited with hyperlinks to the online sources. There are also a few tune-ups to the other bios; while all three cover almost the same historical ground between 1830 and '34, I don't think that they're redundant as I've been careful to present in each a different perspective on what the group was doing and the different reasons each member had for being involved, the unique approach that each added to the collective whole. So that in Borel the focus is on militant politics, the group's relationships with other Romantic-affiliated utopian communes and micro-utopias in Paris, and the influence of Gothic / Frenetic subculture on the group; in Bouchardy it is on their relationships to the visual arts and their opposition to Classicism; in DuSeigneur it is their early formation and engagement with History and Historiography. The next biography will be organiser/theorist/writer Philothée O'Neddy, for whom a short portrait or 'stub' as they would say on wikipedia is already posted.


  • Needless to say, research continues; the main sources I'm working through presently are Bénichou's brilliantly textured, perceptive, and researched study of the gradual gestation and then birth of French Romanticism, Consecration of the Artist, 1750-1830; Mario Praz's passive-aggressive and frustratingly half-translated but still extremely valuable The Romantic Agony; and 'Romantic' and Its Cognates: European History of the Word', which is pedantic and flawed but still quite helpful in helping to establish the dynamic that Romanticism represented in Germany, England, France, and when I get to it Italy etc. Next things to start looking at a bit down the road will be scattered translations of more French Romantics, bio of Charles Nodier, and more background on radical politics in the 1820s-40s.
  • Unexpected connections keep popping up: Having found more information on the elusive Evadamiste sect, a micro-Utopia founded simultaneously with the Jeunes'France's own that was a strange conglomeration of Saint-Simonian Socialism, Romanticism, Mystical Occultism, and Feminism, I found that Alexandre Dumas, who was involved with the Petit-Cénacle and possible the early Jeunes-France, was a member of the Evadamistes simultaneously, along with a couple other of their acquaintances; a few years later, the sect would be joined by no less than Eliphas Lévi, largely responsible for the Occult revival of the 19th Century and endlessly referenced in Huysmans Là-Bas. This group and its connection to the Bouzingo is treated at some length in the Borel biography that I've posted.
  • A few people have been doing some independent research and keeping me informed of the results--many thanks, I'd love it to happen more! Warren Fry has been helping for awhile looking into the Devéria brothers and other visual artists, satirists, and eroticists associated with the group and their wider circle and continues to do so (see his earlier post); Tomislav Butkovic has recently been looking into Charles Nodier. This blog is a great place to post this kind of research when you come upon it, making it available to everyone. (contact me if you need an invite to post!)
  • I am compiling an amazon list of books helpful for carrying out this research or getting a more thorough handle on the Jeunes-France. I am only adding books in English that I've been able to look at and evaluate, so there ARE more things out there. The list is available here.
  • Additionally, some discussion regarding the research that is being done, and its contemporary applicability, is beginning to occur through conversations with various people including Jim Leftwich, Warren Fry, Michael Peters, Tomislav Butkovic, Rebecca Weeks, Tim Gaze, and Gleb Kolomiets. Hopefully, as above, this discussion will grow and find its way to the blog where it can be engaged in amongst everyone concerned.

  • Translation is slowing down again temporarily as most of our translators are returning to school and have less time available. Gautier's 'A Line From Wordsworth' which seems to be from around 1830, has been added, translated by Olchar Lindsann with advice from Joseph Carter, along with an exhaustive unfolding of the complex poetic of quotation, allusion, and subtextual tradition going on in the poem. I have also added several notes to the translation of Borel's Rhapsodies Preface (both blog & PDF versions) relating to subtext dealing with the internal politics of the Romantic community which I have just been able to identify thanks to Bénichou's Consecration of the Writer. It may be awhile before we can make more available.
  • I have, however, found another Jeunes-France translation available. Last year, Jonah Durning-Hammond translated the only five extant chapters of Sodom and Zion, an unfinished novel by Théophile Dondey, aka Philothée O'Neddy. These three chapters were published as self-contained short stories in journals in 1839, several years after the Bouzingo ceased operating. Chapter 1 is a military story in which an aristocratic officer's egotism is repaid, and reminds me, oddly enough, of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. Chapters 17-20 are essentially Gothic-Decadent. The 18th Century occultist Cagliostro, imprisoned in the Bastille, inspires the (apparently?) main character, the proudly blasphemous Regina, to attempt the seduction of an acclaimed priest during confession. This backfires and after a terrifying vision of death and the gates of Hell, rendered in verse, she (perhaps temporarily) recants. These chapters feel midway between Matthew Lewis' gothic novel The Monk of 1796 and Huysmans' depiction of Decadent Satanism in Là-Bas of 1891. In addition, there are a couple exchanges that touch quite interestingly on issues of gender, in ways reminiscent of George Sand (a friend of the Jeunes-France) and, a bit later, Rachilde. Throughout there is a noticable anti-aristocratic current. Durning-Hammond's translation is quite good; the long verse passage is, as it ought to be, rendered into metered and rhymed verse and, as is not often enough the case, it is well-handled and does not feel forced or inanely sing-song despite the rhyme being in couplets, which tend to invite such problems. This is a chapbook of 45 pages and available through lulu, which means it was a labour of love. It is available HERE for $10.

  • Along with various minor shufflings, updatings, and corrections, the main additions to the timeline have related to the development of the French Romanticist community between 1813 and 1828, and to the development of Romanticism in Germany between 1798 and 1820.
  • As always, the key period from 1830-35 is a mess of conflicting evidence, unnamed sources, and undated, anecdotal reminiscences, and the guesses on the timeline are still a bit outaded compared to my better guesses as reflected in the Borel bio, which in turn I am already beginning to question in light of some new information concerning dates of residence for Borel on various properties, the authority of which I need to look into...