Another recently-scanned book IN ENGLISH (in the public domain) which does double-duty: a translated story by Jeunes-France / Bouzingo co-founder Théophile Gautier, which describes the avant-garde micro-culture of Medievalist Romanticism, mostly modeled on his close friend and other Bouzingo co-founder, Célestin Nanteuil, whose etchings and book illuminations I posted earlier this week.
I'll break this into separate .jpegs and make them available when I find the time.
"Elias Wildmanstadius" was first published in the 1832 Annales Romantiques (a copy of which is in the Revenants Archive), and collected the following year in Gautier's anthology of humorous short stories about life in the avant-garde, "The Jeunes-France: Taunting Tales" ("romans goguenards"). This comes from my incomplete set of the 1900 "Collected Works" of Gautier in translation, which contains only three of those stories; the Revenants archive contains an annotated copy of Gautier (not including this piece) owned by a student attending classes taught by the translator.
The main character would have been recognised by anyone in the Paris Romanticist community as Célestin Nanteuil.
Nanteuil was not only the leading book illustrator of the avant-garde, but also one of its principal organisers, and was central to recruiting and directing the rowdy Romanticist "clacques" that showed up to out-shout and potentially battle with Classicists at every Romanticist play into the 1840s (a combative aspect to his personality not reflected in Gautier's story). He was a leader of the Medievalist Romantics, who deployed a kind of radical nostalgia as a way to rethink the modernity for which--as Romantics and avant-gardists--they strove. For two centuries, French culture had entirely rejected and denigrated medieval culture as a transitional, imperfect, chaotic, irrational society whose productions and forms lacked any kind of value, instead presenting modern rationality in supposedly revived (though mostly invented) 'rules' and proportions of Classical Greek and Roman derivation. So to celebrate the medieval or "middle-ages" (the term at this time included much of what we now call the Renaissance) was to declare yourself an enemy of the status quo (not unlike a reclaiming of early 19th century cultures in the 21st…).
As this story describes, the Medievalists dressed in medieval clothing, adopted pseudonyms with obsolete forms of their names, and trained themselves to speak in outmoded vocabulary and grammatical forms. They also applied themselves successfully to creating the first popular historical preservation efforts: Medievalist Romantics such as Nanteuil, Charles Nodier, Baron Taylor, Victor Hugo, Bibliophile Jacob, Aloysius Bertrand, and the Bouzingo sculptor Jehan du Seigneur maintained a continuous campaign to change public opinion about medieval art, show the richness and complexity of its culture, and raise public awareness about France's disappearing medieval heritage, as ancient buildings throughout the country were being torn down to build new, "modern"-looking Neo-Classicist buildings.
Those involved also systematically compiled drawings and records of many architectural relics being torn down throughout the country, published the first studies of Medieval art, architecture, and everyday life, and began educational experiments based on medieval apprenticeship models. Their visual art and literature often crossed with frenetic work (whose roots were in gothic fiction), resulting in a sub genre of nihilistic horror stories set in the middle ages, in which sadistic necromancers and sex-murderers pause to deliver monologues about philology and the hypocrisy of power.
This campaign was co-ordinated and strategised; for instance, Hugo's 'Notre Dame de Paris ("Hunchback of Notre-Dame") and Bibliophile Jacob's "Danse Macabre" were both written in the same year, in successful opposition to plans to raze the former cathedral; Jacob's was set in another Parisian church called Notre Dame, which had been demolished fifty years earlier in an urban renewal effort. The writers shared their research and drafts with each other as they worked, and Nanteuil illustrated the first edition of Hugo's book.
Back to Nanteuil himself, despite his radical activity he seems to have had no enemies--everybody he knew, as far as the records show, thought of him in the same affectionate way as Gautier. After the avant-garde departed from Romanticism in the 1840s, Nanteuil became increasingly stuck illustrating pulp fiction, songbook covers, and other less challenging books in order to make a living, until in the wake of the Revolution of 1848 he was put in charge of the Visual Arts department at the University of Dijon, which town had long been the "second city" of the French avant-garde, especially medievalist and frenetic Romanticism, home to Aloysius Bertrand, Xavier Forneret, and Charles Brugnot. He seems to have filled the faculty with Romantics, including his old friend and Bouzingo co-founder Louis Boulanger, whose images I also posted earlier this week.
Though his books are still known to bibliophiles as some of the most beautiful of the time, he disappeared from art history, largely because he focused on printmaking and illustration, a "popular art," rather than painting. But you will see his influence in the illustrated borders, initial letters, and vignettes that adorn a great many books of French Romanticism in the 1830s & '40s and in the evolution of caricature and satirical cartoons in which he played a role alongside his friends Tony Johannot, Charles Phillipon, and Granville, and he was credited as central to the development of Romanticist illustration and bibliography by the avant-historian Jules Champfleury in his book on the subject in the 1860s, which refers to him as part of "l'avant-garde of Romanticism".