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Birth and Death

Nineteenth-Century French Culture
Etudes de langue et littrature franaises
publies sous la direction de
Keith Busby, M.J. Freeman,
Sjef Houppermans et Paul Pelckmans
Edited by
Nigel Harkness, Lisa Downing,
Sonya Stephens and Timothy Unwin
Birth and Death
Nineteenth-Century French Culture
Anne-Louis Girodet De Roussy-Trioson, Scne de dluge, Muse du Louvre,
Paris (Photo courtesy of Runion des Muses Nationaux Ren-Gabriel Ojda)
Maquette couverture / Cover design: Pier Post.
The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of
ISO 9706: 1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents -
Requirements for permanence.
Le papier sur lequel le prsent ouvrage est imprim remplit les prescriptions
de ISO 9706: 1994, Information et documentation - Papier pour documents -
Prescriptions pour la permanence.
ISBN: 978-90-420-2260-7
Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam - New York, NY 2007
Printed in The Netherlands


Acknowledgments 8

Introduction 9


Claudine Grossir
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans 17

Stephen Goddard
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a
Recurring Theme 35

Larry Duffy
Perdue en traduction: Translation, Betrayal and Death
in Mrimes Carmen 49

David Evans
Le Tombeau de la Posie: Strategies of Textual
Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville 63


Peter Cogman
Wildes Salom: Tenses, Tension and Progression in
Saloms Final Monologue 81

Isabelle Michelot
Figures de lartiste et comdiens du rel: de la difficile
naissance limplacable mort dans La Comdie humaine 97


Barbara Giraud
Soeur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital 109

Kiera Vaclavik
Death for Beginners: Nineteenth-Century Katabatic
Narratives for Young Readers 127


Maria Scott
Stendhals Rebellious Mothers and the Fight Against
Death-by-Maternity 139

Catherine Dubeau
La Mort de Madame de Vernon et les deux dnouements
de Delphine: invention romanesque et rminiscences
maternelles chez Madame de Stal 153

Carmen K. Mayer-Robin
Midwifery and Malpractice in Fcondit: Zolas Fictional
History of Problematical Maternities 173

Nathalie Dumas
Lrotisme cristallin de Thophile Gautier: tude de la
figure de la morte amoureuse dans les contes fantastiques 191


Philippe Berthier
Lvangile de la pourriture selon Saint Huysmans:
Lydwine de Schiedam 201

Isabelle Droit
Une esthtique de la mort au dix-neuvime sicle:
Alphonse Daudet 215


Pascal Caron
Selon Max Nordau: le pome naturel du corps de Mallarm 227

Claire Moran
The Aesthetics of Self-Skeletonization in James Ensor 239

Notes on Contributors 253

Index 257


The essays contained in this volume were first presented at the third
annual conference of the Society of Dix-Neuvimistes, which took
place at Queens University Belfast in April 200 The editors would
like to express their thanks to the Service Culturel of the French Em-
bassy for providing funding for the conference, and to the Department
of French at Queens University for hosting it. We would also like to
acknowledge the contribution of colleagues who willingly agreed to
referee essays for us: Richard Bales, Sarah Capitanio, Peter Dayan,
Kate Griffiths, Richard Hobbs, Rachel Killick, Robert Lethbridge,
Katherine Lunn-Rockliffe, Mary Orr, Roger Pearson, Paul Rowe,
Marion Schmid, Michael Tilby, Alexandra Wettlaufer, Nick White
and Jennifer Yee.


L I S A D O W N I N G , N I G E L H A R K N E S S ,

The nineteenth century is commonly perceived as an age of new life
and rebirth. It is the epoch that witnessed an efflorescence of industrial
and artistic progress, the birth of the individual and the birth of the
novel, and the creation of an urban population in the major demo-
graphic shift from the rural provinces to Paris. At the same time, how-
ever, it is the century of Decadence and degeneration theory, marked
by a prominent morbid aesthetic in the artistic sphere and a fascination
with criminality, moral decay and the pathologization of racial and
sexual minorities in scientific discourses. It is also the century in
which reflection on processes of artistic creation begins to problema-
tize concepts of mimetic representation, the function of the author and
the status of the text. In the context of the dialectical quality of nine-
teenth-century French culture, caught between an obsession with the
new and innovative and a paranoid sense of its own encroaching de-
cay, the twin themes of birth and death open onto a variety of issues
literary, social, historical, artistic which are explored, interrogated
and reassessed in the essays contained in this volume.
In her study of narratives of birth in nineteenth-century French
literature, Carol Mossman draws a stark conclusion about the varying
literary fortunes of birth and death:
Never through the ages have art and literature shrunk from the depiction of
death, often reveling, or so it seems, in the full palette of its violence. Of the
violence required for one human being to emerge on the outside from within
the body of another, aesthetics has had very little to say.

Carol Mossman, Politics and Narratives of Birth (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
Birth and Death in Nineteenth-Century French Culture


In this, she echoes an observation made by Paul Valry in 1946. Writ-
ing on the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, he reflected that:
Tandis que tant de potes ont exalt, clbr, maudit ou invoqu la mort, et
quils ont difi, approfondi, divinis la passion de lamour, il en est peu qui
semblent avoir mdit le fait transcendant par excellence, la production de
ltre vivant par ltre vivant.

In the absence of such representations in a century which nonetheless
glorified maternity and constructed motherhood as the basis of
womens social role, the theme of birth here opens up three intercon-
nected areas of investigation: gender, politics and literary creation.
First and foremost, the essays in this volume which take birth as their
theme, demonstrate that literature reflects and also contests ambient
ideologies of maternity and the politicization of the birth rate as an
indicator of national prestige. However, the concept of birth also
raises the question of origins and the originality of the text. As
Tiphaine Samoyault observes, si chaque texte construit sa propre
origine (son originalit), il sinscrit en mme temps dans une
gnalogie quil peut faire plus ou moins apparatre.
Novels and ar-
tistic works are conceived and then born, run the risk of being
still-born, are caught in a series of relationships to other texts which
can be mapped in genealogical terms, and contain embedded reflec-
tions on the processes of literary and artistic production. Intertextual-
ity, originality, origins, modes of representation and literary creation
or enfantement thus constitute some of the strands which run through
the metaliterary investigations of birth in this volume.
It is principally the work of the historian Philippe Aris which
has drawn our attention to the changes in the social and literary signi-
fication of death which took place in nineteenth-century France. This
is the period when, Aris argues, lhomme des socits occidentales
tend donner la mort un sens nouveau. Il lexalte, la dramatize, la
veut impressionnante et accaparante.
Thus the nineteenth century
sees the growth of a cult of tombs, the creation and extension of ceme-
teries (Pre-Lachaise, for instance, was built in 1804), the dramatiza-

versity Press, 1993), p. 6.
Paul Valry, Gabriela Mistral, Revue de Paris, February 1946, pp. 3-7 (p. 5).
Tiphaine Samoyault, LIntertextualit (Paris: Nathan, 2001), p. 5.
Philippe Aris, Essais sur lhistoire de la mort en Occident: du Moyen ge nos
jours (Paris: Seuil, 1977), p. 51.


tion of the death-bed scene, the cult of the dead national hero, and the
increasing medicalization of death as it is taken from the home and
into the hospital. Literature and art reflect this evolution: the Roman-
tics found inspiration in death as a mystical communion with the eter-
nal, and the early nineteenth century was thus le temps des belles
morts [] des morts sublimes;
later in the century, realist and natu-
ralist fiction would reflect new spaces of death such as the hospital, in
which the doctor was matre de la mort, and counter the romantic
belle mort with a mort laide, as in Madame Bovary or Nana.
In the
light of this multiplicity of meanings, no single over-riding approach
to the theme of death is adopted in this volume. The question of how
death is represented, dramatized and aestheticized is naturally a focus
of critical attention, but the issue of what this reveals about fiction and
representation is also repeatedly raised, leading to reflection on topics
such as loss, entropy, fragmentation, degeneracy and (self-) disinte-
We have chosen to group essays into four sections. Section One,
On Textual Genesis, Translation and Resurrection, considers how
reflections on textual or poetic birth and death are woven into the
work of authors as diverse as Sand, Flaubert, Mallarm, Banville and
Mrime. Claudine Grossir uses Sands novels from the 1830s and
1840s as the basis for her study of the problematic nature of textual
closure, whose artificiality is shown to be a constant preoccupation of
Sands narrative poetics. Ultimately, Grossir concludes, the moment
of textual death in Sands work is one of intratextual dialogue, a
space in which poetic and ideological debates are continued from one
work to another, and whose resolution is constantly deferred. Stephen
Goddards approach to Flauberts work is more classically intertex-
tual, in that he focuses on the way in which works by Ovid and Apu-
leius inform the genesis of Flauberts novels. As well as revealing
these texts to be an important, if neglected, source for the Flaubertian
uvre, he also shows how these classical texts are mobilized through-
out Flauberts work around the theme of curiosity punished. More-
over, he argues, they are used to burlesque effect in later works, and
thus become key generative components for Flauberts Rabelaisian
style and interests.

Philippe Aris, LHomme devant la mort (Paris: Seuil, 1977), p. 403.
Aris, Essais sur lhistoire de la mort, pp. 68 and 80.
Birth and Death in Nineteenth-Century French Culture


Continuing these examinations of literary creation along the
birth-death axis, the final two articles in this section explore the ways
in which the narrative thematics of death becomes a vehicle for
broader reflection on issues of literary creation. Larry Duffys essay
addresses questions of linguistic entropy through a study of the trope
of translation in Mrimes Carmen. He reveals how, paradoxically in
a novel in which language, translation and cross-cultural communica-
tion are so central to the plot, these themes are also inextricably bound
up with death, and thus revealed as sites of mortal risk for the au-
thor. David Evanss allegorical reading of the poetry of Mallarm and
Banville similarly demonstrates how poeticizing death gives rise to a
metapoetic reflection on the death of Poetry in a godless, post-
Romantic universe, in which the links between poetic harmony and
divine order have been severed. However, in the midst of this crisis of
belief which threatens the death of Poetry, Evans uncovers a re-birth
of poetic faith, but one which is based on an illusion, shared by both
poet and reader, and from which the spectre of poetic death is never
fully banished.
Section Two, Narratives of Birth and Death, discusses the nar-
rativization of these two themes either in specific texts (Wildes
Salom, the Goncourt brothers Soeur Philomne), or across an entire
uvre or genre (Balzacs Comdie humaine, or the katabatic narra-
tive). Peter Cogmans study of the final monologue in Wildes
Salom, in which the protagonist is led progressively to a moment of
realization as she kisses the head of Iokanaan and dies, stresses the
importance of reconsidering this text as a coherent, unified work
rather than as the contradictory or fragmented one it has often been
seen to be. Isabelle Michelot, in a broad discussion of the Comdie
humaine, analyses Balzacs treatment of the birth and death of the art-
ist. She points out that Balzac is interested above all in those key mo-
ments, and that the phase of artistic maturity and production is largely
absent in his portrayal of artists, who are precipitated from obscure
beginnings towards an end which inevitably awaits them. The
Comdie humaine is thus, in many respects, a reflection on the death
of the artist.
For Barbara Giraud, it is the place of death, and its description in
narrative, that is of most interest. Her study of the Goncourts Soeur
Philomne stresses the shift towards a representation of the hospital as


a medical institution rather than as a charitable environment. In this
respect, the Goncourts touch on an essential shift in the nineteenth
century, approaching their subject with a clinical precision which pre-
pares the way for more extensive treatment of medical institutions in
naturalist literature. For Kiera Vaclavik, on the other hand, the ques-
tion of how the young are educated in matters of death is crucial, for
death and dying were, she argues, central obsessions in the nineteenth
century. The two elements fuse in katabatic narratives which relate the
descent into and return from an underworld, constituting an initiatory
encounter with death followed by symbolic rebirth. She shows that
texts such as Vernes Voyage au centre de la terre, Sands La Fe
Poussire and Malots Sans Famille stage a didactic and empowering
encounter with death.
Section Three, Problematizing Maternity and Femininity, ex-
plores the mythologization and idealization of the figure of the mother
which are a constant of nineteenth-century literature, and examines the
counter-representations which these processes also generated. Maria
Scott and Catherine Dubeaus essays show how both Stendhal and
Madame de Stal privilege other models of maternity in their works.
Scott challenges readings of Stendhals novels which acknowledge
only the model of maternal heroism exemplified by Madame de
Rnal, and through an examination of Stendhals rebellious moth-
ers, suggests that the marker of heroism for the Stendhalian mother
may not be self-sacrifice, but the cultivation of happiness, freedom
and a life of the mind, that is, the nurturing of her status as subject
rather than object. In the case of Madame de Stal, as Dubeau shows,
the writing and re-writing of Delphine is informed by the tensions
which characterized the authors own relations with her mother.
Dubeaus analysis brings to light the originality of the first ending of
Delphine which binds the political and the maternal (rather than the
paternal) in its exposition of the tyranny of the Terror, and thus con-
tinues the denunciation of maternal despotism elsewhere in the novel.
In Carmen K. Mayer-Robins analysis of Zolas Fcondit the
emphasis shifts to childbirth, abortion and birth-control at the close of
the century. Mayer-Robin uses the motif of fertility to excavate the
genesis of Zolas roman these, places it in dialogue with a range of
sociological, historical and fictional intertexts, and shows how Zola is
ultimately unable to fashion a utopian fiction disconnected from the
Birth and Death in Nineteenth-Century French Culture


dystopian present of writing. Nathalie Dumass study of Gautiers
contes fantastiques focuses on the mortes amoureuses who popu-
late these works, feminine others who problematize nineteenth-
century ideologies of femininity by transcending traditional dichoto-
mies of angel and demon, life and death. While the links between fe-
male characters and death in fantastic literature have been extensively
studied, Dumas instead uses these characters as the basis for explora-
tion of the overlap between the fantastic and the erotic in Gautiers
fiction, both of which, she concludes, are characterized by
linstantanit du moment et le dtachement du rel.
The essays included in Section Four, Aestheticizing Bodily
Death, are united by their consideration of the ambivalent portrayal
of death in the nineteenth century, where death obtains firstly in rela-
tion to physical corporeality (the gruesome martyrdom of Huysmanss
Sainte Lydwine; the highly aestheticized deaths of Alphonse Daudets
characters; the figurality of the skeleton in James Ensors art) and sec-
ondly in the sphere of the body politic and poetic (Max Nordaus pes-
simistic writing on Symbolist poetry and degeneration theory).
Each essay addresses in different ways the relationship between
social change and the individual instances of death that are used to
figure it. For Philippe Berthier, writing on Huysmanss Sainte
Lydwine de Schiedam, the violent deterioration of the young girls
body, attacked by the hand of God, is used to dramatize the failure of
science to account for the mysteries of faith in a century in which the
power of the Church risked eclipse by positivistic post-enlightenment
science. However, the clinical precision with which the author lists the
afflictions of the young martyr, coupled with the concentration on her
perverse pleasure in pain, suggests that the medical and sexological
projects of nosography and taxonomy are strong influences on Huys-
manss writing, despite his conscious rejection of them. Isabelle
Droits account of the centrality of death in Daudets uvre argues
that for this author, death is natural and inevitable, a part of the cycle
of life and the passage of history. This philosophical acceptance of
mortality, made manifest in the texts via an insistent aestheticization
and dramatization of death, understood as the seminal event of life, is
read to produce an effect that is far from morbid or pessimistic.
Rather, change figured through death is revealed as a renovating force,
to be accepted and welcomed without fear.


In a very different philosophical vein, Max Nordaus writing on
degeneration provides the focus of Pascal Carons chapter. Degenera-
tion is visible for Nordau in the dissolution of the formal structures of
language, exemplified by the experimental writing of Mallarm and
the French Symbolists. Caron argues that Nordau identifies the subject
with language, such that expression reveals nature. Following this un-
derstanding, the Symbolists emerge as the Other of civilization, their
experiments with the limits of sense a tarrying with death consistent
with the racial, moral and physiological deterioration perceived by the
degeneration theorists to afflict modernity. The volume concludes
with a further reflection on Symbolist representation in Claire
Morans essay on James Ensor. Moran demonstrates that the motif of
the skeleton as an emblem of death and decay was central to the Sym-
bolist imaginary. In Ensors work of the late nineteenth century, self-
representation is a central concern, and, in his auto-portraiture, self-
skeletonization expresses the dissolution and disintegration of the uni-
fied subject. These self-portraits also give rise to a questioning of mi-
mesis, to an exploration of the relationship between artistic form and a
changing reality, and to the presentation of new ways of seeing and
representing reality. In Ensors later Expressionist paintings, Moran
argues, skeletons dressed as humans illustrate the vacuity of the self
and the destitution of a society faced with uncertainty as the pace of
social change increases and the nineteenth century moves towards the

George Sand: la gense des fins de romans

Rsum: Avec pour but de dfinir une potique romanesque spcifique
George Sand, cet essai analyse dans un premier temps les stratgies
dcriture qui permettent de conduire la narration son terme:
annonces explicites, prolepses, indices, mais aussi acceptation ou
refus des codes romanesques conventionnels qui permettent au lecteur
de se projeter vers lissue du texte. Dans un second temps, on examine
dans quelle mesure les conditions de production et de publication des
textes ont modifi leur tat dans ce lieu stratgique quest la clture
du rcit. On sinterroge enfin sur les rapports tablir entre ces deux
approches: les rvisions du texte permettent-elles de dceler une
volution du projet romanesque et de ses stratgies?

Ds 1832, George Sand, encore jeune romancire inconnue,
sinterroge dans son premier roman, Indiana, sur la prparation et la
valeur du dnouement dun rcit, comme en tmoigne un passage
disparu de la seconde dition du roman.
Cette premire occurrence de
mtadiscours, trs inspire de la libert de facture des romans du
sicle, en annonce dautres, inscrites avec la mme apparente
dsinvolture dans deux romans ultrieurs, Lucrezia Floriani et Le
Piccinino, crits tous deux en 1847. Linsistance avec laquelle George
Sand renoue alors le fil de sa rflexion, et la met en pratique, ne peut
que nous inciter observer comment celle-ci sest dveloppe,
modifie, complexifie tout au long de cette premire priode de
cration qui couvre quinze annes, et prs dune trentaine de romans,
partir desquels nous essaierons de dgager les caractristiques

Voir ci-dessous Les enjeux de la fin.
Claudine Grossir


essentielles du processus dachvement des romans, et de montrer
comment les fins de romans permettent de cerner la solidarit de
luvre, son identit, alors mme quaucun lien nest apparemment
tiss ou mis en vidence entre chacun des lments qui la composent.

La dynamique de lcriture

Ces fins de romans sont dabord susceptibles de ce que Claude Duchet
appelle une approche socio-gntique.
Les conditions de
publication en revues notamment dterminent partiellement lcriture,
fractionne, tributaire dune ligne politique qui expose le rcit la
censure ou lautocensure, contraintes particulirement sensibles
lorsquil sagit de conclure. Or, tous les romans de Sand, lexception
des trois premiers, Indiana, Valentine (1832) et Llia (1833), sont
publis dabord en revues ou dans des journaux, avant dtre dits en
volumes. Le contrat qui lie la romancire Franois Buloz, directeur
de la Revue des deux mondes, de 1833 1840, impose Sand un
rythme de production intensif. La plupart du temps, les uvres
commencent tre publies alors que le manuscrit nest pas achev.
La vitesse de lcriture doit alors sacclrer pour suivre la parution de
la revue, bi-mensuelle. Tout retour en arrire, tout repentir, est interdit
et la disparition progressive du manuscrit, remis lditeur au fil de la
parution des numros, entrane ncessairement le rcit vers sa fin, sans
alternative possible: A mesure que je vous envoyais mon manuscrit
jen oubliais le contenu exact, crit George Sand Buloz propos de
Jacques (1834).
Tout comme chez Balzac,
la fin du roman sinscrit
dans une dynamique de lcriture, plus que dans une dynamique du
rcit: Etes-vous contente de la fin de Spiridion?, crit encore la
romancire Charlotte Marliani en janvier 1839, Je crains que cela
ne vous fasse leffet de tourner un peu court au dnouement. Mais

Claude Duchet, Fins, finition, finalit, infinitude in Genses des fins, textes
runis par Claude Duchet et Isabelle Tournier (Paris: Presses Universitaires de
Vincennes, 1996), pp. 5-25 (p. 21).
George Sand, Correspondance, dition de George Lubin, 25 vols (Paris: Garnier,
1964-1991), II, 633. Dsormais, les rfrences cette dition seront faites dans le
texte (abrviation Corr), le numro du volume suivi du numro de page.
Voir Isabelle Tournier, Balzac: toutes fins inutiles in Genses des fins, pp.
191-219 (p. 201).
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


comment faire quand on est press par une maudite revue! (Corr, IV,
Aprs 1840, consciente des risques que ces conditions dcriture
font encourir la finition de ses textes, lauteur cherche ne publier
ses romans quune fois ceux-ci achevs, et aprs stre donn un
temps de relecture et de rflexion. La correspondance se fait lcho de
cette proccupation nouvelle, qui cherche apprivoiser lurgence:
Maintenant donnez-moi huit jours pour repasser, limer, raboter,
passer au tamis et un peu mditer avec svrit sur lensemble (Corr,
VII, 59-60), crit George Sand Antnor Joly, directeur du journal
Lpoque, avant de lui livrer Le Pch de Monsieur Antoine.
Paralllement, la romancire cesse de confier dautres le soin
de corriger les preuves de ses romans. Au dbut de sa carrire, elle a
souvent dlgu cette tche, en effet, des amis proches, Sainte-
Beuve et Gustave Planche,
par exemple, dont les critiques attentives
lavaient aide construire progressivement son identit dcrivain.
Par modestie, mconnaissance du monde de ldition, mais aussi
parfois loignement gographique, George Sand na assum que
tardivement la responsabilit pleine et entire de ses uvres et
revendiqu le strict respect de ses manuscrits au point den faire une
clause de contrat. Ses dsaccords avec Buloz, au sujet dHorace,
semblent avoir jou un rle dans ce changement dattitude. Aprs
1840, en effet, le seul roman pour lequel elle dlguera la correction
des preuves est Consuelo La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, qui sera relu
par Leroux, qui stait dj charg de la correction des preuves de la
seconde Llia.

Le mode de composition adopt par George Sand contribue pour
une large part renforcer cette prminence de la dynamique de
lcriture. A de trs nombreuses reprises dans la correspondance, les
prfaces, les notices la romancire avoue crire sans plan.

Sainte-Beuve fut charg de corriger les preuves de Leone Leoni, Gustave
Planche celles de Jacques et de Spiridion.
Les liens idologiques troits quentretenait Sand avec Leroux justifient la
confiance quelle lui tmoigne en cette occasion.
Cette caractristique de lcriture sandienne a t releve par Balzac, qui crit
propos de Jeanne, roman de Sand pour lequel il avait une grande admiration: Jeanne
de G. Sand [] certes est un chef duvre. Lisez cela, cest sublime! Jenvie Jeanne;
je ne ferais pas Jeanne. Cest dune perfection, le personnage sentend, car il y a bien
des ridiculits; cest mal compos; les accessoires sont (quelques uns) indignes de
Claudine Grossir


mon premier roman, crit-elle propos dIndiana, dans la notice de
1852 pour ldition Hetzel, je lai fait sans aucun plan, sans aucune
thorie dart ou de philosophie dans lesprit.
Ou encore, propos de
Teverino, galement dans une notice de 1852: Je lai commence
Paris, en 1845, et termine la campagne, sans aucun plan, sans aucun
Si le mot plan associ ici celui de thorie ou de but
semble largir la notion dorganisation la question de la finalit du
rcit, qui sont bien videmment lies, George Sand insiste bien en
dautres occasions sur son incapacit se conformer un scnario
prtabli qui entrave sa libert dartiste et sa capacit dimprovisation:
Je serais emporte loin de mon plan [] je mchappe moi-mme
(Corr, VI, 672), affirme-t-elle son correspondant, le docteur Vron,
directeur du Constitutionnel, qui seffraie des audaces du Meunier
dAngibault. Dans ce contexte dcriture au fil de la plume, la fin du
roman se profile tardivement: ainsi, moins dun mois du dbut de la
publication de Simon dans la Revue des deux mondes, en dcembre
1835, lauteur confie: La fin est encore faire dans ma tte et sur le
papier (Corr, III, 190). Conteuse infatigable, George Sand, linstar
de son ami Balzac,
diffre constamment le moment de la fin de
lcriture, et donc du rcit. Nombre de ses romans furent envisags au
dpart comme des nouvelles: cest le cas de Mauprat, mais dont
finalement le sujet est trop fort pour une nouvelle (Corr, II, 834); la
composition, commence en 1835, ne sachve qu la mi-mai 1837,
une dure exceptionnellement longue pour George Sand qui voque
lcriture de la fin de ce roman en termes trs flaubertiens: Cette
interminable corve, crit-elle (Corr, IV, 48). Cest le cas encore de
La Dernire Aldini, une nouvelle norme qui sallonge sous ma
plume (Corr, IV, 187 et 277); de LUscoque, autre roman de la srie
des contes vnitiens, qui comme tant dautres prend plus dampleur
que prvu, car il coule facilement (Corr, V, 367); de Consuelo enfin

cette magnifique page. Le paysage est touch de main de matre. Lettres Madame
Hanska (Paris: ditions du Delta, 1967), II, 456 (cit par Georges Lubin, Corr, VI,
663, note 1).
Anna Szab, Prfaces de George Sand, 2 vols (Debrecen: Studia Romanica de
Debrecen, 1997), I, 182.
Ibid., p.186. Il faut faire la part, dans ces affirmations, de la distance
rtrospective: ces deux notices ont t rdiges en 1852, alors que les romans ont t
composs respectivement en 1832 et 1845.
Voir Tournier, pp. 192-94.
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


qui ne finit pas, et qui nest quun bavardage norme (Corr, V, 822).
Cette tendance lamplification tient sans doute aux conditions
conomiques qui rgissent la publication des uvres littraires: une
uvre en deux volumes est davantage rtribue quune uvre en un
volume, et lon sait combien George Sand fut toujours court
dargent. Mais elle est surtout le signe dun dplacement de la valeur
de luvre, du rcit vers la narration: lamplification est lie la
nature du sujet, souvent sous-estime au dpart, et dont les
potentialits ne se rvlent quau fil de lcriture; George Sand
savoue ainsi souvent entrane par son sujet, et le livre scrit autant
quil est crit. En ce sens, elle ralise la figure de lartiste tel quelle le
reprsente dans ses crits: un voyageur qui chemine, marquant parfois
des arrts, mais dont le chemin na pas de fin.

Mais lamplitude des rcits a pour corollaire la crainte que la fin
ne soit escamote.
Cest que la fin du rcit est un lieu de tension
entre des exigences contradictoires: souscrire une ncessit interne
du genre romanesque, en mettant un terme au rcit, mais refuser les
conventions du feuilleton; tre aussi explicite que possible sur la
finalit du rcit aux yeux du lecteur, mais laisser pourtant ce dernier
le soin de conclure. La fin du rcit devient ainsi un lieu dcisif o
saffirme ouvertement la prsence de lauteur, de lartiste
revendiquant ses choix esthtiques, conduisant le rcit vers une issue
rigoureusement logique et concerte. En tmoigne le scnario des
derniers chapitres du Pch de Monsieur Antoine rdig ds le 13 aot
1845 lintention dAntnor Joly, avec une prcision et un luxe de
dtails qui montrent que cette conclusion est dj longuement mrie:
la rdaction de ces chapitres, qui intervient dans les semaines
suivantes, ne diffrera pas de ce programme. Mais cette prsence de
lauteur devient paradoxale lorsquelle sexprime, dans le mme
roman, travers lellipse, qui sollicite imprativement lactivit du

Des Lettres dun voyageur au Journal dun voyageur pendant la guerre, de la
fin de Llia ou de Teverino celle du Compagnon du tour de France ou de Consuelo,
la figure du voyageur hante les rcits de George Sand, quils soient fictifs ou de nature
plus autobiographique, et limage du chemin, rel ou mtaphorique, constitue lun des
motifs rcurrents de la non-fin des rcits.
Cette inquitude sest manifeste propos de Spiridion, et se retrouve propos
du Pch de Monsieur Antoine: Jai encore besoin de songer aux dernires pages, qui
tournent peut-tre un peu court (Corr, VII, 84).
Claudine Grossir


Voil la fin. Jai encore rouvert, et relu mon dnouement; un de mes amis,
lecteur simple et de bonne foi, ne le trouve pas assez explicite. [] Moi je
lai trouv suffisant en lcrivant. Mais jai toujours des scrupules sans fin,
quand il sagit de dire bonsoir au lecteur; et lopinion de mon ami de
campagne me tourmente. [] Il voudrait quon st davantage comment Mr
Antoine a pch. Moi, il me semblait au contraire dlicat et de bon got de
laisser au lecteur le soin de faire le roman qui sest pass avant mon roman.
[] Il me semble que cest plus artiste de ne pas soulever le voile. Mais le
public comprendra-t-il assez? [] Peut-tre que ce que je crois trs artiste
nest que maladroit. Pourtant est-ce que Jean Jappeloup ne raconte pas
clairement lhistoire du marquis en croyant ne raconter que la sienne? (Corr,
VII, 144-45)
Lexplicitation rencontre donc des limites, qui sont celles de lart,
principe auquel le lecteur, comme lauteur, doit se soumettre. Dans le
cas prsent, la figure de lanalogie est lartifice qui permet de raconter
deux histoires en mme temps et de dvoiler aux yeux dun lecteur
attentif ce que le texte refuse apparemment de rvler. Cest donc bien
dans lart lui-mme que rside la possibilit de trouver un quilibre
entre la rvlation et le secret, entre la clart et lobscurit, entre
lachvement et la suspension.

Djouer les conventions romanesques: potique romanesque et
esthtique du rel

George Sand y insiste souvent: pour tre publis en revues, ses romans
ne sont pas des feuilletons: Mes romans ne sont pas comme ceux des
autres, susceptibles de ces temps darrt, qui [] font tirer la langue
labonn. [] Mes petits sujets tout simples et tranquillement
dvelopps nintressent pas si on ne les suit de mme (Corr, VII, 32;
cest Sand qui souligne).
Les romans de Sand ne sont pas des romans
dintrigue, mais de sentiments et dides. Aussi sadaptent-ils mal au
morcellement en pisodes et ignorent-ils les conventions de
suspension et dattente qui rgissent le feuilleton. Dans lavant-propos
de Lucrezia Floriani, le narrateur, refusant ces techniques destines
maintenir le lecteur en haleine, sengage dans une bataille la fois
potique et esthtique:

On peut, bien sr, penser Eugne Sue (Les Mystres de Paris ont paru dans Le
Constitutionnel la mme poque que Jeanne) ou Paul de Kock.
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


Ainsi, lecteur, [] je te prviens que je retrancherai du rcit que je vais
avoir lhonneur de te prsenter, llment principal, lpice la plus forte qui
ait cours sur la place: cest--dire limprvu, la surprise. Au lieu de te
conduire dtonnements en tonnements, de te faire tomber chaque
chapitre de fivre en chaud mal, je te mnerai pas pas par un petit chemin
tout droit [].

Prsent comme un essai, une tude, au sens pictural du terme,
mais peut-tre aussi au sens mdical une tude de cas , la narration
met un point dhonneur souligner la logique du rcit, et multiplie les
annonces de la fin, distribues aussi bien dans les paroles des
personnages, dans la narration de leurs actes, que dans le discours du
La convergence des indices ne laisse aucune chance une
possible bifurcation du rcit. Le roman, de faon trs ironique,
sachve en anti-conte: Ils saimrent longtemps et vcurent trs
malheureux (LF, p. 844), et emprunte la tragdie classique son
inluctable progression, caractrise par une acclration du rythme
des annonces mesure que lon approche de la fin, une narration en
forme de rsum Son supplice fut lent, mais sans relche (LF, p.
845) voire dellipse non toujours dpourvue de drision pour ce qui
concerne la longue agonie du personnage principal.

Saffranchissant des codes romanesques qui imposent au rcit
lobligation de finir, Lucrezia Floriani met donc en uvre une
nouvelle stratgie pour luder ce moment, qui passe paradoxalement

George Sand, Lucrezia Floriani, in Vies dArtistes (Paris: Presses de la Cit,
1992), p. 685. Dsormais, les rfrences cette dition seront faites entre parenthses
dans le texte (abrviation LF).
Par exemple au chapitre 27: il et prfr la tuer (p. 827); elle se prcipita
delle-mme dans un abme de chagrins (p. 829); limagination de Karol [] prt un
essor funeste (p. 831); ch. 28: Ctait vrai, au fond: une nature riche par exubrance
et une nature riche par exclusivit ne peuvent se fondre lune dans lautre. Lune des
deux doit dvorer lautre et nen laisser que des cendres. Cest ce qui arriva (p. 835);
Karol est [] celui qui te tuera coups dpingles (p. 838); tu es perdue! je le
sais bien, rpondit-elle (p. 839); ch. 29: Ce fut aussi la dernire fois quelle le fit,
tout le reste de sa vie tant la consquence prvue et accepte de ce quelle put
constater en ce moment solennel (p. 840); en disant un ternel adieu ses chres
illusions [] elle dit adieu au vieux olivier []. Elle sortit du bois, et elle ny revint
jamais (p. 843); ch. 30, Me voici arriv, cher lecteur, au terme que je mtais
propos, et le reste ne sera plus de ma part quun acte de complaisance pour ceux qui
veulent absolument un dnouement quelconque (p. 843).
La drision porte davantage sur les lois du genre romanesque, en particulier du
feuilleton, que sur la situation dramatique du personnage: Certes, si lon voulait tout
suivre et tout analyser, il y aurait encore dix volumes faire (LF, p. 844).
Claudine Grossir


par lexhibition de la fin, inscrite au cur mme de la narration, la
rendant absolument prvisible, lanticipant, et reportant donc lintrt
du lecteur sur la gense de la fin plutt que sur la fin elle-mme.
Dans Le Piccinino (1847), Sand poursuit ce travail de mise en
question des codes romanesques, et en particulier de ceux qui
rgissent la fin du rcit, mais dplace sa rflexion dans le cadre du
roman daventures, celui prcisment dont elle dnonait la mode
dans lavant-propos de Lucrezia Floriani,
mais quelle avait pourtant
dj pratiqu dans lUscoque.
Ici, George Sand ne se contente plus
de multiplier les annonces du dnouement, elle multiplie les
dnouements eux-mmes, situant ainsi la scne de reconnaissance au
chapitre 44, lassassinat du tratre au chapitre 47, et la conversion du
brigand au chapitre 52, le dernier du roman. Cet miettement de la fin
saccompagne dun mtadiscours des plus explicites, justifiant la
remise en cause des conventions romanesques au nom, sinon du
ralisme, du moins de la vraisemblance:
Pourquoi tous les dnouements sont-ils plus ou moins manqus et
insuffisants? La raison en est simple, cest parce quil ny a jamais de
dnouements dans la vie, que le roman sy continue sans fin, triste ou calme,
potique ou vulgaire, et quune chose de pure convention ne peut jamais
avoir un caractre de vrit qui intresse.

Aussi le point final ne peut-il tre quarbitraire, immotiv: sil est
ncessaire de mettre un terme au rcit, tout suggre que lcriture, elle,
nest que momentanment interrompue: Mais ici finit le roman, qui
pourrait encore durer longtemps si lon voulait, car je persiste dire
quaucun roman ne peut finir (Pic, p. 275).
Deux ans plus tt, George Sand, crivait propos du Pch de
Monsieur Antoine: Je crois que les romans ne doivent jamais finir
tout fait (Corr, VII, 145). Le changement de modalisation indique
que la conviction de Sand sest renforce, radicalise, en quittant la

Lcole du roman sest prcipite dans un tissu dhorreurs, de meurtres, de
trahisons, de surprises, de terreurs, de passions bizarres, dvnements stupfiants
(LF, p. 684).
LUscoque, crit en 1839, appartient la srie des contes vnitiens. Il a les
couleurs sombres de Leone Leoni et dfriche la thmatique du travestissement qui sera
reprise dans Gabriel, roman dialogu publi lanne suivante.
Le Piccinino, 2 vols (Grenoble: ditions Glnat, 1994), II, 227. Dsormais, les
rfrences cette dition seront faites dans le texte (abrviation Pic).
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


correspondance pour safficher dans le rcit lui-mme. En mme
temps, linscription de cette rflexion au seuil ultime du roman
confirme la proposition de Claude Duchet:
Un texte vers sa fin est suspendu entre rcit et narration [] et dvoile alors
[] ce quil avait jusquici plus ou moins consciemment masqu ou diffr:
le sujet de lcriture. [] Toute fin instaure un change, assure un passage,
ouvre un dialogue. [] De part et dautre de la fin, stablissent les rapports
du texte et du monde, de lcrivain et de ses lecteurs.

Autrement dit, pour que la conclusion soit possible, pour que ce
dialogue puisse sinstaurer, pour que le lecteur, qui revient le droit
de conclure, puisse intervenir, il est impratif de finir le rcit.

Les enjeux de la fin

Pour autant ce moment de la fin fait lobjet dun travail dcriture
spcifique o se lisent les scrupules, les repentirs, les interrogations,
mais aussi les solutions qui vont permettre de rpondre au double
enjeu de la fin du roman: fermer la digse, ouvrir la rflexion.

Deux points retiennent lattention dans ce processus dlaboration de
la fin du roman: le moment o seffectuent les modifications et leurs
On la vu, les conditions de publication des romans de George
Sand ne lui permettaient que difficilement de revenir sur ses textes
ltat de manuscrits. Outre les dlais, la difficult dapprhender le
roman dans sa globalit avant son achvement empche toute activit
corrective partielle: Je suis incapable de me bien juger avant la fin, et
quand cest fini, il nest plus temps (Corr, II, 48), crit-elle
lpoque de la rdaction dIndiana. Aussi les modifications ne
pourront-elles tre effectues quentre la publication en revue et
ldition en volume, ou entre la premire et la seconde dition. A deux
reprises, George Sand, pour des raisons ditoriales il sagit de
complter des volumes trop peu toffs procde par ajout en fin de
volume: une lettre supplmentaire, de dix ans postrieure la
premire, est ainsi annexe la fin dIsidora, et fait figure dpilogue

Duchet, pp. 7-8.
Raymonde Debray-Genette, Comment faire une fin, Mtamorphoses du rcit:
autour de Flaubert (Paris: Seuil, 1988), p. 112.
Claudine Grossir


(George Sand la nomme tour tour suite indite ou coda); les
quatre chapitres qui forment lAppendice de La Mare au Diable ne
seront crits quaprs sa publication dans le Courrier franais en
fvrier 1846 pour ldition en volume parue en mai. Il va de soi que
ces ajouts non seulement modifient la fin des romans dans leur
premire version, puisquils proposent une nouvelle fin, et, dans le cas
de La Mare au Diable compltement atypique, en raison de son
ampleur et de sa nature, mais modifient galement la lecture que lon
peut faire de ces romans ainsi complts.
Ces additions, du fait du
lien distendu quelles entretiennent avec la narration premire, tendent
valoriser la seconde fonction des fins de rcit: ouvrir la rflexion.
Pour Indiana et pour Spiridion, le travail de rvision seffectue
loccasion dune rdition, ds 1833 pour le premier roman, en 1842
pour le second. Dans les deux cas, il concerne, sinon la fin du roman,
du moins sa gense au sein mme du rcit. En effet, dans ldition
originale dIndiana figurait au dbut de la seconde partie un fragment
que George Sand dcida de faire disparatre de la seconde dition:
Ne me reprochez pas davoir, contre toutes les rgles, plac le dnouement
du drame la fin du premier acte. Sil y a eu par hasard drame ou roman
dans les faits que je viens de vous rapporter, cest bien malgr moi, car avec
vous je ne vise point leffet. Je ne veux pas spculer sur vos sensations,
mais sur vos rflexions. Jcris pour votre raison, non pour vos nerfs.

Profession de foi non dnue dhumour, mais qui demble pose sous
les yeux du lecteur, dans un discours directement lui adress, la
finalit du rcit, plus que sa fin, selon un principe qui ne variera pas au
fil des romans. Djouer les codes romanesques ne relve donc pas
seulement dune volont critique esthtique, mais bien dun enjeu
dordre idologique: les choix potiques ne peuvent se comprendre
indpendamment des valeurs qui les fondent:
Je pourrais, pour peu que je fusse la hauteur de mon sicle, exploiter avec
fruit la catastrophe qui se trouve si agrablement sous ma main, vous faire
assister aux funrailles, vous exposer le cadavre dune femme noye, avec

Voir Claudine Grossir, Pour une potique de la clture: entre rcit et discours,
in George Sand: une criture exprimentale, textes runis par Nathalie Buchet-
Ritchey, Sylvaine Egron-Sparrow, Catherine Masson et Marie-Paule Tranvouez (New
Orleans: Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde, 2006), pp. 207-27.
George Sand, Indiana, 2 vols (Paris: Dupuy, 1832), I, 185, cit par ric Bordas,
Indiana (Paris: Gallimard, 2004), p. 160.
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


ses taches livides, ses lvres bleues et tous ces menus dtails de lhorrible et
du dgotant qui sont en possession de vous recrer par le temps qui court.
Mais chacun sa manire, et moi je conois la terreur autrement. Ce nest pas
sous la pierre des tombeaux, mais autour des tombeaux que je lai vue
habiter; ce nest pas dans les vers du spulcre que je lai trouve, cest dans
le cur des vivants et sous leurs habits de fte; ce nest pas dans la mort de
celui qui nous quitte, cest dans lindiffrence de ceux qui lui survivent;
cest loubli qui est le vritable linceul des morts; [] cest le lendemain
tranquille, la vie qui reprend son cours sur la tombe peine ferme. []
Shakespeare lentendait bien ainsi, lorsquau lieu de baisser le rideau sur le
meurtre ou le suicide, il rassemblait autour des cadavres ses personnages
secondaires et leur mettait dans la bouche des sentences philosophiques, ou
le plus souvent des rflexions sur leurs propres affaires. [] lhomme qui
succombait ntait quun accident, un moyen pour dnouer lentreprise de

Or, ce fragment retir de la seconde dition constitue lune des cls
qui permettent de rvaluer le dnouement dIndiana. Dans
lisolement o se sont rfugis Indiana et Ralph lle Bourbon, nul
personnage secondaire ne peut assumer, aprs la mort des hros, cette
fonction de mmoire ou doubli de la scne finale des drames de
Shakespeare: aussi George Sand choisit-elle de faire rapparatre les
hros, non pour commencer rellement une nouvelle vie, mais pour
commenter leur propre disparition et assurer le passage de tmoin, la
transmission de cette mmoire auprs du narrateur, un jeune voyageur
qui fait son apparition dans le cours du rcit prcisment ce seuil
ultime. La prsence absente dIndiana dans cette dernire scne,
constitue pour lessentiel par un long discours de Ralph, personnage
jusquici priv de parole, tend confirmer cette hypothse: la mort a
fait son uvre, mais la terreur quil faut conjurer cest le silence, la
disparition de la parole, dont cette page a pour fonction dassurer la
prennit. Dautres conclusions de romans reprendront ces modalits
toutes shakespeariennes: les dernires lignes de Valentine, le second
roman de Sand, voquent un enfant, Valentin, le neveu de lhrone,
qui joue sur la tombe des hros, disparus dans lavant-texte de la
Dans Jeanne les derniers paragraphes distinguent parmi
les personnages secondaires ceux qui entretiennent la mmoire de

Ibid., pp. 187-88 (cit par Bordas, pp. 161-62).
En passant devant le cimetire du village, le voyageur a vu souvent le bel
enfant jouer au pied de Louise, et cueillir des primevres qui croissent sur la double
tombe de Valentine et de Bndict (Le Plan de la Tour: ditions dAujourdhui,
1976), p. 363.
Claudine Grossir


lhrone disparue et excutent ses dernires volonts, ceux qui
progressivement saffranchissent de son souvenir, et celui enfin qui se
laisse entraner dans le tourbillon du monde et de loubli.
Si les modifications apportes Indiana ont contribu, semble-t-
il, une plus grande opacit de la fin du rcit, George Sand naura de
cesse, par la suite, de viser, lors de la rvision de ses textes, une plus
grande clart. La rcriture de la fin de Spiridion seffectue dans ce
sens. Dans ldition de 1839, le roman sachevait, comme annonc
dans le fil du rcit, par la dcouverte et la lecture du manuscrit de
Spiridion, prsent dans la narration sous la forme dun long
monologue adress lhomme de lavenir, exposant une vision du
monde binaire, construite sur la dialectique du bien et du mal. Au seuil
ultime du rcit, lirruption de lHistoire, en la personne de soldats de
Bonaparte venus piller le monastre, sapparentait un coup de thtre
dramatique qui acclrait le processus de rsolution par une
intervention extrieure aux principaux acteurs du rcit. Les
modifications apportes par George Sand pour ldition de 1842 vont
permettre de supprimer cette rupture narrative en introduisant une
explication logique qui motive lintrusion de lHistoire, la rende
ncessaire, et damnager de faon subtile la double contrainte de la
ncessit de la fin du rcit et de louverture du dialogue avec le
lecteur. Ce nest plus, alors, un manuscrit que dcouvrent Angel et
Alexis, mais trois. Comme souvent, George Sand inscrit au cur
mme de la fiction son travail de narratrice, soulignant ironiquement
dans le dialogue des personnages le changement intervenu dune
dition lautre: Nous sommes tromps! dit Alexis. Il y a eu l une
Ces trois manuscrits vont permettre, ce moment du
rcit, et ainsi beaucoup plus tt que dans la premire dition du roman,
lintroduction dune temporalit historique: les deux premiers
manuscrits sont dats du treizime sicle, et dfinissent ainsi une
origine partir de laquelle peut se penser le mouvement de
rgnration auquel aspire Spiridion et que lirruption des soldats
agissant au nom du sans-culotte Jsus parachve.
La perspective
binaire adopte dans la premire dition du rcit disparat au profit

Spiridion (Genve: Slatkine Reprints, 2000), p. 283. Dsormais, les rfrences
cette dition seront faites dans le texte (abrviation S).
S, p. 298. Lexpression renvoie explicitement la relecture du christianisme
opre au dix-neuvime sicle, faisant du Christ un modle rvolutionnaire.
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


dune conception du monde articule autour de la notion de
dveloppement, de progrs continu. Le troisime manuscrit, celui de
Spiridion, occupe dans cette nouvelle distribution une place
privilgie. Considrablement lagu par rapport la premire version
du roman, il se donne maintenant lire comme une rcriture de la
Gense, ce qui donne la prophtie de Spiridion la valeur dune
parole cratrice, performatrice.
La fin de Spiridion, ds la premire dition du texte, propose une
scne de lecture, choix minemment symbolique au seuil ultime du
roman. Dans ldition de 1839, le point de vue adopt pour cette scne
tait celui de lauteur, Spiridion: le manuscrit, rdig la premire
personne instaurait un destinataire, lhomme de lavenir, figure du
lecteur, sans que soient distingus le lecteur du manuscrit et le lecteur
du roman. Dans ldition de 1842, cette scne est transforme en un
dialogue entre les deux lecteurs que sont Alexis et Angel et inscrit
lacte de lecture, dans sa matrialit mme, au cur du rcit: les deux
personnages se montrent attentifs la signature porte au bas des
manuscrits, lcriture manuscrite elle-mme, aux indices
typographiques fournis par les auteurs pour guider leur lecture:
Nous trouvmes dans ce chef duvre calligraphique de labb Joachim
trois passages crits en caractres plus gros, plus orns, et dune autre encre
que le reste, comme si le copiste et voulu arrter la mditation du
commentateur sur ces passages dcisifs. (S, p. 284)
Dans le sillage des personnages lecteurs, le lecteur du roman Spiridion
est invit lui aussi se montrer sensible aux signes distribus dans le
texte pour le conduire vers une issue et une signification
programmes: Lordre dans lequel Spiridion a plac ces trois
manuscrits sous une mme enveloppe doit tre sacr pour nous, et
signifie incontestablement le progrs, le dveloppement et le
complment de sa pense (S, p. 285).
La volont de mettre en scne la lecture dans les dernires pages
de roman semble avoir t amorce lors de la rcriture de Llia, dont
la seconde version parat en 1839, quelques mois aprs la premire
dition de Spiridion. Le dernier chapitre de ce roman, intitul Dlire,
qui pourrait aussi scrire d-lire, met laccent sur le moment de
sparation ncessaire, sur la dconstruction du texte, condition de sa
Claudine Grossir


Si dune version lautre, en effet, la conclusion de Llia cest-
-dire les quatre derniers paragraphes et la phrase finale recentrant le
rcit sur le personnage survivant, Trenmor reste identique, le dernier
chapitre dans son ensemble est compltement remodel, limage de
luvre. Mais, alors que la rcriture du roman sest effectue sous le
signe de lamplification, toute une partie supplmentaire tant
consacre lvocation de Llia devenue abbesse du couvent des
Camaldules, la fin du roman, dont on peut situer la limite interne la
mort de Stnio, vnement commun aux deux textes, saccompagne
au contraire dune condensation la version de 1839 apparaissant plus
courte de moiti et dun fractionnement, lultime chapitre de la
version initiale tant scind en 1839 en deux chapitres distincts.

Tandis que la premire version multiplie, par le biais de la thmatique
de la mort dveloppe jusqu saturation dans le texte, les annonces de
et semble prcipiter les vnements, la seconde version diffre la
mort de lhrone qui steint lentement, un an aprs Stnio. A
lesthtique du roman noir qui se dploie dans la version initiale se
substitue ainsi un registre tragique qui saccompagne dun
resserrement de la narration.
La violence du meurtre de Llia par le
prtre Magnus dans le roman de 1833 est transfre dans le procs
intent Llia relat dans lavant-dernier chapitre du roman de 1839.
La rclusion laquelle le personnage est condamn devient ainsi une
mort symbolique, et cest une voix doutre-tombe, dj absente du
rcit, qui se fait entendre dans le dernier chapitre.
Ces modifications
rsultent dun changement profond de perspective: les personnages,
sans rien perdre de leur individualit, incarnent dans la seconde
version les forces en conflit au sein de lglise. Lors de son procs,

Llia, texte de 1833 (Paris: Garnier, 1960), pp. 311-26, et Llia, texte de 1839, 2
vols (Meylan: ditions de lAurore, 1987), II, 154-60.
Par exemple dans Llia (texte de 1833): La dernire journe approche de son
terme (p. 311); Lange de la mort a fait une croix cette nuit sur la porte (p. 312);
une ombre sortie du spulcre pour hurler dans les tnbres; la digne fiance dun
cadavre; le phare sinistre (p. 313); pourquoi nest-ce pas moi qui suis tendue dans
ce cercueil? (p. 318); Que ne suis-je aussi prs de la tombe! (p. 323).
En avril et juillet 1839, quelques mois avant la parution de la seconde Llia,
paraissent, dans la Revue des deux mondes, Les Sept Cordes de la lyre et Gabriel,
deux romans dialogus o George Sand exprimente les frontires entre les genres,
rapprochant le roman du thtre.
George Sand a dj utilis ce procd dans lpilogue dIndiana.
Le motif du procs, employ comme signe de clture, a fait son apparition dans
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


Llia se trouve face une autorit extrieure (dsigne par on), non
plus face elle-mme. Aux yeux de Magnus, devenu inquisiteur, ce
qui confre sa folie une identit sociale, elle nest plus le dmon
tentateur, mais une hrtique. Les enjeux de la rvolte de Llia se
sont dplacs: elle nest plus narcissique, mais qute de vrit. Cette
ouverture de la fin de la seconde version de Llia est particulirement
rendue par les changements nonciatifs introduits dans le discours des
personnages. Dans le premier roman, Llia sadresse dabord Stnio,
puis Magnus, deux interlocuteurs qui ne peuvent lentendre, le
premier prisonnier de la mort, le second de la folie; dans la version de
1839, Llia garde le silence face ses accusateurs et ne retrouve la
parole quune fois recluse.
Trenmor qui, dans le roman de 1833,
ntait rintroduit que dans la dernire page du rcit, aprs la mort de
Llia, accompagne ici lhrone tout au long de son agonie et devient
son interlocuteur privilgi lors des dialogues qui prparent la longue
parole finale qui occupe la presque totalit du dernier chapitre. Cette
ultime parole de Llia devenue sibylle se prsente comme un discours
de la totalit qui cherche englober le pass comme lavenir, tout
entier fait de questionnement, dattente, tendu vers une vrit encore
Jai tout cherch, tout souffert, tout cru, tout accept. Je me suis agenouille
devant tous les gibets, consume sur tous les bchers, prosterne devant
tous les autels. [] Jai voqu tous les spectres, jai lutt avec tous les
dmons, jai suppli tous les saints et tous les anges, jai sacrifi toutes les
passions. Vrit! vrit! tu ne tes pas rvle, depuis dix mille ans je te
cherche et je ne tai pas trouve! [] Depuis dix mille ans jai cri dans
linfini: Vrit! vrit! Depuis dix mille ans, linfini me rpond: Dsir,
dsir! O Sibylle dsole, muette pythie, brise donc ta tte aux rochers de
ton antre, et mle ton sang fumant de rage lcume de la mer; car tu crois
avoir possd le Verbe tout-puissant, et depuis dix mille ans tu le cherches
en vain.

Lamplification laquelle la romancire a renonc dans la narration
sest toute entire rfugie dans le personnage de Llia dont la parole,

Mauprat (1837) et sera nouveau utilis dans La Comtesse de Rudolstadt (1844). Il
rsulte dune double exprience de George Sand: le procs monstre des rpublicains
en avril 1835 auquel elle assiste, et son propre procs en sparation qui sachve en
Toutes ces turpitudes lui causrent un tel dgot quelle se refusa toute
interrogation, et nessaya pas de se justifier (Llia, texte de 1839, II, 155).
Llia, texte de 1839, II, 159.
Claudine Grossir


bien plus que sa disparition, est une apothose. Ce discours impose au
lecteur de tenir le langage en suspicion et le laisse dans lattente dune
suite que le dpart de Trenmor, comme une forme de rponse aux
doutes de Llia, amorce. La conclusion du roman apparat ainsi
davantage justifie que dans la premire version du texte.
Le travail de rcriture auquel George Sand sest livre dans les
derniers chapitres de Llia tout comme dans la fin de Spiridion sest
traduit par lintroduction dans les secondes versions dune polyphonie
absente des premires versions: la parole de Llia se dtache sur fond
de procs et de discussions avec Trenmor, tout comme la parole de
Spiridion simpose au terme de la dcouverte de trois manuscrits et
sinscrit dans le dialogue entre Alexis et Angel. La disparition de Llia
comme celle dAlexis nest quune tape transitoire dans la ralisation
dune uvre que Trenmor et Angel sont chargs de poursuivre,
montrant le chemin au lecteur.
Six annes de travail ont t ncessaires George Sand pour
refondre Llia, trois annes seulement sparent les deux ditions de
Spiridion: la premire version de Spiridion, acheve en janvier 1838 et
publie en fvrier 1839 a sans doute largement bnfici du chantier
de la seconde Llia qui paratra sept mois plus tard en septembre
1839. Aussi la rvision du roman que lachvement de la seconde
version de Llia rend ncessaire, nentranera-t-elle pas une refonte
presque complte comme cest le cas pour Llia, mais seulement des
modifications dans la fin du rcit. Mais si la rdition efface la trace
de ces changements, la conservation cte cte des deux versions de
Llia, considres par George Sand comme deux uvres distinctes,
permet de reconstituer non seulement lvolution de la pense
religieuse de lauteur entre 1833 et 1839, mais galement dobserver
comment la narration, tout particulirement dans sa limite ultime, doit
innover pour permettre ces nouveaux enjeux de sexprimer.
La fin des romans semble un lieu stratgique qui favorise les
phnomnes dintratextualit:
Spiridion et Llia entretiennent une
troite solidarit, mais ils intgrent des donnes empruntes Mauprat
et annoncent Consuelo La Comtesse de Rudolstadt; Lucrezia
Floriani et Le Piccinino dialoguent lun avec lautre bien que leurs
sujets ne prsentent gure de points communs. Luvre romanesque

Jemprunte cette notion Isabelle Naginski, Les deux Llia: une rcriture
exemplaire, Revue des sciences humaines, 226 (1992), 65-84.
George Sand: la gense des fins de romans


toute entire, pourtant jamais envisage par George Sand comme un
systme organique, au mme titre que La Comdie humaine, et sans
(presque) jamais recourir au retour des personnages, tisse ainsi des
liens internes, moins dans la trame du rcit que dans la narration,
intimement lie aux dbats ouverts dans les uvres quun seul roman
ne suffit jamais clore. Paradoxalement, cest dans les changes, dans
le dialogue des uvres, et de lauteur et du lecteur, que luvre trouve
alors son identit et son unit, dans un mouvement incessant et

Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of
a Recurring Theme

Abstract: This essay examines the way in which Flaubert uses classi-
cal intertexts in his works, and, in particular, how the rewriting often
gives rise to a burlesque version of the original. It focuses on the tale
of Acteon, as recounted by Ovid in Metamorphoses and alluded to by
Apuleius in The Golden Ass, and demonstrates how these classical
stories are activated in Flauberts work. By means of an examination
of often striking textual similarities between Flauberts work and that
of Ovid and Apuleius, this piece shows how a clear pattern of intertex-
tual reference emerges in Flauberts work, ranging from early
straight borrowings from the classical texts to later burlesques of
certain of their aspects.

Numerous commentators have noted the importance of the fairy tale
as a point of reference in Flauberts work.
Equally as obsessive, and,
of course, also related to a particular fairy tale that of La Belle et la
Bte is the appearance of the Cupid/Eros and Psyche myth as a point
of reference for much of Flauberts symbolism.
So well-known is the
latter intertext that the myth emerges in the most unlikely circum-
stances: for example, in Gemma Bovery, Posy Simmondss cartoon re-

See, for example, Anne Green, Flaubert and the Sleeping Beauty: An Obsessive
Image, in New Approaches in Flaubert studies, ed. by Tony Williams and Mary Orr
(Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), pp. 65-80.
The most obvious example is Margaret Lowes study, Towards the Real
Flaubert: A Study of Madame Bovary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).
Lowe openly states: Each of Flauberts works is an allegory in the most general
sense, a variation on the myth of Psyche and Eros (p. xii).
Stephen Goddard


imagining of Madame Bovary, one of the plots peripeteiai surrounds
the breaking and symbolic repair of a statuette of Cupid and Psyche.

The aim of this article will be to demonstrate, much as Anne Green
maintains with reference to the Sleeping Beauty image, that there is at
the heart of Flauberts work a series of topoi surrounding, firstly, the
work in which the Cupid and Psyche myth is most famously re-
counted, Apuleiuss Golden Ass or Metamorphoses; and secondly, a
related section of another Metamorphoses, that of Ovid, where the fate
of Acteon a mortal hunter transformed into a stag as a punishment
for seeing the goddess Diana bathing, and torn to pieces by his own
hounds is recounted. It will be argued that the Acteon myth may be
detected in varying forms in Flauberts work from his earliest writings
up to and including Bouvard et Pcuchet. It will also be argued that a
theme familiar to any reader of Flauberts work one of the key
themes in the genesis of his work as a whole, that of curiosity pun-
ished may have been suggested to him by the myths of Acteon, of
Cupid and Psyche, and indeed by other aspects of Apuleiuss work.
A sensible starting-point would seem to be to investigate briefly
the nature and extent of Flauberts early acquaintance with the work
of Ovid and Apuleius. As so often, his Correspondance should be an
invaluable source; however, there appears to be one reference only to
Ovid in all Flauberts letters: a throwaway allusion in 1853 to the
poets exile chez les Scythes.
Notwithstanding, other sources
strongly suggest that Flaubert was familiar with Ovids Metamor-
phoses from an early age. As one might expect, the nineteenth-century
French educational system was simultaneously quite rigid in its pre-
scriptions and, like the English system of the time, closely based on
the literature of classical antiquity. Students in the 1830s could expect
to become acquainted with Ovids Metamorphoses during the
quatrime in Flauberts case, during the years 1835-36 when either
they or Virgils Eclogues and Georgics were studied at the end of the
school day.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Ovid, and not

Posy Simmonds, Gemma Bovery (London: Jonathan Cape, 1999).
Gustave Flaubert, Correspondance, ed. by Jean Bruneau, Bibliothque de la
Pliade, 4 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1973-98), II, 455. Unless otherwise stated, all refer-
ences to Flauberts correspondence are to this edition and are indicated by the abbre-
viation Corr.
Much information about the curriculum in force during Flauberts youth may be
found in Jean Bruneau, Les Dbuts littraires de Flaubert (Paris: Armand Colin,
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


Virgil, was studied at the Collge Royal de Rouen: allusions to Ovid
begin to appear in works by Flaubert dating from approximately the
period of his quatrime; for example, Agonies, a text begun in late
1836 or 1837, contains a reference to le dluge dOvide
(Ovid de-
scribes a universal flood in book 1 of the Metamorphoses), and
Smarh, of 1839, bears an Ovidian epigraph indigesta moles [a
rough, unordered mass]
from the seventh line of book 1 of Ovids
poem. Indeed, the descriptions in Smarh of the creation and the flood
can be shown to owe a good deal to Ovids descriptions in that text, as
Rea Keech, for example, has pointed out.
We may perhaps safely
surmise that Flaubert knew Ovids work well enough to emulate it by
Apuleiuss work, by contrast, featured nowhere in the French
nineteenth-century school curriculum: its earthy themes and frank
sexuality rendered it unsuitable for French adolescents. Flaubert, how-
ever, seems to have known The Golden Ass by the end of the 1830s
it is not unlikely that his intimate friend, Alfred Le Poittevin, whose
literary tastes ran very much to the late Roman empire, of whose pro-
duction the text is a typical example, introduced him to Apuleiuss
work. Several of Flauberts quasi-academic exercises of the late 1830s
specifically, Rabelais, of late 1838 or early 1839, and Rome et les
Csars, of August 1839 contain references to Apuleius, although
they are not in themselves proof of direct knowledge of his work. It
has, however, been convincingly demonstrated that many of
Flauberts works bear the marks of the religious elements of The
Golden Ass;
and certainly his Correspondance abounds in references
to the text: in particular, he mounted an enthusiastic (but possibly un-
successful) campaign in 1853-54 to persuade the fastidious Louise

1962); Bruneau in turn uses mile de Girardins De linstruction publique (1838).
Gustave Flaubert, uvres compltes, 2 vols (Paris: Seuil, 1964), I, 157. Unless
otherwise stated, all references to Flauberts works are to this edition and are indi-
cated by the abbreviation OC.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 1-4, trans. by D.E. Hill (Warminster: Aris & Phillips,
1985). All references are to this edition.
Flauberts Smarh and Ovids Metamorphoses, Romance Notes, 20.2 (1979-80),
Seznecs work, Les Sources de lpisode des dieux dans La Tentation de saint
Antoine (Premire version, 1849) (Paris: J.Vrin, 1940), adduces Apuleius as an
important source for Flaubert.
Stephen Goddard


Colet to read the text: Mets-toi ce bouquin-l et dvore-le (Corr, II,
104). His descriptions of it to her eloquently summarize the attraction
it held for him: sil y a une vrit artistique au monde, cest que ce
livre est un chef-duvre... a sent lencens et lurine, la bestialit sy
marie au mysticisme (Corr, II, 119).
We may safely assume, then, that probably by the end of his
schooldays, and certainly by the time he composed the first Tentation
de saint Antoine, Flaubert was conversant with the work of Ovid (one
of only three Latin Augustan authors, along with Virgil and Horace,
for whom he shows much enthusiasm), and of Apuleius (a quintessen-
tial representative of a period of Latin literature which was more to
Flauberts usual taste, and for which he showed substantial enthusi-
asm). We will now consider a scene central to Apuleiuss work, which
resonates intertexually with Ovids work and introduces a theme of
some importance in Flauberts fiction.
In book two of Apuleiuss Golden Ass, the hero, Lucius, who is
staying in Thessaly, makes the acquaintance of a long-lost relative,
Byrrhena, and is invited to dinner. Upon arrival at her house, he ad-
mires a particular piece of statuary, which is described in some detail:
it shows Diana, goddess of hunting (or, as Flaubert has it in the Dic-
tionnaire des ides reues, Desse de la chasse-tet
) on the point of
bathing, with Acteon, a huntsman, just visible spying upon her. Ac-
teon is himself described as being on the point of undergoing punish-
ment for his voyeurism: he is turning into a stag.
Three immediately significant points may be made. Firstly, the
scene is the first overt occurrence in Apuleiuss text of a key theme:
that of curiosity, often sexual (exemplified by Acteon), temptation and
transgression. The theme is further taken up, of course, by the story of
Cupid and Psyche (where Psyches curiosity as to the identity of her
mysterious lover has unfortunate consequences), and by Luciuss own
story, whose transformation into an ass is caused partly by his own
sexual, and also arguably intellectual, curiosity. Secondly, the theme
is introduced indirectly but in a self-aware manner: it is brought into
the text by the description of an artefact of apparently incidental sig-
nificance to the text as a whole. And thirdly, for any contemporary
Roman audience and, we may suppose, for Flaubert himself the

Flaubert, Bouvard et Pcuchet (Paris: Gallimard, 1979), p. 506.
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


scene immediately invites comparison with another text: the section of
the third book of Ovids Metamorphoses where Acteons full story is

Although Flaubert never alludes specifically to this passage of
The Golden Ass, there are a number of points in his work, from a very
early stage, where Apuleiuss procedures here are imitated: this is no-
tably the case when Flaubert creates a tableau of a woman, in a
pseudo-erotic context, caught or about to be caught unawares. The
scene is reproduced variously in serious mode, in burlesque mode, and
in some ways most like Apuleius with self-awareness, towards the
end of Flauberts career.
Most obviously, of course, Flaubert directly evokes Diana bath-
ing in the first two versions of La Tentation de saint Antoine. In the
1849 version, Diane chasseresse is openly named, and Antoine, like
Acteon, simply watches her and her nymphs bathe (OC, I, 431).

1856, the goddess is no longer identified by name; her nymphs are
now merely dautres femmes, and Antoine comments upon the scene
(OC, I, 497). In the definitive version of La Tentation, the scene has
vanished completely, although, unlike the two earlier versions, the
pisode des dieux does here contain a cameo of Diana. Space pre-
cludes enumerating all the textual similarities between Flauberts evo-
cation of Diana in 1849 and Ovids, and we should bear in mind that
other classical texts, including Virgils neid and Senecas Phdra,
may also provide Flaubert with material here. However, the most
striking similarities between Flauberts and Ovids texts merit closer
In an echo of Ovids vallis erat (Metamorphoses III, l.155),
Flauberts scene takes place in le fond dune valle (OC, I, 431), full
of trees, with Dianas pool surrounded by a grassy bank. Although
Antoine, unlike Acteon, is not directly punished, some incidents of
Ovids description of that punishment seem to find their way into
Flauberts description: in Ovid, the bashful goddess addresses Acteon
by speaking over her shoulder: oraque retro/flexit [and bent her head
back] (ll.187-88); in Flaubert, elle marche en regardant derrire (OC,

One recent study to have gone some way towards acknowledging the signifi-
cance to Flaubert of themes of curiosity in Apuleius and Ovid is Sylvie Lat-Berrs
Flaubert et lAntiquit: itinraires dune passion (Paris: Honor Champion, 2001);
see esp. pp. 138 and 141-49.
Stephen Goddard


I, 431). Likewise, although Flaubert does not depict Diana cursing the
voyeur, her action in cursing Acteon in Ovid hausit aquas vultum-
que virilem perfudit spargensque comas ultricibus undis [she drew...
the water and soaked the mans face and showered his hair with
avenging streams] (ll.189-90) is perhaps recalled as Flauberts
nymphs and she playfully splash each other with water. Finally, al-
though Apuleiuss description of the Diana statue seems to have
played comparatively little role in Flauberts scene, one element of it
may owe something to The Golden Ass: Flauberts Diana is accompa-
nied by dogs, as Ovids is not stated to be; but in Apuleius, canes
utrimquesecus de latera muniunt [there were dogs protecting both
flanks of the goddess] (II.4).

In La Tentation de saint Antoine, then, and most strikingly in the
1849 version, one of Flauberts earliest mature texts, Ovid and Apu-
leius seem to play a part in Flauberts re-imagination of Acteons
story. There is little evidence of the image of Diana spied upon play-
ing much part in Madame Bovary or in Salammb, although Emmas
fear/fantasy of being caught in her trysts with Lon may recall the to-
pos (Elle allait sur la pointe de ses pieds nus regarder encore une fois
si la porte tait ferme, OC, I, 670). However, in the 1869 ducation
sentimentale, a burlesque recollection of the scene may be identified.
When Frdric frequents Rosanettes house towards the start of part
two of the novel, Flaubert writes: Sans y prendre garde, [Rosanette]
shabillait devant lui, tirait avec lenteur ses bas de soie, puis se lavait
grande eau le visage, en se renversant la taille, comme une naade qui
frissonne (OC, II, 60). Rosanettes provocative behaviour, we are
told, blouissait Frdric, et lui fouettait les nerfs (ibid.), thus
accentuating the sexual tension of the tableau. Although Rosanette
superficially bears little resemblance to the chaste Diana, it is striking
that she, like Diana, is unaware of the effect she has on her audience
(sans y prendre garde), and that she is compared to a Naiad, a class
of nymph especially associated with Diana. One might also note that,
earlier in the same chapter of Lducation, when Frdric visits
Rosanette, she is preceded by deux bichons havanais (OC, II, 55),
possibly a burlesque recollection of Dianas two proud hunting
hounds in Apuleius.

Apuleius, The Golden Ass, trans. by J. Arthur Hanson (Cambridge, MA; Lon-
don: Harvard University Press, 1989). All subsequent references are to this edition.
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


Later in the novel, during Frdric and Rosanettes visit to Fon-
tainebleau, the implied identification of Rosanette with Diana is made
more explicit. When the lovers visit the chteau, their tour includes
lancienne galerie des Cerfs (OC, II, 125); they see des tapisseries
reprsentant les dieux dOlympe, Psych ou les batailles dAlexandre
(ibid.); and Frdric imagines des ballets mythologiques, assemblant
sous le feuillage des princesses et des seigneurs travestis en nymphes
et en sylvains (ibid., my italics). After establishing an atmosphere
containing many of the elements of the Acteon myth, Flaubert
introduces the figure of Diane de Poitiers: portraits of her sous la
figure de Diane Chasseresse, et mme en Diane infernale (ibid.) are
and Frdric asks Rosanette si elle naurait pas voulu
tre cette femme (ibid.). Her distracted response hides a reminder of
the emotional trauma of her first sexual experience, which she is pres-
ently to confess to Frdric. The effects of this passage are twofold:
the ironic identification of the desse de la chasse-tet with the Pari-
sian courtesan may be part of the deliberate incoherence that many
have noted in Lducation sentimentale; but also, Flaubert is here us-
ing his considerable familiarity with classical myth, and with the net-
work of symbols surrounding Diana in particular, to add depth to a
very real, contemporary experience of one of his characters.
If Rosanette at her toilette in Lducation is a possible burlesque
of Diana bathing, with the frustrated Frdric playing the part of Ac-
teon, Flauberts final novel may contain a further parody of the scene,
this time more overtly recalling Apuleiuss sculptural depiction of
Diana. It will be remembered that in chapter two of Bouvard et P-
cuchet, the two heroes are delighted to find in the garden of their new
house une dame en pltre: Avec deux doigts, elle cartait sa jupe,
les genoux plis, la tte sur lpaule, comme craignant dtre surprise
(OC, II, 208). Several elements echo the story of Acteon: the topos of
a woman surprised in a delicate situation, and a detail familiar from
Apuleiuss work, as well as from La Tentation the position of the
womans head. The fact that Flaubert here, like Apuleius, uses a statue
to recall the myth only sharpens the similarity.

Note how Flaubert demonstrates his familiarity with the concept that Diana pos-
sessed in myth many different attributes beyond her best-known associations with
chastity and hunting.
It is worth noting that the discovery by Bouvard and Pcuchet of an echo in
Stephen Goddard


We have seen, then, that Flauberts early readings of Ovid and
Apuleius seem to have left their mark on texts throughout his literary
career. Like Apuleius, Flaubert consciously recalls in several texts
something which informed readers will associate with themes of sex-
ual curiosity and ensuing punishment. If we return to the text of The
Golden Ass, we will see that, although the allusion to Acteon is fleet-
ing, hints are immediately dropped that it is of thematic significance
and relevant to Luciuss situation. Firstly, his hostess, Byrrhena, allud-
ing to the statue, informs him that Tua sunt... cuncta quae vides
[Everything you see... belongs to you] (II.5), thus establishing a link
between Lucius and Acteon. Byrrhena then goes on to warn Lucius
against the woman at whose house he is staying:
cave fortiter a malis artibus et facinorosis illecebris Pamphiles illius, qu
cum Milone isto, quem dicis hospitem, nupta est. maga primi nominis et
omnis carminis sepulcralis magistra dicitur

[Be careful! I mean watch out carefully for the evil arts and criminal
seductions of that woman Pamphile, who is the wife of that Milo you say is
your host. She is considered to be a witch of the first order and an expert in
every kind of sepulchral incantation] (II.5)
However, Byrrhenas advice has the opposite effect to that intended:
at ego curiosus alioquin, ut primum artis magic semper optatum audivi,
tantum a cautela Pamphiles afui ut etiam ultro gestirem tali magisterio me
volens ampla cum mercede tradere

[But in my curiosity, as soon as I heard that forever desirable name of
magic, far from being cautious of Pamphile, I yearned to turn myself over to
an apprenticeship of that sort, willingly and voluntarily, with all its high
costs] (II.6)
The ensuing sequence of events is inevitable: through a liaison with
Pamphiles maid Photis (of which more later), Lucius experiments
with magical potions belonging to Pamphile and is accidentally trans-
formed into an ass. His curiosity, like Acteons, is punished by meta-
morphosis; unlike Acteon, however, he is eventually redeemed, by the
intervention of the goddess Isis, and regains his human form. We have

their garden later in the same chapter has certain characteristics which recall Ovids
account of the story of Narcissus and Echo, which occurs after the story of Acteon,
also in the third book of his Metamorphoses.
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


also noted at least one other occurrence in Apuleius of the curios-
ity/punishment/redemption paradigm in the story of Cupid and Psy-
che. Clearly the theme is of central importance to Apuleius, and the
appearance of Acteon in book two of the text serves as a significant
introduction to it.
The metamorphoses of Acteons story in Flauberts text also re-
call the theme of curiosity punished sometimes, though not always,
in a sexual context. In La Tentation, although Antoine himself does
not undergo transformation, the vision he has in both the 1849 and
1856 versions immediately after that of Diana bathing, is of the bibli-
cal king Nebuchadnezzars fall, sometimes interpreted as a transfor-
mation into an animal (il se roule par terre, il beugle, OC, I, 433);
and, of course, in one sense Antoine is punished for his curiosity by
means of his temptations themselves. In both the 1849 and 1856 ver-
sions of La Tentation, Antoines fate is left somewhat uncertain; in the
definitive version, though, a redemption of sorts is achieved as An-
toine sees the face of Christ in the rising sun, a scene which bears
comparison with Isiss manifestation in The Golden Ass. Elsewhere in
Flauberts work, Emma Bovary, of course, may be seen as an example
of curiosity punished; while Frdrics curiosity in Lducation sen-
timentale, like so much of that text, seems to have no definitive reso-
However, a clearer recollection of Acteons punishment may be
found in Flauberts late work, La Lgende de saint Julien
lhospitalier. Jeanne Bem, in her study of La Tentation de saint An-
toine, identifies the Acteon myth as being central to Saint Julien.

Although an obvious thematic link between the tales of Acteon and
Julien is hunting, there is perhaps more significance in Flauberts ex-
ploitation of a confusion of identity arguably a virtual metamorpho-
sis particularly in relation to the main hunting scene in the text.
Many commentators have noted the similarity between the family
group of deer whom Julien kills father, mother and fawn/child and
his own family: his destruction of them prefigures his murder of his
parents later in the text. The implication that in killing the fawn,
Julien is killing himself is reinforced by echoes of Ovids account of
Acteons punishment and death.

Jeanne Bem, Dsir et savoir dans luvre de Flaubert: tude de La Tentation
de saint Antoine (Neuchtel: ditions de la Baconnire, 1979).
Stephen Goddard


The first hint of this appears in a description of Juliens stag-
hunting activities which immediately precedes the first hunting scene:
quand le cerf commenait gmir sous les morsures, il labattait
prestement, puis se dlectait la furie des mtins qui le dvoraient,
coup en pices sur sa peau fumante (OC, II, 180). In Ovids text, as
Acteons fate is played out,
cetera turba coit confertque in corpore dentes...
undique circumstant mersisque in corpore rostris
dilacerant falsi dominum sub imagine cervi

[the rest of the pack collected and sank their teeth in his body... they
surrounded him on every side, their muzzles buried in his body, and they
tore their master apart in his false guise as a stag] (III. ll.236, 249-50).
Like Julien, Acteons companions enjoy the spectacle: comites
rapidum solitis hortatibus agmen / ignari instigant [his companions,
in their ignorance, urged on the savage pack with their usual encour-
agements] (ll. 242-43). More telling, however, than the generic simi-
larity in the description of the hounds killing of the stag, and Juliens
voyeuristic enjoyment which echoes that of Acteons companions, is
the slight ambiguity possibly accidental, but certainly not grammati-
cally unavoidable of the phrase qui le dvoraient: the pronoun des-
ignates the animal, but could equally apply to Julien.
In the main hunting scene itself, when Julien attacks the family
of deer, the fawn is tachet; Acteon as a stag in Ovid is also dappled,
maculoso vellere (l. 197). Finally, the identification of the animal
family with Juliens own and with Acteon is reinforced by
Flauberts description of the female deers reaction to the fawns
death: sa mre, en regardant le ciel, brama dune voix profonde, d-
chirante, humaine (OC, II, 181; my italics); likewise, Acteon, as he is
lacerated by his hounds, gemit ille sonumque, etsi non hominis, quem
non tamen edere possit cervus [he groaned and the sound, even if it
was not human, was still not the sort a stag could produce] (ll. 237-
39). Flaubert seems to use the links between Juliens activities and
Acteons death to reinforce the implication that Julien is his own vic-
tim: that his actions in the end rebound upon him.
Perhaps the most striking example of Flauberts adaptations of
the punishment of Acteon, Lucius and their avatars in Ovids and
Apuleiuss texts occurs in Bouvard et Pcuchet. We have seen that
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


Luciuss fate in The Golden Ass is the result of his affair with the
maid-servant Photis and her incompetent attempts to help him perform
magic. One of the voyeurs of the dame en pltre in Bouvard et P-
cuchet appears to relive aspects of Luciuss and Photiss affair and is
himself in some sense punished for his sexual curiosity. The character
in question, of course, is Pcuchet, and his affair is also with a maid-
servant, Mlie. The name itself of the girl is suggestive: it closely re-
sembles the Greek meli and the Latin mel, both meaning honey, and
may imply that Mlie represents something of a honeyed trap for P-
cuchet. This possibility is reinforced by the fact that in The Golden
Ass, during Luciuss affair with Photis, a related image recurs: at one
stage, Photis flirtatiously warns Lucius, cave ne nimia mellis dul-
cedine diutinam bilis amaritudinem contrahas [Be careful not to catch
a case of chronic indigestion from eating too much sweet honey]
(II.10); shortly afterwards, she kisses him occursantis lingu illisu
nectareo [her tongue darting against mine with a touch like nectar]
(ibid.); and later, Lucius addresses her as mea mellitula [my little
honey] (III.22).
Thus far, the resemblance of the two affairs rests only on linguis-
tic coincidence. However, they also share a striking resemblance of
incident. Pcuchet is first attracted to Mlie as she performs a house-
hold task, drawing water from a well, and reveals part of her anatomy.
This strongly resembles the passage in Apuleius where Lucius is im-
pelled to seduce Photis (although, unlike Pcuchet, he has already de-
cided to do so) upon seeing her preparing a meal. Apuleiuss descrip-
tion is much more suggestive than Flauberts, but basic similarities
exist: the revealing household task, described in loving detail, occurs
in both passages, and although the two tasks here are different, P-
cuchet does subsequently enjoy the sight of Mlie carrying out a simi-
lar chore: soit quelle balayt le corridor, ou quelle tendt le linge,
ou quelle tournt les casseroles, il ne pouvait se rassasier du bonheur
de la voir (OC, II, 260; my italics). Indeed, an element of Acteon-like
voyeurism exists in both affairs: the sight of the beloved produces
similar reactions in Pcuchet and in Lucius the former, en la regar-
dant, sentait... un plaisir infini (OC, II, 259); the latter, isto aspectu
defixus obstipui[t] et mirabundus steti[t] [[he] was transfixed by the
sight, utterly stunned. [He] stood in amazement] (II.7). Beyond the
pleasure of seeing, too, Mlies effect upon Pcuchet resembles Pho-
Stephen Goddard


tiss upon Lucius: Photis warns her lover that, si te vel modice meus
igniculus afflaverit, ureris intime [if my little flame should blow
against you even slightly, you will burn deep inside] (ibid.); Mlie
inspires a similarly fevered reaction in Pcuchet il en avait les
fivres et les langueurs (OC, II, 260). Similarities of detail also exist
between the two works: just as Mlie, drawing water from the well,
tournait un peu la tte (OC, II, 259), so too does Photis, flirting with
Lucius, in me respexit [looked round at me] (II.8) and cervicem
intorsit [twisted her neck] (II.10) poses which we will recognize as
recalling those of Diana in Ovids story of Acteon.
The relationships themselves are very different, however; indeed,
comically so. Lucius and Photis, unlike Pcuchet, are sexually experi-
enced (Mlie, of course, is more experienced than she seems). Some
parallels do exist, nevertheless, in specific matters of detail: the man
in each case, at some stage, plants a kiss in the same place: Un soir,
[Pcuchet] toucha des lvres les cheveux follets de sa nuque (OC, II,
260); whereas, pronus in eam, qua fine summum cacumen capillus
ascendit, mellitissimum illud savium impressi [I planted that most
delicious [literally honeyed] of kisses on the spot where her hair rose
towards the top of her neck

] (II.10).
In both texts, the woman at some point returns a kiss: Flaubert
writes, Elle lui rendit son baiser (OC, II, 260); Apuleius, cum dicto
artius eam complexus cpi saviari. Iamque mula libidine... [with
that I held her tight and began to kiss her. Her ardour now began to
rival my own] (II.10). As might be expected, Pcuchets seduction of
Mlie little resembles Lucius and Photiss sexual gymnastics; but a
final parallel lies in the unfortunate consequences of each affair. We
have already seen the results for Lucius of his dalliance with Photis;
and in Bouvard et Pcuchet, as Flaubert boasts in a letter of December
1878 to Maupassant, Pcuchet vient de perdre son puclage, dans sa
cave!... Je vais maintenant lui foutre une belle vrole!.
unfortunate fructus belli, visited upon him by a godlike Flaubert, re-
calls Dianas curse upon Acteon, and the Fates punishment of Lucius.
However, the tenor of Flauberts description perhaps suggests how we
should read it: it is a half-serious modern retelling of what was already
a burlesque tale; it is a burlesque of a burlesque.

uvres compltes de Gustave Flaubert, including the Correspondance, 16 vols
(Paris: Club de lHonnte Homme, 1971-75), XVI, 109.
Flaubert, Apuleius and Ovid: The Genesis of a Recurring Theme


We have seen how Flaubert seems to find the tale of Acteon, as
told by Ovid and as suggestively alluded to by Apuleius, a rich source
for his work. The exposure by Apuleius, in his intertextual reference
to Acteon, of the storys symbolic power, reflected throughout The
Golden Ass, fertilized Flauberts own ideas, conflating the notions of
sexual and intellectual curiosity, and finding its own varying echoes in
almost all of Flauberts mature work. Strikingly, the earliest uses of
the myth in La Tentation de saint Antoine fit seamlessly into the clas-
sical/Egyptian/early Christian frame of reference of that text, and ad-
mit of no real burlesque or satirical reading. The echoes of Acteon and
of Apuleius in Bouvard et Pcuchet, on the other hand, show Flaubert
at his least reverential, using the classical material to burlesque, al-
most Rabelaisian effect.
Although this essay has confined itself specifically to the conno-
tations of the Acteon myth and its reflections, it seems likely that this
represents only the tip of an iceberg. To give a taste of other ways in
which Apuleius in particular may be of significance to Flaubert: Phil
Powrie posits Flauberts Hrodias and The Golden Ass as intertexts
to a work by Breton;
and the dance of Salom as described in
Hrodias contains elements which recall not only Apuleiuss Cupid
and Psyche (not least the comparison of Salom to une Psych cu-
rieuse, OC, II, 197), but also Ovids story of Echo and Narcissus
which, as we have seen, occurs in the same book of the Metamor-
phoses as that of Acteon. It seems highly probable that early readings
of Apuleius and of the first few books in particular of Ovids Meta-
morphoses, together with Flauberts perception of thematic and sym-
bolic links between those works, had a profound and lasting effect
upon the genesis of his uvre.

Phil Powrie, Bretons vertical labyrinth: towards a psycho-semiosis, Romanic
Review, 81 (1990), 454-65.

Perdue en traduction: Translation, Betrayal
and Death in Mrimes Carmen

Abstract: This essay explores Prosper Mrimes Carmen as a docu-
ment concerned at several discursive levels with the dissemination of
information about other cultures, and at the same time as a document
which is morbidly fascinated with this precise area of activity as a site
of mortal risk. The intradiegetic narratives of Don Jos and Carmen
are rich in the use of words from other languages, and in the discus-
sion of the use of foreign terms and languages as strategies of deceit.
This essay argues that the themes of betrayal and death, central to the
tale of Carmen and Don Jos, are inextricably linked to the motifs of
language, translation, exoticism and cross-cultural communication
which are key elements of Mrimes wider project.

One of the most striking features of Prosper Mrimes novella Car-
men (1845-47) is its preoccupation with translation, which, as traduc-
tion, is suggestively bound up, etymologically and/or pseudo-
etymologically, with notions of treachery and betrayal precisely the
kind of couleur locale one associates with exoticizing nineteenth-
century accounts of southern European cultures not too far removed,
either geographically or discursively, from an Orient undergoing
Indeed, the exoticizing context appears to make transla-

Traduction. (1530; livraison, XIIIe, dapr. le lat. traductio). [] 2. (fin xviii)
Expression, transposition.
Traduire. (1480; lat. traducere, proprem. faire passer) I: citer, dfrer. II.1
(1520). Faire que ce qui etait nonc dans une langue le soit dans une autre, en
tendant lquivalence smantique et expressive des deux noncs. [] 2. Exprimer,
Larry Duffy


tion, on the part of text, internal narratives, narrators and characters,
an essential mechanism in pinning down the essence of various Oth-
ers: Andalusians, Basques, Gypsies, women, Spanish people in gen-
eral, particularly in terms of their proximity to North Africa basi-
cally, in expressing a version of anyone not French, bourgeois, classi-
cally educated and male.

The fact that death in this case the demise of two of the three
principal characters, one by stabbing, the other by garrotting, as well
as that of several others is an apparent consequence of activities to
which the relative ability to translate, and wilfully to mistranslate, is
central, seems almost incidental, secondary to the foregrounded theme
of cross-cultural transfer, and itself part of the storys exoticization of
Mediterranean and Romany culture, just part of couleur locale.
However, what becomes apparent on close examination of
Mrimes story is that what the text actually does is to problematize
translation as part of a generalized problematization of the idea of
resolution, in which death as ultimate resolution is a key element. Fur-
thermore, translation is exploited as a strategy precisely to prevent the
essentialization of cultures. What I wish to suggest is that although on
the surface the nouvelles narrative seeks to essentialize various cul-
tures and their representatives, and although its underlying purpose
may well be to convey to a particular French readership in terms it can
understand (or recognize as exotic and different) an idea of Spain, and,
problematically, one of Romany culture, the story ultimately, perhaps
unwittingly, subverts its own essentializing discourse and highlights
the difficulties and indeed contradictions involved in translation con-
sidered as a straightforward process of exchange and equivalence, of
conversion from one state to another, of resolution.

de faon plus ou moins directe, en utilisant les moyens du langage ou dun art. (Le
Petit Robert)
The novellas Orientalist discourses have been comprehensively discussed in
readings by, amongst others, David Mickelsen, Travel, Transgression and Possession
in Mrimes Carmen, Romanic Review, 87 (1996), 329-44; Jos Colmeiro, Exorcis-
ing Exoticism: Carmen and the Construction of Oriental Spain, Comparative Litera-
ture, 54 (2002), 127-44; Peter Robinson, Mrimes Carmen, in Georges Bizet:
Carmen, ed. by Susan McClary, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp.
1-12; Luke Bouvier, Where Spain Lies: Narrative Dispossession and the Seductions
of Speech in Mrimes Carmen, Romanic Review, 90 (1999), 353-77.
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


The novellas main narrative frame purports to be the reminis-
cence, at fifteen years remove, of a travelling scholar inspecting ar-
chaeological sites in Spain, recounting, as light relief from his serious
academic work, a series of suitably exotic events following on two
related encounters, one with the honourable hidalgo-soldier-turned-
outlaw Don Jos, one with the mysterious bohmienne Carmen. These
encounters are related respectively in the first two chapters. The third
chapter is Don Joss account of being led astray into a life of banditry
by Carmen, who turns out to be a tratresse, betraying him with sev-
eral men (both criminal associates and victims of their crimes, who
meet their death at Joss hands), and whom he ultimately murders
when she tends to her picador lover, Lucas, gored by a bull, before
being sentenced to death himself.
We learn of Joss fate at the end of
the second chapter when the primary narrator meets him in jail. The
fourth chapter, added in 1847 with the works first appearance in book
form two years after its original publication (in the Revue des deux
mondes), is a pseudo-scholarly disquisition on the language and cus-
toms of the Romany people, heavily informed by the work of the Eng-
lish missionary George Borrow, author of An Account of the Gypsies
in Spain (1841) and The Bible in Spain (1842).

What is inescapably present in each of these four main sections
which make up the text is discourse originally enunciated in languages
other than French (ranging from titles of texts, to narratives, to prov-
erbs, to dialogue and explanatory footnotes): in chapter I, the narrator
refers to scholarly and semi-scholarly works in Latin, and in French
translation from Latin, as well as to dialogue flagged as being origi-
nally in Spanish; in chapter II, there are utterances in Spanish and
Romany; chapter III, we are expected to believe, is somehow tran-
scribed and translated from the Spanish of Don Jos, himself translat-
ing entire conversations from his native Basque and the Romany spo-
ken by Carmen; chapter IV, whose narrator, despite scholarly style, is
not necessarily the frame narrator not least since les lecteurs de

Prosper Mrime, Carmen, in Romans et nouvelles, ed. by Maurice Parturier, 2
vols (Paris: Garnier, 1967), II, 337-409 (p. 392). All subseqent references are to this
edition and are given after quotations in the text.
George Borrow, The Zincali; or an Account of the Gypsies in Spain (Philadel-
phia: James M. Campbell, 1843) and The Bible in Spain; or the Journeys, Adventures,
and Imprisonments of an Englishman in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the
Peninsula (Philadelphia: James M. Campbell, 1843).
Larry Duffy


Carmen, which story has its own narrator, are referred to discusses
versions of Romany in various countries, and explicitly mentions two
works on the subject in English by George Borrow. There are many
more examples; the important thing is that the promiscuity of utter-
ances and the languages in which they are voiced is closely linked to
the complexity of the narrative. Plausibility is also an issue from the
outset: as Luke Bouvier remarks in relation to the novellas first para-
graph, beginning with the words, Javais toujours souponn les
gographes de ne savoir ce quils disent... (p. 345), the text opens
precisely by evoking problems of a textual nature the deceptive ap-
pearance of words, the distinction between the oral and the written,
the relationship between fiction and history.

Language as a tool of deception as well as facilitator of under-
standing is a key theme throughout the story. Dexterity with language
is foregrounded not only as evidence of the reliability of the tales nar-
rative, but also of the plausibility of the narratives of its various char-
acters. And it is here precisely that the greatest caution must be exer-
cised, as their dexterity with language is what is exploited by the key
characters to dupe others, including the narrator, who has an inflated
opinion of both his capabilities as a translator and his knowledgeabil-
ity about language.
Sometimes the utterances in the text are flagged as being trans-
lated, sometimes they are not translated at all. In the opening chapter,
for instance, the most explicit reference to the fact that what we are
reading necessarily involves translation occurs when the primary nar-
rator first encounters Don Jos. Responding to the narrators attempt
to establish that they are conversant in the homosocial code of to-
bacco, which is a recurrent feature in the story, the stranger replies in
the affirmative.
His oui, monsieur (p. 347) is followed by the narra-
tors commentary on how it has been pronounced in Spanish (je re-
marquai quil ne prononait pas ls la manire andalouse), not only
highlighting further the narrators idea of himself as an expert on lan-

Luke Bouvier, Where Spain Lies: Narrative Dispossession and the Seductions
of Speech in Mrimes Carmen, Romanic Review, 90 (1999), 353-77 (p. 355).
See Carmen Mayer-Robin, Wine, Tobacco and Narcotica: Substances of Bour-
geois Decorum and Bohemian Pretensions in Mrime, Baudelaire and De Quincey,
Romance Notes, 43 (2003), 231-39: In Mrimes Bohemian novella, the sharing of
cigars and papelitos, Carmens favorite, brings together the most unlikely people and
engenders instant amicability, trust, respect and of course, love (p. 232).
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


guages and regional pronunciation and variation within languages, but
also informing the reader of the text that the utterance has been trans-
lated, and signalling that future utterances on Don Joss part related
in French should be presumed to be in Spanish, translated into French
by the narrator as here. On the other hand, the narrator sees no need to
translate or explain an anonymously authored book entitled Bellum
Hispaniense, mentioned in the first paragraph (p. 345). This classical
scholar also reads works in translation, having packed his Commen-
taires de Csar (pp. 345-46) as travel reading, lumped in with
quelques chemises as part of tout bagage.
Most conspicuously untranslated, however, is yet another quota-
tion from a work in another language: the epigram at the very start of
the story (p. 345) from the classical Greek poet Palladas of Alexan-
dria. The transliteration is of interest primarily for two of the words
which occur in it:
Pasa gyne cholos estin; echei dagathas duo horas,
Ten mian en thalamo, ten mian en thanato.
Now, the English translation of this (I cite the English since it remains
conspicuously untranslated in Mrimes text), is something along the
lines of: Every woman is a poison who has only two good hours; one
in bed, the other in death.
What is interesting here, apart from the
idea of poison, to which we shall return, is that the two words which
resemble each other are inflected forms of the nouns thalamos and
thanatos, and mean respectively bed, specifically the bridal bed in
which sex implicitly occurs, and death: women are poisonous, only
good for sex and death.
This brings us to Carmen. Likened to un camlon, she is every
woman, in that she is able effortlessly to occupy a number of roles and
cultural identities. Furthermore, she cannot be tied to any particular
one of these identities; as the narrator remarks on the subject of his
first encounter with her, je doute fort que mademoiselle Carmen ft
de race pure (which also indicates a privileging of certainty, in the
form of racial purity). Carmen is the consummate translator, the con-
summate transgressor of boundaries, whether these be political, geo-
graphical, cultural, sexual, moral or linguistic. And it is precisely be-

For this translation I acknowledge David R. Ellison, The Place of Carmen,
French Literature Series, 30 (2003), 73-85 (p. 79).
Larry Duffy


cause of the difficulties wrought for men by her capacity for trans-
gression that, as the epigram appears to imply, she must either be
someones lover or die. That is, the difficulties she wreaks must be
resolved, through death. And the difficulties she creates are usually
related to the fact that being someones lover is for her highly prob-
lematic. Various men (two in particular in the story) wish to own her,
but she refuses to be owned, to be understood once and for all, so the
only way to achieve resolution for Don Jos, an inferior translator who
is at first lured by her mastery of language, is to kill her.
What then of Carmens talents? From the outset, she is able to
manipulate others through her use of language, all the more impres-
sive for her being the only central character not also to be a narrator.
She encounters the primary narrator in chapter II, emerging from a
communal bath, unveiling herself in a tobacco-related context remi-
niscent of that in which the former encounters Don Jos, except this
time it is a case of implied removal of, rather than shared celebration
of, the phallus:
En arrivant auprs de moi, ma baigneuse laissa glisser sur ses paules la
mantille qui lui couvrait la tte [...]. Je jetai mon cigare aussitt. Elle
comprit cette attention dune politesse toute franaise, et se hta de me dire
quelle aimait beaucoup lodeur du tabac. (p. 358)
Once he has thereupon offered her a cigar, her next move is a faux-
naf enquiry about linguistic and cultural origin. While the narrator in
this episode, as elsewhere, is playing up his self-appointed status as
porte-parole and interpreter for all things Spanish, as well as his sup-
posed talent for determining the cultural origins and relative confor-
mity to type of his interlocutors, Carmen indulges a pompous naivety
of which she appears instinctively aware, teasing various presumptu-
ous and erroneous diagnoses out of him (vous tes probablement de
Cordoue?; Vous tes du moins Andalouse. Il me semble le recon-
natre votre doux parler). These fit progressively more intensely
into orientalist discourses on Spain, and finally move from Andalusia
to the speculation: Alors, vous seriez donc Moresque, ou... je
marrtai, nosant dire: juive (p. 359).
Once Carmen reveals her cultural identity (vous voyez bien que
je suis bohmienne), the narrative shifts abruptly, via her offer to
di[re] la baji, that is, to indulge in fortune-telling, to talk, on the nar-
rators part, of sorcery and the fact that he is in the company of a ser-
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


vante du diable (p. 359). Carmens demonization is followed by ex-
tension of her perceived ruthlessness to the Romany people, with the
aid of a translated Spanish proverb, il de bohmien, il de loup (p.
360), which itself represents a form of translation in that it sets up an
equivalence between bohmien and loup, stating that one is the
other in order to render it understandable. Furthermore, the proverb,
qui dnote une bonne observation (p. 360), has its meaning modified
to imply ruthlessness; this is done through the use of yet another
translation, the expression of something in terms of something else:
Si vous navez pas le temps daller au Jardin des Plantes pour tudier
le regard dun loup, considrez votre chat quand il guette un moineau
(pp. 360-61).
This easy transferability of species further parallels the ease with
which Carmen inhabits multiple identities. And indeed, in Don Joss
subsequent narrative, it is precisely in her eyes that this promiscuity is
signalled: having just displayed her ruthlessness in slashing her female
colleague in the tobacco factory, avec le couteau dont elle coupait le
bout des cigares (p. 369), we are told that elle roulait des yeux
comme un camlon (ibid.). This is the context in which she meets
Don Jos, who arrests her and then is persuaded into releasing her,
clearly susceptible to her charms (Je ne sais pas si dans sa vie cette
fille-l a jamais dit un mot de vrit; mais, quand elle parlait, je la
croyais (p. 371)), but also fearful of her as potential castratrix. This
susceptibility is due precisely to her ability to speak his language, and
thus appear to take on his cultural identity, even if she is not com-
pletely convincing, to the point of deforming the Basque tongue: Elle
estropiait le basque, et je la crus Navarraise; ses yeux seuls et sa
bouche et son teint la disaient bohmienne (p. 371). Again, her eyes
are the giveaway, but against his better judgment he is swayed by her;
he is a masochist, in that he senses the possibility of castration but wil-
fully indulges her. There thus commences a romance and professional
partnership which results in Don Joss transition from soldier rising
through the ranks, to smuggler and outlaw, having accepted what
Carmen routinely refers to as la loi dgypte, an allusion to the sup-
posedly Egyptian origins of the Gypsies, discussed later in the sup-
plementary fourth chapter. And their success in moving contraband
across borders derives precisely from their shared linguistic and cul-
tural marginality in the context of Castilian Spain. However, some
Larry Duffy


people are more marginal than others: Don Jos still has a very dis-
tinct sense of cultural origin, and of his status within his own culture;
furthermore, although he is capable of shifting between Basque and
Spanish, he does not necessarily enjoy or find easy a multiplicity of
voices: in the quasi-harem of the tobacco factory, he is made uneasy
by the trois cents femmes [...], toutes criant, hurlant, gesticulant, fai-
sant un vacarme ne pas entendre Dieu tonner (p. 368); he also re-
marks of Gibraltar, the interstitial locus of much of his and Carmens
later criminal activity, that:
Il y a l force canaille de tous les pays du monde, et cest la tour de Babel,
car on ne saurait faire dix pas dans une rue sans entendre parler autant de
langues. Je voyais bien des gens dgypte, mais je nosais gure my fier; je
les ttais, et ils me ttaient. (p. 390)
He feels uneasy here, not least because he is forced to act the uncom-
prehending fool in Carmens deception of the English mylord, to
whom she mistranslates Don Joss serious threats uttered in Basque,
clatant de rire sa traduction (p. 391), and hence minimizes and
ridicules them. But Don Joss unease also stems from the fact that
fluidity of cultural identity is not his thing: Je ne suis gyptien que
par hasard; et, pour certaines choses, je serai toujours franc Navarrais,
comme dit le proverbe (p. 393), footnoted as Navarro fino by the
would-be polymath primary narrator, still very much present in this
section narrated by Don Jos. In short, Don Jos likes certainty, and
suffers anxiety in uncertain contexts, not least where culture is con-
cerned. The particular cultural context in which he finds himself con-
fronted by Carmens polymath capriciousness and ruthlessness is al-
ready one in which he is uncertain of his own cultural identity: he is a
Basque in Castilian Spain. On the one hand he is noticeable as being
from a particular area, but on the other, his social identity is less obvi-
ous. Furthermore, he is not merely in Castilian Spain, he is in Andalu-
sia. A rather curious detail mentioned by the narrator in his footnote to
his first encounter with Joss accent is that [l]es Andalous aspirent
ls, et la confondent dans la prononciation avec le c doux et le z, que
les Espagnols prononcent comme le th anglais (p. 348). Amidst the
general promiscuity of languages and dialects here, it must surely
emerge as significant that someone named Jos Lizarrabengoa is a
Basque, that is, someone for whom s and z are distinct sounds (and
also someone as close to France as one can find if one is looking for a
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


protagonist with whom French readers can identify), in a cultural con-
text where there is no distinction between these letters, and where he
falls in love with someone whose destruction (and transgression) of
cultural, linguistic and indeed sexual boundaries is a central factor in
undermining his own sense of security. Comparison is surely invited
with Balzacs novella Sarrasine, in which the Parisian protagonist,
whose name is pronounced as if its second s is a z, falls into confusion
over his own identity because of his love for a similarly ambiguous
figure in another Southern European setting: la Zambinella, the singer
mistaken for a woman but in fact a castrato. And surely Roland
Barthess reading of the anxiety-inducing interchangeability of the
letters s and z is particularly apposite in both cases: Z est la lettre de
la mutilation: phontiquement, Z est cinglant la faon dun fouet
chtieur, dun insecte rinnyque; graphiquement [...], il coupe, il
barre, il zbre; Z is la lettre de la dviance, linitiale de la
While not as pronounced as in Sarrasine, where the pro-
tagonist contemple en Zambinella sa propre castration (ibid.), the s/z
confusion in Carmen might be seen as part of a generalized anxiety
linked to an implicit running theme of castration. Carmen is the ulti-
mate generator of this anxiety as she is the very embodiment of lin-
guistic flexibility, ambiguity and confusion, in a world where some-
one like Don Jos, foreign, yet not completely foreign, feels already
unsure of his sense of self. Carmen is like a hypertrophied reflection
of himself: he may straddle Basque and Spanish identities, whereas
she occupies several more. What Carmen appears to be aware of is the
notion that signification is an entity in constant circulation, whereas
Don Jos sees signification as a simple process of exchange, equiva-
lent gain for equivalent loss. In love, as in translation, Don Jos ex-
pects a quid pro quo, and nothing ambiguous. Precisely because he
expects things to be this way, Carmen becomes estranged from him.
This expectation of equivalence is not particular to his relationship
with Carmen. Earlier in the story, he remarks to the primary narrator:
votre guide ma trahi, mais il me le payera (p. 355), that is to say that
betrayal has a price (as it turns out in this case, the primary narrators
warning that the authorities are coming), but only insofar as all phe-
nomena have measurable equivalents. Jos is ultimately incapable of

Roland Barthes, S/Z (Paris: Seuil, 1970), p. 113.
Larry Duffy


rendering Carmen a certainty for himself, of resolving her status as his
lover, because he bargains: he attempts to establish a quid pro quo.
Having been taunted by Carmen for his reluctance to participate in a
smuggling operation, he backs down: Jeus la faiblesse de la rappeler,
et je promis de laisser passer toute la bohme, sil le fallait, pourvu
que jobtinsse la seule rcompense que je dsirais (pp. 380-81). So,
his agreement to participate in one form of translation, the transfer of
what are referred to as marchandises anglaises across a legal bound-
ary, is conditional upon another transaction. But although Carmen
agrees to tenir parole (p. 381), apparently colluding in the transac-
tional nature of language in which Jos believes, she later announces
to him:
Tu mas rendu un plus grand service la premire fois, sans savoir si tu y
gagnerais quelque chose. Hier, tu as marchand avec moi. Je ne sais pas
pourquoi je suis venue, car je ne taime plus. Tiens, va-ten, voil un douro
pour ta peine. (p. 381)
The detail of the coin clearly accentuates Carmens contempt for
money and for conventional transaction and exchange. She is so suc-
cessful at manipulating people through language precisely because of
her refusal to see things in terms of equivalences. The sort of transac-
tions she does accept are those connected with her self-proclaimed
role as sorceress: it is to be expected that she should bring ill luck to
any man who expects to engage with her on conventional terms.
There is however one area where Carmen does participate in a
kind of exchange, that of healing. When Don Jos has been cut in the
forehead by the sword of his superior officer, another of Carmens
dupes, whom he then kills, Carmen shows that she is a healer as much
as a slasher. Tending to his wound she remarks: Je te lai dit que je te
porterai malheur. Allons, il y a remde tout, quand on a pour bonne
amie une Flamande de Rome (p. 382).
Ill luck and healing are men-
tioned in close proximity. The fact that there is a remedy for every-
thing does not however mean that there is a simple opposition of anti-
dote and cure for each individual ailment. Uncertainty surrounds the
nature of the cure which Carmen offers. Don Jos recounts: Elle et

The term Flamande de Rome is comprehensively footnoted by the frame narra-
tor (p. 382), who explains that the term Flamenca derives from the fact that the first
Gypsies seen in Spain had come from the low countries.
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


une autre bohmienne me lavrent, me pansrent mieux que net pu
le faire un chirurgien-major, me firent boire je ne sais quoi (p. 383).
The cure provided, if not embodied, by Carmen, is, like herself, of
indefinable quality. It is not a precise antidote which cures a particular
illness by process of exchange. And it is clearly linked to Carmens
presumed sorcery: this diable de fille (pp. 383-84) is a dispenser of
ces drogues assoupissantes dont elles [les bohmiennes] ont le secret
(p. 383). It would seem, then, that Carmen is both poisoner and cure,
if not, as the Greek epigram suggests, an actual poison. Carmen might
therefore be regarded as an archetype of the pharmakon, the harmful-
ness of which, in Derridas reading of Plato, est accuse au moment
prcis o tout le contexte semble autoriser sa traduction par remde
plutt que par poison.
Carmen, also readable as the scapegoated
pharmakos (sorcier, magicien, empoisonneur
), is neither one thing
nor the other, neither fully inside nor outside the society in which she
operates, and her perceived wickedness is linked precisely with this
status. As well as being from nowhere and from everywhere,
men is every woman and yet a distinctive individual. She has highly
specific skills, and is yet generalizable to the poisonous castrating fe-
male whom every man fears. What makes her particularly terrifying is
precisely her ambiguous, uncertain status, especially in a narrative
context where there is such concern for certainty, voiced at the outset
by the frame narrator, who hopes to resolve scholarly doubts through
the publication of a text, un mmoire, which has already been writ-
ten. In relation to his investigations, he remarks that he had toujours
souponn les gographes de ne savoir ce quils disent; his thoughts
on the accurate location of a site whose whereabouts has been con-
fused by faulty translation are based on his propres conjectures on an
anonymous Latin text; and his mmoire ne laissera plus, he hopes,
aucune incertitude dans lesprit de tous les archologues de bonne
foi (p. 345). That is, once his mmoire is given authenticity by pub-
lication as a book, there will be no more ambiguity. But it is precisely
through writing, in what is acknowledged in the storys later supple-
ment as a work which people have read, that ambiguity is intensified,

Jacques Derrida, La Pharmacie de Platon (1969), in La Dissemination (Paris:
Seuil, 1972), p. 125.
Ibid., p. 149.
Mickelsen, p. 330.
Larry Duffy


that the certainty that the narrator hopes to create once and for all is
shown to be vain and open to question, that his cultural knowledge
and language skills are shown to be not as sound as he might imagine
them to be, that we see that plausibility as a notion is unreliable, as are
statements of the kind X is Y, and that attempts to rule out ambiguity
through some kind of final resolution are problematic and fruitless.
Comme mon rom, tu as le droit de tuer ta romi; mais Carmen sera
toujours libre (p. 401), says Carmen before she is murdered, suggest-
ing that her death is only meaningful in the limited context of a con-
tractual relationship, in this case marriage, but that beyond this limited
contract, this particular death is not real. Limmortalit et la
perfection dun vivant consistent navoir rapport aucun dehors,
writes Derrida in La Pharmacie de Platon (p. 115). Carmen will al-
ways be free, and is implicitly immortal, precisely because there is no
outside for her. She is only an outsider in the terms of reference of the
particular society she inhabits, and it is only in such a context that she
can be killed.
Indeed, the question is raised of who is really dead here. The ap-
pending of a pseudo-academic supplement on language and dialect
which enlightens us no further on the story just related serves as if to
kill off the narrator, and to render his story somehow incomplete. All
this supplement does is to highlight the undecidability of Romany cul-
ture, thus in a sense undermining the attempts in the story preceding it
to resolve Carmen in death, or to resolve linguistic and cultural differ-
ence through a particular form of translation or cultural transfer under-
stood in a limiting sense. Mrimes text may be complicit in what, in
this reading, it implicitly criticizes, but at least it indicates an aware-
ness that the project of cross-cultural representation in which it is en-
gaged is inherently problematic. Carmen can only be killed within the
text, but it is clear that the text is extendable, open-ended; again, once
it is acknowledged that in terms of the ambiguous linguistic operations
performed by Carmen in the text bearing her name, il ny a pas de
hors-texte, it is clear that she cannot be written off, except in the con-
text of a limited and inflexible understanding of language and textual-
It is to be noted that while there is no reference to the narrator or
Don Jos in the final chapter (discussing precisely the linguistic and

Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 1967), p. 227.
Translation, Betrayal and Death in Mrimes Carmen


cultural polyvalency of the Romany people), there is a reference to
[les] lecteurs de Carmen (p. 409). The lack of italics would seem to
indicate that whereas the men, in whose discourses she has been
framed, translated for consumption by specific audiences, no longer
have any meaningful existence, she still enjoys an existence whose
supposedly merely textual nature remains ambiguously open to ques-
tion; she cannot be reduced or confined to the text she (temporarily,
provisionally) inhabits, despite attempts to translate her once and for

Le Tombeau de la Posie: Strategies of
Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and

Abstract: During the mid-nineteenth century, the death of God and the
loss of faith in absolute values threaten fixed poetic forms with obso-
lescence. As the Hugolian analogy between divine, cosmic and poetic
order collapses, poets are left with a verse form whose rhythms and
harmonies seem to correspond to no higher reality. Yet careful re-
examination of the poetic idea provides the catalyst for its re-birth.
This essay explores the similarities between the treatment of poetrys
death and re-birth in the work of Mallarm and Banville, and exam-
ines how texts lamenting the death of real acquaintances also function
as laments for Poetry. Finally, it studies subtle textual indications that
the victory of re-birth over death may be nothing more than an illu-
sion, albeit a necessary one central to the poetics of modernity.

In the spring of 1866 Mallarm suffers a profound spiritual crisis and
loses faith both in God, whom he now regards as a fictional creation,
and in the divine significance of the universe, including humankind;
as he tells Henri Cazalis in a letter that year, je le sais, nous ne som-
mes que de vaines formes de la matire.
This crisis provokes a pe-
riod of creative impotence, as the poet confronts a world cut adrift
from its previous stability. Similar doubts had already crept into po-
etry with the publication, in LArtiste in 1844, of Nervals Le Christ

Letter of 28 April 1866, in Correspondance, Lettres sur la posie, ed. by
Bertrand Marchal (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), p. 297 (Mallarms italics).
David Evans


aux Oliviers. As Christ exclaims Non, Dieu nexiste pas! (l.8),
Abme! abme! abme! (l.12), and Dieu nest pas, Dieu nest plus!
(l.14), verses privileged link with a divine universe is also thrown
into question. For Victor Hugo, the regular rhythms and harmonies of
verse had corresponded to those of the heavenly bodies, which pro-
vide proof of Gods existence. In Extase, for example, from Les Ori-
entales of 1829, the astral announcement of a divine presence could
not be more explicit:

Et les toiles dor, lgions infinies,
A voix haute, voix basse, avec mille harmonies,
Disaient [] Cest le seigneur, le seigneur Dieu! (ll. 7-12)

Yet with its metaphysical crisis, Poetry as we know it dies. For Mal-
larm, too, the early period of poems inspired by a Baudelairean
yearning for the Ideal also comes to an end, and his output slows; in
1868-69 he works on Igitur, a prose text in which the subject consid-
ers both the burden of his ancestry and the problematic relationship
between his senses and the world; in 1875-1876 he reworks sections
of the Faune; and in 1873 he composes Toast funbre to mark the
death of Thophile Gautier, the first in a series of tombeaux for dead
artists which come to make up an increasingly large portion of his
work. Yet two poems from the fallow period of the 1870s often go
overlooked, since Mallarm did not include them in any edition of his
poetry; with Le Tombeau dEdgar Poe of 1876 they are two of only
three sonnets he composed in the whole decade. The first Dans le
jardin, was written in 1871, and the second, Sur les bois oublis,
which simply carries the generic title Sonnet, dates from 1877; both
deal with the subject of death, and although each was written for a real
acquaintance of the poets, as is so often the case with Mallarm, both
poems transcend their particular context and can be usefully inter-
preted more widely. Indeed, given their dates, they mark two crucial
turning points in Mallarman poetics: firstly from the faith of the early
poems to the disillusionment of the late 1860s, and then from this dis-
illusion to the triumph of what Mallarm famously calls, in the same
letter to Henri Cazalis of 1866, his Glorieux mensonge (p. 298).
The first poem was given, during a short stay near Bath in 1871,
to Ellen Linzee Prout, the wife of Irish poet William Charles Bona-
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


parte-Wyse, who had almost succumbed to serious illness two years

Dans le jardin

La jeune dame qui marche sur la pelouse
Devant lt par de pommes et dappas,
Quand des heures Midi combl jette les douze,
Dans cette plnitude arrtant ses beaux pas,

A dit un jour, tragique abandonne pouse
A la Mort sduisant son Pote: Trpas!
Tu mens. vain climat nul! je me sais jalouse
Du faux Eden que, triste, il nhabitera pas.

Voil pourquoi les fleurs profondes de la terre
Laiment avec silence et savoir et mystre,
Tandis que dans leur cur songe le pur pollen:

Et lui, lorsque la brise, ivre de ces dlices,
Suspend encore un nom qui ravit les calices,
A voix faible, parfois, appelle bas: Ellen!

Wooley-Hill House, Aot 1871

The poem describes a young widow walking in a summers garden at
midday and lamenting her husbands death, which is contrasted with
the cruel vitality of her surroundings. Moreover, she accuses death
itself of lying (ll.6-7); it has taken her husband away, yet she has no
faith in any heaven to which he might have gone, unable to believe
that he has returned to a faux Eden (l.8). We might imagine his body
returned to the earth, but beyond this there can be no prospect of tran-
scendence to a heavenly realm, since, as Mallarm told Cazalis, nous
ne sommes que de vaines formes de la matire. However, in the first
tercet, the flowers which are deeply rooted in this earth (l.9) seem to
harbour a mysterious secret in their pollen, the stuff of new life. As
this is released onto the breeze, the deceased whispers his wifes name
from beyond the grave, suggesting that, although his body is no more,
his soul lives on. Thus as Mallarm dramatizes the loss of faith which
he has suffered, he allows for the possibility that he might be wrong.
Indeed, it seems to be poetry itself which suggests this possibility, as
the fleurs profondes de la terre (l.9) recall the familiar Baudelairean
symbol of poetry as featured in LEnnemi (les fleurs nouvelles que
David Evans


je rve, l.9), La Mort des artistes (les fleurs de leur cerveau, l.14)
and most pertinently of all, Le Guignon, where the poet visits an iso-
lated cemetery, his heart battant des marches funbres (l.8):

Mainte fleur panche regret
Son parfum doux comme un secret
Dans les solitudes profondes. (ll.12-14)

This allegorical reading certainly sits comfortably alongside
Hrodiade and LAprs-midi dun faune, which both explore the
relationship between the artist and his ideal in terms of that between
lovers. In Dans le jardin, it is perhaps poetry, then, which calls softly
to the sceptical mourner, but although her doubts might be misplaced,
she cannot for the moment see beyond them. As we shall now see, the
texts formal subtleties lend themselves to interpretation within this
allegorical reading.
Despite its regular appearance, the form of the poem is not quite
as it seems. Firstly, the rhyme scheme itself, although not as radical as
some of Baudelaires sonnets, diverts from the canonical model in the
quatrains, with abab abab rather than abba abba. As Jacques Roubaud
has shown, the regular French sonnet is rhymed from the Renaissance
onwards with these rimes embrasses in the quatrains followed by a
rime plate (cc) then either rimes croises (dede) as used extensively
by Jacques Peletier, an original member of Ronsards Pliade, or
rimes embrasses (deed) as preferred by Clment Marot.
As well as
deviating from the iconic rhyme scheme, the poem also contains some
metrically irregular constructions which disturb the rhythm of the hal-
lowed alexandrine. In line 1, the accentually weak relative pronoun
qui is placed just before the caesura, with the much more pro-
nounced verb marche displacing the accent onto the seventh syllable.
In line 7, at precisely the point where the widow pronounces heaven to
be a lie, it is nul which closes the sense group, followed by an ex-
clamation mark and an emphatic pause, again shifting the regular met-
rical accent from the sixth to seventh syllable. In line 8, the formal
inscription of doubt is further underlined by the accentual hiatus of
que, triste, reinforced by the commas. In this way, the loss of faith in

Jacques Roubaud, La Forme du sonnet franais de Marot Malherbe in Cahiers
de potique compare, 17-19 (Paris: Publications Langues dO, 1990). See especially
pp. 146-55.
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


a transcendental ideal realm is articulated in a text which rejects tradi-
tional regularity, and thus no longer conforms to the order which, it
had once been imagined, characterized that ideal. Tellingly, the
widows denial comes just as the clock strikes twelve, as if the sudden
insight into the vanity of belief coincides with her recognizing the ul-
timate vanity of the metrically symbolic number twelve. Indeed, the
verb jeter ties these twelve chimes even more tightly into Mallar-
man poetics as it belongs to a privileged network of references to
dice and games which extends, via le doute du Jeu suprme (Une
dentelle sabolit, l.2), as far as Un Coup de ds. As the widows
name fades away into silence after the poems final rhyme, we are left
unsure whether she has heard it or not; if, as I have suggested, the text
can be read as an allegory of artistic disenchantment, we might con-
clude that, in order for our flagging faith in poetry to be restored, we
must not close our ears entirely to its persuasive efforts.
The poem written six years later, which for Bertrand Marchal
represents le pome par excellence de limmortalit potique,
sents almost the same situation but reverses the narrative perspective.
It was written in memory of the wife of egyptologist Gaston Maspero,
Ettie Yapp, who died in 1873 at the age of twenty-seven:

2 novembre 1877

Sur les bois oublis quand passe lhiver sombre
Tu te plains, captif solitaire du seuil,
Que ce spulcre deux qui fera notre orgueil
Hlas! du manque seul des lourds bouquets sencombre.

Sans couter Minuit qui jeta son vain nombre,
Une veille texalte ne pas fermer lil
Avant que dans les bras de lancien fauteuil
Le suprme tison nait clair mon Ombre.

Qui veut souvent avoir la Visite ne doit
Par trop de fleurs charger la pierre que mon doigt
Soulve avec lennui dune force dfunte.

Ame au si clair foyer tremblante de masseoir,
Pour revivre il suffit qu tes lvres jemprunte

Mallarm, uvres compltes, Bibliothque de la Pliade, 2 vols (Paris:
Gallimard, 1998 and 2003), I, 1213.
David Evans


Le souffle de mon nom murmur tout un soir.

(Pour votre chre morte, son ami.)

Here the entire poem is spoken by the deceased woman, addressing
her widowed husband as he sits alone by the fireplace on a dark winter
night. In the second stanza, he is unable to sleep until the last embers
have burnt out, keeping watch in case her ghostly image appears in the
firelight. In the first tercet she warns him not to cover her tombstone
with so many flowers that she cannot lift the lid and begin her nightly
visit; in the second she declares that she might be brought back to life
if he murmurs her name softly throughout the evening. Whereas, in
Dans le jardin, the possibility of the husbands rebirth for his widow
is confounded by her loss of faith, the conditions for the wifes rebirth
in the second sonnet seem more promising. Furthermore, whereas the
action in the first poem takes places at midday, the second takes place
at the equally symbolic hour of midnight. Yet one of the conditions
for the mysterious re-appearance of the deceased is that her widower
pay no attention to the chiming clock (l.5); it is not that he should not
hear it couter is not entendre but rather, that having heard it, he
must ignore the possible vanity of those twelve regular beats, ex-
pressed at the rhyme (vain nombre) which closes the sequence.
Since the term nombre recurs frequently in the discussion of poetic
rhythm by Baudelaire and Banville to name but two we are enti-
tled to wonder whether the vanity of verse nombre is reflected for-
mally in the text.
Indeed, the poem is much more regular than its predecessor. Mal-
larm reverts to the canonical rhyme scheme in the quatrains, and for
the tercets uses the dede form which Banville, in his Petit Trait de
posie franaise of 1872, insists is the only regular sonnet form per-
While Banvilles stipulation may not be the reason for Mal-
larms choice, from this point on throughout the 1880s and 1890s, all
twenty-three of his Petrarchan sonnets obey this rhyme scheme, four-
teen in alexandrines and nine in shorter metres; in stark contrast, all
sixteen of Mallarms sonnets from the Posies de jeunesse to Dans
le jardin of 1871 display some sort of deviation from the norm, which

Thodore de Banville, Petit Trait de posie franaise (Paris: Ressouvenances,
1998), p. 197. All subsequent references are to this edition and are given after quota-
tions in the text.
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


certainly suggests that the two poems which concern us here represent
a crucial turning point.
Furthermore, Sur les bois oublis features
no rhythmical disturbance at the caesura, and each line reads as a per-
fect 6/6, without awkward accentual hiatus or displacement. The
whole poem, then, is written in the idealized form which has become
meaningless and died, the absolute in which we are meant to have
stopped believing. Yet, as Mallarm suggests, belief in this perfect
form can be resuscitated if the reader consciously ignores the vanity of
those regular structures which no longer correspond to any higher
truth. This allegorical reading is supported by the capital letters of
Minuit (l.5), Ombre (l.8) and Visite (l.9), which suggest this
haunting of the widower by his wife can simultaneously be read as an
artificially induced visitation by the poetic ideal itself. Indeed, just as
every sonnet henceforth conforms to one idealized rhyme scheme,
each of the twelve new poems written in alexandrines between 1877
and 1898 is a sonnet, as if the vanity of the twelve chimes were being
protected, shielded from scepticism in the form traditionally recog-
nized as indubitably poetic.
On the other hand, Sur les bois oublis is the last of Mal-
larms poems to feature no metrical irregularities; it is as if the poetic
text itself must now acknowledge, however subtly, that the re-birth of
poetry is but a Glorieux mensonge. Like the wife brought back to
life as a mere Ombre, the ghost of poetry appears, from a safe dis-
tance, just as it did when it was alive; formally, it looks the same as
ever, but on closer inspection, imperfections emerge, and the apparent
similarity turns out to be illusory. According to this allegorical read-
ing, then, the flowers of line 10, laid in tribute at the womans grave,
might also represent the poems written in honour of the lost ideal; it
should not be resurrected too often, then, in case both poet and reader
tire of the eternal return of a form which is condemned to evolve no
more. If we are exposed too often to the same old structures, it can
lead to the sort of questioning which poetry, from the 1850s onwards,
finds increasingly hard to survive just what is so poetic about these
relics of a bygone age? In all, then, poetry may have died, but it can be

Confirmation and more detailed analysis of these statistics on the sonnet form,
rhyme schemes and the alexandrine throughout Mallarms career can be found in
the appendix and chapter nine of my Rhythm, Illusion and the Poetic Idea: Baude-
laire, Rimbaud, Mallarm (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004).
David Evans


artificially resurrected if both the poet and his reader choose to be-
lieve, and if the poem itself creates an illusion powerful enough to
make them forget their mourning. When poetry returns, its ghostly
presence, like the chre morte of Sur les bois oublis, will
flicker, tremblante (l.12) between life and death, an Ombre (l.8)
shimmering between an illusory vitality and subtle reminders of its
critical condition.
In stark contrast to Mallarm, Banville has suffered the fate of
the believer. He has inspired few, if any, substantial monographs, and
among the most recent critics, Philippe Andrs wonders: Est-il possi-
ble de lire Banville de nos jours?.
The problem, of course, is his
apparently unshakeable belief: Il est un croyant qui utilise la posie
comme un acte de foi, comme une vritable religion.
Yet close read-
ings of Banville suggest a similar awareness of the difficulties facing
post-Baudelairean poetry, and several texts on the subject of death
will help to challenge the reductive received ideas on his work.
Banville attached such importance to Les Exils, published in 1867
and expanded in 1875, even over his massively popular Odes
funambulesques, that he claims in the preface: Ce livre est celui peut-
tre o jai pu mettre le plus de moi-mme et de mon me, et sil
devait rester un livre de moi, je voudrais que ce ft celui-ci.
As with
Mallarm, although Banvilles poems are composed on the event of
real bereavements, they amply reward interpretation as allegories of
poetrys glorious, if problematic, rebirth at the hands of the poet.
Amdine Luther, first published in the Revue fantaisiste in
1861, was written in memory of the actress, who died at the age of
twenty-seven, and is dedicated to her mother. Having begun by de-
scribing Amdines physical charms, the poet declares: Jamais ils ne
renatront (l.20), facing up to the finality of her passing:

Le lys est bris. Cest fini. Plus rien
Quun fantme arien (ll.47-48)

Philippe Andrs, Thodore de Banville (1823-91), Parcours littraire et
biographique (Paris: LHarmattan, 1997), p. 114.
Andrs, p. 98.
Thodore de Banville, uvres potiques compltes, IV: Les Exils, Amthystes,
Les Princesses, ed. by Franois Brunet and Eileen Souffrin-Le Breton (Paris:
Champion, 1994), p. 5 (hereafter Les Exils).
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


Yet although she is gone, she will be reborn through art:

Tu renatras dans les chants

Des rimeurs plaintifs qui savent encore
Eveiller le luth sonore. (ll.52-54)

Amdine will live on, not just in any poetry, but specifically in the
work of those poets still capable of writing the sort of musical verse
which Banville vaguely but insistently espouses in his Petit Trait de
posie franaise. Anticipating by sixteen years the solution proposed
by Mallarms phantom in lines 13-14 of Sur les bois oublis, the
poet proclaims:

Oh! rien quen disant ce nom dAmdine,
Je la revois enfantine (ll.61-62)

Her rebirth depends, firstly on the sonorous realization of her name,
and also on the presence of the stars, a common symbol in Banville of
poetrys privileged link with universal harmony, the chant des

Quand les toiles aux cieux

Scintilleront, moi jvoquerai celle
Dont le front ple tincelle. (ll.72-74)

The eternal glory of her youth has been preserved by her passing;
when she does re-appear, she will assume exactly the same timeless
form as before, as does the Mallarman sonnet:

Elle reviendra, mais, comme jadis,
Jeune enfant pareille au lys. (ll.75-76)

Crucially, Amdine will not just appear to the poet alone, but to all
those who are sensitive to his poetry; intriguingly, both the souffle
(Sur les bois oublis, l.14) and brise (Dans le jardin, l.12) of
Mallarms texts are here also clearly linked to the poetic endeavour:

Et plus tard, tous ceux dont la Muse est reine []

Ecoutant avec le souffle des brises
David Evans


Pleurer mes strophes prises,

Reverront son pur visage, arros,
Neige en fleur, dun feu ros. (ll.85-92)

Here the other restriction on Amdines poetic rebirth also echoes the
later Mallarms practice; as well as being musical, the poetry will
consist of strophes, conforming to a regular, traditional model. As
the poem concludes, poetry is again specified as verse:

A jamais tu brilleras,

Clair rayonnement, chevelure dEve,
Par mes vers; car en mon rve

Amdine vit, ange au front dor!
Oh! que de fois je croirai,

Cherchant ses regards qui versaient les charmes,
Les voir travers mes larmes! (ll.96-102)

Moreover, by separating croirai from voir, Banville exploits the
tension at the heart of his poetic illusion; line 100 at first seems a
straightforward declaration of belief and certainty je croirai until
it is later modified to je croirai les voir. The expression now implies
that Banville is entirely aware of the illusory nature of his rve, and
yet prefers it to the reality of her death.
Several clues allow us to read in Amdine a symbol of a poetic
ideal which has died. Firstly, although her snowy arms (Adieu, bras
de neige, l.1) are a topos of Renaissance poetry, this snow recalls an-
other poem from Les Exils, Erinna, first published in the same year
in the same journal, in which Banville glorifies poetic rhythm as a
means of banishing doubt:

O Rythme, tu sais tout! Sur tes ailes de neige
Sans cesse nous allons vers des routes nouvelles,
Et, quel que soit le doute affreux qui nous assige,
Il nest pas de secret que tu ne nous rvles! (ll.93-96)

These ailes de neige first imply snow-white wings, as if poetry itself
were a swan, and the familiar alexandrine rhythm the textual equiva-
lent of its regular wingbeat. Yet poetic rhythm, as Banville implies in
his Petit Trait, must also escape our analysis, and the wings of snow,
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


if taken literally, encapsulate perfectly its necessary intangibility. Sec-
ondly, when Banville republishes Les Exils in 1889, line 10 of
Amdine Luther is amended to include the following capital letter:
Sur ce front pur de Desse, a typical poetic commonplace for the
idealization of the loved one, but a hint nonetheless that the beautiful
young girl represents something more ideal and absolute than her mor-
tal self. Thirdly, her voice contains the same musical quality which is
elsewhere presented as characteristic of genuine poetry:

Et comment ta voix eut lattrait magique
Dune suave musique (ll.57-58)

Finally, one suspects it might be more than a happy coincidence that
the liminal rhyme also opens Ronsards most famous ode, itself a re-
flection on the ephemeral nature of beauty and a timeless monument
of the French poetic canon:

Adieu, bras de neige, adieu, front de rose!
Adieu, lvre hier dclose! (ll.1-2)

Mignonne, allon voir si la rose
Qui ce matin avoit declose
Sa robe de pourpre au soleil
(Ode Cassandre, ll.1-3)

Indeed, this echo of Ronsard is carefully prepared in Une Femme de
Rubens, first published in 1859 in the Revue franaise and written, it
is thought, to commemorate the actress Louisa Melville, who died in
1855 at the age of nineteen. Again, it is thanks to the most iconic ele-
ment of regular poetic form, the rhyme, that she will live on:

Ne crains plus, forme altire,
De mourir tout entire,
Puisque tu menivras.
Non, tu vivras!

Tu vivras par ces rimes (ll.9-13)

Her re-birth is later compared to that of Ronsards famous muse:

Mais dans mon ode pleine
De chansons, comme Hlne
Tu te rveilleras:
Tu brilleras (ll.277-80)
David Evans


Similar pronouncements abound in Ronsards Sonets pour Helene
(1578), as the poet tells her: Vous aurez en mes vers un immortel
renom (Livre I, XLIX, l.13); Long temps apres la mort je vous feray
revivre, Vous vivrez (croyez-moy) comme Laure en grandeur / Au
moins tant que vivront les plumes et le livre (Livre II, II, ll.10, 13-
14); Je sens bien, je voy bien que tu es immortelle (Livre II, XI, l.2).
Banville develops this poetic commonplace, suggesting that the
womans apparition will be most effective at a time of lost faith in
former ideals:

Alors, quand nos idoles
Mourantes et frivoles,
Aux yeux irrsolus,
Ne seront plus

Que des chimres vaines,
Toi, le sang de tes veines
Montera vif, et prompt,
Jusqu ton front (ll.297-304)

What provides a tonic for the suffering poets, who recall those of Mal-
larms prose poem Le Phnomne futur, written five years later, is
the sight of her formes parfaites (l.313) and limmortalit / De [s]a
beaut (ll.319-20). Thus the glorious textual resurrection of the dear
departed actually serves, not only to console her friends and admirers,
but also to restore poets flagging faith in the immortality of Beauty.
The form of Une femme de Rubens itself provides the final piece of
the puzzle; as Franois Brunet observes, the poem is written in a form
resurrected from the work of Ronsard, the quatrain of 6-6-6-4 sylla-
bles, used in the ode De llection de son spulcre which celebrates
the power of the poets work to outlive him.

In his Petit Trait, Banville maintains a mischievous ambiguity
as to the value of old poetic forms. On the one hand, he claims that
this slavish recycling of existing forms means the death of poetry it-
Tel est en nous lamour de la servitude que les nouveaux potes copirent et
imitrent lenvie les formes, les combinaisons et les coupes les plus
habituelles de Hugo, au lieu de sefforcer den trouver de nouvelles. Cest

Les Exils, p. 390.
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


ainsi que, faonns pour le joug, nous retombons dun esclavage dans un
autre, et quaprs les PONCIFS CLASSIQUES il y a eu des PONCIFS
ROMANTIQUES, poncifs de coupes, poncifs de phrases, poncifs de rimes; et le
poncif, cest--dire le lieu commun pass ltat chronique, en posie
comme en toute autre chose, cest la Mort.
Au contraire osons vivre! (pp. 109-10, Banvilles capitals)
We understand, then, why Banville writes in the 1859 avertissement to
his Odes funambulesques: lauteur [] cherchait seulement une
forme nouvelle.
Yet this claim does not accurately reflect his prac-
tice, as much of the volumes humour comes from the parodic appro-
priation of ode forms popularized by Victor Hugo. Indeed, later on in
the Petit Trait, Banville appears to contradict himself, warning his
readers against the unnecessary invention of new forms, since the ex-
isting ones are perfectly sufficient:
A moins dtre parfaitement sr quon est un homme de gnie et dou du
gnie particulier de la mtrique, non-seulement on na pas besoin dinventer
des rhythmes nouveaux, mais on a le strict devoir de ne pas en inventer.
(pp. 158-59, Banvilles italics)
Banville even goes so far as to suggest that certain new forms, such as
the iambe used by Andr Chnier and Auguste Barbier, are so unpo-
etic that they do not even exist, taunting the baffled reader who no
longer knows which ones are genuinely alive and which have died:
hlas! comment nous retrouver dans ce labyrinthe? O est la mort?
o est la vie? (p. 159). In the preface to Le Sang de la Coupe of 1874,
Banville complicates matters even further as he describes himself
obstinment attach, pendant toute ma carrire douvrier et dartiste,
restituer les anciennes formes potiques et tenter den crer de
nouvelles (ce qui est tout un).
By blurring the boundaries between
living and dead forms, Banville craftily maintains a convenient ambi-
guity around the process of creation / resurrection upon which the
very survival of poetry depends. A Celle qui chantait, composed in
memory of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, is written in another form
resurrected from the Renaissance, the stanza of six octosyllables, but

Thodore de Banville, uvres potiques compltes, III: Odes funambulesques,
ed. by Peter J. Edwards (Paris: Champion, 1995), p. 3.
Thodore de Banville, uvres potiques compltes, II: Les Stalactites,
Odelettes, Le Sang de la coupe, ed. by Eileen Souffrin-Le Breton, Peter S. Hambly
and Rosemary Lloyd (Paris: Champion, 1996), p. 187.
David Evans


three times at the iconic rhyme position Banville hints at the vanity of
the poetic endeavour:

Ple, voue ta chimre,
Tes dents mordaient la cendre amre (ll.13-14)

Quimporte! marchons vers le rve.
LAnge a beau secouer son glaive (ll.31-32)

Allons-nous-en vers le mirage!
Ecoutons travers lorage (ll.37-38)

By using the rhyme, the guarantee of genuine poetry according to the
Petit Trait, to hint at its ultimate vanity, Banville undermines the
power of his own text to restore our belief in poetry; like the Ombre
of the widow in Sur les bois oublis, poetry for Banville, too, is
henceforth tremblante between life and death. Rather than an appar-
ently unshakeable faith, it might be more judicious to acknowledge
that Banville recognizes that the resuscitation of poetry is first and
foremost a textual illusion to which we must consciously submit.
Nowhere is this illusion more clear than in Le Cher Fantme,
first published in La Revue Europenne in 1860, the same year as
Baudelaire dates Un fantme. In his 1912 study, Max Fuchs sees Le
Cher Fantme as one of the weakest of the volume, for the simple
reason that the identity of the ghost is left frustratingly unclear and
cannot be easily attributed to any of real member of Banvilles cir-
Yet this lack of particularization is our first clue. The poem be-
gins with the poet mourning the loss of his bien-aime (l.1), cette
enfant (l.4), and the contrast with Mallarms Dans le jardin is im-
mediately apparent:

Oh! je ne pleurai pas son me, non, sans doute!
Car tout me disait bien que lme prend sa route
Vers les dserts du ciel thr; qutant Dieu,
Elle slancera vers les astres de feu (ll.5-8)

The poet does not mourn her soul, but her physical presence, Ce beau
type idal sur la terre jet [] Cet objet merveilleux de mon idoltrie

Max Fuchs, Thodore de Banville (Paris: Cornly, 1912; repr. Geneva: Slatkine,
1972), p. 241, or see Brunets notes to Les Exils, p. 417.
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


(ll.31-33); her form represented, for him, a glimpse of the divine ideal
towards which the artist strives:

Mais je pleurais sa forme adorable, son corps
O la grce divine avait mis ses accords (ll.11-12)

Mourning, as in Mallarm, brings about creative impotence. As the
poet feels his courage Frissonner sur le gouffre immense du nant
(l.52), he loses his ability to write poetry, figured yet again as a musi-
cal art:

Je nosais mme plus toucher la grande lyre (l.55)

Then one night, just as Amdine is reborn in a dream, the deceased

Je la revis, cetait bien elle! dans un rve (l.69)

Yet it is not her resurrection as such which is celebrated; rather, the
spectral visitor tells the poet of the afterlife, reassures him that univer-
sal harmony is no vain illusion, and explains how, after death, defi-
cient mortal senses are perfected so that we might at last apprehend it:

Mes sens plus compliqus et qui percent les voiles
Peroivent dans lther le parfum des toiles
Et voient distinctement les formes de lazur.
La musique des cieux, le chant jadis obscur
Des sphres, dans son rhythme arrive mon oreille

As with Amdine, the apparition is valuable since it confirms the con-
nection between verse and a chant des sphres whose existence is be-
yond doubt. It is this revelation, the proof of verses significance
within universal music, that inspires the poet to take up poetry again
and celebrate Beautys immortality:

Dans un chant triomphal qui se rit du tombeau,
Je redirai la gloire immortelle du Beau (ll.163-64)

The phantom also insists, as do the other texts, that what dies is reborn
in exactly the same form; since Beauty is eternal, the perfection of
poetic forms, one assumes, cannot die either:

David Evans


Ce qui meurt ici-bas nat dans linfini bleu (l.95)

O tout sarrterait pour le stocien,
Renat un corps nouveau, tout pareil lancien (ll.111-12)

Ne pleure plus jamais ce qui ne peut mourir (l.152)

Whereas the poet acknowledges that he sees her only in a dream
(l.69), the ghost repeatedly seeks to persuade him that she really ex-

Ne pleure plus! Je vis telle que tu me vois (l.84)

Mes cheveux fulgurants, effluves de lumire,
Vivent; et ces couleurs, ces formes, ces contours
Que tu nommais jadis mon corps, vivent toujours (ll.86-88)

Oui, regarde-moi bien, je vis, blanche, enflamme,
Pure, mais telle enfin que tu mas tant aime (ll.125-26)

Yet our suspicions are aroused; does she insist, perhaps, too much?
She constantly appeals to the poets senses as proof of her authenticity
(tu me vois, regarde-moi), yet these are the very senses which she
also claims are somehow deficient, in which case line 84 is less a
statement of the reality of her existence, and rather, an admission of
the fact that she relies on the poets unreliable senses in order to exist.
If he did not see her or imagine her then she would not exist at all,
and we would have no other proof of the wonderful universal har-
mony of which she tries to persuade us. Although the text maintains
this necessary ambiguity, the poet is eager to believe, and declares:

Vision, vision! toujours tu brilleras
Devant ma face, avec la neige de tes bras (ll.155-56)

Here the tension between dream and reality hinges on the delicious
instability of the word vision, which, according to the Trsor de la
langue franaise, can refer simultaneously to two quite contradictory
notions: it denotes both an image, reprsentation mentale dune r-
alit and a reprsentation mentale imaginaire, souvent pathologique,
synonymous with fantasme, mirage and hallucination. So is po-
etic beauty really eternal, or is the poet now condemned simply to
dream up the translucent, ghostly memory of what once was and
which can never be again? Banville, it seems, subtly preserves the
Strategies of Textual Resurrection in Mallarm and Banville


necessary irresolvability of the question more than critics have given
him credit.
In conclusion, these texts, inspired by actual cases of bereave-
ment, also invite interpretation as responses to a crisis of belief which
threatens the death of poetry. Mallarm, and Banville too, far from
remaining a fossil, a quaint relic of the Romantic era of belief, imply
that poetry can be kept alive artificially in the same form as before,
but only if we are willing to give in to the textual illusion and ignore,
for the duration of our reading, its ultimate vanity. The truly modern
poetic text is obliged to recognize its illusory status, often by formal
means, articulating the tension between existence and non-existence in
a play between regular and irregular elements. From afar, the ghostly,
flickering apparition seems the same as it ever did, yet this poetry is
no longer truly alive, since we have ceased to believe in it unquestion-
ingly. Indeed, just as there are those who believe in neither God nor
ghosts, there are those who no longer believe in poetry. It is, therefore,
the task of verse form to revive the readers faltering faith; this is now
the very condition of the poetic experience, as Banville reminds us:
Le vers est ncessairement religieux, cest--dire quil suppose un
certain nombre de croyances et dides communes au pote et ceux
qui lcoutent.
For both Mallarm and Banville, it is the blurring of
the lines between living and dead forms which allow poetrys textual
resurrection, thereby posing a challenge to the reader: is our belief in
poetrys immortality strong enough to allow ourselves to be fooled by
its ghostly apparition?

Petit Trait, p. 8.

Wildes Salom: Tenses, Tension and
Progression in Saloms Final Monologue

Abstract: Oscar Wildes Salom has often been dismissed as unworthy
of serious attention. This essay attempts to take the work seriously as
a coherent play in which the protagonist is led, through successive
stages to a moment of realization in her crucial final monologue.
While this monologue has frequently been dismissed as contradictory,
examination of its structure shows it to be a highly structured dra-
matic speech, in which a movement of revenge and vindictiveness is
followed, after a moment of sudden lucidity, by the recapturing of past
desire and a sense of loss. It thus functions as a recapitulation of the
stages of Saloms evolution and culminates in a sense of combined
regret and achievement; Saloms murder at Hrodes command
makes sense only in this light.

The study of Wildes Salom
has often been sidetracked by a variety
of issues: its derivative nature, its mixture of the sacred and the repul-
the temptation to read it as a coded transposition of Wildes
own sexuality.
Like Pellas et Mlisande, it is better known, not as a
play, but in its operatic adaptation by Richard Strauss, itself the re-

References in the text are to the bilingual edition, Oscar Wilde, Salom, prsen-
tation de Pascal Aquien (Paris: Flammarion, 1993).
The Times, 23 February 1893, p. 8, in Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage, ed. by
Karl Beckson (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), p. 133.
For an outline of some of these, see Joseph Donohoe, Distance, Desire and
Death in Salome, in The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde, ed. by Peter Raby
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 118-42 (pp. 127-8).
Peter Cogman


cipient of abrasive criticism: a huge pile of shit [coated] with a thin
layer of marzipan and icing-sugar.
I wish to treat it as a play not, as
some critics have, as a long lyric poem
in which Saloms final
monologue is a key moment of realization and resolution before her
kiss on the mouth of Iokanaans severed head: an act followed imme-
diately by her death on Hrodes orders. Critics tend to react to this
monologue in two ways. It can be treated as a monolithic block domi-
nated by a single intense emotion, such as unflinching remorseless-
or like an orgasmic utterance in that orgasmic utterance has no
rhetorical function.
Alternatively it is treated as ambivalent,
flicting, contradictory, when it is not just quoted (usually with omis-
But it can be read as a highly structured speech, where spe-
cific linguistic features contrasting tenses,
her apostrophes to Io-
kanaan, punctuation indicate a succession of emotions dominated by
two key moments: one of lucidity about herself by Salom and one of
It is a play, from its first drafts, in French:
Wilde wrote it in
French, submitted it for suggestions to friends in Paris (initially Stuart
Merrill and Adolphe Rett, subsequently Pierre Lous, who with Mar-
cel Schwob and the publisher, douard Bailly, also checked the
but he accepted only those (mostly originating from Rett)

Michael Tanner, quoted by Peter Franklin, Falling off the Ladder, Times Liter-
ary Supplement, 14 June 1996, p. 19.
Hannah B. Lewis, Salome and Elektra: Sisters or Strangers?, Orbis Litterarum,
31 (1976), 125-33 (p. 128).
Donohoe, Distance, p. 121, referring to this exceedingly long speech (p. 131).
Karl Toepfer, The Voice of Rapture: A Symbolist System of Ecstatic Speech in
Oscar Wildes Salome (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), p. 152.
Peter Raby terms it the most disturbing and ambivalent passage of the play
(Oscar Wilde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 113).
See for instance Austen E. Quigley, Realism and Symbolism in Oscar Wildes
Salom, Modern Drama, 37 (1994), 84-119 (p. 116).
The importance of tense is briefly noted (in the English version) by David
Wayne Thomas, The Strange Music of Salome: Oscar Wildes Rhetoric of Verbal
Musicality, Mosaic, 33 (2000), 13-55 (p. 34).
See Clyde de L. Ryals, Oscar Wildes Salom, Notes and Queries, 204 (Feb-
ruary 1959), 56-57.
Rodney Shewan, Oscar Wildes Salom: a critical variorum edition (unpub-
lished doctoral thesis, University of Reading, 1982) shows that the corrections attrib-
uted by Ryals to Lous were by Rett; Louss role was largely to eliminate Retts
non-grammatical suggestions (pp. 31-32). The account given in The Complete Letters
of Oscar Wilde, ed. by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis (London: Fourth Estate,
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


on spelling and grammar. Most critics however discuss not Wildes
French play, even when their focus is textual,
but the English trans-
lation by Lord Alfred Douglas reworked by Wilde we do not know
to what extent which is problematic because of its schoolboy
that is, as Joost Daalder has pointed out, when they are not
discussing, without realizing it, an anonymous revision of Doug-
las/Wilde (by Robert Ross) published in 1906.
The Douglas/Wilde
translation is problematic for at least three reasons which go beyond
the changes and mistranslations noted in Aquiens bilingual edition

and by Daalder. As has often been remarked, it is excessively archaiz-
ing in an attempt to capture a Biblical (Authorized Version) tone.
Wildes French in contrast is not only simple his debt to Maeterlinck
has been often noted but direct: Saloms impatient Vous me faites
attendre (p. 69) is lost in the formal: You are making me wait upon
your pleasure (p. 68). Secondly, Wilde is using the Lematre de Sacy
translation of the Bible, and his characters usually address each other,
whatever their status or familiarity, as vous, as in Sacy. (Protestant
translations J.-F. Ostervald (1724), Louis Segond (1874, 1880) use
tu when addressing singular persons or things, as does the Vulgate;
this is the practice adopted by Flaubert in Hrodias.) But Wilde fol-
lows French usage in switching to tu to express affection (Salom
always says tu to Iokanaan) or contempt (when Hrode and Hrodias
bicker). Wilde also uses tu in Iokanaans prophetic utterances, echo-
ing Isaiah and Jeremiah, something found occasionally, but by no
means universally, in prophecies in Sacy.
Douglas/Wilde use you

2000), p. 506, needs correction in the light of Shewans edition.
Notably Toepfer, Voice of Rapture, which contains several insights but focuses
exclusively on the English translation. See also Jason P. Mitchell, A Source Victorian
or Biblical? The Integration of Biblical Diction and Symbolism in Oscar Wildes
Salom, The Victorian Newsletter, 89 (1996), 14-18; and Heidi Hartwig, Dancing
for an Oath: Saloms Revaluation of Word and Gesture, Modern Drama, 45 (2002),
Wilde, Letters, p. 692 (to Douglas, January-March 1897).
See Joost Daalder, Which Is the Most Authoritative Early Translation of
Wildes Salom?, English Studies, 85 (2004), 47-53, and Confusion and Misattribu-
tion Concerning the Two Earliest English Translations of Salom, The Oscholars, 3:2
(2003) http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/oscholars/ [accessed 24 November 2004]. The
Ross revision spells the prophet Jokanaan.
Prface, pp. 26-27.
Sacy sometimes uses tu but more generally opts for vous. Wilde consistently
Peter Cogman


generally, but switch to thou (and archaic verbal forms: hast) not
only for Iokanaans prophecies (because in French they use a pro-
phetic tu) and other direct echoes of the Bible, such as Hrodes
promise to Salom,
but also whenever Wilde uses tu for affection
or contempt (which of course thou hast does not convey). The result
is incoherence in tone.
Thirdly, the English almost invariably translates a simple future,
e.g. Je ne danserai pas, ttrarque, as I will not dance, Tetrarch (pp.
127, 126). But when volition is intended, the translation also uses I
will: Je ne veux pas tcouter / I will not listen to thee (Iokanaan,
pp. 83, 82). Shall is reserved (correctly, and following AV practice)
for use as a second- and third-person auxiliary when command, prom-
ise or threat are implied, notably in Iokanaans declarations (simple
futures in the French). In consequence, in Douglas/Wilde it is impos-
sible to distinguish, in the first person, the expression of volition from
simple future, whereas these are distinct in the French.

uses tu; both AV and Douglas/Wilde use thou: Ne te rjouis point, terre de
Palestine, parce que la verge de celui qui te frappait a t brise. Car de la race du
serpent il sortira un basilic, et ce qui en natra dvorera les oiseaux (p. 67); Rejoice
not, O land of Palestine, because the rod of him who smote thee is broken. For from
the seed of the serpent shall come a basilisk, and that which is born of it shall devour
the birds (p. 66). Wildes reliance on the Sacy translation is confirmed here: the verse
in Isaiah 14. 29 is identical, except that Wilde subsitutes parce que for de ce que.
The translation by mile Osty (1973) unacountably used by Aquien is very different,
as are the versions of Ostervald and Segond. The Douglas/Wilde version here trans-
lates the French rather than using the AV passage, a pointer to the limitations of
Wildes intervention.
Oui, dansez pour moi, Salom, et je vous donnerai tout ce que vous me
demanderez, ft-ce la moiti de mon royaume (p. 133). The English version neces-
sarily (in the 1890s) follows the familiar words of the AV: Yes, dance for me, Sa-
lome, and whatsoever thou shalt ask of me I will give it thee, even unto the half of my
kingdom (p. 132).
This use of I will is said to be common in Irish speakers, but The Importance
of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray show Wilde distinguishing I will
from I shall. Hartwig surprisingly states that her argument, based on the English
text, is in no way discredited by the dubious nature of the English language version
(Dancing for an Oath, p. 34, n. 1), although one point that she stresses is precisely
that the plays language is increasingly infused with wilfulness (p. 30). Richard
Howard fails to address this issue in his commendably direct translation, generally
relying on contractions (Ill). In Je baiserai ta bouche, Iokanaan and Je danserai
pour vous, he translates: I will (The Tragedy of Salome, Shenandoah, 29 (1978),
3-38 (pp. 15, 29)), reserving I shall for Iokanaan in prophetic mode (e.g. pp. 21, 24).
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


Saloms final monologue, addressed to Iokanaans severed
head, is the longest expression of her feelings in the play: a mono-
logue in that it is an extended speech by someone in company, it is
also a soliloquy in that she takes no regard of the presence of others
(Hrode and Hrodias): as Toepfer notes, she speaks without any lis-
tener in mind but herself.
However, unlike a true soliloquy it is not
solely self-addressed, but addressed to Iokanaans head. Moreover,
her attitude towards Iokanaan shifts in the course of the speech; this
tte--tte (to borrow Jourdes pun)
resembles an inner monologue
as it represents a journey to (partial) self-discovery.
What is striking about Saloms development until this moment
is not, as some critics have asserted, that there is none;
nor is her
behaviour an example of enigmatic, motiveless irrationality.
is unusual is the rapidity and extreme nature of this evolution. On her
entry, Salom, chaste and aloof, fleeing from the banquet and Hrode,
sets herself apart by her obstinacy. Given contradictory information
about Iokanaan, hearing his trange voix offstage (p. 67), she re-
sponds first with a curiosity intensified by the fact that he is forbidden;
when she sees him, she is instantaneously engulfed by sexual de-
Her triple declaration of love: for his body, his hair, his mouth,
is met by three rejections; after the third she affirms confidently: Je
baiserai ta bouche, Iokanaan, and repeats this twice again (p. 87).

Toepfer, p. 152.
Pierre Jourde, Alcool du silence (Paris: Honor Champion, 1994), p. 92.
Hannah B. Lewis, after making the valid point that Salom and Iokanaan live
in separate worlds: There is no more real confrontation [] than between a living
person and a stone image, [] no character development (Salome and Electra, p.
Robert C. Schweik, who stresses the wholly arbitrary and irrational character
of her acts (Oscar Wildes Salome, the Salome Theme in Late European Art, and a
Problem of Method in Cultural History, in Twilight of Dawn: Studies in English Lit-
erature in Transition, ed. by O. M. Brack Jr (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
1987), pp. 123-36 (p. 127)).
William Tydeman and Steven Price, Wilde: Salome, Plays in Production
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 8. Joseph Donohoe notes Sa-
lomes astonishingly rapid sexual maturation (Salome and the Wildean Art of Sym-
bolist Theatre, Modern Drama, 37 (1994), 84-103 (p. 98)).
As Katharine Worth notes, her obstinate repetition of the line I will kiss thy
mouth, Jokanaan, has something childish about it (the spoilt girl will have her way)
(Oscar Wilde (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1983), p. 60).
Peter Cogman


Iokanaans parting response on returning to the cistern echoes this
certainty: Je ne veux pas te regarder. Je ne te regarderai pas (p. 89).

Hrode enters, and from this point until the dance there is no de-
velopment in Salom, merely devices that build up tension while sus-
pending action (bickering between the Tetrarch and Hrodias, theo-
logical arguments, Iokanaans ominous offstage prophecies), until
Hrodes final plea to Salom to dance leads to the rash offer which
changes power relationships. Salom sees the opportunity and traps
Hrode in confirmation of his promise. After her dance, she asks for
Iokanaans head; Hrode attempts to dissuade her, but she is now de-
cisive and implacable, impatient and angry at the delays, and ulti-
mately orders the execution herself.
Saloms monologue to Iokanaans head may look at first sight
similar to the other long speeches of the play: her speeches of
love/contempt to Iokanaan, Hrodes attempts to make Salom change
her request. These, though also unbroken paragraphs (up to 35 lines in
Aquiens edition), were essentially static: enumerations of images and
examples that intensify as the speech progresses, but only to hammer
home a single point (or, in the case of Saloms speeches to Iokanaan,
to switch abruptly from one extreme to the other). In contrast, the sin-
gle prose paragraph of the final monologue hides its progressive struc-
ture, which my lineation and sections are intended to clarify.
one exception each sentence is treated as a separate line. The musical-
ity characteristic of the play (Wilde evokes in De Profundis the re-
frains whose recurring motifs make Salom so like a piece of music
and bind it together as a ballad)
should not let us overlook change,
progression and abrupt changes of direction possible, of course, in a

The Wilde-Douglas translation collapses both sentences into the simple: I will
not look at thee (p. 88): given the all-purpose use of will, it is impossible to say
which is being translated.
The closest approach to my division and reading is by Worth (Oscar Wilde, pp.
69-70), using the Ross revision of Wilde/Douglas, though she sees three sections (my
IA-IB-IC, IIA, IIB-IIC) and does not discuss my III. See also the analysis of the
monologue as it appears (abbreviated) in Strausss opera proposed by Craig Ayrey
(Salomes Final Monologue, in Richard Strauss: Salome, ed. by Derrick Puffett,
Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp.
Wilde, Letters, p. 740.
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


ballad. When a phrase is reprised, its sense is changed by the new con-

IA Ah! tu nas pas voulu me laisser baiser ta bouche, Iokanaan.
Eh bien! je la baiserai maintenant.
Je la mordrai avec mes dents comme on mord un fruit mr.
Oui, je baiserai ta bouche, Iokanaan.
Je te lai dit, nest-ce pas? je te lai dit.
Eh bien! je la baiserai maintenant

IB Mais pourquoi ne me regardes-tu pas, Iokanaan?
Tes yeux qui taient si terribles, qui taient si pleins de colre et de mpris,
ils sont ferms maintenant.
Pourquoi sont-ils ferms?
Ouvre tes yeux!
Soulve tes paupires, Iokanaan.
Pourquoi ne me regardes-tu pas?
As-tu peur de moi, Iokanaan, que tu ne veux pas me regarder?..
Et ta langue qui tait comme un serpent rouge dardant des poisons, elle ne
remue plus, elle ne dit rien maintenant, Iokanaan, cette vipre
rouge qui a vomi son venin sur moi.
Cest trange, nest-ce pas?
Comment se fait-il que la vipre rouge ne remue plus?..

IC Tu nas pas voulu de moi, Iokanaan.
Tu mas rejete.
Tu mas dit des choses infmes.
Tu mas traite comme une courtisane, comme une prostitue, moi,
Salom, fille dHrodias, princesse de Jude!
Eh bien, Iokanaan, moi je vis encore, mais toi tu es mort et ta tte
Je puis en faire ce que je veux.
Je puis la jeter aux chiens et aux oiseaux de lair.
Ce que laisseront les chiens, les oiseaux de lair le mangeront..

II A Ah! Iokanaan, Iokanaan, tu as t le seul homme que jaie aim.
Tous les autres hommes minspirent du dgot.
Mais toi, tu tais beau.
Ton corps tait une colonne divoire sur un socle dargent.
Ctait un jardin plein de colombes et de lis dargent.
Ctait une tour dargent orne de boucliers divoire.
Il ny avait rien au monde daussi blanc que ton corps.
Il ny avait rien au monde daussi noir que tes cheveux.
Dans le monde tout entier il ny avait rien daussi rouge que ta bouche.
Ta voix tait un encensoir qui rpandait dtranges parfums, et quand je te
regardais jentendais une musique trange!

IIB Ah! pourquoi ne mas tu pas regarde, Iokanaan?
Peter Cogman


Derrire tes mains et tes blasphmes tu as cach ton visage.
Tu as mis sur tes yeux le bandeau de celui qui veut voir son Dieu.
Eh bien, tu las vu, ton Dieu, Iokanaan, mais moi, moi tu ne mas
jamais vue.
Si tu mavais vue, tu maurais aime.
Moi je tai vue, Iokanaan, et je tai aim.
Oh! comme je tai aim.
Je taime encore, Iokanaan.
Je naime que toi
Jai soif de ta beaut.
Jai faim de ton corps.
Et ni le vin, ni les fruits ne peuvent apaiser mon dsir.

IIC Que ferai-je, Iokanaan, maintenant?
Ni les fleuves ni les grandes eaux, ne pourraient teindre ma passion.
Jtais une Princesse, tu mas ddaigne.
Jtais une vierge, tu mas dflore.
Jtais chaste, tu as rempli mes veines de feu
Ah! Ah! pourquoi ne mas-tu pas regarde, Iokanaan?
Si tu mavais regarde, tu maurais aime.
Je sais bien que tu maurais aime,

et le mystre de lamour est plus grand que le mystre de la mort.
Il ne faut regarder que lamour.


III Ah! jai bais ta bouche, Iokanaan, jai bais ta bouche.
Il y avait une cre saveur sur tes lvres.
tait-ce la saveur du sang?
Mais peut-tre, est-ce la saveur de lamour.
On dit que lamour a une cre saveur
Mais quimporte? Quimporte?
Jai bais ta bouche, Iokanaan, jai bais ta bouche.

The monologue divides into two sections (I and II), each made up of
three subsections and each culminating in two crucial lines, followed
by a coda (III) after Salom has kissed Iokanaans mouth. The tripar-

Text from first edition (Paris: Librairie de lArt indpendant, 1893), pp. 80-84,
with two corrections to obvious mistakes in IA proposed by Ross (London: Methuen,
1909), p. 88: full stop to comma after bouche in line 1; question mark to full stop at
end of line 5. I have not followed Ross in moving the comma after peut-tre in III,
line 4 to after Mais. There are several misprints in the speech in Aquiens edition:
the spelling is changed (lys for lis), punctuation altered (notably exclamation
marks after Eh bien! in IA changed to commas), and a sentence omitted (Ah!
comme je tai aim in IIB); see also note 35 below.
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


tite internal structure of the main sections forms a final echo of the
triple patterning insistent throughout the play. The first section dis-
plays a purely negative attitude to Iokanaan: Salom expresses her
confidence that she is about to achieve her revenge (IA), gloats vindic-
tively on his impotence (IB), then contrasts his past humiliation of her
with her present power (IC). Verbal repetition and punctuation mark
out these subsections: the first sentence of each ends with the name of
the apostrophized Iokanaan; the first and third subsections frame the
second by both beginning with the phrase: Tu nas pas voulu [];
each subsection is closed by suspension points (three in current edi-
tions, but five in the case of IB and IC in the original edition). Within
each subsection a pair of contrasting tenses
reinforces the tensions
that exist within it, and the development of these pairs of tenses under-
lines the gradual change of tone from one subsection to the next.

IA is dominated by the tension between the perfect (Iokanaans
refusal, her prediction) and the future: as it did towards the end of her
first confrontation with Iokanaan where it was repeated five times (Je
baiserai ta bouche, Iokanaan (pp. 87, 87, 89, 91)), the simple future
expresses total confidence, and recalls Saloms juvenile impatience
in the face of refusal, as if nothing could stop her. She repeats the in-
dentical phrase she had used then, framed with the repeated Eh bien!
je la baiserai maintenant: she will kiss it not at some indefinite future
moment, but as soon as she has finished speaking (and the translation
again falls back on the all-purpose I will). But the slide from baise-
rai to mordrai and the needling repetition of je te lai dit (I told
you so rather than the I said it of Douglas/Wilde) introduces a
streak of viciousness which unfolds itself in the second subsection
(IB) in its contrast between the past power of his eyes and tongue and
their present impotence. In this second subsection imperfect tenses are
contrasted with presents: if the perfect tenses in IA referred to the
moments of his refusal and her prediction, the tenses here refer to
states: he was powerful and showed it, now he can do nothing. The
ironic questions: Mais pourquoi ne me regardes-tu pas, Iokanaan?

Jourde, one of the few critics to comment on the range of tenses in the mono-
logue, sees variety rather than oppositions (Alcool, p. 92).
Quigley acutely comments on how she struggles to come to terms with the
contradictions of her situation: she can kiss his mouth but not make him look at her
(Realism and Symbolism, p. 116).
Peter Cogman


(repeated), Pourquoi sont-ils ferms?, As-tu peur de moi, Io-
kanaan?, and the imperative which orders him to do what he cannot,
both colour this subsection with sarcasm. But there is perhaps an im-
plicit frustration here which will lead to the intensification of vicious-
ness in the third subsection: she needs his eyes to see her victory,

needs his tongue to acknowledge her triumph, and the unseeing, mute
head constitutes an impassive defiance of her authoritative impera-
tives, a defiance which intensifies rather than satisfies her thirst for
revenge. Thus the third subsection (IC) represents an ineluctable esca-
lation in her negative emotions. The contrast here is between the per-
fect: his definitive rejection and humiliation of her, and the present:
his helplessness (he is no more than a thing) set against her life and
power. She now evokes the possibility, not just of humiliating him,
but of a physical degradation of the head that can adequately counter-
balance his verbal vilification of her (Tu mas traite comme une
courtisane, comme une prostitue).
This escalation, as she slides into the future tense (laisseront,
mangeront), envisaging what lies in her power (repeating je puis),
prompts an abrupt change of direction. After progressing from re-
venge (IA) through vindictive sarcasm (IB) to an outburst of power
(IC), from the direct opening through two subsections whose detail
gives an edge to the negative emotion (focusing on his eyes and
tongue, specifying his insults and her possible defilement of the head),
comes a simple exclamation in the perfect. The volte-face is under-
lined by the fact that the apostrophe to Iokanaan now begins, rather
than closes, the initial line of the subsection, and is repeated. Descent
into an extreme of vindictiveness has lead to a sudden moment of re-
alization. As Katharine Worth notes, the savagery effects a kind of

There is a parallel moment in Phdre when Phdre, having
learned from Thse of Hippolytes love for Aricie just when she was
about to try to save Hippolyte from her husbands anger, is plunged
into a jalouse rage (IV. 5. 1258) that leads her to exclaim: Il faut
perdre Aricie (1259), before abruptly standing back from her jeal-
ousy, which is spiralling out of control, to say: Que fais-je? (1264),

The centrality and multiple values of looking in the play are a critical
Worth, Oscar Wilde, p. 69.
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


and to realize that her love for her step-son was about to make her at-
tempt to destroy the innocent object of his love, to realize the extent of
her criminal intent. Phdre at this point is no longer addressing none
(she seems unaware of her presence) as she swings into a morbid
abyss of guilt and self-accusation: the only person she is aware of is
Minos, whom she apostrophizes (1285-1290). Similarly the presence
of Iokanaan is more real to Salom than that of Hrode or her mother.
From the moment of Iokanaans rejection, Saloms obsession to kiss
the mouth, and her remorseless pursuit of revenge had blocked out her
original desire. Her visualization of the degradation of his physical
head the head that is before her leads her suddenly to recapture
that initial moment of desire.
The second, positive section of Saloms monologue constitutes
a complete reassessment of her attitude to Iokanaan. The first two
lines form the transition: the perfect tenses (indicative and subjunc-
tive) of the first line (Ah! Iokanaan, Iokanaan, tu as t le seul
homme que jaie aim) contrast with the present tense of the second
(Tous les autres hommes minspirent du dgot), underlining in ad-
vance the definitive loss that hangs over section II until its final lines.
Tu tais would have been less absolute (the Douglas/Wilde transla-
tion here Thou wert the man that I loved alone among men! is
not merely awkward in its use of thou but inappropriate: wert in
the AV is always subjunctive, wast is the form needed).

This first subsection (IIA) is one of astonished admiration, repris-
ing the three aspects of Iokanaan that she praised during their first
confrontation: body, hair, mouth, with the same colours (white, black,
but now adding a fourth (voice). She evokes them moreover not
with the original imagery but with new images, using repeated imper-
fects (his beauty, her response), as she is absorbed in rapt contempla-
tion of an unchanging moment. The beginning of the second subsec-
tion (IIB), again marked by the use of Iokanaans name at the end of
the sentence, reprises the opening line of IB, but changing the tenses:
Mais pourquoi ne me regardes-tu pas, Iokanaan? becomes Ah!

Although some nineteenth-century writers use thou wert as a literary form for
the past indicative, notably Shelley, the AV uses it exclusively as past subjunctive (if-
clauses, optative expressions).
Aquiens text erronously has noir for rouge, and he comments in the Prface
on its mistranslation as red (p. 26).
Peter Cogman


pourquoi ne mas tu pas regarde, Iokanaan? Instead of the mocking
pourquoi and ironic questions of IB, which saw his eyes in terms of
anger and contempt, the tone is now one of regret, then of achieve-
ment: initially regret at Iokanaans mistake (hiding his face, covering
his eyes, seeing his God but not her), then her achievement (seeing
him, loving him). Again there is a clear contrast of tenses: the perfect
expresses his error and her contrasting achievement, the desperate se-
ries of presents stresses the continuity of her love as she switches in
successive lines from Oh! comme je tai aim to the assertion: Je
taime encore, Iokanaan.
One line of IIB stands out with two different tenses, pluperfect
and past conditional: Si tu mavais vue, tu maurais aime. These
encapsulate what she now sees as what might have been, and antici-
pate the disarray of the following subsection (IIC), which shifts the
emphasis to the irrevocability of her loss. In this final subsection of II,
every tense used so far reappears, as if to underline her emotional
chaos: future then conditional to sum up her disarray, a triple series of
imperfect and perfect to sum up what he has done, initially from a
negative point of view (disdain), finally (but ambiguously) positively
(the passion he has aroused). Blame shifts into gratitude, but we are
left uncertain as to which way we should interpret the emotional de-
floration, as something real or self-deluding.
The irrevocability of
the perfects is reinforced by the helplessness embodied in the condi-
tional and past conditional: nothing can be done about it,
the only
possibility of love lies in the might-have-been. Salom here picks up
two separate lines of IIB, reinforcing them with an extra initial Ah!
and Je sais bien que []:

Ah! Ah! pourquoi ne mas-tu pas regarde, Iokanaan?
Si tu mavais regarde, tu maurais aime.
Je sais bien que tu maurais aime [.]

Aquien reads this as her illusion: celle [] dtre devenue une femme soumise
au dsir de lhomme, cest--dire dtre une femme normale (Prface, p. 36).
The past conditional tends not to support Worths reading of the English (If
thou hadst looked at me thou hadst loved me): She is still the immature girl, patheti-
cally sure that she should be able to have her way, if only (Worth, Oscar Wilde, p.
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


As it did at the close of section I, intensification of emotion (here an-
guish rather than vindictiveness) leads to a sudden change:

et le mystre de lamour est plus grand que le mystre de la mort.
Il ne faut regarder que lamour.

The emphasis on love (lamour repeated in successive lines) and the
present tense suggest a sudden release from the tension and anguish
that had built up throughout section II, which opened with the realiza-
tion of her past love and progressed through ecstatic admiration
through regret, and an assertion of the survival of her love (Je taime
encore), to an insistence on what might have been. The moment be-
fore the kiss thus shifts to the present and what is: it represents a rejec-
tion of reality (the death of Iokanaan, the lost opportunity), overcome
by a love located now purely in the imagination. The final line before
the kiss (absent from the Douglas/Wilde translation)
may seem lame,
but it embodies her final resolve, her conscious choice of love over
death, with the key word regarder. Again a parallel can be drawn
with Phdre, IV.6. Phdre is absorbed in guilt when none intervenes
to comfort her with the trite on ne peut vaincre sa destine (1297)
and the argument that everyone does it. This inept intervention spurs
Phdre to dismiss her nurse and accept control of her life: Va, laisse-
moi le soin de mon sort dplorable (1318). Awareness is followed by
decision: Saloms reassessment of her relationship to Iokanaan has
likewise led to a definitive establishment of true priorities.
After the kiss, the coda (III) is framed by two identical lines in
which the future tenses of IA: je baiserai ta bouche, Iokanaan, be-
come perfect: jai bais ta bouche, Iokanaan, jai bais ta bouche.
After the development of II, the achievement embodied in the perfect
tense here is not simply that of revenge. She has done what she
wanted, and what she said she would do, but has also in the course of
so doing made a discovery. Initially, as Donohoe notes, a protagonist
with a critical lack of self-knowledge,
she now attains, albeit uncer-

The translation inserted by Ross in the 1906 edition seems inadequate, with its
positioning of love at the start, its Gallic use of one and the blunting of the key
term regarder: Love only should one consider. Howards freer translation is more
satisfying: Love is the only mystery, love is the only thing to look at, prophet
(Tragedy of Salome, p. 37).
Donohoe, Distance, p. 131.
Peter Cogman


tainly, that final moment of awareness (anagnorisis) essential for the
tragic protagonist. If, as Donohoe notes, the first confrontation with
Iokanaan was a rapid sexual awakening where the self-knowledge
attained was merely knowledge of physical passion, of bodily desire
rather than wisdom,
here she moves beyond the self-centredness of
that desire (masturbatory for Donohoe) to an awareness of (lost) po-
tential reciprocity. The bitter taste that was on Iokanaans lips (Il y
avait []) gives way to two verbs in the present: Mais peut-tre, est-
ce la saveur de lamour. On dit que lamour a une cre saveur (my
Perhaps that is what love tastes like. But these reflec-
tions on the nature of love
are unresolvable. Salom knows she
cannot know it fully, hence the repeated quimporte?: the only re-
maining but more limited certainty for her is the kiss that she has
achieved. This is perhaps now not so much the ineffable pleasure of
being granted her fondest desire that Donohoe notes,
the kiss denied
by the prophet while he lived, not just self-assertion;
her emotions
are now coloured by the discoveries of section II: by regret, an aware-
ness of love as a priority, but also of its problems and its limitations,
and of her definitive loss. The ray of moonlight
that falls on her at
this point fulfils several functions: it underlines this key moment; at
the same time it recalls the opening of the play where the dialogue of
the Page and Narraboth drew a parallel between Salom and the
moon, seen as a femme morte who cherche des morts; it recalls the
way that the moon remains ambiguous, differently interpreted by all
the characters; dramatically, it calls the attention of the departing
Hrode to Salom and prompts him to reassert male authority and re-
establish order with his command: Tuez cette femme, for that is

Donohoe, Wildean Art, p. 98.
Wilde/Douglas unaccountably puts the first in the past: perchance it was the
taste of love.
Ayrey, p. 122.
Donohoe, Distance, p. 133.
Worths brief comment seems inadequate: Hrode hears the voice of Salom
telling him that she has achieved (with what bitter irony) her desire (Oscar Wilde, p.
The moon and its contradictory values is, as critics have often noted, one of the
central motifs of the play: see Aquien, pp. 31-32.
Tenses, Tension and Progression in Saloms Final Monologue


what she has become (whereas she was ta fille, Hrodiass daughter,
on the previous page).

Such a view of the monologue may not resolve all ambiguities of
character or play, which, as a Symbolist work, leaves much open; but
arguably shows how its significance emerges from its structure, how
markedly it differs from the other long speeches of the play, and helps
define its dramatic function as the resolution of what has preceded.

Cf. the suspension points in Howards translation: Kill that woman!
(Tragedy of Salome, p. 38).

Figures de lartiste et comdiens du rel: de
la difficile naissance limplacable mort dans
La Comdie humaine

Rsum: Si les reprsentations dartistes dans La Comdie humaine
sont nombreuses, Balzac ne sintresse quaux phases de naissance et
de mort de ces artistes. Les artistes nont presque pas denfance chez
Balzac, pas plus dailleurs que de vie. Ils sont comme des mtores
prcipits de leur dbut leur fin. Cest sur cette ligne dramaturgique
que se construit le roman de lartiste. Dans ce contexte, laccession
au bonheur fonctionne comme une condamnation mort de lartiste
soit dans luvre, soit par mort romanesque. Ainsi la reprsentation
de lartiste dans sa ralisation parat-elle impossible. Figure
exorciste, porteuse des angoisses de son crateur, la figure de lartiste
dans le roman se tient sur la fragile frontire entre la naissance et la
mort, un espace des limbes o scrit la tragdie du mort-n.

Enfantement cruel que celui de luvre, enfantement cruel que celui
de lartiste lui-mme. Dans luvre balzacienne, lartiste parat
prisonnier de cette dialectique de la naissance et de la mort. Ds 1831,
dans Le Chef-duvre inconnu, cette nouvelle sur luvre dart qui
appartient aux Etudes philosophiques, Balzac inscrit en tension la
figure de lartiste naissant, improbable Nicolas Poussin, et celle de
Frenhofer, ravag par la qute dun idal de luvre qui supplanterait
la vie, serait la vie mme. Aux premires pages du rcit, consacres
la description de lartiste commenant,
sopposent les lignes de la

Honor de Balzac, Le Chef-duvre inconnu, in La Comdie humaine,
Isabelle Michelot


fin: Le lendemain, Porbus inquiet revint voir Frenhofer, et apprit quil
tait mort dans la nuit, aprs avoir brl ses toiles (ibid., p. 438).
Ainsi la trajectoire du rcit scrit-elle entre ces deux ples, celui de
lartiste naissant et celui de lartiste qui meurt. Dailleurs, cette
dialectique entre la vie et la mort est au cur de limaginaire balzacien
de la cration et contamine mme sa reprsentation de la maternit.
Ainsi Rene de lEstorade est-elle confronte au risque de mort de
lenfant et vit la lutte contre la maladie mortelle comme une sorte
daccouchement: De dix en dix minutes, comme dans mes douleurs
daccouchement, la convulsion revenait,
crit-elle Louise.
Quelque part plane sur la cration, comme un pril, lombre
inquitante du mort-n. Cette inquitude traverse toutes les
reprsentations dartiste de La Comdie humaine et peut-tre, travers
elles, sexorcise. La crature succombe l o le Crateur lemporte.
Ds lors lartiste, quil soit peintre, sculpteur, crivain ou comdien du
rel (cette catgorie spcifique lunivers balzacien), apparat toujours
travaill de cette dialectique entre lmergence luvre et le risque
de son inaccomplissement. Autour de ces figures Balzac dploie
diverses dramaturgies de la mort, que celle-ci soit relle, symbolique
ou romanesque. Mais peut-tre que pour limaginaire dramatique de
Balzac, la russite de lartiste ne saurait avoir dhistoire, seul son
chec peut prendre les dimensions du drame et se constituer en objet
de rcit.

De la naissance la mort, lartiste, une figure en tension

Dans le prologue de La Fille aux yeux dor, Balzac voque les
diffrentes sphres de cet Enfer parisien dont il se veut le nouveau
Dante. Or, si le monde artiste est plac aux plus hauts degrs de ce
monde en mouvement quest Paris, il en donne une description tout
entire marque des stigmates de la mort en marche:
Au-dessus de cette sphre, vit le monde artiste. Mais l encore les visages,
marqus du sceau de loriginalit, sont noblement briss, mais briss,
fatigus, sinueux. Excds par un besoin de produire, dpasss par leurs

Bibliothque de la Pliade, 12 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1976-81), X, 414. Toutes nos
rfrences ultrieures renvoient cette dition (abrviation CH), le numro du volume
suivi du numro de page.
Mmoires de deux jeunes maries, CH, I, 341.
Figures de lartiste dans La Comdie humaine


coteuses fantaisies, lasss par un gnie dvorateur, affams de plaisir, les
artistes de Paris veulent tous regagner par dexcessifs travaux les lacunes
laisses par la paresse, et cherchent vainement concilier le monde et la
gloire, largent et lart. [...] Les uns, dsesprs, roulent dans les abmes du
vice, les autres meurent jeunes et ignors pour stre escompts trop tt leur

A cette lecture, on constate que, pour Balzac, lartiste, parce quil est
aussi un tre social, est constamment tiraill entre les exigences de son
rle sur le thtre du monde et celle de luvre. L rside la brisure,
cette faille qui taraude son pouvoir crateur, le met en danger de
mourir son uvre, de mourir tout court. A cet gard, si Balzac
semble reprendre son compte le topos romantique de lopposition
entre lart et la vie, il en fait une dialectique identitaire, un paradoxe
intrioris aux termes duquel lidentit et le rle, ltre et le masque
rentrent constamment en conflit.
Certes, La Comdie humaine connat quelques purs Frenhofer,
le peintre, ou Sarrasine, le sculpteur , mais ces quteurs didal et de
beaut, tout entiers leur art, se brisent au miroir que leur tend le
monde. Frenhofer meurt davoir vu dans lil de Porbus, le peintre
reconnu et intgr la socit, et dans celui du jeune Nicolas Poussin,
le spectre de luvre impossible: la toile quil leur prsente, et
laquelle il a consacr dix ans, nest quun amas indistinct de couleurs
do surgit un pied. Il meurt de cet chec. Quant Sarrasine, ce jeune
artiste, ce grand homme futur,
libr des entraves de laffection
paternelle de Bouchardon, il sprend Rome de la Zambinella dans
laquelle il croit reconnatre lidal dun corps de femme. Mais il se
trompe. Son il dartiste, quil croyait si sr, na pas su dcouvrir,
sous la beaut de la forme, la ralit dun castrat; les yeux dcills, il
meurt, sans avoir accompli sa destine, sous les coups de stylet des
hommes de main du protecteur du chanteur.
Pourtant, les plus nombreux restent ceux-l qui rvent, comme
Balzac lui-mme, de voir leur uvre leur apporter la gloire et la
reconnaissance sociale. Lauteur les saisit dans leurs commencements,
cette phase dapprentissage o la qute de lart et celle de la vie ne
font encore quun. Mais dans leur portrait, qui correspond leur
naissance romanesque, leur destine parat crypte et leur chec

La Fille aux yeux dor, CH, V, 1049.
Sarrasine, CH, VI, 1058.
Isabelle Michelot


prvisible. Lucien de Rubempr, dune beaut sculpturale, se rve
pote mais surtout glorieux; pour lui lart apparat comme une sorte de
marchepied et cette phrase qui forme clausule sa description sonne
comme un mauvais prsage: Il ntait encore aux prises quavec ses
dsirs et non avec les difficults de la vie, avec sa propre puissance et
non avec la lchet des hommes, qui est dun fatal exemple pour les
esprits mobiles.

Fatalit de lchec qui atteint aussi Steinbock, le reclus de La
Cousine Bette, qui, ds que sa cage est ouverte et quil rencontre
lamour en la personne dHortense, perd cet amour infatigable de la
Maternit qui fait la mre et cesse de pouvoir passer de la
Conception lExcution.
En effet, cette maternit crbrale (ibid.,
p. 242) qui est celle de luvre ne peut se suffire du rve et exige le
travail incessant. Cest son propos que Balzac crit:
Celui qui peut dessiner son plan par la parole, passe dj pour un homme
extraordinaire. Cette facult, tous les artistes et les crivains la possdent.
Mais produire! mais accoucher! mais lever laborieusement lenfant, le
coucher gorg de lait tous les soirs, lembrasser tous les matins avec le cur
inpuis de la mre, le lcher sale, le vtir cent fois des plus belles jaquettes
quil dchire incessamment; mais ne pas se rebuter des convulsions de cette
folle vie et en faire le chef-duvre anim qui parle tous les regards en
sculpture, toutes les intelligences en littrature, tous les souvenirs en
peinture, tous les curs en musique, cest lExcution et ses travaux.
(Ibid., pp. 241-42)
On le constate, le rapport de lartiste son uvre est parl ici sous le
couvert de la double mtaphore de laccouchement et de la maternit,
image courante dailleurs qui se singularise chez Balzac par son
association structurelle celle de la mort. En effet, pour tre celui qui
donne la vie une uvre, il faut soi-mme stre chapp de
lenfance, ntre plus le fils de personne. Or, prcisment, cest cette
transition de lenfance de lart sa maturit que ces artistes rats ne
parviennent pas accomplir. Ds lors, la strilit les guette, et avec
elle la mort.
Ainsi, luvre balzacienne fourmille-t-elle de ces rats
magnifiques, qui ont dfinitivement troqu la cellule daccouchement
pour les feux trop vifs des trteaux du monde. Alors quils sduisent et

Illusions perdues, CH, V, 146.
La Cousine Bette, CH, VII, 241.
Figures de lartiste dans La Comdie humaine


hantent les salons, ils sont dj morts, comme Nathan, lcrivain
dUne fille dEve, ce paresseux au superlatif,
qui offre une image
de la jeunesse littraire daujourdhui, de ses fausses grandeurs et de
ses misres relles (ibid., p. 305) et dont Balzac crit: Il est
comdien de bonne foi, personnel comme si lEtat tait lui, et trs
habile dclamateur (ibid., pp. 303-04). Ainsi, bien souvent lcrivain,
le peintre, le sculpteur rat, devient-il acteur et joue, dans le monde, le
rle de lartiste, sans quil en soit vraiment un, sans quil existe en
dehors de son rle. Ni vivant, ni mort, un masque donc.
En effet, si la cration artistique a chez Balzac toujours voir
avec lenfermement, lart thtral chappe largement au confinement
des thtres. En ralit, cest luvre entire qui prend la forme dun
vaste thtre sur lequel est appel se produire tout le personnel du
roman, acteur de cette Comdie humaine dont chaque rcit constitue
une Scne. Ds lors, lart thtral devient lart majeur, celui au prisme
duquel le monde est lu, sans doute parce quil est le seul dialectiser
lintrieur et lextrieur, lidentit et le rle.
Il reste que la naissance lart thtral, qui correspond la prise
de rle pour le personnage sur le thtre du monde, et tend devenir
une vritable loi de lunivers romanesque balzacien, ne va pas non
plus sans difficult. En effet, ces comdiens du rel, quils soient
conscients ou quils participent de la catgorie des comdiens sans le
savoir, ne choisissent pas leur rle, tout entier crit par la socit.
Dans ces conditions, la russite nest l encore quexceptionnelle. Il y
faut du talent et une volont, et le prix payer est souvent lidentit
mme, tant le rle sur les trteaux du monde se montre dvorateur.
Ainsi Rastignac, sil parvient avec succs endosser le masque
de larriviste ne le fait-il pas sans douleur. Il doit faire lexprience de
la mort lidal et la foi dans lhomme. Dans cette perspective,
lagonie du pre Goriot, qui meurt, abandonn de ses filles, fonctionne
pour Rastignac comme une mort symbolique soi-mme. De cette
exprience, il sort transform et dcid dfier ce monde o tout nest
quapparence. Cependant, sil rapparat dans bien des Scnes de la
Comdie humaine, cest comme vid, son identit paraissant
dfinitivement voile par les masques successifs quil arbore.

Une fille dEve, CH, II, 304.
Isabelle Michelot


Il est vrai que, pour Balzac, seules les phases de naissance et/ou
de mort proposent une intensit dramatique suffisante pour tre objet
de rcit, les accomplissements nont pas dhistoire parce quils ne
relvent pas du drame.

Roman dartistes: une dramaturgie de la fin

On pourrait stonner que, dans une uvre qui se veut le reflet de
toute une socit, on trouve si peu de ce que lon pourrait appeler des
romans dartistes, surtout si lon considre dune part, lintrt que des
auteurs contemporains ont pu montrer pour ce genre, par exemple
George Sand, et, dautre part, le grand nombre de personnages
dartistes qui traversent la Comdie humaine. A y regarder de prs, les
rcits o la figure de lartiste est centrale, ou du moins un enjeu
majeur du roman, se divisent en deux catgories: les romans
dapprentissage et les romans de fin, les premiers ayant dailleurs une
tendance nette rejoindre les seconds.
On a dj voqu le sort rserv Frenhofer et Sarrasine, mais
le cas dIllusions perdues, et de sa suite, Splendeurs et misres des
courtisanes, est cet gard emblmatique. Aux premires pages
dIllusions perdues, on dcouvre Lucien Chardon qui deviendra
ensuite Lucien de Rubempr, un jeune pote angomois qui rve
datteindre la gloire et la reconnaissance par sa plume; aux
dernires pages du roman, il est sauv du suicide in extremis par
labb Carlos Herrera, alias Vautrin, alias Trompe-la-mort, le bien
nomm. Entre ces deux ples que sest-il racont dautre que lhistoire
de lavortement dun artiste qui, affubl ds labord dun cruel
manque de volont, na pas su choisir lisolement de la cration et lui
a prfr les tentations du monde, monde qui la en dfinitive bris.
Pourtant, ce nest pas l le point final de la destine de ce
personnage, si important dans luvre balzacienne, car sa tentative de
suicide manque fonctionne comme oprateur de mtamorphose et
justifie, sur un plan romanesque, la renaissance du personnage. A cet
gard, il nest pas sans intrt de relire le commentaire que fait labb
Carlos Herrera sur ce sauvetage: Je vous ai pch, je vous ai rendu la
vie, et vous mappartenez comme la crature est au crateur, comme,
dans les contes de fes, lAfrite est au gnie, comme licoglan est au
Figures de lartiste dans La Comdie humaine


Sultan, comme le corps est lme!
On le constate cest le lexique
de la cration qui apparat ici. Tout se passe comme si la mort non
ralise de Lucien tait, sur le plan identitaire, bien relle. Ainsi, celui
qui renat nest pas celui qui sest perdu, il devient luvre dun autre,
ce mentor aux vellits maternelles, qui voit dans cet enfant son plus
beau joyau, lexpression mme de son pouvoir sur le monde. Lucien
nest plus quune marionnette aux mains dun metteur en scne de
gnie, destin se confondre avec les masques que celui-ci inventera
pour lui. Pourtant, cette destine de comdien du rel, Lucien ne
parvient pas non plus lassumer, et la rsistance de sa volont propre
est sanctionne par la mort dans Splendeurs. A celui qui sest
proclam lui-mme son pre spirituel, il crit, quelques heures avant
son suicide:
Je me retrouve ce que jtais au bord de la Charente, aprs vous avoir d les
enchantements dun rve; mais, malheureusement, ce nest plus la rivire de
mon pays o jallais noyer les peccadilles de la jeunesse; cest la Seine, et
mon trou, cest un cabanon de la conciergerie.

Ainsi sa survie romanesque parat-elle former une boucle qui le
ramne son point de dpart, sa propre mort. Le parcours de Lucien
est celui de la plupart des artistes de La Comdie humaine que le
drame fait cheminer du rve de lart au constat de limpuissance
excuter, puis de la prise de rle et du masque de lartiste la mort. A
chaque tape de ce chemin de croix romanesque, le personnage se
perd davantage, jusqu ntre plus quune dpouille.
Quoi quil en soit, il apparat clairement que limaginaire
balzacien tablit un lien entre la traverse de la mort et la cration. On
ne nat lart quau prix dune traverse victorieuse des espaces de la
mort, mort soi-mme, mais surtout mort au masque. En effet,
lartiste ne parat pouvoir accder la cration que les yeux dcills,
dans la lucidit douloureuse dun regard sur lui-mme et sur le monde,
aprs avoir bris le miroir de son ego et rpugn tout narcissisme. Le
moi doit prir pour que luvre advienne. Dailleurs, cest ce que
Balzac indique lui-mme quand il dcrit en ces termes les premires
heures de Lucien dans sa cellule de la conciergerie:

Illusions perdues, CH, V, 703.
Splendeurs et misres des courtisanes, CH, VI, 790.
Isabelle Michelot


Il pleura pendant quatre heures, insensible en apparence comme une figure
de pierre, mais souffrant de toutes ses esprances renverses, atteint dans
toutes ses vanits sociales crases, dans son orgueil ananti, dans tous les
moi que reprsentent lambitieux, lamoureux, lheureux, le dandy, le
Parisien, le pote, le voluptueux et le privilgi. Tout en lui stait bris
dans cette chute icarienne. (Ibid., p. 716)
Seul celui qui se relverait de cette chute pourrait prtendre luvre,
et, prcisment, la majorit des personnages dartiste de lunivers
balzacien sen montre incapable, et Balzac sans cesse de revenir ce
conflit fondateur, ce drama qui seul parat revtir pour lui un intrt.
En effet, lartiste vritable ne saurait choisir le jeu des apparences du
monde, sans se perdre, il ne saurait pas non plus, dans un orgueil
dmesur, se croire suprieur la nature, la vie elle-mme dont il ne
peut se montrer, comme Balzac lui-mme, que lhumble secrtaire.
Cest lorgueil qui dans une certaine mesure dtruit Frenhofer,
qui meurt davoir voulu galer la nature, donner la vie; lui qui conduit
Sarrasine, trop sr de son il,
tragiquement se mprendre; lui
encore qui fait oublier Steinbock les exigences du travail ncessaire
ce que le talent ne disparaisse pas, taraud par la vie et ses bonheurs.
Trs souvent, le rcit saisit le personnage cet instant crucial de la
traverse des apparences et en fait une occasion du dpassement du
moi. Dans ce cadre, la passion que prte lauteur son personnage,
quelle soit amoureuse comme celle de Sarrasine ou monomaniaque
comme celle de Frenhofer, ou encore sociale comme pour Lucien,
fonctionne comme dclencheur du drame. Elle est cette preuve du feu
quest appel exprimenter lartiste pour atteindre la plnitude de
son art.
Pourtant, chez Balzac, les rares artistes qui russissent et
saccomplissent dans leur art paraissent devoir tre rattraps par une
sorte de fatalit toute romanesque, comme si, dcidment, seul lchec
avait sous la plume balzacienne une histoire.

Lartiste ralis, une reprsentation impossible

Il nest pas sans intrt de constater que le rcit qui concerne
Sommervieux, lun des rares peintres accomplis de La Comdie

La bonne plaisanterie! scria Sarrasine. Crois-tu pouvoir tromper lil dun
artiste? (Sarrasine, CH, VI, 1069).
Figures de lartiste dans La Comdie humaine


humaine, soit pour lessentiel construit autour de la figure
dAugustine, sa femme. La Maison du chat-qui-pelote apparat
dabord comme le drame dune union mal assortie entre la fille dun
drapier, Augustine Guillaume, et Thodore de Sommervieux, ce jeune
peintre, dont le front, rid par une contrarit violente, avait quelque
chose de fatal.
Si cet homme passionn, talentueux, sprend de la
fille du drapier, cest que son il la saisie dans un cadre, vritable
tableau peindre. Il aime delle cette vision (ibid., p. 43) initiale o
elle lui est apparue dans toute sa beaut, et ce quil prend pour de
lamour nest que lmotion esthtique ressentie en cet instant
inaugural. Mais le sens de la posie et de lart manque cette jeune
fille leve bourgeoisement, de sorte que les premiers temps de la
passion laissent bientt la place au dsintrt et au mpris. De cet
amour perdu Augustine meurt. Ainsi lartiste brle-t-il ce quil aime
ou croit aimer, et se rvle-t-il porteur de mort.
Il reste que, si Sommervieux chappe la destine des artistes
rats, il sort en mme temps que sa jeune pouse de lunivers de La
Comdie humaine, et, sil est encore voqu dans Modeste Mignon,
cest de manire tnue. Ce personnage dartiste na donc que peu
dexistence romanesque, comme si, son rle mortifre accompli, il
perdait de son intrt.
A cet gard, le cas de Daniel dArthez est encore plus intressant.
Cet crivain de gnie, le seul que comprenne La Comdie humaine,
apparat pour la premire fois dans Illusions perdues. Il est le hros du
Cnacle, ce ciel de lintelligence noble
que frquente un temps
Lucien de Rubempr, et prne le travail et la patience ce jeune
impatient qui veut la gloire tout de suite. Dailleurs, il emprunte bien
des traits Balzac: lui aussi travaille une uvre psychologique et de
haute porte sous la forme dun roman et ne conoit pas de talent
hors ligne sans de profondes connaissances mtaphysiques (ibid., p.
314). Quoi quil en soit, cette figure admirable du talent en est encore,
dans Illusions perdues, ses commencements et, sur le plan
romanesque, nest jamais quune figure secondaire qui forme sur le
plan dramatique contrepoint au tentateur Lousteau, vers ds son
apparition dans le roman dans la catgorie de lartiste rat. Il nen

La Maison du chat-qui-pelote, CH, I, 42.
Illusions perdues, CH, V, 408.
Isabelle Michelot


reste pas moins que nous assistons ici la naissance dun grand
Le lecteur de La Comdie humaine retrouve dArthez dans un
rcit crit deux ans plus tard,
Les Secrets de la princesse de
Cadignan. Il est ainsi prsent aux premires pages du roman:
Daniel dArthez, un des hommes rares qui de nos jours unissent un beau
caractre un beau talent, avait obtenu dj non pas toute la popularit que
devaient lui mriter ses uvres, mais une estime respectueuse laquelle les
mes choisies ne pouvaient rien ajouter.

Pourtant, ce nest pas autour de la figure de lartiste et de sa russite
que va se construire le drame, mais autour de la passion qui nat chez
cet crivain pour une Climne dun certain ge, qui rve dachever sa
carrire amoureuse en suscitant lamour dun homme de gnie.
Toutefois, sil est dabord le jouet de la princesse, celle-ci sprend
rellement de cet homme, et finit par craindre de le perdre ds lors
quil dcouvrira quil a t tromp par la rvlation de faux secrets.
Mais ce beau caractre pardonne la femme quil aime et sauve sa
rputation dans un dner mmorable.
Ainsi lhomme de talent disparat-il dans le rcit derrire la
figure de lamant. Nanmoins, les dernires lignes du rcit sont
particulirement intressantes du point de vue qui nous occupe:
Depuis ce jour, il na plus t question de la princesse de Cadignan, ni de
dArthez. La princesse a hrit de sa mre quelque fortune, elle passe tous
les ts Genve dans une villa avec le grand crivain, et revient pour
quelques mois dhiver Paris. DArthez ne se montre qu la Chambre.
Enfin ses publications sont devenues excessivement rares. Est-ce un
dnouement? Oui, pour les gens desprit; non, pour ceux qui veulent tout
savoir. (Ibid., 1004-05)
Cette fin, si elle conserve un caractre nigmatique, nen laisse pas
moins planer un doute sur le pouvoir de cration de dArthez. Car si le
bonheur partag na pas dhistoire pour Balzac, il nest pas certain
quil ne constitue pas une autre forme possible de la mort de lartiste,
comme si celui-ci ne pouvait crer en dehors du drame, comme sil ne
pouvait se nourrir que de lui. Dailleurs, une chose est certaine, la

La seconde partie dIllusions perdues, Un grand homme de province Paris, a
t crite en 1837, Les Secrets de la princesse de Cadignan en 1839.
Les Secrets de la princesse de Cadignan, CH, VI, 962.
Figures de lartiste dans La Comdie humaine


destine romanesque de dArthez sarrte ici, et il ne reparatra plus
que sous forme trs allusive dans La Comdie humaine.
Quest-ce dire? que Balzac ne saurait se projeter dans la figure
dun personnage dartiste accompli autrement que momentanment et
en sanctionnant sa russite artistique par la mort romanesque? Toute
reprsentation de lartiste au sommet de sa puissance serait-elle dans
cet univers dramatique impossible?
Peut-tre faut-il le penser. En dfinitive, La Comdie humaine ne
laisse se dvelopper que les personnages qui, dfaut davoir atteint
la puissance de luvre, ont endoss le rle de lartiste sur le thtre
du monde. Les Bixiou, Nathan, Canalis, du Bruel, Lousteau, Blondet,
Grassou ne sont que des masques qui dissimulent un ratage
ontologique, une impuissance luvre comme la vie.
Quant aux autres, peine ns ils sont dj morts. Comme sil
fallait Balzac exorciser la hantise de luvre mort-ne, comme si par
leur mort dans le rcit, lauteur trouvait le pouvoir de faire du rcit. Il
reste quentre ces deux catgories de personnages dartiste, la place
reste vide, sans doute parce quil ne peut en tre autrement et que cest
dans ce creuset du moi impossible, que scrit luvre et que Balzac
se renonce.

Soeur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite

Rsum: Lunivers hospitalier est encore inexplor dans la littrature
lorsque les frres Goncourt publient Sur Philomne en 1861. En
sintressant les premiers lhpital, ils sont en fait les prcurseurs
de ce qui sera le haut lieu de la littrature naturaliste. Dans ce roman,
lhpital devient une institution dont la fonction est dfinitivement
plus axe sur le mdical que sur la charit. Mais les applications de
nouveaux progrs mdicaux ne contribuent pas dans limmdiat
faire reculer la mort. Les diffrentes fonctions de la mdecine et de la
religion face la mort omniprsente dans Sur Philomne clairent
une question essentielle pour lartiste contemporain: que faire avec la
mort, mais surtout, comment laborder?

Le dbut des annes 1860 est une priode o la mort est trs prsente
dans la vie des frres Goncourt. En effet, cest lors dune soire chez
Flaubert le 5 fvrier 1860 que Bouilhet, lancien lve du docteur
Achille-Clophas Flaubert, le pre de Flaubert, leur raconte lanecdote
de cet interne suicid, secrtement aim dune religieuse qui avait
accept une mche de cheveux du mort. Il nen faut pas plus aux deux
frres pour exciter leur imagination et ils sattaquent lcriture dun
roman qui va devenir Sur Philomne en aot 1860. Munis dune
lettre de recommandation de Flaubert auprs du Dr Follin de la
Charit, ils sen vont faire des tudes lhpital, sur le vrai, sur le
vif, non sans une certaine apprhension, une certaine peur dans les
Barbara Giraud


La brivet de cette tude sur le terrain, qui ne dure que dix
jours en tout, se rpercute de plusieurs faons et lon verra lesquelles
dans cette uvre, brivet quils revendiquent non sans une certaine
fiert dans leur Journal:
Je crois que quand notre roman sera paru, nous pourrions tonner bien des
gens en leur disant que toute notre science de lhpital, tout ce que nous en
disons, tout ce que nous avons appris ne reprsente absolument que dix
heures passes la Charit.

La mort les touchera encore de trs prs quelques mois plus tard par la
maladie puis la mort de leur bonne Rose (qui deviendra Germinie
Lacerteux), le grand dchirement de [leur] vie!.
Par deux fois en un
an, ils ont frquent lhpital, lieu qui la fois irrite les nerfs, rpugne
et merveille.
Pierre Dufief, dans sa prface, voit en Sur Philomne un roman
qui exalte la maternit.
Je verrai avant tout ici une exaltation de la
mort, la fois horrible et complaisante. La mort, dans Sur
Philomne, opre plusieurs niveaux, reprsentant ainsi lambigut
de lapproche de ce thme dans une littrature qui nest, en 1861, pas
encore naturaliste. A cette poque, lhypothse de Dieu ntant plus
admise dans sa totalit, la mort devient un objet inconnaissable et
surtout indescriptible, innarrable,
un anantissement dfinitif de la
conscience de soi, un mot parfaitement creux.
Cest sous la forme
dune absence-prsence, dun vide envelopp dans le silence
quexiste la mort dans Sur Philomne. Mme si, selon Picard, cest
un concept qui ne se raconte pas, nous verrons comment les Goncourt
lont rendu nanmoins omniprsent tout en mettant face face une
religieuse (une femme une faiblesse, un appareil nerveux, [...] un
cur [...] tout entier aux autres qui souffrent
) et un interne (la classe

Edmond et Jules Goncourt, Journal de la vie littraire, 3 vols (Paris: Laffont,
1953), I, 644 (18 dcembre 1860).
Journal, I, 663 (14 janvier 1861).
Journal, I, 842 (16 aot 1862).
Edmond et Jules Goncourt, Sur Philomne, d. par Pierre Dufief (Paris: Du
Lrot, 1996), p. 9. Dsormais, les rfrences cette dition seront faites entre
parenthses dans le texte.
Michel Picard, La Littrature et la mort (Paris: PUF, 1995), p. 26.
Gilles Ernst, De la mort au texte, in La Mort dans le texte: colloque de Cerisy
(Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1988), pp. 5-9 (p. 8).
Journal, I, 647 (23 dcembre 1860).
Sur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital


la plus intelligente, la moins enferme et clotre dans sa sphre et son
mtier, classe au fait de tout [...] des gens gnralement pauvres et
sortis de bas, classe rpublicaine, anti-autoritaire et la moins doue de
la bosse de la vnration
), portant chacun lobsession de leur
sacerdoce pour le remettre en cause devant lhorreur quincarne la
mort. Le drame sorganise autour dune trilogie la plus classique qui
soit sur la base dune tragdie amoureuse digne de Racine: une femme
aime un homme dun amour doublement impossible cest une
religieuse, il en aime une autre. Ce processus de dramatisation se fait
avant tout dans un lieu unique, univers encore inexplor dans la
littrature, lhpital. Dcor romanesque durant la premire partie du
dix-neuvime sicle, il devient le lieu des applications de la mdecine
o la mort naturelle nest plus admise du fait justement des
expriences mdicales que subissent les malades lhpital. Or, et
cest ce que nous verrons dans une deuxime partie, cette mort relve,
dans ce roman, dune intimisation, voire dune pathologie.
Lhpital est lespace de la maladie au dix-huitime sicle et
jusquau milieu du dix-neuvime, le lieu o sachvent les existences
des vieillards ou des criminels, largement associ la misre
populaire, aux laisss-pour-compte de la socit. Lhpital est le lieu
de la honte, de la rpugnance, cest--dire, selon une esthtique
classique, le lieu de labsence de biensance. Par exemple dans Manon
Lescaut (1731), lannonce que celle-ci a t emmene lHpital
Gnral, le chevalier ne peut sempcher de frmir: quand jaurais eu
une prison ternelle, ou la mort mme prsente mes yeux, je naurais
pas t le matre de mon transport, cette affreuse nouvelle, et
encore, ma chre reine lhpital, comme la plus infme des
Cette hantise propre au nom et au lieu dHpital reste
inchange jusquau milieu du dix-neuvime sicle, cest--dire, dans
le roman et lesthtique pr-naturalistes.
Avec Sur Philomne, les Goncourt enregistrent une mutation
trs importante: sous le Second Empire, lhpital est dsormais une

Journal, I, 669 (27 fvrier 1861).
Abb Prvost, Manon Lescaut (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), pp. 85-86. Daprs
ldit du 20 avril 1684, lHpital est le lieu o les filles de mauvaise vie sont
emmenes: le Rglement que le Roi veut tre excut pour la punition des femmes
dune dbauche publique et scandaleuse qui se pourront trouver dans sa bonne vieille
ville de Paris, et pour leur traitement dans la maison de la Salptrire de lHpital
Gnral o elles seront enfermes.
Barbara Giraud


institution hospitalire dont la fonction est dfinitivement plus axe
sur le mdical que sur la charit. Cest le lieu des applications de la
mdecine; lieu des oprations, des traitements dont le roman
naturaliste semparera en ces termes. Cependant, si lhpital devient
lieu naturaliste par excellence, cest comme lieu o lon meurt, non
pas celui o lon gurit.

Ds le premier chapitre, le lecteur est jet dans cette tonnante
unit de lieu quest la salle Sainte Thrse avec la nuit pour complice.
Les deux frres plantent un dcor mystrieux, artistiquement
La salle est haute et vaste. Elle est longue, et se prolonge dans une ombre o
elle senfonce sans finir. [] Tout se tait. Rien ne bruit, rien ne remue. [...]
A peine si, de loin en loin, il sort de lombre immobile et muette un
frippement de draps, un ballement touff, une plainte teinte, un soupir
Puis la salle retombe dans une paix sourde et mystrieuse. (p. 25)
Limprgnation du morbide se fait par une voix qui narticule pas,
une plainte qui grogne, un rle en colre (p. 28), ce silence qui se
lamente [] ces bruits sourds de la maladie (p. 29). Toute luvre
garde la lumire de ces quelques heures de dcembre o les Goncourt
ont frquent lhpital: mme dcor de neige, de gel, glacial. Lodeur
mme y est restitue, linsupportable odeur que boivent les
vtements, quaspirent les pores de la peau (p. 83). Tout au long du
roman, lhpital nest que clair-obscur, remuement dombres, de
silhouettes lointaines, lors notamment des rondes de nuit. Alors, tous
les ustensiles ingrats de lhpital deviennent source dombres
fantastiques qui meublent ce clair-obscur et lui donnent un
mouvement incessant (p. 121). La salle est tudie sous tous les
clairages et, daprs Ricatte, les Goncourt se seraient appuys sur le
jeune peintre Franois Bonvin, peintre des salles dasile tranquilles,
aux murs sobrement crpis, aux lumires tamises, aux lignes simples,
votes par une commission municipale, aux couleurs monochromes.

Cest le peintre des surs de charit, des petites filles rougeaudes aux
robes bleues et brunes (ibid.). Pour peindre lanti-chambre de la mort,
ils ont recours un symbolisme assez vident.

Jean-Louis Cabans, Le Corps et la maladie dans les romans ralistes 1856-
1893 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1991), p. 473.
Goncourt, Salon de 1852, cit par Robert Ricatte, La Cration romanesque chez
les Goncourt (Paris: Armand Colin, 1953), p. 187.
Sur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital


Dans le roman pr-naturaliste, lhpital nest pas encore ce lieu
o lon trouve les corps putrides et malades ouvertement exposs par
la plume de lauteur (comme dans Nana par exemple). Lhorreur de la
maladie est bien relle dans Sur Philomne mais le voile tait si
habilement jet sur les misres et lordure de tous ces corps, sur le
martyre de tant de douleurs, la toilette de lhorreur tait si bien faite, la
souffrance tait si calme, lagonie faisait si peu de bruit, que la sur
fut tout tonne dtre rassure et calme par la ralit (p. 80). Le
voil, le cach est ce que les Goncourt veulent se limiter reprsenter.
Ils font appel limagination du lecteur, bien plus productrice que
toute reprsentation verbale. Ils usent du code interprtatif: on ne voit
rien, mais on devine tout. Les corps sont identifis par des
synecdoques et des mtonymies (les rires, les rles) destines
reprsenter la mdecine comme une force qui transforme et contrle le
Avec son couvercle, la mort est acceptable, le mort est
comme propre.
L rside tout un aspect moderne aussi, car cest au
lecteur que revient le travail dassociation. Dj, en 1861, cest une
dcadence en germination, rvlatrice de modernit, que lon peut
relever dans Sur Philomne.
Il est possible de considrer cette approche, voulue par les deux
frres, comme une dfaillance au cur de luvre puisque la mort
nest pas proprement aborde face face; leffet de voilage sur la
pourriture des corps est montr par ce creux que le corps laisse sur le
matelas aplati en galette (p. 141), lhorreur [] voile sous les draps
blancs, la propret, lordre, le silence il nous reste de ce souvenir
quelque chose de presque voluptueux, de mystrieusement irritant
[] quelque chose dirritant voil qui fait peur.
La dlectation dans
le faisandage participe de lesthtique dcadente. La tension sant-
maladie que lon retrouve tout au long de luvre participe aussi du
topos dcadent de la fin du dix-neuvime sicle. A la dcadence
dlicieuse du dix-huitime sicle, si chre aux deux frres, sest
substitue cette fivre contagieuse de la maladie qui a aussi contamin
la civilisation franaise, y compris les Goncourt.

Voir Patrick ODonovan, The Body in the Novels of the Goncourt, in Specta-
cles of Realism: Body, Gender, Genre, ed. by Christopher Prendergast and Margaret
Cohen (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), pp. 214-30 (p. 218).
Picard, p. 90.
Journal, I, 644-45 (18 dcembre 1860).
Barbara Giraud


Daprs Marc Angenot, cest dans ce passage du suggr, du
tourner autour
que lon entre dans la logique du roman faisand,
auquel faisait allusion Pierre Dufief dans la prface (p. 21), par lart
du frlement. On entre alors dans laporie narrative: cest par la
combinaison, lintgration des descriptions extrieures, des
mouvements, des gestes observables, la transcription simultane des
sensations, des tats dme des personnages, que lon soulve de
moiti, le voile. Cette aporie est justement surmonte ici par la
dramatisation. Latmosphre crpusculaire rendue par ces descriptions
domniprsence furtive dont les critres, selon Guiomar, sont la demi-
teinte, le climat clair-obscur, linquitude, lespoir, ltre trouble,
lincertitude didentit, le rve, qui provoquent la solitude de lme.

Le funbre, ce climat vague et indescriptible au risque de le perdre,
schappe aussi de la lecture, et cest en passant de lintriorit de
luvre celle du lecteur quil prend toute sa dimension.
Malgr le titre qui semble annoncer une monographie, les auteurs
ont us dun autre personnage que la religieuse pour faire contrepoint
et ainsi, comme nous allons le voir, donner de lpaisseur aux
caractres. Les deux personnages reprsentent, lun, la mdecine
(Barnier) et lautre la religion (Philomne), et sont tous les deux
confronts la mort: mort quotidienne des malades de lhpital, mais
aussi celle dun tre cher (ce qui caractrise la mort au dix-neuvime
sicle cest la mort de lautre
). Barnier doit faire face celle de son
ancienne matresse Romaine, qui meurt des suites opratoires, et
Philomne doit surmonter le suicide dguis de linterne, amant
dsespr quelle aime en secret.
Les mdecins sont cette poque praticiens et exprimentateurs
et lhistoire de la mort est indissociable de celle de la souffrance
Pour illustrer ce point, les Goncourt font intervenir le

Marc Angenot, Le Cru et le faisand: sexe, discours social et littrature la
Belle poque (Paris: ditions Labor, 1986), p. 114.
Michel Guiomar, Principe dune esthtique de la mort (Paris: Jos Corti, 1967),
pp. 135-36.
Picard, p. 93.
Do limportance des dcouvertes biologiques et principalement de la mise au
point des anesthsiques (ther, chloroforme) qui stimulent la pratique chirurgicale ds
1846. Voir Michel Vovelle, La Mort en Occident de 1300 nos jours (Paris:
Gallimard, 1983), p. 529.
Sur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital


personnage de Romaine, ancienne matresse de Barnier que lui-mme
doit oprer sur ordre du chef de service:
Eh bien je veux un essai. Vous oprerez demain la nouvelle arrive, le
numro 29Vous avez vu: un encphalode lardac du sein droitJe vous
conseille le bistouri convexe pour lincision des tguments, le bistouri droit
pour le reste de lopration. Et faites votre incision courbe... (p. 124)
Nous assistons ici au discours proprement clinique, qui, comme la
dmontr Michel Foucault, mane du regard du praticien (vous avez
vu) illustrant le changement qui sopre dans le champ mdical au
dix-neuvime sicle. La sparation des choses et des mots est
amorce, lobjectivisation du corps devient alors possible.
personnage de Romaine, sans vritable consistance psychologique, ne
vise qu crer un effet de surprise, de hasard pour un effet dramatique
sur lintrigue: cest partir de ce moment-l que Barnier prend toute la
dimension dun personnage: il passa tout le jour remuer le pass de
cet amour qui ntait pas mort (p. 127). Il ne peut accepter lchec de
lopration que lon apprend lors dune autre tourne du chef de
service. Cest avec la mort de Romaine en une scne thtralise au
chapitre trente-sept que la tension dramatique atteint son paroxysme.
Lcho blasphmatoire de Romaine la prire quotidienne de sur
Philomne montre lagonie: La sur commena remercier Dieu
pour tous les biens que nous avons reus de lui, pour nous avoir tirs
du nant [...]. Un cri, ce bruit de voix, partit du lit de Romaine, et
des mots, qui se dbattaient dans des blasphmes confus, dchirrent
la prire (p. 137). Puisque la mort elle-mme est indicible, les auteurs
construisent la mort par ce qui est topologiquement et rhtoriquement
matrisable (la mort tant une aporie narrative), ce qui explique
limportance de lagonie ici comme moment de relation privilgie
entre le mourant et son entourage.

Autre composante du drame, le suicide de Barnier est un
fantasme de matrise. Il pourrait se concevoir dans une perspective
voisine de lagonie: le pouvoir de sortir de sa vie est regard comme
un avantage quont les hommes sur Dieu mme.
La mort est vcue
par Barnier comme une punition, une faute, et ne symbolise en fait

Michel Foucault, La Naissance de la clinique (Paris: PUF, 1963), p. 89.
Picard, p. 50.
David Hume, Essai sur le suicide, cit par Picard, p. 57.
Barbara Giraud


quune impuissance accepte. Le got pour la mort est une
aggravation consciente, dlibre, oriente vers la mort qui dnote une
faille, une flure interne.
Cest un acte en coulisse qui sclaire par
approches successives: le recours livresse, tout dabord, pour
maintenir la mort distance et volatiliser son esprit (p. 149) au
chapitre 41; ensuite, linterne Malivoire remarque que Barnier tenait
son pouce inflchi sous ses doigts, signe de la mort quil avait
remarqu chez tant de mourants (p 151); lindiffrence abrutie de ce
dernier devant la dchance physique est aussi remarque par son
collgue; enfin, les conversations entre deux internes au chapitre
cinquante-deux dans lequel on apprend aussi ce qui a vritablement
hant Barnier depuis lopration. Romaine stait rveille: Ils ne
lui avaient pas fait assez respirer de chloroforme [] Ah! le cri
quelle a fait quand elle sest rveille (p. 167). Cest dans sa
relation avec la mort, sa foi moderne dans les sciences, que ce
personnage prend toute son paisseur. En effet, par le suicide de
Barnier, la mort est l o on ne lattend pas. Contrairement la
religieuse que lon voit vritablement se faner, ce personnage de
mdecin qui, au dpart, na aucune pulsion morbide, qui a la science
sa disposition pour le protger de la mort, est celui, paradoxalement,
qui cde la pulsion morbide. La valeur dramatique de ce suicide
rside dans ce processus dintimisation quest la mort chez les
Lon dcouvre ce processus chez les deux personnages
principaux, sur Philomne tout dabord. Ds le premier chapitre, la
nuit, une sur savance, il faut refaire un pansement, elle va sy
employer quand un interne, venu on ne sait do, la repousse sans
Au plus pais de lombre, au fond, tout au fond de la salle, une petite lueur
tressaille, un point de feu parat. Une lumire, qui sort du lointain, marche et
grandit, comme une lumire perdue dans une campagne noire vers laquelle
on va la nuit. La lumire approche, elle est derrire la grande porte vitre
qui ferme la salle et la spare dune autre; elle en dessine larceau, elle en
claire le vitrage; la porte souvre: on distingue une chandelle, et deux
femmes toutes blanches. Ah! la ronde de la Mre. murmure demi
voix une malade moiti endormie. (pp. 26-27)

Voir la dfinition du lugubre propose par Guiomar, p. 177.
Sur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital


Philomne nous apparat ainsi, glissant dans lombre, en vritable
apparition fantomatique. Puis nous repartons ainsi pendant quarante
pages sur lenfance et lentre au couvent de Marie Gaucher. Cette
conception, llaboration technique de luvre elle-mme de par une
fragmentation excessive et la technique balzacienne des retours en
arrire, de la rupture chronologique, lcriture artiste mme, indiquent
un texte malade impliquant la marbrure, le faisandage, ces procds
tant des indices de la dcomposition.
Les Goncourt procdent, durant ces quarante pages, une
monographie de la petite fille, technique romanesque qui permet de
pntrer cette me pas pas. La foi chez Marie Gaucher vient tout
dabord du fait quelle est femme (la religion est une partie du sexe de
la femme,
cest un panchement amoureux, un excutoire licite,
une permission dexaltation
). La femme tant plus encline aux
sensations, on assiste un essor des sens: Philomne/Marie est au
centre dun cercle de sensations diverses, vritable plaque sensible,
pure sensation: elle sen rveillait les jours suivants toute pntre,
toute imprgne, cette persistance singulire des sensations et
cette facult inconsciente de garder le reflet des choses (p. 38).
Philomne/Marie glisse dans limagination de la mort:
Il lui passait dans la tte et dans lme des ides vagues de mort. []
Philomne regardait la mort sans rvolte, sans peur, presque
insouciamment. Si elle ne lappelait point, elle ne la repoussait point non
plus. Elle y tait, si lon peut dire, tout accoutume, et elle let accueillie
avec ce sentiment de dtachement et cette indiffrence de la vie qui se
remarquent quelquefois chez les jeunes filles au moment o elles
deviennent femmes. (pp. 51-52)
Limpressionnabilit sidentifie un ptir et prdispose ainsi la
femme la passion comme aux maladies nerveuses: de ltat
dimpressionnabilit lhystrie, il ny a quun pas.
Il y a bien ici
une correspondance psychophysiologique entre la religion de la
femme et sa sexualit, maladie mortelle de la foi que lglise appelle
la scheresse (p. 56). Daudet, dans LEvangliste (1883), purifie
lhystrique de ses dbordements sexuels pour sattacher la

Journal, I, 248 (11 avril 1857), nous soulignons.
Journal, I, 100 (20 mai 1854).
Pierre Briquet, Trait clinique et thrapeutique de lhystrie (Paris: J-B
Baillire et fils, 1859), cit par Cabans, p. 347.
Barbara Giraud


description des troubles nvrotiques chez une sur: en effet, Charcot
venait de montrer que les troubles de la sexualit chez lhystrique
constituaient des symptmes secondaires dune lsion dynamique du
systme nerveux.

A ces sensations exacerbes, sajoute une dception
fondamentale chez la femme en gnral et chez Marie plus
particulirement. La perte de lespoir de se marier un jour, une
insatisfaction affective la jette dans le christianisme, qui, selon
Cabans, reprsente pour les romanciers ralistes une morale du
renoncement qui multiplie les interdits, jette des maldictions sur la
Philomne attendait une parole, une question, un mot [].
Elle aurait voulu se dvouer, se sacrifier pour ce jeune homme (p.
64). En plus de ce renoncement, elle prsente les prodromes
significatifs de la nvrose car elle souffre ds son adolescence de
troubles ophtalmiques, de migraines, de dsordres nerveux et dune
dpravation de lapptit marque par un got dnatur et excessif
pour la moutarde. Elle est lexemple type, pour les Goncourt, de la
femme mal rgle ou drgle, source de chlorose ou dhystrie.

Cette dception se retranscrit par un drglement des apptits:
la sollicitude des surs tait en veil depuis la mort non encore oublie de
deux ou trois jeunes filles qui staient teintes dans une langueur pareille
celle de Philomne. Elles remarqurent que Philomne ne mangeait
absolument rien au rfectoire [...]. Il y avait chez elle un commencement de
dsorganisation de lestomac. (pp. 59-60)
La reprsentation de la femme fragile chez les Goncourt passe par
cette consomption, cette langueur ou pulsion suicidaire qui aboutit
une anorexie (anorexie fatale qui sera la consquence de la langueur
de leur personnage Chrie en 1884). On peut donc voir ici un got
prononc, tant de la part des auteurs que de la religieuse, pour le
morbide, o lide de maladie, de dprissement graduel annonce

Cabans, p. 314.
Ibid., p. 639.
Voir Cabans, p. 310. Les Goncourt souscrivaient implicitement une
mythologie mdicale du sang et des nerfs. Aux ples couleurs, on a longtemps
assign un retard ou un drglement de la menstruation. En fait, Bouillaud fait entrer
cette maladie dans lespce la plus vaste des anmies: chlorose due une diminution
des globules rouges. La chlorose est une maladie de sang associ une maladie
nerveuse: lhystrie.
Sur Philomne ou comment la mort sinvite lhpital


une mort proche vite ici par les Goncourt par souci de biensance; la
religion est ici un recours, mais peut tre vue aussi comme un exutoire
tel quil la t pour la jeune Emma dans Madame Bovary. Flaubert
montre ainsi que laspiration religieuse dEmma est une passion
sensuelle qui signore. Pour Philomne aussi, la religion est mine par
ces dsirs qui ne sont pas des aspirations spirituelles mais bien
sensuelles. Philomne dcide de prendre le voile: Oui, je men vais
je men irai lundipour entrer faire mon noviciat la maison des
surs de Saint-Augustin (p. 68). Lide des Goncourt est que