Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Parents, childhood, schooldays.

23 Rue Tran, Pau
Gaston and his brothers

The Toulet family were descended from the 16th c. seigneurs of Buros, in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine region. The village of Buros is located in the commune of Morlaàs, part of the district of Pau and a fountain in the village, now destroyed, once bore their name. But some of the family had long since emigrated, in particular to Mauritius, where they became planters.

Son of Pierre, advocate, and of Marie-Emeline Catalogne, Bernard-Gaston, Paul-John's father, was born at Pau 20 July 1840. His ancestors were farmers and gentlemen. Pierre Toulet had 3 sons - Gaston, Paul and Adrien, and 2 daughters, Louise and Amanda.

Paul, born 18 October 1838, was the eldest, and after a brief sojourn in Mauritius, headed for Madagascar. Family history puts him in intimate relations with queen Ranavalo, but a cursory glance at the history of that dynasty puts paid to that rumour. Not that Paul-Jean was in any way deterred from adopting the legend, (as he did the story of the Bailli de Suffren armchair) – boasting to his school friend Henri Dartiguenave, (and shamelessly conflating father and uncle): “Ce n’est pas pour rien que mon père a été amant de la reine de Madagascar”

Although the family maintained that Uncle Paul at least had married a pretty Malagasy princess, by whom he had 4 children, the reality is more prosaic. Before he settled in Mauritius, sometime after 1864 (he did not attend Gaston’s wedding) Paul made two trips to Mexico. When he returned to Mauritius he re-joined his brother in La Savanne, where he married Marie Jolivet in October 1869. He was a witness at Gaston’s second wedding in 1877, to Rosette, daughter of Isidore Loustau-Lalanne, older brother of Marie-Emma. Paul’s wife died in 1890 and Paul himself in 1898, aged 59. His death notice states that he had been overseer on the Belle-Vue-Maurel estate, in the Rivière du Rempart District to the north. Before that he had run his own sugar plantation, the Mont d’Or, near Ruisseau Rose, Pamplemousses, at the same time as an aloes spinning mill.

Adrien or Edouard, was born 30 March 1842. He ran a ferry service at Tamatave, Madagascar, before marrying Antoinette Agnès of Chazal, Mauritius, and shared his life between France and Mauritius. He was in Pau around 1879 where he looked after Paul-Jean as he attended the lycée. He stopped travelling to settle as a planter at Chemin Grenier, in the south of the island, where he died childless, in 1891 aged 49.

Gaston emigrated around 1861-2, still in his early 20s to join his exotic relations. He initially found employment in a small property called La Louisa, attached to Belle-Vue-Harel. Impressed by the fecundity of the land, he decided on becoming a planter on his own account and settled in the south at La Savanne, where he found acquaintances of his father, émigrés from Béarn, already well-established. There he met Marie-Emma Loustau-Lalanne at a dinner and married her 26 September 1864, in La Savanne, and became a planter like his father-in-law. When his wife became pregnant, the Toulets voyaged to France, where Jane was born. They returned with the baby and a nurse they found in Lescar, a small village 5 km from Pau.


Marie-Emma Loustau-Lalanne was 13th child of Pierre 
Loustau-Lalanne, also a planter, also from Béarn stock. She was born at La Savanne, Mauritius, 31 March 1841.

Jean Loustau, grandfather of Emma, was born 1742. He made his career in the navy, joining the fleet of the Bailli de Suffren, Comte Pierre André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez, in India, then retiring, glorious and triumphant, to Mauritius, where he became secretary of the island council, with the title “greffier notaire”; this function and title he kept until the island passed into British possession in 1810. He died in 1827. He married Jeanne de Corday, a grand-daughter of the dramatist Corneille, and possibly a close relative of Charlotte Corday, Marat’s assassin. Paul-Jean was not slow in adopting this ancestor either. Jeanne and Jean had many children, of whom Jean-Charles (called Jeanny) married Elisabeth de Laborde. Their eldest daughter Auguste-Félicité married Pierre Loustau-Lalanne (1794-1862) whose family originated in Salies-de-Béarn. Pierre had land on the Rivière des Anguilles, where he exploited the plantations. (Pierre’s father had been jailed for embezzlement, and his wife travelled from Ile de France to Versailles to plead his case. She was successful to the extent that not only was he cleared, but he was granted in compensation the lands on the Rivière des Anguilles by the King.)

Of their fourteen children Emma was second to last.

Although Paul was conceived in Mauritius, his parents wanted him born in France so they came back to Pau to la maison Lapleine, 16 Rue d’Orleans, to his paternal grandparent and former advocate Pierre Toulet. The house was rented by a M. Dabadie, most likely Eugène who married Louise, Gaston’s sister. He was an artillery officer, scion of a military family whose tradition went back to Louis XV.
Paul was born June 5th 1867, his birth registered at the Mairie the following day and he was baptised the same day in the parish church of Saint-Jacques.

Some of Toulet’s biographers assert that Toulet’s parents were anxious to have him born in Béarn, for sentimental reasons – Béarn being his ancestral home on his father’s side. Solange de la Blanchetai, Toulet’s niece, is of this opinion. (She pointed out that Bernard-Gaston made the return voyage at least seventeen times, as he wished the children of his second marriage to become familiar with their native land.) However, there may have been more pragmatic reasons for undertaking the voyage. Alex Ichas points out that there was an inheritance issue of eighteen years standing, to be resolved, since the death in 1849 at Haget of Pierre-Isidore Loustau, uncle of Emma, Toulet’s mother. Pierre-Isidore Loustau was a bachelor at fifty, himself the recipient of three large bequests, and at his death the inventory of his vast fortune took three months to complete.

What’s more, in 1866-1867, a violent malaria epidemic occurred in Mauritius, resulting in 40,000 deaths in a population of 330,000, with 6,000 deaths occurring during just one month in urban Port Louis. After the epidemic, Mauritius was notorious throughout the world for its intense malaria transmission.

So clearly there were multifactorial and pressing reasons for Gaston and Emma Toulet to quit the island for Béarn, even with Emma three months pregnant. They embarked at Mauritius on the Emirne, belonging to the Messageries Impériales, 18 January 1867, bringing with them the ten-month-old Jane, together with her French nursemaid.

The spring voyage was testing. The Suez Canal had not been built at the time, so passengers on the Messageries Impériales, which served the Indian Ocean, debarked their passengers for Europe at Suez, where they took a train to Alexandria where another ship of the same line was waiting to take them on to Marseilles. The total duration of a voyage from Port Louis to Marseilles took between 26 and 31 days. The passengers who embarked at Port Louis on the Emirne on January 18th arrived at Marseilles on board the Péluz on 15th February. The Toulets took the train to Pau, where they arrived 16th February, some three and a half months before Paul’s birth. Emma’s mother Félicité embarked with them, and died at sea. (Apparently she had been born at sea too.)

When his mother died 2 weeks later on June 19, aged 26, Paul-Jean’s father seemed to take little further interest in the children. He entrusted the baby to his sisters, Louise and Amanda, who was only 19 at the time, and his daughter Jane to his sister-in-law Amélie Chaline, née Loustau-Lalanne, before returning to Mauritius to further his interests in the sugar industry. Amanda was soon to marry an officer at the Pau garrison called Jacques Terlé. (Aristide Chaline bought La Rafette ten years later.)

Gaston remarried in May 1878, to Rose Loustau-Lalanne, eldest daughter of his brother-in-law Isidore. She was considerably younger than he, born in 1859, and gave birth to seven boys: Adrien, Francis, Stephane, (who died aged four while Paul-Jean was in Mauritius, in April 1886), Guy, Marc, Georges and Philippe. Rose died in 1897 and Gaston remained a widower for the rest of his life. He sold his estate, Surinam, when business was poor, and passed the remainder of his days living in familiar surroundings with one or other of his sons. He died on 16 March 1922, at Guy’s house at Mon-Loisir-Rouillard. Paul-Jean later accused him of ruining him - something he was well able to do of his own accord.

So Paul-Jean was brought up by his grandfather Pierre, aunt Amanda and uncle Jacques Terlé, who lived at Billères in a suburb of Pau in the villa Mauricia built by grandfather Pierre some years previously and so-called in memory of Mauritius.
 (When Pierre sold the house it was re-named Inisfail; census records list the Wright family from America as living there in 1906; they apparently purchased the house from an Irish family named Gillis! Though badly damaged in a 2012 fire it has since been restored.) 
His grandmother, Marie-Émeline Catalogne, gets a sole mention in a quote from Paul, in a memory that is Proustian in its sentiment:
“C’est dans le passé qu’est tout notre bonheur; et le mien me torture de sa grâce évanouie. Parfois au moment que le sommeil vient enfin, on s’imagine être encore l’enfant d’autrefois, avec un cœur d’enfant parmi les fleurs…Mais les fleurs de jadis étaient belles et pliantes et parfumées; il en est qu’on revoit avec une netteté surprenante. Ainsi à Bilhère, contre une des fenêtres de ma grand’mère, et presque sous le dallet, il y avait une giroflée, de celles qu’on appelle je crois violier, je l’aimais beaucoup.”
(“It is in the past where all our happiness resides; mine torments me with its faded grace. Sometimes, at the moment of dozing off, I imagine I am still that child of long ago, with a child’s heart among the flowers… But the flowers of yesteryear were beautiful and pliant and scented; I can still see them with amazing clarity. At Bilhère, against one of my grandmother’s window, almost under the sill, there was a gillyflower, one of those called wallflowers I think, that I really liked.”)

In one of those curious post-cards that he wrote to himself years later, in April 1904, Paul-Jean remembers further : "At about six years of age, my dear friend, I was living in a small villa at Bilhère, and from there every morning during the fine season I went to the Dominican school in Pau, brought by my uncle as he was reporting to Headquarters. It was still early in the morning, a mist hung between us and the mountains. On the wallflowers in the hollow of the walls, on the red flowers by the side of the lawns, the dew had left beautiful teardrops; and my uncle plucked for me, among the large leaves, a bunch of chill grapes. Sometimes a trumpet call rose from the barracks. Sensuous even then, already nostalgic, with the cold grapes in my mouth and all round me that intoxicating metallic voice which spoke of distant things, and the wet grass which I stroked as I stroke a fur today; and the incomparable purple of the peonies – was I happy? I don’t know. But that was living, even then. What an organ is the soul of a child, until the first woman plays on it and puts it out of tune! But remember the light blue of the Pyrenees and the morning that kissed your pale cheeks.”

Paul started his schooling with the Dominicans at 23 rue Tran, Pau. A large courtyard was set between the school and the house of the state executioner, Jean-Baptiste Ferrou, “dernier executeur des hautes oeuvres de la ville”. Ferrou was a wealthy property-owner, and something of an idealist who created a homeless shelter in his house in rue du Hédas – he owned most of the rather insalubrious area. He died without issue, aged 85, in 1886 or 1895 depending on your source, bequeathing his properties to the municipality.”
At the Dominicans, a nun taught Paul-Jean the rudiments of German. He made some lasting friendships there too, notably with Léopold Bauby, seven days his junior, who features in the Contrerimes, and who remembered 50 years later “a child with fair hair crossing the Haute-Plante, a servant bringing him to school”. Paul-Jean would traverse the public park where the shadows were so green that he later remarked that “one had the impression of entering an emerald.”
A statue of Diana in the courtyard made a lasting impression on him. And not only on Paul-Jean. For the poet Francis Jammes, the Diana of rue Tran was “the longest, the most graceful that he knew”. In point of fact, this Diana was one of several copies made of a fourth-century marble in the Louvre. The Pau copy was cast in the 1840s by the Fonderie du Val d’Osne. Toulet used his poetic licence to transform her from cast-iron into plaster, and to amputate a limb:

Au détour de la rue étroite
     S’ouvre l’ombre et la cour
Où Diane en plâtre, et qui court
     N’a que la jambe droite.

The portion of his childhood not spent at Billères or Pau, was spent at Carresse, which he inherited from his mother. Carresse had belonged to his grand-uncle Pierre-Isidore Loustau, one of the sons of Jean-Charles (Jeanny) Loustau. He had lived there until his death in 1849 when it passed to his sister Auguste-Félicité, who left it in turn to her daughter Emma.

At Carresse the property was called Le Haget, a little outside the village, itself six kilometres from Salies-de-Béarn. The painter Labrouche, who was a friend of Paul-Jean, described it as a “quiet old-style house buried in greenery…an old wall, iron railings separate it from the road that turns at that point and descends towards the Gave. In front of the steps, a pretty little leafy garden, filled with trees, elms, magnolias. And silence.” Toulet remarked on the beautiful, pendant magnolia blossoms, so white in the evening shade, “les belles et pendantes fleurs du magnolier si blanches dans l’ombre du soir”. When he eventually had to sell the property, he expressed his regret :
« Je regretterai toute ma vie les terres de famille qu’il m’a fallu vendre…Il y avait là des bouquets d’arbes et des familles de serviteurs qui nous appartenaient depuis des siècles. On ne s’en détache pas sans un peu de mélancolie. »

Memories of Carresse inform some of his novels. A description by a character in Les Tendres Ménages can only be of Le Haget: "C’est ici que j’ai eu le premier sens de la vie un peu profound pour la gourmandise avec les plats sucrés qu’on nous servait dans la vaiselle Emoire où il y avait des vues de places bien pavées, ou d ‘Agrigente, sur ses assiettes jaunes."

Especially when one reads in Coples LXLI:

Je songe aux plats sucrés de ma vieille Detzine
Et du service Empire en son jaune marli…

If Paul-Jean remembers Detzine, the other servants remembered him, too. Toulet’s biographer, Martineau, recall interviewing the family’s old retainer Louise, years after the death of Paul-Jean:
“She was very young at the time, but she can see like it was yesterday - the lovely blond child, so delicate, that she often had to mind, look after, and to whose chest she applied mustard poultices. All around the place, on the walls or on pieces of paper, he would write in pencil: Ici repose Emma Toulet, morte peu de jours après la naissance du petit Paul. And while I would chat to her about the child she knew, she would wring her hands and keep repeating “the poor child, the poor child!”
Léontine, the laundress, remarked on the sadness and the sort of haunted air that would possess the child whenever he remembered his mother.

Paul-Jean spent almost all his holidays at Carresse with the Adrien Toulets, the Dabadies and the Terlés in turn. His grandfather Pierre died there in 1892. He followed a course of education there as irregular and spasmodic as at Pau. His aunt Louise Dabadie would teach him, and Jane, and her own children, some current affairs when she came on holidays. Even the principles of algebra! The Abbé Puyoo, curé of Carresse, started him off in Latin. At age 11 he wrote to his father complaining of the spasmodic nature of his education, which he blamed on his health, or on his teachers, one or the other of whom being frequently absent. He also complained of his eyes, often red and sore.

Paul-Jean’s fragile health delayed sending him to college. In the autumn 1878 he entered the lycée at Pau in fifth class, not as a boarder but as a “demi-pensionaire”. His uncle and aunt Adrien Toulet took him in their apartment at the Arrieu building, rue de la Préfecture, nowadays rue du Maréchal Foch. After some months Adrien and wife left for Mauritius and Paul-Jean became a full-time boarder. (French college classes are numbered in inverse order, in contrast to most other education systems. Pupils begin their secondary education in the sixième - sixth class, aged 11-12, continuing through grades cinquième, quatrième, troisième, and seconde to terminale. Until 1959 the term lycée designated a secondary school with a full curriculum - the present collége, plus lycée. Older lycées may till include a collége section, so a pupil attending a lycée may actually be a collégien. At the final year of schooling. Most students take the baccalaurét diploma, or bac.)

Once uncle Adrien had departed, Paul-Jean was to sample the delights of boarding school. At eleven years of age, cosseted and cherished, he was in for a rude awakening. Henri Dartiguenave relates an incident that occurred shortly after Paul-Jean had started, when a group of boys were attracted to a pedlar selling pocket knives in the market square. Paul wished to buy one but had no money. He asked to borrow a franc from Dartiguenave, who was likewise penniless. Paul-Jean noticed that a fellow pupil, an English lad, who had just made a purchase, still had change in his hand, and asked him for the money. He received a curt and insulting refusal, to Paul-Jean’s astonished hurt. He turned to Dartiguenave, saying, “Did you see that? Can you believe it? He refused me a franc. Why would he refuse me twenty sous?” He was incredulous and disappointed, so much so Dartiguenave had difficulty in dragging him back to school. Well before Sartre, it was realised that hell is other people. And for sensitive souls, boarding school is one of its seven circles. At Pau, Paul-Jean stood out from his fellow students, different, individual. So of course they tormented him. Catala tells the story that they called him “mulâtre” and when, furious, he charged into battle, they made the excuse that “créole ou mulâtre, c’est la même chose.” It is certain that these experiences inspired the passage in Monsieur du Paur, in which the title character describes boarding school:
"Imagine, sir, a child brought up by women, neat and clean, sincere, politeness itself. Imagine a horrible college, comrades who don’t wash, who lie to avoid punishment, who swear out of bravado and make a virtue out of being scruffy and rude. Imagine the supervisors who they deserve, or rather whom they don’t deserve, failures who have done well, who wouldn’t find work as a bailiff’s clerk or a dishwasher in a greasy spoon, to whom one entrusts the souls of children, I believe to wipe their feet on. Add to that the unctuous principal, food that would turn your stomach, the airless dormitory, etc., etc., etc., Isn’t that enough to turn a good lad into something else entirely, a ruffian, for example?”

It is also unquestionable that his experiences inspired Contrerime XIX:

Rêves d' enfant, voix de la neige,
    Et vous, murs où la nuit
Tournait avec mon jeune ennui...
    Collège, noir manège.

Paul-Jean only returned to being a “demi-pensionaire” during third class.

As a scholar, his fellow students recall him as being very bright, taking first place in French composition but also obtaining distinctions in Greek and Latin. He enjoyed his lessons, and he was already a voracious, if omnivorous, reader. At the end of the 1879-1880 school year he only came second in classical recitation and in German, but he had been ill in the beginning of that year.

In October 1880 he entered fourth. His father was still in France but had to return to Mauritius in the early summer of 1881, together with his new wife, two children, and Jane, now fifteen. At the end of the fourth, Paul-Jean obtained firsts in French composition, history, geography and German; second prizes in Latin and Natural History, grammar and distinctions in maths, religion and Greek. He read fluently in German and English. Years after his bac, before quitting Paris for Béarn, he would amuse himself translating Greek verse into French – something he returned to later again.

Dartiguenave, whose father was an art teacher at the lycée, recalls a composition by Paul-Jean on the subject of fox-hunting being read aloud by his teacher, M. Artaud, as a model composition, certain passages being favourably compared to Daudet!
It seems an unlikely subject matter for a class of French teenagers. But fox-hunting had been established as a country pursuit in the region since 1847. In 1875 the Pau Foxhunting Society consisted of nine members, seven of them British, meeting every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from mid-November to mid-March. Distinguished guests included the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Westminster. The hunt frequently departed from Billère, affording Paul-Jean many opportunities to observe the riders in red coats and white pants, with their horses and hounds. The essay was no chore, as he revelled in the descriptions of the landscape of Pont-Long, the autumn dew, the dark green ferns and the broom, trampled by a troop of horsemen red-jacketed like giant poppies. And thus it continued, each week during the school year – at least until his abrupt departure at the end of January 1882.

After the fourth, at about 15 years of age, Paul-Jean had changed, mutating into an unruly rascal, to the extent that he was eventually expelled for having played “un tour pendable” on a teacher. Dartiguenave describes a certain invigilator, a M. Pujo, bald, solemn, with the profile of a bird, who revelled in doling out detentions. Pujo affected to speak Latin to both pupils and masters. Only his favourites might address him freely. Words were often exchanged between him and Paul-Jean in a Latin and French together. Harassed beyond endurance, Paul-Jean concealed an ink-pot in his hatband, which doused him when he turned it over to put it on. Pujo had him thrown out.
Another version had him expelled for an incident involving insolence at morning prayers. But whatever the reason, Paul-Jean was soon looking for another school.

Before he left, he wrote in a letter to Jane that the only teacher he found to his liking was he who taught French, Latin and Greek. The history teacher had started to be a cross-patch, the German teacher was already there, and the PT instructor was refining the art of boring him. Paul-Jean’s enthusiasm, so evident in the fourth, had started to wane. And M. Artaud had been given the transfer he had requested.

After his expulsion from Pau, his uncle, commandant Eugène Dabadie, who had recently been transferred to Bayonne, decided the simplest solution would be to have him finish his year there. Paul-Jean arrived without delay, but he had adopted such habits of indiscipline that they could not be concealed. Bayonne consulted Pau as to the reasons for his expulsion. The answer came - insubordination – “but nothing in his moral conduct would prevent his admission to another establishment.”
The letter was dated 7.2 1882. Only a couple of days elapsed from this date to that on which the Principal of Bayonne addressed to Eugène Dabadie: “Sir, first impressions of your pupil the young Toulet are so bad, in just a few days he showed himself so rebellious to all advice and gave such example of insubordination that I cannot accept him as a student in the lycée of Bayonne. Please come and fetch him immediately…”

On May 1st he entered the Institut Charlemagne, still in Bayonne, and run by a M. Burguières. He entered as a boarder, although he got out regularly. At M. Burguières he made the acquaintance of a Basque lad from Labourd, robust and wealthy – sufficiently so for Paul-Jean to see him later on whenever he returned to Bayonne. He is transmogrified into M. Bordaguibus in his verse, and the character Etchepalao in La Jeune Fille Verte. –and he turned up in the chapter on his friends in les Impostures.

It might be the case that at the Institut Charlemagne the regime was less strict, the pupils fewer in number, and Paul-Jean, though he hadn’t completed his third, was admitted straight away to follow the bac course. He applied himself to such an extent that M. Burguières sought a dispensation to have him take the first part at the end of that year - a request that was denied. So he had to wait another year. He wrote to his sister from Carresse in August that he had almost gone down in Greek and Latin – his French and German got him through.
He was in Bordeaux in December 1883 in the Institution Courdurier, effectively a crammer, to prepare for the second part of the bac. In a letter to Jane dated 10 March 1884 he announced that he had been yet again sent home, apparently for scorning a college dinner and choosing to dine elsewhere. Courdurier was incensed. Mme Courdurier, the other students, and Uncle Eugène all appealed Courdurier until he agreed to accept Paul-Jean back after Lent. He was still there in November - he should have passed the bac in July. In was not until 26 July 1885 that he finally graduated. He had quit the Institution Courdurier, and come to live with Uncle Terlé in Saintes, where he was stationed after Pau. Toulet recalled his time in Saintes with affection more than thirty years later, referring to the college at Saintes as the only one from which he was not expelled. Mind you, he admits he only turned up five or six times.

His approaching exams did not prevent him from holidaying in the Basque country at Easter, a region that was new to him. 
He visited Saint-Palais, Ostabat, Larceveau, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Arnéguy, Valcarlos and Arradoy. Apart for some brief comments on the landscape, he notices the “très jolis filles” of Saint-Palais, and also at Valcarlos, one especially, “gracile, à un lavoir.” At the end of July he returned to Pau, and explored the valley of Ossau, land of his forefathers (“une Espagnole très blanche et très belle” was noted at Eaux-Bonnes). He spent three weeks at Cauterets, dividing his time between the theatre and the casino. He notes in his diary that he had lost some money at roulette - it seems he hadn’t yet discovered the siren call of baccarat. He left there on September 6th, returning briefly to Carresse  before spending a month a La Rafette.  He records a day of Perpetual Adoration at Carresse, the children of Mary, white in their muslin veils, the black dress of the  old folk, black kerchiefs, peasants dressed also in black  – and like flowers among the buckwheat, the  kerchiefs of the girls, whom he names – Marion, Cadette, Jeanneton. He spend one afternoon reading the complete 4th volume of Houssiaux’s edition of Balzac.
He was now 18 years of age, and not long from quitting Carresse for the scented shores of Mauritius, where he had been summoned by his father. Haget was becoming too much of a strait jacket. A clue to his activities might be gleaned from those with which he endows M. de Paur, in the substituted place name Bressuire, where “you kissed the servants in the corridors and the harvesters in the hayloft, or where you chased after Aline among the hazels, while her red stockings laughed in the long grass.” Contrerime XXXI records these summer days: 

Si Monsieur Paul est dans le bois
     Avise à la fontaine.

Mais avise aussi the briser
     Ta cruche en tournant vite.
Ah, que dirait ta mère. Évite
     Son bras. Prends le baiser.

Paul-Jean was gaining a reputation as a bit of a rake. Many years later Jacques Dyssord notes that he was remembered in the locality as a young man who was too knowing and forward to leave a young lady alone in his company. Dyssord heard it at the château de Cassaber, birthplace of his grand-aunt.
Paul-Jean’s family knew it was not in his best interests to let him to his own devices in Carresse.

Secondary school over, Paul-Jean dreamed of studying law in order to enter the diplomatic service and become an ambassador – or just a consul on Mauritius. But the old family doctor, Doctor Foix, of Salies, thought his health too delicate for Paris or the Pyrenées. Paul-Jean had written to Jane about the possibility of visiting Mauritius the following year. While waiting for a decision from his father, he was sent to stay with his Aunt Amélie, his mother’s younger sister, and her husband Aristide Chaline, in Saint-Loubès in the Gironde, where they had bought the château of La Rafette in 1877. La Rafette continued to be an important refuge for Paul-Jean for the remainder of his life, and for Jane, who eventually inherited it.

So “petit Paul” as the family knew him, had to leave behind the shady plane trees of Carresse and the accommodating benches of Beaumont park in Pau for the balmy sands of Savanne and the plaintive song of the casuarina trees, like silk rubbing on silk.

Urruty investigated the why and the when Paul became Paul-Jean. Both his birth and baptismal certificate record only the single name Paul, and during his childhood he was always called either Paul or Petit-Paul (sometimes Monsieur Paul) - never Paul-Jean. In her unpublished memoirs, Paul’s niece Solange (Jane’s daughter) traces the metamorphosis to the period 1884-1885, when Paul would have been 17 or 18. Solange found the earliest letter that was signed Paul-Jean was dated 4.5.1885. But he signed variously Paul or Paul-Jean even after 1885. However, it was certainly before he set out for Mauritius that he introduced the change.
The reason for the change hinges on the French pronunciation of his initials P. T. Solange de Fougiéres wrote: Pour l’euphonie de ses initiales il n’a pas voulu s’appeler Paul Toulet car cela le choquait fort de voir broder ses mouchoirs ou marquer son linge de ses deux lettres fort incongrues qui lui donnaient des nausées – P.T.
So, the bawds of euphony were cheated by the simple expedient of adding Jean. Paul-Jean no longer had to suffer the coincidence – or co-assonance – of having his initials sound like the verb peter. Clearly a sensitive teenager with aspirations to make a noise in the world, be it in law or in literature, might not care to be known to his contemporaries, or indeed to posterity, by the nickname “Fart.”

NOTE: Léopold Bauby, 1867-1933, was one of Toulet’s best friends (and of Jammes, who wrote of him: “un délicieux vieux garçon, aimable autant que savant et artiste”) and curator of the museum at Pau. He was the nephew of the provençal writer Adrien Planté, mayor of Orthez, and possessed a library famous for its size and quality. His memoire of Toulet is on p.1377, note 10. He is mentioned in CR XI

Tel s’enivrait, a son phébus,
     D’un chocolat d’Espagne,
Chez Guillot, le feutre en campage,
     Monsieur Bordaguibus

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Poems from or inspired by Mauritius

Toulet wrote little while in Mauritius. Martineau remarked that the young man “is too lucid not to see the void of his existence.” Toulet admits as much - the halo slipped into the mud. With even a note of rancour which says much about his dissatisfaction, he complains about not working, and adds:
"Je me rappelle à moi-même ce poète des Petits Poèmes en prose qui avait perdu son auréole dans la boue. Voilà près de cinq ans que la mienne a glissé, et il me semble que je n’ai qu’à étendre la main pour la ramasser. N’était-ce pas hier ? Le temps passe si vite en mauvaise compagnie, et pour moi la crapule est toujours nouvelle."
(This is a reference to Baudelaire’s Spleen de Paris, or Petits Poèmes en prose, Poème XLVI, Perte d’Auréole.)

He wasn’t too lazy however to neglect his reading. He maintained an assiduous account of books read. Over a period of some month this encompassed Port-Royal by Saint-Beuve; Taine’s la Philosophie de l’art, among others of his works; Pascal; Spinoza; Froissart; Villon; Jean Bodin; l’Entretien sur les sciences occultes by Bayle, which no doubt predisposed him to his future frequenting of Bayle’s Dictionnaire; Renan; Chamfort; Albert Sorel; Maupassant; Huysmans; Baudelaire of course; Leconte de Lisle; Shakespeare; Schiller. He read de Sade with a sort of horrified fascination, and in particular the cynical Dolmancé* who inspired in him pity and sympathy for “la manière douloureuse dont il parle de l’amour”.

Note: *Character in Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom, a 36 year old atheist and bisexual. Sade urges his readers to study the cynical Dolmancé and follow his example of selfishness and consideration for nothing but his own enjoyment.

Three Sonnets Exotiques date from Ile Maurice, 1888 and were published in an Algiers review, so Toulet can’t have been too unhappy with them; but the long-term effect of Mauritius was the inspiration it provided for poems and contrerimes long after the poet had departed for good.
The Sonnets Exotiques are found in Vers Inédits, as is this fragment, dating from about 1887:

Au pays du sucre et des mangues
Les pâles dames créoles
S’éventent sous les varangues
Au pays du sucre et des mangues
Et zézaient de lentes paroles.

Dans les grands fauteuils balançoires
En sombre bois des îles
Elles content de vaines histoires,
Dans les grands fauteuils balançoires
Qui bercent leurs têtes futiles.

Ainsi qu’une odeur de parterre
Lointaine et paresseuse,
Dans le cœur s’infiltre en mystère
Ainsi qu’une odeur de parterre
Leur grâce volupteuse.

Sonnets Exotiques

Aimes-tu les jours d’or dénués de mystère,
Les rayons alourdis desséchant les rameaux,
Et sous un morne ciel que jamais rien n’altère
La campagne immobile en sa robe d’émaux ?

Viens, la sombre varangue embaume et fera taire
Dans mon cœur anxieux la voix des anciens maux,
Viens, ta bouche est la source où je me désaltère
Et tes seins sont pour moi comme deux fruits gémeaux.

Aimes-tu mieux la nuit ? Sous les filaos grêles,
Où l’ombre a fait tarir le chant des tourterelles,
Des rayons filtreraient sur nous comme des pleurs.

J’aime à t’entendre dire une vieille berceuse,
Et l’heure coulerait comme une eau paresseuse
Au parfum des prochains gérofliers en fleurs.

De l’impassible ciel, toujours, toujours pareil,
Les brises, comme les oiseaux, sont envolées ;
Et d’inutiles fleurs, d’aucune aile frôlées,
Dorment dans l’air pesant leur lumineux sommeil.

Il faut avoir connu tes splendeurs désolées,
O monotone ciel, ô voûte de vermeil,
Et le spleen que déverse un éternel soleil,
Pour savoir tout le prix qu’ont les terres voilées.

Là-bas où les coteaux ont des formes de seins
Et se couvrent au soir de robes transparentes,
Des cygnes noirs et blancs nagent dans les bassins.

Un ciel pâle s’y mire, et les vapeurs errantes,
Et les peupliers longs que septembre a rouillés ;
La nuit prochaine endort l’odeur des foins mouillés.

En vain brillent les eaux, pour qu’il s’y désaltère,
Moloch féroce boit les larmes des forêts.
L’île chaude sous lui fume comme un cratère,
Les oiseaux se sont tus dans les arbres retraits.

Mais loin du ciel grisâtre et de la morne terre
Les murs gardent encor des repaires discrets
Où le sommeil pour l’homme évoque avec mystère
L’essaim silencieux des rêves aux doigts frais.
Et déjà vient le soir parmi les aromates.
Arrachant sa chair brune à la fraîcheur des nattes,
Dans son voile éclatant, comme une longue fleur.

Djalia s’est dressée et fait tinter ses bagues,
Tandis que les rayons du soleil qui se meurt
Allument une flamme à ses prunelles vagues.

Mahé, in the Seychelles, inspired a poem printed in Nouvelles Contrerimes

Nouvelles Contrerimes, XVII

Mahé des Seychelles, le soir :
  Zette est sur son dimanche.
Et sous la mousseline blanches
  Brille son mollet noir.

Les cases aux fraîches varangues
  Bâillent le long des quais ;
Dans les branches d’un noir bosquet
  Étincellent les mangues,

Tandis qu’en ses jardins fleuris,
  Mystérieuse et belle,
Rêve une pâle demoiselle
  Aux chapeaux de Paris.

There are a number of Baudelairean echos in this poem – Baudelaire makes use of the word ‘varangues’ (verandas) in Les Projets, from Spleen de Paris, and from the same collection La Belle Dorothée the young lady, who is black, dreams about Paris fashions.

Then there was Mauritius:
Jardin qu’un dieu sans doute a posé sur les eaux,
Maurice, où la mer chante, et dorment les oiseaux
(Coples, XLIV)

And here is an attempt at a Contrerime quoted by Martineau that is possibly a lubricious memory of the island:

Ils ne sont plus les noirs tilleuls
  Ni la profonde allée
Où mon père menait…
  Ses pas graves et seuls.

Ni la balançoire glissante
  Où pas dessus tes bas
J’ai vu parfois de haut en bas
  Ta cuisse éblouissante.

Ten years after Mauritius, Toulet wrote the following in a notebook, the counterpart of a poem in Coples :
Je sais un homme qui ne devrait jamais voyager. Il n’est place où il est passé qui ne lui serre le cœur de ne pas revoir, depuis ce flamboyant violet de Maurice, et la jupe jaune clair de Jeanne Saint-R… 

Urruty represents her as a friend of his sister Jane, the initials identifiable as that of a family now extinct in the male line in Mauritius,

There is a quatrain that Martineau presents in its original state :

Dessous le flamboyant qui couvrait l’herbe nue
D’un dôme violet, je t’évoque. Soudain
Une source murmure à travers le jardin,
Jeanne aux yeux ténébreux qu’êtes-vous devenue ?

This was published as Coples LXIII:

Dessous le flamboyant qui couvre l’herbe nue
D’un dôme violet , où je vous vois encor
Fraîche comme l’eau vive en un brûlant décor,
Jeanne aux yeux ténébreux, qu’êtes-vous devenue ?

Coples LXIX:

Des bordes du canal noir où tu quittas ton linge,
Le noir tchocra te guette avec des yeux luisants,
Floryse. Au loin blanchit la mer sur les brisants,
Parfois sur Chamerel on voit passer un singe.

(There is a mention in the Journal of a picnic with black servants (tchocras) dressed in white and red.)

The influence of Mauritius is to be felt in Toulet's prose too. Floryse, whoever she might have been, attracts the following apostrophe:

   Vous ne connaissez pas, Floryse, le pays de vos pères, ni cette même île dont on dirait une fleur oubliée aux limites du fleuve Océan. Vous ne connaissez pas la terre de muse, où, sous des rocs qui scellent le mystère de leur nom, confusément, leur sommeil s’enchante à la voix des filaos et de la mer.
   Vos pieds jamais n’ont foulé le verger de lumière où mûrissent la mangue et le mangoustan, ni les bords, étroitement, de ce cirque qui fait voir encore les ruines d’un ergastule : c’est là que vos ancêtres, la nuit, enfermaient leurs noirs.
   Mais à franchir ce pont, balancé sur les profondeurs d’un courant d’écume, peut-être, comme dans un songe, vous souviendrait-il.
   Vous pensierez, Floryse, en amont des âges, reconnaître ce flamboyant, là-bas, dont la fleur violette ressemble à la pourpre de Phénicie.

Urruty suggests that Floryse is an amalgam of different ladies, variously described throughout Toulet, but her main purpose is to provide an excuse for the author to wax lyrical on the subject of Mauritius.

Note: Ergastule, from the Latin ergastulum, was an enclosure for slaves who worked in the fields. Toulet once again indulges his taste for a rare and exotic vocabulary,

The remainder of the Mauritius-inspired poems are from the Contrerimes. Some are evocations of the exotic within a different subject matter; others are frankly descriptive from beginning to end.

Contrerime II
Toi qu' empourprait l' âtre d' hiver
   Comme une rouge nue
Où déjà te dessinait nue
   L' arome de ta chair ;

Ni vous, dont l' image ancienne
   Captive encor mon coeur,
Île voilée, ombres en fleurs,
   Nuit océanienne ;

Non plus ton parfum, violier
   Sous la main qui t' arrose,
Ne valent la brûlante rose
   Que midi fait plier.

Contrerime IX Nocturne
Ô mer, toi qui je sens frémir
   À travers la nuit creuse,
Comme le sein d’une amoureuse
   Qui ne peut pas dormir ;

Le vent lourde frappe la falaise…
   Quoi ! si le chant moqueur
D’une sirène est dans mon cœur –
   Ô cœur, divin malaise.

Quoi, plus de larmes, ni d’avoir
   Personne qui vous plaigne…
Tout bas, comme d’un flanc qui saigne,
   Il s’est mis à pleuvoir.

Contrerime XIX Rêves d’enfant
Circé des bois et d' un rivage
   Qu' il me semblait revoir,
Dont je me rappelle d' avoir
   Bu l' ombre et le breuvage ;

Les tambours du Morne Maudit
   Battant sous les étoiles
Et la flamme où pendaient nos toiles
   D' un éternel midi ;

Rêves d' enfant, voix de la neige,
   Et vous, murs où la nuit
Tournait avec mon jeune ennui...
   Collège, noir manège.

This is perhaps a stretch but Urruty identifies 
Les tambours du Morne Maudit with Morne Brabant on the island of Mauritius.

Contrerime XLV
Molle rive dont le dessin
   Est d’un bras qui se plie,
Colline de brume embellie
   Comme se voile un sein,

Filaos au chantant ramage –
   Que je meure et, demain,
Vous ne serez plus, si ma main
   N’a fixé votre image.

(Shades of Ronsard in this poem, and later, Yeats).

Contrerime XLVI
Douce plage où naquit mon âme ;
   Et toi, savane en fleurs
Que l’Océan trempe de pleurs
   Et le soleil de flamme ;

Douce aux ramiers, douce aux amants,
   Toi de qui la ramure
Nous charmait d’ombre, et de murmure,
   Et de roucoulements ;

Où j’écoute frémir encore
   Un aveu tendre et fier –
Tandis qu’au loin riait la mer
   Sur le corail sonore.

Contrerime XLVII
Nous jetâmes l’ancre, Madame,
   Devant l’île Bourbon
À l’heure où la nuit sent si bon
   Qu’elle vous troublait l’âme.

(Ô monts, ô barques balancées
   Sur la lueur des eaux,
Lointains appels, plaintes d’oiseaux
   Étrangement lancées.)

… Au retour, je vous vis descendre
   L’écumeux barachois,
Dans les bras d’un négre de choix :
   Virgile, ou Alexandre.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Contrerime LVI

Au détour de la rue étroite
     S' ouvre l' ombre et la cour
Ou Diane en plâtre, et qui court
     N' a que la jambe droite.

Là-bas sur sa flûte de Pan,
     Un Ossalois nous lance
Ces airs aigus comme une lance
     Qui percent le tympan,

Ô Faustine, et je vois se tendre
     L' arc pur de ton sourcil ;
Telle une autre Diane, si
     Le trait n' était si tendre.


Just off the narrow lane
     Is the shady cloister
Where a plaster Diana, poised,
     Her one leg trains.

Close at hand on his flute
     Airs sharp as a spear
That rinse and wring the ear
     Hear an Ossalois toot,

Faustine, as I see defined
     The pure arc of your brow;
Another Diane, were the bow’s
     Barb not so kind.

Ossalois: Inhabitant of the valley of Ossau.
"plaster Diana": Toulet's whimsical memory of a statue that stood in the courtyard of the Dominicans, rue de Tran, Pau. In his  Journal et voyages,  Toulet appears to describe a statue still intact : "Je suivais cette étroite rue tout de guingois, qui porte le nom d'un jurisconsulte oublié.....C’est là  que jadis j’avais appris à lire chez les sœurs Dominicaines, dans une grande maison…dont l’abord herbeux est encore orné, comme aux jours de mon enfance, d’une Diane aux jambes nobles et nues. C’est près de là que Faustine avait élu sa nouvelle demeure."
Francis Jammes described this statue as "la plus longue, la plus gracieuse que je connaisse."

Henri Martieau wryly comments *:  "Tandis que Toulet assure, par un caprice singulier, à moins que ce ne soit celui de la rime, qu’il lui reste pour courir sa seule jambe droite."

P.J. Cogman suggests that it is perhaps a tradition in litterature that in poems of nostalgia statues are broken. Cf. Verlaine «"Après trois ans" (Poèmes saturniens) : "La Velléda, / Dont le plâtre s’écaille" ; Jammes, "Élégie seconde" (Le Deuil des primevères), la Vierge "aux deux mains brisées", et dans l’Élégie quatrième, "Du parc gazonné, au froid soleil mort d’Octobre, / une Diane cassée montait comme un jet d’eau".

*La Famille, l’Enfance, Les Collèges de P.-J. Toulet. Le Divan, 1957

Friday, March 11, 2016

Toulet in Mauritius

Toulet in Mauritius - historical notes.

This entry, though quite long, is incomplete, as it does not address the literary output, or more importantly, the literary influences gained during Toulet's three-year sojourn on the island. I will have to come back to that, and some further amplification is needed within these notes that I will add when my research is further along.
I have chosen to translate some passages from the French; others I have left in the original as they are more expressive, and not difficult to understand.

On the morning of November 18, 1885, the MM Sydney of the Messageries Maritimes left Marseilles with the eighteen-year-old Paul-Jean Toulet on board. For his first grand adventure Toulet had hoped for something more exciting. He was to be disappointed. This was not a script by Robert Louis Stevenson. “No activity once the anchor was weighed. No sailors hanging from the rigging, no shouts of command.” Once aweigh, the passengers emerged on deck, and promptly began to be sea sick. Toulet realised he was only a piece of baggage to be transported, the only consideration being whether he was 1st, 2nd or 3rd class.

On 23rd November they reached Port Saïd; then it was Suez, all yellow and blue, shortly thereafter Mahé (Seychelles) “green and scented”; then Saint-Denis of Bourbon (now Réunion) as exquisite as the pretty mulattos that enliven the streets with their rolling gait (“demarche chaloupée”).

Nous jetâmes l' ancre, madame,
     Devant l' île Bourbon
À l' heure où la nuit sent si bon
     Qu' elle vous troublait l' âme.
(Contrerime XLVII)

Finally, on the morning of December 10th, they made landfall at Port-Louis.
“De quelle odeur savoureuse m’ont salué toutes ces îles, Seychelles, Bourbon ou Maurice: un parfum tres sensual, qu’on pense goûter avec le palais, comme une chair vivante, ou des fruits mûrs.” Even if the colonial microcosm is stiff with its traditions, old Europe seems light years away from this luxuriant Eden for this young Béarnais of Créole stock. The tropic-birds and fodies replace the blackbirds and thrushes; the casuarina trees furnish the woods and the cane-fields are the foundation of the family fortune.

Mauritius is roughly 36 miles long by 23 miles broad, with a coral reef varying in breadth from half a mile to two or three miles surrounding. It is quite mountainous except for level stretches by the coast; the interior is broken by hills form 500 to 2711 feet at the summit of Piton de la Rivière Noir. The island is famously the only home of the dodo. First sighted by Europeans around 1600, the dodo became extinct less than eighty years later.

France, which already controlled the neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion) seized Mauritius in 1715 and later renamed it Île de France. Under French rule, the island developed a prosperous economy based on sugar production. In the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) the British set out to gain control of the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, Napoleon's only naval victory over the British, the French surrendered to a British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and religion, and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. It was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1814). Under British rule, the island's name reverted to the original Mauritius.

The Créoles of Mauritius generally claim descent from ancient French families, such as that of Toulet, on both sides. They were land-owners and planters, but after the emancipation of the slaves in 1834 they began to ship coolies from India to work the sugar cane, so that by 1867, the year of Toulet’s birth, the immigrant population had reached 246,000. In that year, a violent malaria epidemic occurred in Mauritius, resulting in 40,000 deaths in a population of 330 000, with 6000 deaths occurring during just 1 month in urban Port Louis. Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax and P. malariae and two of their vectors, Anopheles funestus and A. gambiae sensu lato, had been imported into Mauritius in the mid-1800s, and, after the 1866-1867 epidemic that literally decimated the population (121 deaths per 1000), the disease became hyperendemic on the island. When Toulet arrived in 1886 the Indians still outnumbered the rest of the population by a factor of two to one.

Toulet remarks in his journal that he embarked at Marseilles on the Calédonien of the Messageries Maritimes and arrived in Mauritius on the morning of 9 December 1885. He also states that he arrived at Port-Saïd on November 22. However, he also claims to be in Réunion on December 15, and on December 16 he describes the island and also his impressions of Mahé in the Seychelles were he stayed “for a few days”. Toulet is mistaken, both with the dates and the ship. Clearly he can’t have been in Mauritius on December 9th and in Réunion on December 15th. Urruty (Footnote 1) searched the records of the Messageries Maritime and discovered that the Calédonien left Marseilles on the 23rd September, arrived in Port-Louis on the 17th October, sailed the next day for Australia, left Nouméa on the 26th November and arrived back at Port-Louis on December 23rd. So the Calédonien left France before Toulet did, and arrived back in Mauritius only when Toulet had already arrived. However, the Sydney, belonging to the same company, left Marseilles on November 18th, was at Port-Saïd on November 23 (Toulet records the 22nd), and at Mauritius on December 10th (Toulet says the 9th). Although Toulet carried a notebook from which he transcribed into his Journal all he wished to retain, nevertheless the Journal is not a precisely dated record of events – some are grouped under a date that clearly could not refer to all items thereunder. Urruty believes the records of the Messageries to be the more reliable, and the evidence certainly points in that direction.

At Mauritius Toulet lived on his father’s plantation of Surinam. Surinam is separated by the Savanne river on the east from Souillac, a town close to the southernmost point of the island. It is the capital of Savanne district. (The town was named after the Vicomte de Souillac, the island's governor from 1779-1787.)
Paul-Jean found himself somewhat constrained by Surinam’s limited attractions - canefields, and straw huts.He liked to take the train from Souillac train station, heading for Curepipe, Port Louis or farther afield. He enjoyed train travel, observing the countryside without, his fellow passengers within. He wasn’t comprehensive in his explorations, visiting chiefly Savanne, (which extended from the Baie du Cap to Gris-Gris), Curepípe and Rose-Hill, Port Louis (centre, and Pailles) and the village of Pamplemousse in the north, Grand-Baie and Jouvence. He enjoyed the local fêtes, races, parties of sega and ghoons, smoked gandia, chased girls (including travelling players) and fell asleep in the shade of the casuarinas and in the sound of the waves.

Toulet also liked to participate in duels. While no mention is made of this species of activity in his Journal, Matineau states that his account was informed by the Journal which Toulet wrote up in a clean copy, but also by various notebooks, loose leaves, and a “cahier de voyage” that Toulet jotted hastily from day to day. Thus Toulet attended a duel between two of his friends where pistols were the weapon of choice. He was also a second in a duel between a certain M. Morel who fought Charles Mortimer on the champ de Lort at Port Louis (subsequently a rifle range!). We have no information on the outcome of these battles.
While in Algiers, on April 16th, 1889, Toulet quarrelled with one Alfred Coste, the brother of Gaston Coste, the director of the théâtre des Nouveautés. Toulet went as far as to strike him, hoping thereby to provoke a duel. But, as he related, “Cet ignoble capon ne veut rien savoir de duel”.) In 1896 Toulet duelled over a girl with one Emile Thore on the steps of the Loustau mansion at Carresse. Jean Thore was a second and witness to the encounter. It was said that at the sight of the first blood the young man nearly passed out. This duel has a historical precedent in that Emile Thore married the god-daughter of the Comte d’Echauz, whose ancestor was challenged by Toulet’s uncle, Pierre-Isidore Loustau, fifty years previously. (The aging comte scorned the challenge). Some years later, at Pau, Francis Jammes met Toulet, when they were both about twenty-six years of age. Jammes make reference in his memoir to at least two further occasions where Toulet was either directly involved in, or tried to provoke, a duel. At Salies, he challenged a rival on the pretext of who could drink more without being incapacitated. The duel was ended by the seconds after Toulet inflicted a flesh wound with his foil.

From April 1886 he began to record events. On 13 April he buried his half-brother Stéphane. – the only reference he makes to his family in the 35 months he spent in Mauritius, renewing relations with his father and sister Jane, whom he hadn’t seen for 4 ½ years! A few days later, he goes to Curepipe (Footnote 2), “that elegant city”. (One can easily mistake this city for an English academic town, as it is home to many schools and tertiary institutions.) On the 22nd he is back in Savanne, then Souillac.

On May 8 after Mass in Saint-Jacques, Souillac, he visited to the establishment of a “débitant monopoliste” ( a retail dealer) of the area and bought his first lot of gandia, (the local term for cannabis) recording the effect as “un peu de lourdeur au corps et de tendresse dans l’esprit”.
Toulet returned to Curepípe and settled into the Hotel Salaffa for a month, where he encountered some English (friendly enough, if one can get past their superiority), some French of course, a pretentious Creole who affected to speak French with an English accent, a gesticulating Italian and a neurotic pianist from Alsace.

On June 18 1886 Toulet attended a sega party. The sega is a local folklore music with it roots in African culture. In the past, the sega music was made only with traditional percussion instruments like goat-skin drums called ravanne, and metal triangles.
The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and have been adapted nowadays as social satires to express inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments while women perform an accompanying dance which is more often erotic.
Toulet describes the drums being warmed up, the bottle of rum passing around, the dances accompanied by doleful créole songs whose subject matter varied wildly and included anti-English sentiment. He described the dance as a mating ritual : “Ils dansent à deux dont une femme, ou un homme imitant la femme, avec un trémoussement des jambes et du torse, tournant sur eux-mêmes ou selon un cercle, et les pieds suivant assez librement la mesure à deux temps. Parfois l’homme se cambre ou bien se tord, le buste en avant, pour laisser saillir la croupe qui s’agite circulairement….Le sega est une espèce d’image de l’amour : l’homme implore la femme, l’enveloppe de gestes lascifs. Parfois l’un ou l’autre écarte les bras, et quand le moment du plaisir est censé venu, imite par des onomatopées un jaillissement que l’on devine.”

The French fête national was of course still celebrated in the once-French possession, so July 14 found Toulet in Port Louis listening to speeches at the consulate, then he went exploring in Chinatown among the opium eaters. He was not impressed:
“Allé en ville pour la fête française. Je cherche, vainement, des bibelots dans la rue Royale très longue et toute bordée de boutiques généralement chinoises. Je garde comme une impression de cauchemar de cette repetition de faces glabres, de corps malingers perçus dans l’encombrement des échoppes. Les uns écrivent avec de petits pinceaux: d’autres semblent des araignées, embusqués qu’ils sont derrière une barrière concave où est annoncée la vente de l’opium”.
Toulet stayed in Port Louis for some time, taking in the horse racing at the Champ de Mars - the oldest race course (1812) in the Indian Ocean and the second oldest in the southern Hemisphere. He was more interested in the colourful company: “Le coup d’oeil de Champ de Mars est assez beau, envahi par des milliers d’Indous vêtus de blanc et de rouge. Cette harmonie du blanc et du rouge est rompue par d’autres tons plus rares, des jaunes, des bleu-noir, et fait un immense papillotement.” The Europeans, on the other hand, left him decidedly unimpressed: “Les toilettes de la société blanche sont généralement banales. Pour les jeunes filles, du rose et du bleu-clair comme a bal.”

On 27th September , at Chamouny, a small village perched high over the Chemin Grenier, Toulet attended a Yamsé festival, which he described as a Hindu festival – it is in fact Muslim, but Toulet was partially correct, in that the Yamsé festival in Mauritius can trace its roots to India (Footnote 3).  And of course the population was predominantly Indian.
Toulet wrote a number of times on the the colourful get-up of Indian girls, whom he saw in the street, or at a Yamsé festival, which clearly was not confined to Muslims:
"Elles étaient vêtues et de couleurs mates et chaudes, deux ou trois violets magnifiques, du rouge. Elles passent à côté de nous, un peu comme des fleurs qui marchent et je me retourne pour admirer encore ce mariage de nuances qui s’aiment….Elles sont charmantes, avec leur façon un peu athénienne de se draper, parfois de se poser et de se grouper.”
The Yamsé festival has been described by Alexandre Dumas père in his short novel Georges, set in Mauritius, (and scorned by Toulet.) His description is to be found in the notes to this chapter (Footnote 4).
The festival known as the Yamsé or ‘Ghoon’ was first celebrated by the Muslim sailors known as ‘Lascars’ who had settled in the Ile de France, as Mauritius was known during the time of the French administration. It was the first public celebration held by non-Whites in Mauritius and was an occasion of great pomp and festivity.
In the past, the ‘ghoons’ were held in villages all over the island and were popularly celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims. The ‘lever’ and the ‘casser des ghounes’ were the two most important processions. Large crowds from all over the island converged on Plaine Verte to participate, or just watch. The ghoons were made of light wood or bamboo bound very strongly together and covered with gold and silver tinsel, many-coloured papers, glossy stuffs, stars and crescents; and decked all over with little lights, candles or even electric bulbs.
On the night of the ‘lever des ghounes’, the ghoons or ‘tazias’ were taken out. Each ghoon consisted of three to four onion-shaped domes each of which seemed to rise from the interior of the others, the one at the base being the largest. They represented the tombs of the martyrs of Kerbala. The smaller ghoons were carried on the shoulders; the larger ghoons were carried on trolleys. They were often more than thirty feet high and towered above the roofs of the houses. The ‘casser des ghounes’ (the breaking of the ghoons) ceremony was held the next day, and it marked the end of the festival. The procession was similar to the one held the previous night except that no lights and lanterns were carried, as it took place during the day.
This is Toulet description of a ghoon: “une tour en carton ajouré, dentelé, de couleurs éclatantes, avec des vitres de mousseline éclairées à l’intérieur. Au sommet une espèce de tambour à festoons, qui tourne au vent. Ce monument, fait d’étages en retrait, est posé sur une charrette.”

The following day, or the day after, he visited the beach at Gris-Gris, where he claimed to have experienced a bout of vertigo half-way up a modest cliff, which didn’t affect him when he was swinging forty metres over the river in a cargo net at Souillac. (This was a net that carried the bales of sugar across to the transport barges that brought them to Port-Louis.) At the Savannah sugar factory, it was the view of the sea from a veranda that attracted his attention, inspiring the comparison to a Chinese plate: “De la varangue de Savannah, d’où le paysage dévale jusqu’à l’océan, on voit des parterres aux vives nuances, puis des cannes et des filaos d’un vert intense qui se violace au loin, et la mer d’un bleu noir, et le ciel de saphir. Cette mosaïque de tons fait songer à une assiette de Chine.”
(Gris-Gris is well known for its sea cliff. This part of the island is not surrounded by coral reefs, so that the waves break directly on the cliffs. The most spectacular part of Gris-gris is the "Roche Qui Pleure" where the constant crashing of waves against the flanks of the cliff is said to give the impression that the cliff is crying. )

On December 13th Toulet describes once more the effect that smoking gandia has on him: “A strong gandia cigarette, taken at four o’clock, when I never sleep, put me into a gentle doze, bright in the beginning. Bizarre imaginings came, stopped suddenly, were forgotten, then replaced by others. I rarely dream, and I don’t know from one moment to the next where to attribute the pleasure I feel. From the red carpet where I lay, I retain images of purple. Hearing is keener; but sounds lose their “perspective”. One would think they come from afar, and that one is immediately surrounded by silence.”

The journal entries for 1887 amount to a mere two notes; the 1888 entries begin as late as starts 11th May. This section of Toulet’s journal is more cerebral and less frequently descriptive of the countryside. In point of fact, he was less inclined to wander and explore, and spent more time reading and moralising. (Some examples: "Les femmes m’amusent et ne m’intéressent pas, les hommes réciproquement."
"Il est des gens qui ont la susceptibilité de l’huitre ; on ne peut les toucher sans qu’ils se contractent."

The intermediate period hasn’t been recovered even by the assiduous Martineau. One of the 1888 notes refers to a hunting party at Grand-Baie, undated, which Urruty believes contributed to a later poem. Dawn found Toulet in a coppice: “L’aube était teinte de couleurs opposées et profondes, C’était une atmosphère factice, très douce, transparente.”

The last three lines of Chanson XIII read:
L’aube a mis sa rosée aux toiles d’araignée,
Et l’arme du chasseur, avec un faible son,
Perce la brume, au loin, de soleil imprégnée.

On July 6th1888 Toulet was attracted to Port-Louis by the presence there of a troupe of actors newly arrived from France, the Claudius players. And for almost two months, up to September 12th, life was, in his own words, one continuous exhausting party:
“Spent two months in Port Louis from July 6th to September 12th. I intended to do some work, but the girls came and upset things, and thanks to our acquaintance with the theatrical troupe we did nothing for a month and a half but party continuously, exhaustingly, and played some baccarat. With the Mauritius climate, I think myself happy to get out of it only dazed.”
He frequented the Casino, gambled, lurked backstage, watched all the shows from his box. He escorted the ladies of the troupe on picnics to a quiet spot he called for some inscrutable reason the Cascades, as there was no waterfall nearby. “Un petit quartier presque desert, où il y a de l’ombre, de l’eau, un luisant feuillage, tout le décor du plus galant déjeuner sur l’herbe.”

From a precocious beginning, Toulet was ever a womaniser. Given his looks and his wealth, girls were such easy conquests that when he was cheated on in Algiers by Marguerite, he took it very badly. Francis Jammes remarked of him:"C’est la femme qui, toujours, est le centre de sa vision."
And again : "Il aima les femmes de tout son corps, de toute sa fantaisie, de tout son dédain, même de toute sa reconnaissance, mais point de tout son cœur qu’il réserva pour la noblesse de l’homme."
It’s interesting that Jammes mentions "dédain" as it bears out what Toulet himself wrote to Tristan Derème regarding the young women of Pau: "c’est que les filles y ont de la politesse et de la vassalité."

Here then are some further Journal entries for Mauritius that describe his feelings and attitude from his arrival to his departure:

Journal 8 august 1886
Deux soeurs charmantes, non sans une point d’originalité, et dont je ne sais laquelle j’aime mieux. Mais peut-être que leur charme diminuerait si on les séparait – s’il n’y avait plus à côté de l’ainée, assez grande, un peu virile, la cadette toute menue, avec sa grâce sensuelle, son éternal sourire, ses yeux espagnols et sa chair olivâtre.

He seems to have been quite happy to chase the girls around his fathers estate estate. On one occasion a long-time servant of the house warned him to stay away from a young girl, as they were related: "Ne touchez pas cette enfante, elle est votre sœur."
Toulet transferred his attention in turn to some other prey, to be rebuffed each time with the same warning. Exasperated, he exclaimed : "Mon père en avait donc beaucoup planté."

He later wrote of this easy morality in CHANSONS XII:

…je sais, brûlé d’autres cieux,
     Un village sous les goyaves,
Peuplé des fils par mes aïeux
     Qu’ils avaient faits à leurs esclaves.

In another version:

Et j’ai connu sous d’autres ceux
     Un village dans ma jeunesse
Peuplé des fils que mes aïeux
     Avaient conçus de leurs négresses.

This local setback did nothing to dampen his ardour:

Journal juin 1888
C’est toujours le même problème irritant. Je ne sais si j’aime l’une des deux ou toutes les deux. L’une est plus hautaine, l’autre plus voluptueuse, aucune n’est jolie, toutes deux charmante : vaincre l’une, et avoir l’autre.

Journal 26 septembre 1888
J’ai été l’autre jour au célèbre Pamplemousses-garden. Le jardin ni français, ni hollandais, ni anglais, ni exotique m’a agacé, ouï tout le bien qu’on en dit. Et il est couvert d’écriteaux et plein de gardes. Je préfère la forêt vierge vert-de-gris, avec ses arbres morts tout blancs, et ses troncs guillochés d’argent, et je préfère mes forêts béarnaises d’automne, où je cherchais des champignons avec la petite chose aux yeux de pervenche.
Comme vous avez eu raison de vous faire grue, petite chose. Ou, vous auriez épousé un lourdaud,et vous auriez des rides et de têtasses maintenant. Je sais bien où vous tomberez,si vous n’y êtes déjà. Mais qu’importe ; je n’y suis pour rien que pour un peu de dépravation morale. D’ailleurs on y est relativement bien, et même j’y ai rencontré les deux seins les plus exquis que j’ai vus (pour ne pas me citer) :
……double merveille
Deux seins la pointe en l’air et pas encor pâteux.

He expanded his journal account in Behanzigue.
A beautiful garden, much more than a hundred years old, which you enter by gilded gates and broad winding walks. It is the Paul and Virginie quarter. When, at a turn, you expect to meet Mme de la Tour in white muslin, you stumble over a mound covering some fictitious remains. It is Virginie’s tomb.
We had taken with us some actresses attached to a travelling company; my modest tastes paired me with a chorus girl of seventeen or eighteen years, Parisian of Montmartre by race and idiom/accent, with long eye-lashes and tea-rose complexion. The air, which was impregnated with an odour of tuberoses, intoxicated her a little and it was sweet to kiss her lips under the thick foliage of a bodamnian (badamier). And I kissed her too under an orange-flowered flamboyant: these are my favourites.
In the long run this garden irritates me, it is so well kept. And besides, it is full of signs forbidding you to do something, for example to interfere with the century-old eels in the pool, which are, it appears, very naïve in spite of their age. Because of her age my girl is naïve, and since no sign forbids it I kiss her lips, Montmartre and red, a third time.
It is something to put a pretty girl into harmony with the landscape. Rather than this well-raked garden, I would prefer to see her in a verdigris virgin forest with its dead trees like white skeletons, the trunks pencilled with silver and its giant ferns in the form of chandeliers, or rather the French forest in the autumn, here I used to look for mushrooms with the little creature with periwinkle eyes.

This passage first appeated in Voyage du Tendresse, in La Vie Parisienne in 26 August, 1905, and was included in the second edition of Behanzigue in 1921.
It is likely that this lucky lass was no other than the actress described in his Journal: "Il y a dans ces choristes une petite Oranaise de dix-sept ans…alourdie aux pieds et mains, incarnation du voyou, des fossettes, les yeux petits mais embroussaillés de longs cils et une chair qui épuiserait toutes comparaisons: quelque chose de la rose thé."

On September 12th he returned to Curepipe for a farewell dinner given by his friends, (Toulet specifically mentions a H. Elton) as he had made up his mind to leave Mauritius; but on the 26th he announced a delay of a month, without quite stating the obvious – he was sailing in the Pei-Ho (Footnote 5) of the Messageries Maritimes. He didn’t specify the reason for the delay; but in fact the theatrical company, who were now playing in Réunion, were taking the Pei-Ho from there back to France.

Toulet finally left Mauritius on 23rd October, 1888, embarking at Port-Louis, and arriving at the Pointe des Galets on the north coast of Réunion on the morning of the 24th. He went immediately by train to Saint-Denis, met the Claudius players, and embarked that afternoon in their company, to which, according to his own expression, he morally belonged.

Before leaving, he recorded some final impressions, none too flattering, of Mauritius and its inhabitants. The girls he found somewhat backward, with little conversation, and putting on weight after marriage! The youth he thought superficial, narrow-minded, full of themselves and their country, poorly educated, and too material in their outlook. Their saving grace was their hospitality and friendliness. The Mauritian section of his journal concludes with the wry advice: “Surtout pour connaître l’île Maurice, ne conseiller ni Paul et Virginie (Footnote 6), ni Georges (Footnote 7)

Homeward Bound

Even on the voyage home, Toulet managed to indulge in amorous adventures. First there was the blonde mademoiselle de Fontanges, actress, part of the troupe, and all of seventeen. Her voice enchanted Toulet; it had, he said, the savour taste of wild sorrel nibbled on the fringes of a meadow. "Ah, quelle voix elle avait; on eût dit de ces oseilles sauvages, dont on mâche en passant au bord d’un pré." The voyage took on the aspect of a cruise, the ship stopping at a number of ports of call – Tamatave (des négresses assez belles) on the 26th, Sainte-Marie (les femmes y sont jolies) on the 27th, Diego Suarez on the 28th, then leaving Nossi-Bé on the 30th it made landfall at Zanzibar on November 3rd. His entry on Zanzibar was more extensive, taking in the buildings, flotillas, cages of lions and other cats on the quay, natives of all hues, prisoners in chains. The harem, he says, is especially a piece of “local colour.” He gets a little sentimental about the French flag, flying above the consulate, “loque presque banale sous le ciel de France, don’t on ne sait tout le prix qu’à l’étranger." In the evening, having smoked gandia on deck, he reports a more fantastic Zanzibar, of interlacing snowy palaces rising one above the other.
Aden was stifling, without nuances or perspective, the sky dotted with heavy vultures; and everywhere nothing but the three colours plaster, indigo and beige. Obock was as desolate as Aden, only meaner. They didn’t go ashore.
At Suez, Toulet and company took the train for Alexandria, where the company left him for a booking in Constantinople. Alexandria made a poor impression – it was full, he claimed, of flashy foreigners, snobs and interlopers.

Many years later, when his sister Jane and her husband were called to Egypt to take care of a relative, Toulet, alone at La Raffette, reminisced in a letter to Madame Bulteau:
“Suez, as I recall it, was a biblical country composed of sand, ennui, and blue houses. We were very uncomfortable. At the time I was morally attached to a company of strolling players. Among them was a very young actress who played the part of Cupid in Orphée aux Enfers. Some time before, she had made a baker’s apprentice leave Marseilles and dodge military service. He was a jealous brute, and he became jealous of me and swore he would do for me in some corner, which would have been easy for him. When he got to know me, he changed, and became devoted to me. He carried my bags and showed me such friendship that I was embarrassed as to how I could return the favour. On the boatdeck, the light of the Southern Cross illuminated his first assertions, and he struck the rail with his fist, which calmed him down.
…There was also a young leading lady in the troupe who stirred me when she played Carmen…
All these people left me at Alexandria where I met a Greek cabaret artist called Katina, perfectly beautiful. She barely had time to demonstrate any affection when she died of a pernicious attack.”
On excursion to Cairo, he started for the Pyramid of Cheops at six in the morning, wrapped up in an overcoat as if it were Siberia (it was only eight degrees).
He visited the tombs of the Caliphs, and the mosque of Muhammed Ali, inside the Citadel of Saladin, and the Boulak museum, where he compared a statue of Sésostris to an old, stubborn Gascon with yellow hair. (In 1891, the collections were moved to a former royal palace, in the Giza district of Cairo. They remained there until 1902 when they were moved, for the last time, to the current museum in Tahrir Square.)
He returned to Alexandria and a Katina fatally affected by an acute Plasmodium falciparum infestation, resulting in a form of cerebral malaria. Frédéric Martinez is dubious – he thinks Toulet might well have been spinning a yarn – he was well capable - but it was not unlike him to put a careless gloss on a tragic event.

On the 22nd, having smoked and drunk too much the previous evening, in a bar where the waiter was Russian, the owner German and the brasserie French, he slept through the day, had no appetite, and that evening, feeling very low, decided to eat some opium that he had purchased at Zanzibar. As a result he suffered a night of insomnia interspersed with bad dreams that made the night seem like a century, with acute insufferable sensations of sight and hearing. Only sensations of touch or feeling were tolerable. He decided to hate this “most banal Alexandria” with as much loathing as Baudelaire expressed for Belgium, or Stendhal for Lyon.
(Urruty states defensively that there’s no record by Toulet of using opium in Mauritius, whereas he has no shame in mentioning all his other debaucheries. If anything he seems put off by the Chinese in Rue Royale. But he buys it on the way home - and eats it!)

On November 24, 1888 Toulet embarked from Alexandria on the Djemnah, intending to go to Algiers, but ending up in Toulon for two days to recover money loaned to an officer he met on board. (He did manage to visit the Marseilles museum first, where he remarked on a Millet, Breughel and Ruysdael among others.) In the mess at Toulon he mingled both with officers returning from Madagascar and Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, and those en route to Sudan and Tonkin. The French colonies stretched far and wide at the period.

But on December 1st he was back in Marseilles, and boarding the Languedoc for the short two-day sailing to Algiers.


Footnote 1

In1852, the shipping company was incorporated in Paris as the Compagnie des Services Maritimes des Messageries Nationales, renamed in 1853 Compagnie des Messageries Impériales. The company bought the shipyard of La Ciotat, where most of its ships were built. The company efficiently transported French troops during the Crimean War (1854-55). As a reward, it was granted the postal lines to Algeria, Tunisia, and the Black Sea, and to South America (1857). The line Bordeaux-Brazil was the first French line served by steamships. Between 1862 and 1865, lines were set up to Far-East and Japan. A secondary line served the Indian Ocean via Réunion and Mauritius. 
On 17 November 1869, the Messageries Impériales liner Péluse inaugurated the Suez Canal, sailing just behind the Imperial vessel. The canal dramatically reduced the travel durations and increased the commercial exchanges, triggering the shipping business. On 1 August 1871, the company took the name of Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes. By 1872 it had a fleet of 64 ships.)
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Footnote 2

Curepipe is centrally situated in Mauritius, second in size and importance only to Port Louis, Its name originates from the practice of settlers coming to the town to refill, or "cure" their pipes. Lying on the central plateau, 1800 feet above sea-level, Curepipe has a temperate climate with cool winters and rainy, humid summers. The French founded the settlement at the very beginning of the French colonisation of the island, with the climate reminding them of their native France.
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Footnote 3
According to Ahmad Ramtally, writing in the Mauricien, 16th November, 2013, the most striking aspect about the observances of the month of Muharram is that it is celebrated in various parts of India not only by Muslims but by Hindus also. In several towns and villages, Hindus join Muslims in lamenting the death of Hussein (grandson of the Prophet) by sponsoring or taking part in tazia processions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%27zieh

Footnote 4
"Alors, entre deux haies de spectateurs, les Lascars s'avancent, les uns à moitié cachés sous des espèces de petites pagodes pointues, faites comme le grand gouhn, et qu'ils appellent aïdorés ; les autres, armés de bâtons et de sabres émoussés ; d'autres, enfin, à moitié nus, sous des vêtements déchirés. Puis, à un certain signe, tous s'élancent ; ceux qui portent les aïdorés se mettent à tourner sur eux-mêmes en dansant ; ceux qui portent les sabres et les bâtons commencent à combattre en voltigeant les uns autour des autres, portant et parant les coups avec une adresse, merveilleuse ; enfin, les derniers se frappent la poitrine et se roulent à terre avec l'apparence du désespoir, tous criant à la fois ou tour à tour : « Yamsé ! Yamli ! O Hoseïn ! O Ali ! »
Pendant qu'ils se livrent à cette gymnastique religieuse, quelques-uns d'entre eux s'en vont offrant à tout venant du riz bouilli et des plantes aromatiques.
Cette promenade dure jusqu'à minuit ; puis, à minuit, ils rentrent au camp malabar dans le même ordre qu'ils en sont sortis, pour n'en plus sortir que le lendemain à la même heure.
Mais, le lendemain, la scène changea et s'agrandit. Après avoir fait dans la ville la même promenade que la veille, les Lascars, à la nuit venue, rentrèrent au camp, mais pour aller chercher le gouhn, résultat de la réunion des deux bandes. Il était cette année plus grand et plus splendide que tous les précédents. Couvert des papiers les plus riches, les plus éclatants et les plus disparates, éclairé au dedans par de grandes masses de feu, au dehors par des lanternes de papier de toutes couleurs, suspendues à tous les angles et à toutes les anfractuosités, qui faisaient ruisseler sur ses vastes flancs des torrents de lumière changeante, il s'avança porté par un grand nombre d'hommes, les uns placés dans l'intérieur, les autres à l'extérieur, et qui, tous, chantaient une sorte de psalmodie monotone et lugubre ; devant le gouhn marchaient des éclaireurs, balançant au bout d'une perche d'une dizaine de pieds des lanternes, des torches, des soleils et d'autres pièces d'artifice. Alors, la danse des aïdorés et les combats corps à corps reprirent de plus belle. Les dévots aux robes déchirées recommencèrent à se frapper la poitrine en poussant des cris de douleur, auxquels toute la masse répondait par les cris alternés de : « Yamsé ! Yamli ! O Hoseïn ! O Ali ! » cris encore plus prolongés et plus déchirants que ces mêmes cris poussés la veille. "
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Footnote 5 The Pei-Ho was the last of a series of 5 mailboats constructed at La Ciotat , three-masted twin-funnelled barques. It was fitted out in Marseilles in May 1870 for the Far Eastern route which it maintained until 1885 when it went back to La Ciotat for major modification of engines. It served the Levant, then Madagascar. It suffered severe damage in a cyclone in February 1892 (at Port-Louis). Became part of a fleet of eight vessels that transported 8000 men and 1000 horses and mules and 12,000 cubic metres of cargo to China in 1900, it was finally broken up in Marseilles in 1902.
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Footnote 6
Paul et Virginie, a sentimental idyll of lovers brought up as siblings, set in Mauritius, by Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. (1737–1814)
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Footnote 7
In 1843 Dumas he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. Despite Dumas' aristocratic background and personal success, he had to deal with discrimination related to his mixed-race ancestry. His response to a man who insulted him about his African ancestry has become famous. Dumas said:
"Mon père était un mulâtre, mon grand-père était un nègre et mon arrière grand-père un singe. Vous voyez, Monsieur: ma famille commence où la vôtre finit."
(My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.)
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