The Symbolist novella Les Lauriers sont coupés (1887) by Édouard Dujardin (1861–1949) is the first work of fiction in Western literature to be entirely written as an interior monologue. Yet it took more than thirty years for Dujardin’s innovation to be recognized thanks to James Joyce acknowledging Les Lauriers as an important formal influence for Ulysses (1922). Subsequently, Dujardin claimed in the essay “Le monologue intérieur” (1931) that his goal had been to transpose Wagnerian procedures into writing. Since then, scholars have either denied or confirmed the novel’s Wagnerian inspiration. The latter interpretation has become the consensus in scholarship. However, in their efforts to connect Les Lauriers with Wagner, previous studies have neglected the constant presence of French musical theater references in the novel, presumably because their presence represents a form of paradox for a devout Wagnerite like Dujardin. This article is the first to analyze them. It also ties these references together with Symbolism’s interest in metafiction, that is to say, in fiction that reflects on its own existence as fiction. I argue that Dujardin was eager to follow the model of the Wagnerian novel proposed by his friend Teodor de Wyzewa in the Revue wagnérienne, that of setting on paper the poet’s entire existence by depicting his/her every emotion, sensation, and thought. In his discovery of the difficulty involved in performing such a task, Dujardin switched his focus to what his mentor Mallarmé called a “Type”: a depersonalized character, who is supposed to stand in as a representative of France’s youth. Hence, the protagonist of Les Lauriers sont coupés being an average character, with musical tastes that are illustrative of his time. Thus, the numerous musical references peppering Les Lauriers are not connected to the elitist world of Wagnerism in the 1880s, but rather to what were then beloved favorites like François-Marie Boieldieu’s La Dame blanche (1825), or Edmond Audran’s La Mascotte (1880). But there is an added twist, as Dujardin did not let go of Wagner’s influence entirely and used Audran’s operetta as a springboard with which to experiment with Wagnerian leitmotifs in literature. Ultimately, I show that the musical references in Les Lauriers are systematically divorced from real-life performance in order to become strictly mental creations that highlight just how isolated and self-absorbed the protagonist—and, by extension, the author himself in the act of creation—really is.
Not knowing what he sees,
He adores the sight;
That false face fools and fuels his delight.—Ovid: Metamorphoses 3:430–31
With a few connections in the literary avant-garde but no name recognition, the twenty-three-year-old Édouard Dujardin (1861–1949) was an unlikely candidate to launch France’s first Wagnerian publication. Released at a time of renewed tensions with Germany, the Revue wagnérienne lasted about three years, from 1885 and 1888, and played a central role in shaping the movement that was to become French Symbolism.1
In his August 1885 chronique—the monthly column that preceded each issue of the Revue wagnérienne—Dujardin praised a new short story by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam entitled “Akëdysséril.” After describing Wagner “not as the Precursor of the artwork of the future, but rather as its Prophet,” Dujardin saw in “Akëdysséril” an attempt to heed “this essential idea of the Wagnerian doctrine: the union of all art forms.”2 He further specified that such a union was also possible in literature, but only under the condition that the poet transcribe sights, sounds, and sensations he/she had experienced previously. It was by deriving inspiration from real-life memories that writers would give birth to “this fundamentally Wagnerian literature, where a full sensation of being truly lives.”3 The goal was simple: to astonish the reader with an unprecedented level of psychological accuracy in the novel, thereby giving literary representation to what Freud characterized as the unconscious about fifteen years later. The means of doing so was to shun logical discourse and linearity for the benefit of a literary style that drew as much as possible from music, according to the Schopenhauerian principle that it is the language of the Will itself, and thus the most accurate reflection of human experience.4 That is why Symbolist works—whether in prose or verse—play with rhythm, colors, sonorities, and repetitions in a way that is unprecedented in the history of modern French literature.
It is no coincidence then that Dujardin’s fiction, theater, and poetry, from the short story collection Les Hantises (1886), to the hybrid prose poem Pour la Vierge du roc ardent (1888), and the trilogy of plays La Légende d’Antonia (1891–93) contain their share of introspective moments, along with an attempt to write musicalized prose. However, these texts are still tethered to the ground thanks to a number of autobiographical allusions and references to artworks with which Dujardin was familiar, including a few by Wagner.5 Dujardin’s deep commitment to a connection between life and art went as far as his playing the romantic lead in his own free-verse drama Antonia (1891), a performance that was universally panned in the press.6 Yet his curiosity about the workings of subjectivity was also at the root of a happy accident: the invention of the interior monologue in the novella Les Lauriers sont coupés (1887), the only work of fiction for which Dujardin is remembered today and the one that will be the focus of this article.7
Unlike the texts mentioned above, Les Lauriers does not contain any overt allusions to Wagner. This is surprising for a novel that has come to be regarded as a prominent example of French Wagnerian literature.8 The paper-thin plot meticulously charts a few hours in the life of a young law student named Daniel Prince—partially modeled after the author himself—complete with his every thought. Having recently moved to Paris from Normandy, Prince feels a great sense of inadequacy and constantly lives under the fear of betraying his outsider status. The novel rotates on the axis of his unassuaged desire, namely, the non-event of his infatuation with a small-time actress Léa d’Arsay (herself inspired by Dujardin’s real-life mistress Andrée de Mora), who exploits him financially but does not care for him personally.9 As if to compensate for his lack of physical involvement with Léa, Prince convinces himself that he loves her platonically, only to drop this chaste mask in private musings that reveal his sexual longings to the reader. The novel ends with Prince’s discomfiture: expecting to finally bed Léa, he is indirectly but unequivocally turned down by her before he exits her apartment.
About forty-five years after Les Lauriers’s initial release, Dujardin claimed a Wagnerian influence on the novel’s structure in his 1931 essay “Le monologue intérieur,” which he wrote after James Joyce had acknowledged a formal debt to Les Lauriers in the stream-of-consciousness narration of Ulysses (1922). In the essay, Dujardin declared that he had attempted to transpose Wagnerian compositional techniques into his fiction and that he could not have revealed that intention at the time for fear of being misunderstood by a widely anti-Wagnerian public.10 This claim of authorial anxiety does not quite stand up to scrutiny, because Dujardin had showed no qualms about dedicating other works in the 1880s to Wagnerites in his inner circle, nor about making Wagnerian allusions in Hantises (1885) and in Pour la Vierge du roc ardent (1888). Nevertheless, with the benefit of hindsight and a desire to depict himself as an artist ahead of his time, Dujardin asserted that his Wagnerian inspiration in Les Lauriers was the key to the novel: “I am going to divulge a secret: Les Lauriers sont coupés was undertaken with the wild ambition of transposing Wagnerian procedures into the literary field.”11 Again, before taking the author too eagerly at his word, it is important to underline the tentativeness of the expression “wild ambition” (folle ambition), which suggests Dujardin’s awareness of the difficulty involved in adapting Wagnerian techniques in literature, chief among them the leitmotif—to which I will go back later.
Past studies of Dujardin’s novel have put forward a filiation narrative in which Les Lauriers is to be considered as a clear precursor of Modernist stream-of-consciousness novels like Ulysses. In doing so, they have mostly advocated the view that Dujardin’s concurrent pro-Wagner activities had little influence on the text’s experimental form.12 By the 1990s, however, perhaps due to the emergence of word-and-music studies and New Musicology, efforts were made to establish a causal relationship between Dujardin’s activity as a Wagnerian exegete/translator and his pioneering work as a fiction writer. Anthony Suter, Cécile Leblanc, Steven Huebner, and Kelly J. Maynard have all convincingly argued that Dujardin’s concurrent output as a writer and Wagnerian critic should be examined together, but they differ on the extent of the presence of Wagnerian themes or stylistic devices in Les Lauriers.13
In their efforts to connect Dujardin with Wagner, these scholars have ignored the novel’s numerous actual musical references, which come from the world of nineteenth-century French music theater, not to Wagner. Admittedly, these references seem out of place when examining the influence of Wagner on Les Lauriers: indeed, nothing could be less creditable to a fin-de-siècle dandy like Dujardin than to invoke Giacomo Meyerbeer, François-Marie Boieldieu, Adolphe Adam, and Edmond Audran instead of Wagner in his first novel. Knowing he did not refrain from alluding to Wagnerian works in previous works like Les Hantises, this decision feels at first rather inexplicable, not to say anomalous. Uncovering the full extent of that creative gesture and its connection to the novel’s wider artistic goals is what this article sets out to achieve.
Could it then be said that Dujardin was using French music theater as a foil in hopes of avoiding the trap of Wagnerian epigonism? Was this his way of letting go of the famed anxiety of influence? That is perhaps the case. But my deeper conviction is that Dujardin used these references as part of a wider aesthetic project, one that aimed to bestow life on what his mentor Mallarmé called a “Type,” that is, a depersonalized character meant to reflect “notre fonctionnement national” (our national behavior).14 In other words, Dujardin sought to re-create in literature the workings of an average French (read: white, young, male, middle-class, educated, and heterosexual) psyche of his time. And liking Wagner was far from average, especially in 1887.
Understanding the deep connection Dujardin made between musicalized writing and his desire to transpose the life of the mind into literature is key in my analysis of Les Lauriers. But there is another dimension of the novel that needs highlighting, and that is its experimental nature. Following Linda Hutcheon’s definition of the narcissistic narrative as a text that “is intensely aware of its own existence, continuously drawing attention to its own storytelling processes and linguistic structures,” I propose to consider Les Lauriers sont coupés as a self-reflexive prose work in which music serves to underline the contours of the protagonist’s bland personality.15 While Hutcheon warns that her definition of narcissism does not involve the term’s usual negative connotations, I do not wish to draw the same distinction.16 As is the case with most Symbolist narratives, Daniel Prince is not just self-absorbed, he suffers from delusions concerning the true object of his love, which is himself in his ability to remain chaste. That is why Prince has been described by scholars as “just as maniacal and narcissistic as his predecessor [des Esseintes, the lead character from J. K. Huysmans’s À rebours (1884)].”17
In the tradition of other Symbolist novels like À rebours, Remy de Gourmont’s Sixtine (1890), Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-Morte (1892), and André Gide’s Paludes (1895), Dujardin’s Les Lauriers sont coupés is a deeply introspective text that challenges the literary conventions of its time. Born at a time when writers believed their chosen medium was undergoing a severe crisis of relevance when confronted with the capitalistic and consumeristic realities of modern life, Les Lauriers endeavors to redefine literary mimesis by lodging its narrative firmly inside its protagonist’s head. But, as Valérie Michelet-Jacquod explained in Le Roman symboliste (2008), it does so with a form of hyperawareness, wherein “the I grows aware of what it is, or rather of what it is not, by becoming the frame for and the subject of the novel of a working writer.”18 Cognizant of the I’s complex nature, Dujardin created a depersonalized alter ego in the form of Daniel Prince and added a few humorous touches that alluded to the problem of capturing the multidimensional nature of that “I.”
In connection with Les Lauriers’s comedic tone, I propose to also reconsider the usual narrative on French Wagnerism in letters as in music: that it is an elitist movement devoid of lighthearted content, with the notable exception of the musical parodies for piano four hands of Emmanuel Chabrier’s Souvenirs de Munich (1887) or Gabriel Fauré and André Messager’s Souvenirs de Bayreuth (ca. 1888).19 Here I posit that the Wagnerism that inspired Les Lauriers, and which radiates through its narcissistic aesthetic, is precisely the opposite: a quixotic but lighthearted artistic endeavor. It is lighthearted precisely because the author was fully cognizant of his limitations as an artist. But before I begin discussing the novel proper, I shall explain Symbolism’s ambiguous attitude toward Wagner and how the movement’s inferiority complex vis-à-vis his music helped launch it on a trajectory that challenged the literary status quo of its time.
FRENCH SYMBOLISM, OR, THE MOMENT WHEN POETRY FELT ITSELF FADE BEFORE THE ORCHESTRA
As a notoriously nebulous artistic school, Symbolism eludes most attempts at definition.20 While its current prestige relies on the great poetic works of Mallarmé and Verlaine, neither of them identified as Symbolists during their lifetime. Rather, it was their less well-known disciples who defined the aesthetics of the movement and who invented the two forms that secured Symbolism’s spot in literary history: free verse and the interior monologue. While the innovation of free verse is now justly attributed to the Polish-born poet and cabaret musician Marie Krysińska—who published vers libre in Le Chat noir magazine in 1882—literary connoisseurs of the 1880s ascribed the form to Gustave Kahn, whose collection Les Palais nomades (1887) cemented the Symbolists’ reputation for iconoclasm.21 As for the interior monologue, it was pioneered by Dujardin in Les Lauriers sont coupés but not regarded as a worthwhile innovation until Valery Larbaud lobbied for a new edition of the novel in 1924. Larbaud himself pushed Dujardin’s form further with Amants, heureux amants (1923) and saw his narrative experiment in psychological accuracy reprised and enhanced by the generation of writers forming the Nouveau Roman collective in the 1950s.
Many commentators have observed a causal relationship between the growing popularity of Wagner in the French literary avant-garde of the 1880s and the emergence of Symbolism as a literary school.22 The Symbolists’ interest in Wagner’s life, personality, music, and aesthetic theories was indeed the product of an age during which the composer—after the setback his reputation suffered due to his anti-French writings during the Franco-Prussian War—had once again become a fixture of French cultural life.23 Just as Charles Baudelaire and Champfleury had championed Wagner in the 1860s (both before and after the Tannhäuser fiasco at the Paris Opéra), young progressive writers of the 1880s felt the duty to defend an artist whom they believed to have fallen for the cause of artistic modernity at the hands of a public stuck in the past. While the 1870s had represented a time of relative neglect for Wagner’s music in France, the situation had improved dramatically in the 1880s—despite the lack of fully staged performances—as Wagnerian excerpts began to be programmed frequently at the Concerts Populaires (until 1884), the Concerts Colonne, and Concerts Lamoureux. There were also private concerts hosted on a regular basis across the capital, most notably by the “Petit-Bayreuth” group, which was founded by the judge Antoine Lascoux and the painter Charles Toché. Among its attendees were Vincent d’Indy, Emmanuel Chabrier, André Messager, Gabriel Fauré, and Ernest Chausson, all of whom participated in chamber arrangements of the Ring or Parsifal.24 Many Symbolist poets regularly sought out Wagnerian performances—whether big or small—in the capital. Dujardin and his collaborator Teodor de Wyzewa even travelled to Munich and Bayreuth on multiple occasions. And through their written accounts, it is possible to discern a common interest among the Symbolists in putting words on the strong emotional—and, at times, intensely physical—reaction that Wagner’s music elicited from them.25
It was precisely because they had been so affected by his music—or perhaps because some of them had managed to spread their enthusiasm to the less musically inclined—that the Symbolists decided to write about Wagner in the Revue wagnérienne and outside of its confines. In doing so, they conducted an autopsy on the state of French poetry past the glory days of Romanticism and the Parnasse. Convinced that contemporary literature was in a state of crisis and that “everything ha[d] already been said and only viewpoints are subject to change,” they strove to avoid clichés by means of neologisms and new word assemblages.26 Time and time again, their discussions designated Wagner and his vision of the total work of art as an antidote. But rather than following Wagner’s example and creating a French poetic or novelistic equivalent to his music dramas, these reflections became the prelude to a creative act of reappropriation. This was what Paul Valéry understood when he marked off the Symbolists’ desire to compete with music, and more specifically with Wagner’s music, as the key that could unlock the secrets of their infamously difficult works to modern readers: “What was baptized Symbolism can be very simply described as the common intention of several groups of poets (otherwise mutually inimical) to ‘reclaim their own from Music.’”27 With their competitive spirit set alight, the Symbolists proposed a coherent collective interpretation of Wagner’s works based on their predilection for mental theater.28
By adopting such a subjective approach vis-à-vis Wagner, the Symbolists were able to surmount the dual obstacle posed by the partial and reduced performances of Wagner available in Paris in the 1880s and the uneven quality of French translations of Wagner’s libretti.29 This strategy lies in plain sight in the eight sonnets making up the Hommage à Wagner, a collection published in the Revue wagnérienne in January 1886 where Wagner takes a backseat to Symbolist reveries prompted by his characters, his music or even his artistic persona. These poems—among which stand Mallarmé’s “Hommage,” Verlaine’s “Parsifal” and two rather forgettable sonnets by Dujardin and Wyzewa—have since been recognized by specialists of Symbolism as the event that birthed the movement in earnest a few months before the publication of the more well-known “Symbolist Manifesto” by Jean Moréas in Le Figaro (September 1886).30 Alongside Mallarmé’s poetic essay “Richard Wagner: Rêverie d’un poète français” (1885) and Wyzewa’s trilogy of articles on “l’art wagnérien” in painting, literature, and music released in the Revue wagnérienne between 1885 and 1886, the Symbolists also referenced Wagner in their fiction. The list includes Jules Laforgue’s parodic short story “Lohengrin, fils de Parsifal” (1887), Édouard Dujardin’s Pour la Vierge du roc ardent (1888), La Légende d’Antonia (1891–93), as well as Teodor de Wyzewa’s novel Valbert (1893). But while most of these texts have fallen into oblivion, their linguistic inventiveness and open disdain for conventional plot, coupled with their genre-bending character, were ideals that were already explored and theorized in the Revue wagnérienne a few years prior.
DUJARDIN’S YEARS AT THE REVUE WAGNÉRIENNE: THE SWEET AND THE BITTER
According to Dujardin, the Revue’s editorial line could be encapsulated in one neat expression: “to pour Wagnerians sweet and bitter beverages in succession,” a characterization redolent of Lucretius’s image of the honeyed cup that conceals a dose of bitter medicine.31 In other words, Dujardin aimed to alternately show reverence toward the Wagnerian cause (the honeyed beverage) and take liberties with the art he admired for the sake of the advancement of French art (the bitter medicine).
Dujardin’s trajectory as a Symbolist poet and novelist, pro-Wagner music critic, and avant-garde editor was typical of the tendencies highlighted above in that he outwardly showed great devotion toward the Wagnerian cause while periodically exhibiting a concurrent desire to challenge some of Wagner’s ideas. The latter he often did out of the belief that Wagnerian music drama still relied on a degree of realism and had not gone far enough in freeing the powers of the human imagination, which he thought capable of a much greater degree of abstraction. With that logic, Dujardin consistently criticized the visual aspects of the Wagnerian performances he saw between the 1880s and the early 1890s, arguing they should not have to rely on such artifices as costumes, props, and painted backdrops in addition to singers who looked nothing like the heroic ideals they were supposed to embody.32
Born in 1861 in the Loire Valley to a bourgeois family, Dujardin moved to Paris for his studies. After failing to pass the entrance examination to the École normale supérieure, he took classes in history at the Sorbonne and in composition at the Conservatoire. There, he made the acquaintance of Paul Dukas—with whom he shared an extensive correspondence later in life—and Claude Debussy. By 1882, probably disillusioned with the meager extent of his compositional talents, he began a career as a music critic and was hired by Edmond Hippeau to be a reviewer for the up-and-coming weekly music journal La Renaissance musicale. In May 1882, Dujardin got his first big break: an assignment to cover the London premiere of the Ring cycle in full alongside Hippeau. Part of a tour orchestrated by the impresario Angelo Neumann in order to spread the Wagnerian gospel across Europe, these performances of the Ring had already been met with success in Bayreuth and reportedly bore Wagner and Ludwig II’s stamp of approval, with the advertising posters promising “gorgeous scenery, magnificent costumes, armours, etc. which have been so much admired at the Bayreuth Festival-plays.”33 Needless to say, the London event would be excellent preparation for the neophyte Dujardin’s next task as a musical correspondent: a summer trip to Bayreuth, where he was to attend the world premiere of Parsifal in 1882.
What ensued was a classic case of love at first hearing. It is reminiscent of the experience of Dujardin’s great predecessors, chief among them Baudelaire, who was so transfixed by the music he had listened to at the Salle Ventadour in 1860 that he confessed in a letter to Wagner his inability to determine how he had been “vanquished from the very beginning” by his music.34 But Dujardin differed from other French poets in that he had been trained in musical composition and was therefore better equipped to understand Wagner’s harmonic innovations. However, Dujardin kept strangely mum on the music itself in his review dated 14 May 1882: “We do not have to analyze and appreciate the towering work we travelled to hear: we shall only say a few words about the interpretation and the impression it made.”35 Such reticence is telling, hinting at the baffling nature of the Ring cycle for someone who did not know German and grew up listening to French opera and operetta. Moreover, from Dujardin’s silence, it is possible to envisage he was so overwhelmed by what he had heard as to be unable to think critically.
Like Baudelaire, Dujardin confessed his admiration for Wagner in a personal letter to the composer, the copy of which has—to my knowledge—been lost. But Wagner’s response to Dujardin was published with great fracas in La Renaissance musicale of 21 May 1882 and dealt with the question of whether any of his dramatic works would see the light of day in France in the wake of the failure of the Paris Tannhäuser and the more successful Rienzi from 1869.36 Wagner’s reply was brutal. It denied any future possibilities for fully staged performances on French soil out of the conviction that his works were essentially German and would thereby be misunderstood by a hostile French public. Nevertheless, the fact that such an obscure twenty-two-year-old critic as Dujardin was able to secure an answer from Wagner was a feat in itself, and a good indication of the young writer’s flair for publicity.
By 1884, having learned a bit of German and acquainted himself with important French Wagnerians—like the “Petit-Bayreuth” founder Antoine Lascoux—Dujardin set on a journey to Bayreuth where he caught the revival of Parsifal. There, he crossed paths with an Englishman he had met through Lascoux: the racialist thinker and Wagner’s future son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855–1927). From Bayreuth, they traveled to Munich where they heard the Ring cycle. In a retrospective account entitled Rencontres avec Houston Stewart Chamberlain—which, it should be noted, was published in 1943 while France was under occupation by the Nazis and concludes with an indirect homage to Hitler—Dujardin recounts their 1884 Munich stay and the beginnings of his close friendship with Chamberlain:
Whenever he travelled to Munich, he would stay near the Maximilianstrasse at the hotel Roth, which does not exist anymore, and we would meet every day. We were fervent Wagnerians in the sense that Wagner’s music resonated deeply within us, but we were very bad Wagnerians in the sense that we knew very little about the master’s life and works and the history of his thought. It is impossible today to grasp just how difficult it was to understand that thought only fifty years ago.37
In trying to come to a better understanding of Wagner and his music, Dujardin and Chamberlain sought to learn more by reading Wagner’s theoretical writings. While Chamberlain already had an excellent command of German, Dujardin struggled, a situation that led him to ponder the unavailability of Wagner’s writings in French.38 If the situation was problematic vis-à-vis the music dramas—with none of the post-Tristan works having been translated into French as of 1884—it was especially abysmal when it came to Wagner’s essays.39 Chamberlain and Dujardin thus saw a gap they had to remedy, and little by little, they began the project of getting a pro-Wagner petite revue off the ground in order to make these texts available in translation to a French audience and thereby fix what they saw as a series of misunderstandings between Wagner and the French.40
But why write a review instead of a book of prose translations of Wagner’s late music dramas—à la Challemel-Lacour with his 1861 translation of four of Wagner’s music dramas—or even a book that would connect Wagner’s aesthetic thought with other European theatrical traditions, like Édouard Schuré’s Histoire du Drame musical (1876)? The answer lies in Dujardin’s determination to make a splash, a desire that compelled him to follow a nineteenth-century convention for ambitious avant-garde writers: that of editing his own magazine. As Pamela Genova explains, “it is often the case in France of the 1800s that the literary schools tend to choose the framework of the aesthetic review as a primary structure to lend coherence to the group, perceived as a collective standard around which to rally.”41 The Symbolists’ predecessors had given them a roadmap on how to proceed: the Romantics had assembled around Le Conservateur littéraire and La Muse française in the late 1810s and 1820s, while the Parnassians collaborated on Le Parnasse contemporain and La Revue fantaisiste in the early 1860s. But none of these magazines consistently dealt with an art form other than literature. The project of the future Revue wagnérienne was thus bold and unique, its interdisciplinary status only rivaled by later Modernist publications like the Vorticists’ BLAST (1914–15).
At once combative and informative, staunchly faithful to the word of Wagner and inventive in its interpretations, the Revue wagnérienne is a paradoxical object, so paradoxical in fact that it was more often than not misunderstood and turned into an object of ridicule during its time.42 In this regard, it very much resembles its creator’s complex position toward Wagner. Within a few months of its publication, the Revue’s reputation evolved rapidly, going from Wagnerian propaganda tool approved by the old guard to experimental literary venue geared toward a younger and more progressive audience. It is the latter aspect of the Revue that has stuck and given it notoriety as a site where so-called Decadent prose could flourish.43 This shift in priorities quickly became a source of disappointment for the various factions that had supported the Revue during its beginnings. If, for the conservative Wagnerians who helped finance the Revue, the avant-garde poems and prose works it featured were self-indulgent fluff that detracted from the more serious enterprise of Wagnerian pedagogy, for Dujardin, the Revue was not doing enough to support the emerging literary avant-garde to which he belonged. This was a position he made clear once he took over the Revue indépendante in late 1886 and neglected the Revue wagnérienne as a result.44 Without its editor at the helm, the Revue wagnérienne ceased publication after three short years, having proved unable to please its diverse group of readers and defend a coherent editorial line.
But Dujardin’s faith in the Revue’s potential to be a laboratory of ideas for his generation lived on. Beyond the seminal texts of French Wagnerism the Revue published, it was Wyzewa’s definition of the Wagnerian novel in his trilogy of articles on “l’art wagnérien” that had the most lasting impact, with some of their core principles reverberating across the Symbolist landscape.45
In the 1886 article “Notes sur la littérature wagnérienne,” Wyzewa explained that French literature had long suffered from the legacy of rationalism. There, he turned Descartes into a straw man of French literary history and declared that his overwhelming influence had pushed French writers to sever literature from the world of the senses.46 Wyzewa then issued a highly ambitious call for contemporary writers to restore the balance between what he called the three domains of human experience (in Symbolist parlance, “the soul”): “notions” (rationality), “sensations” (multisensory experiences) and “emotions” (psychology).47 To each of these areas of human experience corresponds a specific art form: sensations are awakened by the visual arts, notions are reflected in literature while emotion, the more elusive domain of consciousness, is stimulated by music. By bringing them and their associated art forms together, the “Wagnerian” writer would perform a work of synthesis akin to what Wagner accomplished with the new form of music drama.
Where the work of Symbolist writers differs greatly from the method of Wagnerian synthesis, however, is that it does not rely on music performance in order to supplement its message. Rather, the poetic word is meant to be self-sufficient and capable of achieving similar effects as music with color, rhythm, and emotional immediacy. This helps explain why most Symbolists, in spite of their professed affinity for music, largely refrained from collaborating with musicians in order to push forward musical adaptations of their poems.48 Rather, they showed enthusiasm for borrowing musical terms in their own poems like thème et variations in Kahn’s Les Palais Nomades, or gammes (scales) in Stuart Merrill’s Les Gammes (1887), or, like René Ghil, went as far as to claim a systematized network of correspondences connecting vowels and consonants to specific instruments and colors.49 But as the example of Ghil would show—he who was regularly mocked by his contemporaries for his arrogance in inventing a standardized musico-poetic system of strict color-vowel-sound equivalence—the Symbolists usually demonstrated a form of humility in their experiments with musicalized prose and poetry. For all of their ambitions in regenerating French literature and revealing its true metaphysical potential, the Symbolists were fully aware that they could only fall short of their ideal: that of reflecting the world of Ideas in the work of art.50
This awareness of literature’s limits was exemplified by Dujardin himself, who—like Villiers de l’Isle-Adam before him—fancied himself a Dichterkomponist and even composed a song cycle entitled Les Litanies (1888).51 He also did have a go at drafting a Wagner-inspired music drama, although it is impossible to tell if he did this before or after writing Les Lauriers. Called Thusnelda, its plot revolves around a Germanic princess who was captured by the Romans during the invasion of her native land and the manuscript makes clear Dujardin did not intend to compose the music.52 But Thusnelda, as is the case with other would-be Symbolist masterpieces like Mallarmé’s Le Livre, was never completed. And by the late-1890s, Dujardin gave up on his career as a fiction writer for several decades, publishing only sporadically and reinventing himself as a scholar of early Christianity. He only took up literary writing again from the 1920s until his death in 1949 and refashioned himself as a playwright and historian of Symbolism.
Wyzewa’s career also bears testimony to Symbolism’s lofty ideals and its subsequent tacit admission of defeat when confronted with the realities of literary production. Like Dujardin, he only published two novels, Valbert and Le Cahier rouge (1917), with the bulk of his writing career being in literary criticism and translation. Even his passionate calls for the establishment of “art wagnérien” in the Revue wagnérienne demonstrate his understanding of the impossible task he set for himself and other writers with its tentative language and its cautious abundance of future tenses.53
But Wyzewa could also be more practically minded. In his 1886 “art wagnérien” trilogy of articles for the Revue wagnérienne, he proposed to avoid tediousness and prevent dispersion by prescribing strict limits to fellow writers. In the Wagnerian novel, there was to be only one main character and the plot was to unfold over a short duration in order to avoid “isolated and unexplained perceptions,” conveying instead “the very origins of mental states in their continuity.”54 What becomes apparent here is just how much of an interest Wyzewa had in the literary representation of inner life. This was a subject of particular concern to Wyzewa since he believed that the Naturalists—as the dominant literary school of the 1880s—had sinned for having given too much attention to society’s ills. In other words, the Naturalists had cared too much about the external world, to the detriment of character psychology.55
The Wagnerian novel, Wyzewa surmised, would remedy this situation by giving as complete a portrayal of a fictional character’s interiority as possible, with the added constraint that the contents of its fictional characters’ interiority had to be directly inspired by the author’s own experiences. According to him, the more autobiographical the narrative, the more successfully it could deliver emotional immediacy and thought intimacy. The question now becomes: since Dujardin was a close collaborator of Wyzewa and applied many of the rules delineated by his friend in Les Lauriers sont coupés, how much does the final product conform to Wyzewa’s vision? Part of the answer to that question lies in Dujardin’s earlier attempts at writing fiction with Les Hantises (1886), a collection of short stories that already demonstrates his interest for highly flawed characters and everyday mediocrity, an interest that seemingly contradicts Wyzewa’s injunction for literature to reflect the sum of the poet’s existence.
ONLY THE SOUL LIVES: DUJARDIN’S FICTION BEFORE LES LAURIERS SONT COUPÉS
As he busied himself with promoting the Revue wagnérienne and attending Wagnerian concerts in Paris and abroad, Dujardin also began writing his own fiction and released a couple of works before Les Lauriers sont coupés.56 The first was a collection of thirteen short stories in the fantastic genre entitled Les Hantises (1885), and the second was the prose poem À la gloire d’Antonia (1886). In dedicating twelve tales from Les Hantises to prominent Wagnerians—such as Lascoux and Boissier—and to writers who had contributed to the Revue wagnérienne—like Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Catulle Mendès, Mallarmé, and Huysmans—Dujardin appeared to be trying to appeal to the two groups that had come to define his career thus far.
The themes explored in the book show a similar willingness to draw from various sources and synthesize them into a coherent final product. Les Hantises bears the mark of a wide array of influences, from a predilection for the macabre and the occult derived from Edgar Allan Poe and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, to a sensationalized investigation of disturbed psyches similar to Guy de Maupassant or Paul Bourget, and an occasional foray into middle-class inanity à la Gustave Flaubert and Maupassant. The result, if uneven in quality, holds the promise of greater things to come. As Huysmans told Dujardin, “Les Hantises are a pretty labyrinth of the soul . . . the most important thing after Poë [sic] was to describe exacerbated states of mind, to recreate a non-American rationalizing fantastic, which is what I have found in this all-too-short book—suggestive in its ideas and weak in certain areas, stylistically so, I think.”57
In recent studies of Les Lauriers sont coupés and its connection to Wagnerism, it has become de bon ton to briefly mention two stories from Les Hantises—“Le Kabbaliste” and “Histoire d’une journée” (Story of a given day)—and argue for their status as preliminary sketches.58 Certainly, there seem to be two important aspects of the novel that are present in these earlier texts: “Le Kabbaliste” contains Wagnerian allusions—with a gender-bending passage that paraphrases the final scene of Die Walküre and has the male protagonist imagine himself as a supine Brünnhilde protected by a ring of fire—while “Histoire d’une journée” scrupulously details an average man’s routine. Moreover, these two texts already display elements that foreshadow Dujardin’s pursuit of an aesthetic of contrasts in Les Lauriers—the dreamlike atmosphere of Symbolist poetry clashing with the ironic realism usually seen in Maupassant, or the temptation to emulate Wagner’s grandiosity contrasting with more quotidian concerns.
Beyond the parallels I just mentioned, “Le Kabbaliste” and “Histoire d’une journée” also refer to French theater and musical entertainment. Like the ones in Les Lauriers, these references have gone unnoticed by critics. For instance, shortly before staging a vision of himself as Brünnhilde, the titular protagonist of “Le Kabbaliste” invokes another mental image. This passage, which is more obviously humorous than the allusion to Die Walküre, is stylistically redolent of Laforgue’s trademark juxtaposition of slang and lyricism, a juxtaposition that was deeply influential to Dujardin and reappears in Les Lauriers: “The other night, I met up with good old Trilby—he was a sylph—in an aerial park covered with diamonds made of ether.”59 This “good old” Trilby is in fact a character from what was then a French literary classic: Charles Nodier’s novella, Trilby ou le lutin d’Argail (1822) (Trilby, or the Imp of Argyll). Inspired by Walter Scott and Scottish folklore, Nodier created the half-angel half-demon imp Trilby, a character that became so popular as to appear in numerous stage adaptations. These included a one-act vaudeville by Eugène Scribe and Pierre Carmouche—Trilby, ou le lutin d’Argail (1823)—and a ballet entitled Trilby, ou le lutin des chaumières (1840) (Trilby or the Imp of Humble Dwellings) by the Cogniard brothers, who contributed to the success of the operetta and féerie genres during the Second Empire at the Théâtre des Variétés. However, Scribe’s version of Trilby was the most successful of these adaptations. It premiered in 1823 at the Théâtre du Gymnase Dramatique, which had only opened three years prior with the purpose of hosting Scribe’s newest comédies-vaudeville.60 Typical of the genre is the inclusion of various songs from other vaudevilles—like Scribe’s own La Somnambule (1819), which was later adapted by Felice Romani as La Sonnambula (1831) for Vincenzo Bellini—and original songs by the Austrian poet Ignaz Franz Castelli, all of which punctuate the flow of the play and highlight its most emotional moments. Though Scribe’s creation had lost its luster by the second half of the nineteenth century, it had stayed on as part of the Gymnase repertoire years after its premiere.61 It is thus possible that Dujardin may have caught it there himself or heard about it from friends. At any rate, the reference to Trilby in “Le Kabbaliste” can be understood to convey not just the high-end Romantic drama of the Nodier original, but also, as its use of slang (“good old Trilby”) would suggest, its more popular by-products: the vaudeville and ballet it inspired.
Parisian theaters, big and small, also make subtle appearances in “Histoire d’une journée.” The story details one ordinary day in the life of Maurice Dupont, a young man in his twenties, who moved from Normandy to Paris in order to study law.62 Acutely aware of his provincial roots and his common last name—Dupont was and remains the equivalent of Smith in France—he seeks to control the image he projects onto the people who surround him and makes considerable efforts to be perceived as a dandy. This he does through his sophisticated choice of clothing and by showing himself at various conspicuous spots of the capital like the café Tortoni, a location that comes back in Les Lauriers.
But Dupont’s incessant curating of his dress and demeanor is not just a symptom of his narcissism; it is above all else indebted to the theater and the habits of its most elegant attendees: “little by little, through theater during his first years, he got to know what Parisian life was like . . . he had been initiated into chic.”63 Unfortunately, he has yet to be invited to the soirées hosted by the distinguished men and women who occupy the orchestra seats. Hoping for their approval, Dupont becomes a fixture of the most fashionable performance venues of the capital, like the Paris Opéra, as well as its more popular counterparts, the Théâtre du Vaudeville and the Théâtre des Nouveautés, where he pretends to be slumming.64 Like Dujardin, Dupont is short-sighted and treasures his monocle, which he leaves hanging on his vest. This is no mistake since its purely ornamental function keeps him from engaging too deeply with what happens on the stage.65 Between his attitude as a detached spectator and his aspirational purchases from a shoemaker with at least “three customers at the Jockey-Club”—an exclusive men’s club that was instrumental in causing the failure of Tannhäuser back in 1861—it becomes clear that Dupont only attends the theater in hopes of climbing the Parisian social ladder.66
In sum, this short examination of Les Hantises foreshadows how Dujardin was to handle his references to French music theater in Les Lauriers. It does so in two respects. First, in Les Hantises, Dujardin showed a willingness to dilute high art—in this case, Die Walküre—with more popular forms of entertainment. Second, he turned his protagonist in “Histoire d’une journée” into a reverse alter ego who, although he shares some traits with Dujardin himself, is in fact a vacuous if driven young man. This form of characterization—the young ambitious provincial man who tries to “make it” in Paris—has many precedents in nineteenth-century French literature, from Balzac’s Eugène de Rastignac, to Maupassant’s Georges Duroy in Bel-Ami (1885). But in Les Lauriers, Dujardin transforms a trope into an impersonal “Type,” going as far as to create a solipsistic, and ultimately empty, discourse. And, as I am going to show now, the mechanism that reinforces the impression of emptiness on the reader is Daniel Prince’s frequent use of musical references. In fact, he consistently uses them as a crutch with which to maintain a state of denial over the reality of his romantic and artistic failures.
PLATITUDE AFTER PLATITUDE: FRENCH MUSIC THEATER REFERENCES IN LES LAURIERS SONT COUPÉS
To begin with, there is the matter of the novel’s title, which draws from the French folk-song repertoire and heralds the novel’s Laforgue-like tactic of bringing together popular references and a poetic style for the happy few. A quotation from the second line of an eighteenth-century children’s song—or ronde—called Nous n’irons plus au bois, the text was allegedly composed by Louis XV’s most prominent mistress, Madame de Pompadour, shortly after the King gifted her the Hôtel d’Évreux, now the Palais de l’Élysée and the current residence of French presidents.67 According to popular belief, Madame de Pompadour wanted to amuse children from the neighboring area by having them dance in circles and sing along. Here is a sampling of the text—first verse and chorus:
From George Sand to Gustav Mahler to Claude Debussy, the song has come to represent childhood innocence in literature and in music.69 But upon closer examination of the lyrics and the symbolism they contain, “Nous n’irons plus au bois” includes much more adult content (ex. 1). Indeed, the song’s references to walking into the woods—where one may presumably find a wolf—coupled with the laurels can take on new meaning in light of the cultural context of the era during which the song was written. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Versailles, laurels were in effect shorthand for prostitution, with braids signaling the entrance of a brothel to potential customers.70 Thus, by virtue of association, the title of the novel can also be considered to be just as ambiguous, pointing to the dual mindset of Daniel Prince vis-à-vis his sexuality, which he either indulges in or denies.
But Dujardin was not the first writer of the nineteenth century to be interested in “Nous n’irons plus au bois” and its wealth of contradictory images. In a poem written in 1846, the poet Théodore de Banville—revered by Mallarmé and the Symbolists—successfully merged the original song’s dual modes of interpretation into a dark poetic universe where the vestiges of an aristocratic castle—presumably Versailles—are shown in an abandoned state:
In Banville’s version, the once awe-inspiring Cupids and Naiads of ornate pools are captured in a state of decay, the water that used to flow from their fountains having congealed into crystals—presumably made of limescale. An ongoing hunt marks the end of a stag’s life with the sound of the horn while the gardens in the vicinity have become eerily quiet because the children who used them as their playground have since disappeared. Consequently, in Banville’s hands, “Nous n’irons plus au bois” has evolved from childhood rhyme into a meditation on loss, with the poem’s ruins seemingly alluding to the tectonic shifts undergone by French society in the wake of the Revolution. Similar to Verlaine’s most famous poems from Fêtes galantes (1869), it is filled with nostalgia for the ancien régime and displays some anxiety vis-à-vis the present.
It is only possible to speculate as to whether or not Dujardin had read this specific poem by Banville, but it is likely he knew the song “Nous n’irons plus au bois” from childhood. Dujardin’s decision to focus on the second line of the song for his title suggests he may also have been interested in the laurels’ usual symbolism beyond their connection to sex work: that of academic accomplishment and military victory. When attached to the aristocratic name of Daniel Prince, the title Les Lauriers sont coupés would thus appear not just to harken back to the ancien régime like Banville, but also to bear the promise of a particular achievement worthy of laurels. And yet, the combination of the Prince last name with the laurel symbolism cannot be taken seriously once the reader is presented with the basic facts of the plot. Prince, it turns out, is a dreamer who attends law school half-heartedly and dabbles in writing in his free time. His romantic life is not much more successful, seeing as Léa—the woman with whom he believes to be in love and whom he fantasizes about day and night—does not in fact want any sort of intimacy with him, whether physical or emotional.
Beyond the title’s symbolic content, what matters most here is that Dujardin’s choice of a popular song for his novelistic début highlights a conflict at the heart of his creative process. I see it as representative of the same clash of high Wagner-inspired ambition and more modest artistic means I described earlier in regards to Symbolism. From a thematic perspective, the contrast between the folksy title and the novel’s highly experimental style also echoes another one of Prince’s inner contradictions, namely his struggle over having to choose between the life of the aesthete and that of the fashionable gentleman.
This irresolution is just as apparent in his relationship with music, with Prince often unable to determine where some of his musical reminiscences come from and feeling confused about what he truly thinks of them. The very first appearance of music in the novel is emblematic of this state of affairs. It takes place in a non-diegetic and even roundabout way, embedded as it is in a stream of thoughts and involuntary memories. In chapter 2, as Daniel Prince is dining at the fictitious Café Oriental—itself inspired by the Café d’Orient where Dujardin used to meet fellow Symbolists—he draws an association between an attractive woman he has spotted having a meal with a male companion, the wine he is consuming, and a famous line he has trouble attributing to a specific operatic source:
Ici, seulement, le vin n’est pas remarquable; il faut aller dans les grands restaurants pour avoir du vin. Le vin, le jeu, —le vin, le jeu, les belles, —voilà, voilà. . . . Quel rapport y a-t-il entre le vin et le jeu, entre le jeu et les belles? . . . Mais le jeu . . . le vin, le jeu, —le vin, le jeu, les belles. . . . Les belles, chères à Scribe. Ce n’est pas du Chalet, mais de Robert-le-Diable. Allons, c’est de Scribe encore. Et toujours la même triple passion. . . . Vive le vin, l’amour et le tabac. . . .
(Only the wine here isn’t anything special; have to go to the best restaurants for wine. Wine, gambling, women—there, there you are—What connection is there between wine and gambling, between gambling and women? . . . But gambling . . . wine, gambling—wine, gambling, women. . . . Women, dear to Scribe. It’s not from Le Chalet, in Robert le Diable rather. And that’s by Scribe too. And always a passion for the same three things. . . . Long live wine, love and tobacco. . . .)72
Here Prince spontaneously transitions from citing the male chorus line from act I, sc. 1, of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable (1831), “Wine, gambling, women” (Le vin, le jeu, les belles) into the all-too-similar trio “Wine, love and tobacco” (Le vin, l’amour et le tabac) from the militaristic “refrain du bivouac” in scene 9 of Adolphe Adam’s Le Chalet (1834), as sung by the braggadocio Swiss soldier Max. Scribe’s ubiquitous presence in nineteenth-century French music theater may help explain such confusion. Does the line come from one of his five-act grand opéras or a more modest one-act opéra comique? Such hesitancy also seems to hint at the fact that Scribe’s longevity was partly due to a very special ability, that of crafting memorable rhymes that would lodge their way into the French collective consciousness, like earworms of sorts. This was in fact Théophile Gautier’s assessment of Scribe’s legacy as a poetaster beloved by the masses. In 1859 Gautier wrote that “Mr. Scribe is agreeable to the masses and communes with them: he does not get ahead of them, rather he follows their lead. . . . He writes the way the bourgeois would like to speak.”73 Like Gautier’s hypothetical bourgeois, it could be said here that Prince is only too happy to quote Scribe because he wishes he could speak—and behave—like one of his more manly stage characters. But this is a desire he understands as somewhat shameful, a sentiment he shows by poking fun at the predictability of Scribe’s characters’ “passion for the same three things.”
This connection of musical references with personal desires is, in effect, the beginning of a pattern at play with the novel’s musical allusions in that they are always tied to the protagonist’s subjectivity. This is a fact that should be of little surprise, given that the novel was written as an interior monologue. It should also be noted that none of the musical references in the novel are ever part of an actual performance at the theater or in the concert hall. Rather, most of them are the fruit of the protagonist’s imagination. And in the one instance where Prince actually hears music being played from a barrel organ in chapter 6—a scene to which I will return—he strays from the reality of the performance as fast as he can in order to indulge in trite romantic fantasies that are very loosely inspired by said music.
But why did Dujardin have all of his musical references in Les Lauriers contained in the protagonist’s inner monologue instead of having recourse to music performance? And why did he give them a prominent position in his novel? Their importance, I posit, harkens back to Dujardin’s definition of music as the language that best represents human interiority. This much he explained in “Interior Monologue,” where he wrote of the Symbolists’ desire to craft a musical literary style that would help them convey the workings of the mind beyond rational thinking: “the life consciousness taken over as the subject of poetry, the musical conception—namely the de-intellectualization of poetry.”74 In the Rousseauist tradition, Dujardin sought to make his written language more musical because he believed music to be the language of unbridled emotion.75 In Les Lauriers, he strove to achieve the impression of emotional immediacy via recourse to a staccato style made of frequent ellipses punctuated by spontaneous jaillissements (outburst or gush of feeling), which he argued was “a single-breath unit that is at the source of poetry as much as music.”76 In doing so, he delivered a text that is as stylistically poetic as it can be prosaic in character.
In the 1936 memoir, Mallarmé par un des siens, Dujardin expounded on his desire to write lyrical prose: “I have always thought it possible to find a form that would go without transition or accident from verse to prose according to one’s current lyrical state.”77 This balancing act was, according to Dujardin, best exemplified in music. But not just in any music; he believed it to be most evident in music theater. This much he made clear in his positive assessment of Jacques Offenbach’s operetta La Périchole (1868) in which he observed a seamless transition from spoken dialogue to melody. There, he characterized melody as a primal language, or “nothing other than the exact notation of the human cry” and found that most of La Périchole’s success as a work of music theater stemmed from its effective use of melody to propel the plot forward emotionally.78
However, in Les Lauriers, the musical moments never lead to any sort of emotional epiphany. In fact, they bring the plot to a standstill. Furthermore, the music is part of the text’s narcissism in that it is fundamentally focused on itself and only pretends to engage with the external world. The novel’s musical references thereby help the author give form to the inner life of a typical Symbolist antihero: a daydreamer incapable of confronting himself with reality and forming meaningful relationships with others, whether men or women.79
Indeed, Prince is particularly skilled at distracting himself and pretending he has actual connections with those around him, as the next couple of musical references in chapter 2 would tend to prove. Following his confusion over Robert le Diable or Le Chalet, he spontaneously transitions into an unexpected meditation on operatic pronunciation and traditional rules of French versification, mixing up Scribe’s older crowd-pleasing rhymes with the French poetic avant-garde of the 1880s:
Voilà, voilà, le refrain du bivouac. . . . Faut-il prononcer taba-c et bivoua-c, ou taba et bivoua? Mendès, boulevard des Capucines, disait dom-p-ter; il faut dire dom-ter. L’amour et le taba-c. . . . le refrain du bivoua-c.
(The bivouac refrain. Do you have to pronounce the ‘c’ in bivouac as in tabac? Mendès, Boulevard des Capucines, used to say ‘dom-p-ter;’ one must say ‘dom-ter.’ Love and tobacco. . . . The bivouac refrain.)80
The proper rhyming scheme for bivouac/tabac is indeed ambiguous and lends itself to debate: in standard French, the final c is pronounced in the first (bivouac) but not in the second (tabac). However, operatic diction does not abide by typical pronunciation rules and neither, sometimes, does poetry, as Prince seems to conclude in his recollection of Catulle Mendès’s teachings.81 Although Prince considers himself a writer of sorts—even informing the reader in chapter 5 that he has contemplated recording the details of his (non)-relationship with Léa d’Arsay in a notebook—he remains unproductive, unlike his creator. This likely means he never dared to mix with other poets at the Café Napolitain where Mendès held court with his younger admirers. Rather, like his predecessor Maurice Dupont in “Histoire d’une journée,” Prince may have only been sitting alone in the sidelines.
The final musical reference in chapter 2 comes at the end of the meal and springs from a free association between older French opéra comique—François Adrien Boieldieu’s La Dame blanche (1825)—and ice cream:
Comme il doit être las, le bonhomme qui menait son fils voir manger des glaces chez Tortoni. Tortoni; je n’y ai jamais mis un pied; n’être jamais entré chez Tortoni; ça vous manque . . . sur l’air de la Dame Blanche, ça vous manque, — ça vous manque. . . . Cette glace est finie; tant pis.
(Must be tired out, the little man who took his son to eat ices at Tortoni’s; I’ve never set foot in the place; I’ve never been in Tortoni’s. What you’re missing . . . to the melody for La Dame blanche, what you’re missing—what you’re missing . . . this ice is finished; too bad.)82
The connection appears to be ludicrous, as if Dujardin were hinting that old-fashioned French operatic works like La Dame blanche—what could be characterized in French as opéra à papa (daddy’s opera, i.e., opera that was once popular but is now charmingly obsolete)—have become as inoffensive as dessert. But what could trigger the mental leap between the famed Tortoni café and La Dame blanche? Perhaps the primary reason has something to do with Tortoni’s close geographical proximity to the Opéra-Comique, where La Dame blanche was still a staple of the repertoire in the late 1880s.83 Coincidentally, Dujardin may have anticipated the fact that a number of “Dame blanche” ice-cream desserts would in fact appear at the turn of the century: the first appears in Escoffier’s Le Guide culinaire (1903) as an iced dessert made of vanilla ice cream and filled with almond milk.84
By contrast with the previous operatic nods of the chapter, there is no exact quote to latch on to here; nor is there any indication of the melody Prince hears in his mind’s ear. This is pure conjecture but the three syllables making up the “ça vous manque” line would fit well into the famed refrain “Prenez garde” (Beware) from act I, sc. 5, of La Dame blanche, which is repeated several times by the character of Jenny to warn her guest George Brown about the ghost—the titular White Lady—in her castle. In this light, Prince’s regret over not having had ice cream at Tortoni’s takes on new meaning, with the melody carrying the original message of “prenez garde” alluding to the more trivial issue of potentially gaining weight after indulging. But the joke, however amusing it might be, does not reach its full potential because it remains self-contained. The same cannot be said of the next—and most ambitious—of all the musical references in the novel, which Prince attempts to share with Léa with disastrous results.
FASHIONING LEITMOTIFS FROM LA MASCOTTE
The next French music theater reference in Les Lauriers concerns Edmond Audran’s La Mascotte (1880). It is less playful in nature than the Scribe nods and rather more sarcastic. Knowing that both Dujardin and Wyzewa expressed great contempt toward Audran’s operettas on multiple occasions, a parodic reading of the passages alluding to the Mascotte in Les Lauriers would seem amply justified. In a letter dating from September 1886, for instance, Wyzewa lamented his provincial hosts’ propensity to play selections from Audran’s hit operetta on the piano: “but here I can only hear La Mascotte and Delibes’s ballets being played. That’s shit, in sum.”85 In 1887 Wyzewa also went as far as to publicly exclaim in the Revue indépendante that the delightful simplicity of opéra comique from the earlier part of the century had descended into “the vile operetta of Mr. Lecocq and Mr. Audran.”86 As for Dujardin, he made his opinion on La Mascotte abundantly clear when he contrasted Offenbach’s operetta with several by Audran, to the latter’s detriment: “[Offenbach’s La Périchole] is nothing like the waltzes and romances from La Mascotte or Miss Helyett. . . . The aesthetic of contemporary operetta [i.e., Audran’s] is quite simple: it involves, under the pretext of some vaudeville, a series of waltzes and sentimental romances, some naughty verses and a few occurrences of galop: it is café-concert, plain and simple.”87 It should also be added just how little love Dujardin had for operetta in general, beyond the exception he made for Offenbach. In his second novel, the much more conventional L’Initiation au péché et à l’amour (1898), he made operetta a marker of vulgarity within a well-off bourgeois family who have invited the protagonist over for dinner. An impromptu piano performance of a meretricious quadrille from Hervé’s opéra bouffe L’Oeil crevé (1867) makes the protagonist—a well-educated man of refined aspirations—so uncomfortable that he nearly weeps.88
Allusions to the recent hit operetta La Mascotte in Les Lauriers warrants more scrutiny. The excerpt Dujardin utilized and recycled repeatedly in the second half of Les Lauriers is taken from “le duo des dindons” (the turkey duet), a mezzo-soprano and baritone duet between Bettina the farm girl, the eponymous “good-luck charm,” or mascotte, and her love interest the shepherd Pippo in act I of La Mascotte (plate 1). Both singers imitate the sounds made by the animals they are minding—Bettina’s turkeys and Pippo’s sheep—with onomatopoeic exclamations of “glou, glou” (gobble, gobble) and “bêêê” (baah). The result is puerile but charming, a great representation of Richard Traubner’s characterization of La Mascotte as “a pure crowd-pleaser, demanding neither intense concentration on the audience’s part nor elaborate orchestration on Audran’s.”89 At once mawkish and naïve, La Mascotte mirrors Daniel Prince’s inner world in more ways than one. Yet the importance given to the “turkey duet” by Dujardin seems odd for a ground-breaking work of fiction like Les Lauriers and recalls the choice he made with a title alluding to a children’s song. Simply put, the bad taste of the Mascotte turkey duet makes good fodder for a virtuosic reimagining, one that would elevate it to the sublime in the vein of a Laforgue poem.
Repeatedly, Prince attempts to improve the duet in order to turn it into a more respectable love scene that would shun its original animalistic content. This going back and forth between the prosaic and the lyrical evokes the aesthetic project Dujardin had in mind with Les Lauriers, a project he articulated to his friend the journalist Vittorio Pica shortly after the novel’s publication: “the life of the soul is a continuous intertwinement of lyricism and prose; the novel that seeks to convey the life of the soul will incessantly sway between poetic exaltation and the mundane of everyday life.”90 From a formal perspective, Dujardin did not simply cite the lyrics of the Mascotte or allude to the work obliquely, as he did with other works of music theater in Les Lauriers. Instead, he inscribed musical quotations from the score in chapter 6—albeit in an approximate manner—and had Prince and Léa evoke some of the duet’s key motifs—pastoral love, turkeys and shepherds—later in the novel, in chapters 7 and 9. This is, therefore, a much more extended musical reference than first meets the eye.
Furthermore, the Mascotte references accomplished a wider formal purpose for Dujardin: that of trying his hand at creating an equivalent to the Wagnerian leitmotif in literature. In the revisionist essay “Interior monologue” (1931), Dujardin alleged he had mostly taken inspiration from Wagner by secretly planting leitmotifs throughout Les Lauriers, saying “if however one looks closely at Les Lauriers sont coupés, one will see the book is full of leitmotifs. . . .”91 But, rather surprisingly for someone who cares to remind the reader he possesses a musical background, he locates his leitmotifs in improbable places and forgets to mention the Mascotte altogether.92 While it is impossible to know why Dujardin obscured his own experimentation with Wagnerian leitmotif in conjunction with the Mascotte in Les Lauriers, his neglect helps explain why this incongruous rapprochement has been left unexplored in scholarship thus far. My conviction is that the Mascotte references in Les Lauriers constitute a bona fide yet flawed case of Wagnerian influence, which merges lowbrow and highbrow in a daring but unfinished new product. In doing so, its Janus-like nature creates a compelling mirror of 1880s French Wagnerism, a movement torn between its deep reverence for Wagner and its desire to challenge his works with a healthy dose of irreverence.
The first potential leitmotif Dujardin mentions in “Interior Monologue” is located “at the beginning of the eighth chapter, with the recapitulation of motifs from the prelude.”93 Yet this claim cannot be taken as fact for two reasons: first, the beginning of chapter 8 is a mere rehashing of the novel’s incipit, with a few variations. Second, the repeated motif is too extended and too loose an association for it to constitute a coherent leitmotif. Consider the following excerpts:
Un parmi les autres, un comme les autres, distinct des autres, semblable aux autres, un le même et un de plus, de l’infini des possibles existences, je surgis; et voici que le temps et le lieu se précisent; c’est l’aujourd’hui; c’est l’ici; l’heure qui sonne; et, autour de moi, la vie; l’heure; le lieu, un soir d’avril, Paris. . . .
(One among the others, distinct from the others, yet similar to the others, one the same and yet another, from the infinity of possible existences, I appear; and this is time and space being defined; it is the Now; it is the Here; the clock striking; and around me, life; the time, the place, an April evening, Paris. . . .)94
Un dans la foule illimitée des existences, telle je mène désormais ma course, un définitivement parmi les autres; tels se sont en moi créés l’aujourd’hui, l’ici, l’heure, la vie; une âme qui vole à des songes d’embrassement, c’est cela; c’est un songe féminin, l’aujourd’hui. . . .
(One in the limitless mass of lives, thus I go on my way henceforth, for ever one among the others; so have been created in me the day, the Here and Now, the time, the individual life, a soul soaring to dreams of kissing, that is it; the day is a dream of woman. . . .)95
The only element these two passages have in common with the Wagnerian device is the fact that the reiterated words evolve in their form, straying from strict repetition and changing slightly in order to better fit the present mood. In music, leitmotifs can be transposed, reharmonized, displaced in register, and nested in different textures. Their rhythms can be elongated or shortened. Likewise, in this excerpt, certain words are reintroduced in an order reminiscent of the original, including the series “aujourd’hui/ici/heure/vie,” but with new interjections that muddy the waters of familiarity. They do, however, share more ground on a thematic level: while Daniel Prince emerges ex nihilo as a lone flâneur in the first chapter, in chapter 8 a mysterious “songe féminin” has replaced Paris as his main companion. In both instances, he is shown to be a victim of an idée fixe, which is his fixation on Léa and the theme underpinning the repetition in the first place.
In the “Interior Monologue” essay, while Dujardin assured his reader that the influence of Wagnerian leitmotif was crucial in shaping his own form of interior monologue, he also provided an idiosyncratic definition of the leitmotif that helps shed light on his intentions and may explain his approximative—not to say, faulty—usage of the term:
In its pure state, the Wagnerian motif is an isolated phrase which always carries an emotional significance, but which is not logically linked with those that precede and those that follow; and that is how interior monologue derives from it. Just as a page of a Wagner score is most often a succession of underdeveloped motifs each of which expresses an impulse of the soul, interior monologue is a succession of short sentences each of which also expresses an impulse of the soul, being alike in that they are not linked together according to a rational order but according to a purely emotional order, irrespective of all intellectual arrangement.96
While there is a lot to take issue with vis-à-vis Dujardin’s understanding of the Wagnerian leitmotif as “underdeveloped,” what I would rather retain from such a definition is the notion of rational vs. emotional order.
Having already underlined how the same scene evolves between chapter 1 and 8 thanks to Prince’s changing circumstances, I believe that the Mascotte motif in Les Lauriers is indeed an adaptation of the Wagnerian device. But, in its tentative aspects, it seems to interrogate the pertinence of the leitmotif outside of the Wagnerian framework. Such questioning fits perfectly within the wider aesthetic project of a narcissistic novel such as Les Lauriers sont coupés, where the foundations of novelistic writing are repeatedly questioned. Moreover, each repetition of the themes of the “turkey duet” is consistently connected to Prince’s subjectivity and mirrors his lack of consideration for the other person in the room. This proves to be the case when Léa alludes to the Mascotte herself by saying she would “be happier looking after turkeys in Brittany.”97 Her reference is so subtle as not to be understood as such by Prince. And his failure to catch her meaning is emblematic of Prince’s refusal to understand her intentions, highlighting their lack of proper communication.
After a chapter taking place entirely indoors, chapter 6 presents the reader with a picture of Prince as flâneur, walking across the streets of Paris in order to meet with Léa.98 Instead of picking up on everyday street noises as he did in previous chapters, he becomes captivated by a disembodied tune coming from an invisible barrel organ, a ubiquitous presence in Parisian streets of the late nineteenth century. Feeling intrigued by what he hears, Prince has just as much trouble locating the origin of the familiar tune as he does remembering the source of the melody played by the barrel organ:
mes pas sur l’asphalte monotonement; un chant d’orgue de Barbarie, un air à danser, une sorte de valse, le rythme d’une valse lente. . . .
. . . où est l’orgue de Barbarie ? derrière, quelque part, j’entends sa voix criarde et douce . . . “j’t’aim mieux qu’mes dindons.” un chant qui va et recommence. . . .
(my steps monotonously on the asphalt; the song of a barrel-organ, a dance tune, a sort of waltz, the rhythm of a slow waltz. . . .
where’s the barrel-organ? somewhere in the background, I can hear its soft, piercing voice . . . “love you more than my turkey-cocks . . . ” a song that goes on and on and begins again. . . .)99
There are three voices woven together in this passage: the first one is the barrel organ’s re-creation of the melody from La Mascotte; the second is Dujardin’s musical notation of the Mascotte; and the third is Prince’s interior monologue in which he pictures himself as Pippo, and Léa as Bettina. As will be shown below, the score itself is not transcribed accurately, nor are the lines given in their actual order. If anything, they suggest that Dujardin recalled them only vaguely and that his aversion for the music led to some flippancy in his notational citation.100
The first melody, which Prince correctly identifies as the line “j’t’aim’ mieux qu’mes dindons” (I love you more than my turkey-cocks) (ex. 3), is in fact preceded in the original score by “comme un tremblement qui m’agite” (like a shiver that shakes me), which comes up much earlier as the second musical sentence sung by the character of Bettina (ex. 4). Prince’s selection of these two musical phrases is not incidental, since both are tenderly addressed by the female lead of La Mascotte to her lover. They suggest the crude but true romantic attachment that Prince craves, but cannot obtain, from Léa.
As he passes by, the street singer’s voice gently fades away and Prince’s highly subjective reinterpretation of the tune takes over—only this time, the guileless countryside of La Mascotte is replaced by a nobler seventeenth-century pastoral scene. The clash of aesthetics in this superimposition creates the right conditions for Dujardin to poke fun at his protagonist’s embrace of Audran’s music:
. . . le calme d’une voix qui naît sous un paysage calme, dans un calme amoureux, et le désir très contenu d’une naissante voix; et la voix répondante, équivalente et plus haute, ascendante en le désir; et encore celle qui s’élève; la croissance du désir; sous le site toujours naïf et dans ces naïfs cœurs, l’ascendance monotone, alternée, calme, d’une très douce angoisse; le simple doux chant qui s’enfle et le simple rythme. . . .
(the calm of a voice singing out, in a tranquil landscape, in a calm loving heart, and the restrained desire of a voice beginning to sing; and another voice answering, the same and yet higher, rising, calm and thin, rising in desire; and rising again; the growth of desire; still in the simple setting and in these simple hearts, the monotonous alternating voices, calmly rising, of sweet distress; the simple sweet song that swells and the simple rhythm. . . .)101
The mention of the “tranquil landscape” and “simple hearts” is easily understood in light of the Mascotte’s rural setting. But Prince is quick to reconfigure this framework for his own more grandiose purposes. This he does by replacing Bettina and Pippo’s animal noises within the wider tapestry of Platonic love he has crafted for himself and Léa.
Adding to the overall impression of ridicule comes Dujardin’s not-so-innocent choice of having Audran’s music be played by a street instrument that demands no technical skill—the fully mechanical barrel organ—over a piano rendition or a performance of La Mascotte at an actual theater. In French, the barrel organ is called “orgue de Barbarie,” the origins of which designation remain mysterious. Evidently, “Barbarie” echoes the adjective barbare (barbarian), a fact that was not lost on commentators from earlier in the century like Berlioz, who were quick to mock the instrument’s lower-class appeal and its urban origins: “The same orgue de Barbarie would come just as it did before at the same time in order to play the same barbaric tune [air de Barbarie] for me, I hear the same barbaric opinions being ventured and asserted, and I hear the same works and the same men of Barbaria being praised.”102 In the French poetic tradition, the barrel organ was used by poets with a popular bent, like Jean Richepin in his Chanson des gueux (1876), but also by the master of fin-de-siècle poetic parody, Jules Laforgue, in his Complaintes (1885). Incidentally, Laforgue was friendly with Dujardin, who admired him very much and coaxed him into becoming part of his lineup for the Revue indépendante. When Laforgue died unexpectedly in 1887—at age twenty-seven—Dujardin was the recipient of his last poems and proceeded to edit them in collaboration with Félix Fénéon as Les derniers vers in 1890. In Les Complaintes, only two poems are explicitly named after the instrument, “Complainte de l’orgue de Barbarie” and “Autre complainte de l’orgue de Barbarie,” but the barrel organ seemingly permeates the entire collection, as a modern anti-lyre. As Laurence Tibi has suggested, this street instrument was the perfect embodiment of Laforgue’s peculiar poetic voice: at once creaking and elegant, crude and sublime.103
Similar to Laforgue’s poetics of contrast, Audran’s La Mascotte appears to have served a dual thematic and formal purpose in the novel, with morsels from the “turkey duet” emerging in multiple instances, all of which are reminders of the comedic gap between Prince’s lofty aspirations and his banal reality. After chapter 6, the next allusion to La Mascotte occurs when Prince finally gains entry to Léa’s apartment in chapter 7. Expecting sexual gratification after a long one-sided courtship, he is disarmed when she exclaims: “What a life! What a life! I’m tempted to give everything up!” before adding “I’d be happier looking after turkeys in Brittany.”104 It is also worth noting that Léa pronounces these words while leaning against the piano, as if Dujardin wanted to underline the reference he was making to La Mascotte’s Bettina. The contrast between Léa’s scheming exterior and her momentary envy of rustic peasant life suggests that she may be a more complex character than she first appeared. But Prince fails to catch the hidden message she sends him through this musical allusion.
A little later in the chapter, as Léa falls asleep in Prince’s arms, the latter summons a bucolic vision related to the previous pastoral fantasy he entertained in chapter 6 with the help of the music from La Mascotte:
nous irons ce soir, ainsi, au-dehors, sous des ombrages, pendant de lointaines musiques . . . “tu m’aimes” . . . “et toi tu m’aimes”. . . oui, ne disons plus “je t’aime,” mais “tu m’aimes”. . . et “tu m’aimes” et baisons-nous . . . elle dort; moi je sens que je m’endors; j’entreferme mes yeux . . . voilà son corps, sa poitrine qui monte et monte (. . .) là . . . au cours des boulevards . . . “j’t’aim’ mieux qu’mes moutons”. . . j’t’aim’ mieux . . . cette fille, yeux éhontés, frêle, aux lèvres rouges. . . .
(so we’ll go out together this evening, in the shadows, while music is playing in the distance. . . “you love me”. . . “and you, you love me”. . . yes! Don’t let’s say “I love you” any more, but “you love me” and “you love me” and let us kiss . . . she sleeps; I feel sleep coming over me; I half close my eyes . . . there . . . her body; her breast swells and swells (. . .) there . . . along the boulevards . . . “love y’ more than m’ sheep”. . . love y’ more . . . that girl, slender, with the brazen look, red lips. . . .)105
In this passage, the substitution of the I for the thou—from “I love you” to “you love me”—is wishful thinking and another piece of evidence showing Prince’s romantic imagination running amok. But suddenly, as Prince fixes his gaze on Léa’s vulnerable sleeping body, the mock rural dialect of the Mascotte’s turkey duet—“love y’ more than m’ sheep”—seems to taunt him as a reminder of his baser animal instincts, like a Freudian slip of sorts. However unconscious his sexual attraction toward Léa may be, Audran’s music strikes a bathetic tone in which Prince’s romantic reverie takes a carnal turn while his Platonic relationship dreams take a backseat. From Léa as his single object of desire, Prince shifts over to an unknown woman he encountered on the streets earlier in the novel and becomes consumed by lust for all womankind. Once again, his true nature comes in full view and the contents of his mind are revealed to be just as oriented toward easy pleasures as an Audran operetta, although he might be telling himself otherwise.
At the end of the novel in chapter 9, Dujardin has Prince engage in a recapitulation of his eventless day to a bored Léa. Yet this retelling of the novel’s plot—which is a narrative transgression in and of itself—is deflated even further by the incongruous presence of musical references from previous chapters, a presence that further solidifies their central importance in the novel. On this occasion, Prince proudly repeats the Scribe line about “wine, gambling and women” to Léa without context before sheepishly admitting that he was “pursued by a barrel-organ and its wailing noises,” thereby alluding to the Mascotte once more.106 With Léa’s matter-of-fact retort, “but you usually like music,” the Mascotte’s sentimental promise of perfect harmony between the sexes is overturned.107 This impasse is later confirmed by Léa’s dismissal of Prince and his departure in frustration from her apartment. With their final goodbyes—two “au revoirs” meaning “see you again” in French—Dujardin seems to imply that this charade is supposed to repeat itself indefinitely in a cycle that emphasizes the magnitude of Prince’s delusions about life and love.
In conclusion, Prince is shown to be a very human figure, with his private dreams of grandeur and public failings, an imperfect man who, time and time again, reveals himself to be lacking in courage, preferring instead to seek refuge in the world of dreams. Although he fancies himself an aesthete, his preference for popular works of music theater and his attraction to the “turkey duet” melody reveal just how much of an everyman he is. It is in this regard that Les Lauriers succeeds in parrying the crippling ideal of the Wagnerian novel as theorized by Wyzewa. Indeed, Prince’s trajectory of romantic failure and artistic sterility symbolizes the gap between the artist’s fevered imagination and the moment where its contents have to come crashing against the surface of the paper on which he/she is writing.
Like his creator before him, Prince is a man who prefers to avoid making the unsettling discovery of his ordinary nature. This is a fate he shares with other Symbolist (anti-)heroes like des Esseintes, who believed he could live divorced from human society in the company of books and other artworks, only to renounce such foolishness at the end of the novel. Coincidentally, this very human capacity for self-deception was the version of the character that Marie Dujardin—Dujardin’s wife from 1924 until his death in 1949 and a novelist herself—chose to emphasize in her 1949 sequel to her husband’s novel, La Belle que voici. Her text provides a natural conclusion to Les Lauriers by showing Prince as a bitter middle-aged man who seeks to avenge himself on Léa. He does so by seducing and mistreating her daughter Géraldine.108 By choosing a title like “La belle que voici,” which is in fact the next line after “Les lauriers sont coupés” in the song “Nous n’irons plus au bois,” Marie Dujardin also solidified the connection between her husband’s text, popular French music, and the depiction of everyday small-mindedness.
Ultimately, Dujardin’s decision to have Les Lauriers sont coupés’s musical references confined to Prince’s mind serves to underline his disconnect from others. They are, in truth, revealed to be a crucial element that alienates him from those around him, whether it be Léa or the male acquaintances who cross his path periodically. And, in turn, they help fashion Prince as an impersonal Mallarmean “Type” in order to propose an alternative response to Wyzewa’s impossible dream of psychological exhaustiveness. By providing the reader with a picture of a flawed man, Dujardin circumvented the thorny question of writing an authentic autobiography and went against the grain of canonical self-aggrandizing efforts à la Rousseau in his Confessions (1782), or Chateaubriand with his Mémoires d’outre-Tombe (Memoirs from Beyond the Grave) (1849–50), with a text that frequently verges on the comedic, not to say the absurd.
And yet, despite Dujardin’s efforts to take Les Lauriers toward the banal, his first novel does partake in a wider mystical purpose shared by all of Symbolist poetry. That goal was articulated by the Wagner specialist, Revue wagnérienne contributor, and well-known esoteric thinker Édouard Schuré in the following terms:
The microcosm-man is by reason of his threefold constitution (spirit, soul and body), the image and mirror of the macrocosm-universe (divine, human and natural world) itself the product of the ineffable God, the Absolute Spirit which is in its nature: Father, Mother, and Son (essence, substance, and life). It is for this reason that man, the image of God, can become His living word.109
If Les Lauriers represents a macrocosm (an average Parisian life) turned microcosm (Daniel Prince’s every aspiration and dream), it does so by setting up a narcissistic hall of mirrors between novel, protagonist, and external world, thus birthing a new form of mimetic illusion.110 With the mirror now turned inward, the reader is free to contemplate not just him/herself but also Les Lauriers’s success in addressing the metaliterary questions it sets itself to examine with respect to literary mimesis, realism, and the transparency of language. Whether it is a successful reflection of an average young French bourgeois man’s interiority, or a mere parody of that interiority, is still up for debate.
I would like to express my gratitude to William Cloonan, Jeremy Coleman, Katharine Ellis, Steven Huebner, Lawrence Kramer, and Sean Toland for their comments on several versions of this article and to the department of French and Italian at Princeton University for sponsorship of a research trip to the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin. This article draws in small part from my Under the Spell of Wagner: The Revue Wagnérienne and Literary Experimentation in the Belle Epoque (1878–1893) (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2020). The epigraph is from Melville’s translation of Metamorphoses. “Quid videat, nescit; sed quod videt, uritur illo, atque oculos idem, qui decipit, incitat error.” Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. A. D. Melville (Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 2008), 64. https://ovid.lib.virginia.edu/metamorphoseonUVA.html. Last consulted 17 April 2023.
In the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), tensions with Germany were still rife in the late 1880s because of the growing influence of French nationalism and the rise of Boulangism, a far-right political movement led by General Boulanger who began to advocate for revanche against Germany as France’s war minister (1886–87). For more information, see William D. Irvine, The Boulanger Affair Reconsidered: Royalism, Boulangism and the Origins of the Radical Right in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
“Wagner est, plutôt que le Précurseur à l’Art de l’avenir, son Prophète . . . cette idée essentielle de la doctrine Wagnérienne: l’union de toutes les formes artistiques” (Édouard Dujardin, “Chronique: Akëdysséril,” La Revue wagnérienne [8 August 1885], 193). My translation. Henceforth, all translations will be mine unless otherwise indicated.
“Cette littérature, fondamentalement Wagnérienne, est née, où réellement vit une pleine sensation de l’être” (La Revue wagnérienne [8 August 1885], 194).
Schopenhauer’s thought was popularized in France through Théodule Ribot’s La Philosophie de Schopenhauer in 1874 and became a fixture of Parisian intellectual life by the 1880s with the publication of the first complete translation of The World as Will and Representation into French by Auguste Burdeau in 1885. For a study of the French literary reception of Schopenhauer, see Schopenhauer et la création littéraire en Europe, ed. Anne Henry (Paris: Méridiens-Klincksieck, 1989).
Les Hantises contains references to Die Walküre in the short stories “Le Kabbaliste” and “L’Enfer.” Pour la Vierge du roc ardent alludes to the final scene of Die Walküre in the title itself and makes additional mentions of Parsifal and Tristan. And finally, the trilogy La Légende d’Antonia has its last play La Fin d’Antonia dedicated to Wagner and a lead heroine whose trajectory from sinful existence to sainthood has been compared to that of Kundry in Parsifal by many, as for instance, in the Symbolist poet Henri de Régnier’s review of the second play, Le Chevalier du passé. See Henri de Régnier, Entretiens politiques et littéraires 5:28 (July 1892): 31–34.
See Alfred Vallette, “Antonia,” Mercure de France 2 (June 1891): 362–63; Willy, Soirées perdues (Paris: Tresse, 1894), 76–78.
Dujardin retrospectively described his text as the first work of fiction where the interior monologue was used systematically from beginning to end, but this is likely untrue. See the 1931 essay “Le monologue intérieur,” in Carmen Licari’s edition of Les Lauriers sont coupés suivi de Le Monologue intérieur (Rome: Bulzoni, 1977), 191–271; Anthony Suter has translated the text into English and placed it right after his translation of Les Lauriers. See “Interior Monologue,” in The Bays Are Sere (London: Libris, 1991), 83–145. Vladimir Tumanov makes a convincing case for Vsevolod Garshin’s 1877 story “Four Days” (Четыре дня) as the first ever text to be written as an interior monologue in Mind Reading: Unframed Interior Monologue in European Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), 31–53.
Dujardin’s most recent translator into English, Anthony Suter, has argued for the importance of his Wagnerism with regard to Les Lauriers. See his introduction to The Bays Are Sere, xi–lxvii. He has since been followed by Cécile Leblanc in her chapter on Dujardin in Wagnérisme et création en France (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2005), 241–321. More recently, Steven Huebner’s article “Édouard Dujardin, Wagner, and the Origins of Stream of Consciousness Writing,” this journal 37 (2013): 56–88, and Kelly J. Maynard’s “The Ill-Equipped Modernist: Historicizing Édouard Dujardin’s Les Lauriers sont coupés” (Historical Reflections 43:3 : 42–62) have further reasserted the case of influence between Dujardin’s own writings for the Revue wagnérienne, the urgency surrounding the Wagnerian question in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war and Dujardin’s works of fiction published between 1885 and 1888.
Five photos of Andrée de Mora are kept in Dujardin’s personal papers at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, with the annotation “Léa from Les Lauriers.” A couple of pictures show her in an unnamed trouser role, exactly like Léa who, in the novel, is described as “une demoiselle qui joue les travestis aux Nouveautés” (a young mademoiselle playing breeches roles at the Nouveautés) (Les Lauriers sont coupés [Paris: Garnier Flammarion, 2001], 110; Suter, trans., 73).
Past the heyday of Symbolism in the 1880s and early 1890s, Dujardin was mostly forgotten as a fiction writer until James Joyce mentioned having been influenced by Les Lauriers’s use of the interior monologue to Valery Larbaud in 1921. Larbaud’s subsequent interest prompted a re-edition of Les Lauriers in 1924, for which he wrote the preface, and led him to experiment with interior monologue in the collection Amants, heureux amants (1923).
“Je vais livrer un secret: les Lauriers sont coupés ont été entrepris avec la folle ambition de transposer dans le domaine littéraire les procédés wagnériens.” (“Le monologue intérieur,” 258; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 135, which I modified slightly.)
Early studies of Les Lauriers include Lawrence Bowling’s “What Is the Stream of Consciousness Technique?” PMLA 65:4 (June 1950): 333–45; Leon Edel’s chapter “A Symbolist Experiment,” in The Modern Psychological Novel (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1955), 59–64; Melvin Friedman’s chapter on Dujardin and Larbaud in Stream of Consciousness: A Study of Literary Method (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), 139–77; and C. D. King’s articles “Édouard Dujardin, Inner Monologue and the Stream of Consciousness,” French Studies 7:2 (1953): 116–28, and “Édouard Dujardin and the Genesis of the Inner Monologue,” French Studies 9:2 (1955): 101–15. In the latter text, C. D. King writes skeptically of Dujardin’s Wagnerism, in a manner representative of the consensus surrounding that issue in Anglo-Saxon scholarship from the 1950s: “In practice Dujardin’s debt to Schopenhauer and Wagner is not as great as he would lead one to suppose,” 110. The most complete study to date in the English language, Kathleen M. McKilligan’s Édouard Dujardin: Les Lauriers sont coupés and the Interior Monologue (Hull: University of Hull Publications, 1977), also downplays the impact of Dujardin’s Wagnerism on his fiction. See 96–100 in particular.
For thorough discussions of Dujardin’s use of literary leitmotifs in Les Lauriers, see Suter’s introduction (L–LIV); Erika Höhnisch, Das Gefangene Ich: Studien zum inneren Monolog in modernen französischen Romanen (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1997), 128–31; Valérie Michelet-Jacquod, Le Roman symboliste: un art de “l’extrême conscience” (Geneva: Droz, 2008), 292–94; and Huebner, “Édouard Dujardin, Wagner, and the Origins of Stream-of-Consciousness Writing,” 61–63.
In “Richard Wagner: Rêverie d’un poète français,” Mallarmé writes of a theater “dégagé de personnalité” (stripped of all personality) where the character on the stage would be as neutral as possible, or a “Type sans dénomination préalable” (Type without any preliminary name). See Œuvres complètes 2, ed. Bertrand Marchal (Paris: Gallimard, 2003), 157. I am citing from Rosemary Lloyd’s translation in Revolutions in Writing: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Prose, ed. and trans. Rosemary Lloyd (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 54–55.
See Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox (Waterloo, ON: Wilfried Laurier University Press, 1980), 1. Although Hutcheon focuses on post-1960s American novels, her theoretical framework is highly pertinent to proto-Modernist works like Les Lauriers sont coupés.
See Narcissistic Narrative, 1.
“Mais il est aussi maniaque et narcissique que son prédécesseur” (Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Michel Biron, et al., Le Roman célibataire d’À rebours à Paludes [Paris: José Corti, 1996], 132).
“Le Moi prend conscience de ce qu’il est, ou plutôt de ce qu’il n’est pas, en devenant le support et le sujet du roman de l’écrivain au travail” (Valérie Michelet-Jacquod, Le Roman symboliste, 113).
For an analysis of the latter, see Richard Taruskin, “Denaturing Desire,” Music in the Early Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 59–69.
Part of this subtitle is loosely adapted from a sentence in Paul Valéry’s “Avant-Propos” to Lucien Fabre’s Connaissance de la déesse (1924). The original goes “Quoi qu’il en soit, une époque vint pour la poésie, où elle se sentit pâlir et défaillir devant les énergies et les ressources de l’orchestre” (Œuvres 1, ed. Jean Hytier [Paris: Gallimard, 1957], 1271). The English translation can be found in Paul Valéry, “Foreword,” The Art of Poetry, trans. Denise Folliot (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 41.
On the debate opposing male Symbolists—like Kahn and Dujardin—and Marie Krysińska, see Seth Whidden, “Introduction,” in Marie Krysińska, Rythmes pittoresques, ed. Seth Whidden (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2003), 1–20.
For detailed studies of Wagner’s influence on French Symbolism, see André Cœuroy, Wagner et l’esprit romantique (Paris: Gallimard, 1965), Leblanc, Wagnérisme et création, and my own Under the Spell of Wagner: The Revue Wagnérienne and Literary Experimentation in the Belle Epoque (1878–1893).
The most infamous of these anti-French diatribes is the vaudeville Eine Kapitulation (1871), which has been analyzed at length by Thomas S. Grey, who shows how Wagner took inspiration from Offenbach’s operettas. See Grey, “Eine Kapitulation: Aristophanic Operetta as Cultural Warfare in 1870,” Richard Wagner and His World, ed. Thomas S. Grey (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 87–122. Many of Wagner’s French friends took offense, as did the writer and poet Catulle Mendès, who quipped “I used to be his friend but I remain his fervent apostle; all I do is not to extend to him the hands that applaud him” (J’étais son ami, je ne le suis plus, mais je demeure son apôtre fervent; je me borne à ne pas lui tendre les mains qui l’applaudissent). See Mendès, Richard Wagner (Paris: G. Charpentier, 1886), V.
For a list of Wagnerian performances in Paris during the 1880s, see Martine Kahane and Nicole Wild, Wagner et la France (Paris: Herscher, 1983), 158–65. For a summary of the French reception of Wagner in the 1880s, including the increasing frequency with which Wagner was being performed in Paris, see Kahane and Wild, Wagner et la France, 49–58; and Jann Pasler, Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 507–20.
For first-hand accounts of the impression made by these concerts on Symbolist poets other than Dujardin, see, for instance, Teodor de Wyzewa, Beethoven et Wagner (Paris: Perrin, 1898), 241; and René Ghil, “Les Livres: Les Fastes, par Stuart Merrill,” Écrits pour l’art (1 June 1891), 154–56.
“Ah! . . . Qu’il est donc vrai que tout a été dit et qu’il n’y a plus que les points de vue qui changent!” Citation from a letter of Dujardin to Vittorio Pica (21 April 1888), cited in Frida Weissman, “Dujardin, le monologue intérieur et Racine,” Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France 74:3 (May-June 1974): 492.
“Ce qui fut baptisé: le Symbolisme se résume très simplement dans l’intention commune à plusieurs familles de poètes (d’ailleurs ennemies entre elles), de ‘reprendre à la Musique leur bien’” (“Avant-Propos,” 1271; Folliot, trans., “Foreword,” 42).
For an analysis of the Symbolist usage of mental theater while listening to Wagner and writing about him, see Huebner, “Dujardin, Wagner, and the Origins of Stream-of-Consciousness Writing,” 77–80.
The first widely disseminated translation of Wagner’s libretti into French is by Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour. Unlike most nineteenth-century French translations of Wagner, the text was in prose and was supposed to be read, not performed. See Quatre poèmes d’opéra traduits en prose française, précédés d’une Lettre sur la musique par Richard Wagner: Le Vaisseau fantôme, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan et Iseult (Paris: A. Bourdilliat, 1861). Baudelaire and Mallarmé read it before writing their respective essays on Wagner. Otherwise, most fin-de-siècle French translations of Wagnerian music dramas were in verse (Charles Nuitter and Victor Wilder), or in rhythmic prose (Alfred Ernst and Henri La Fontaine).
See Jean-Nicolas Illouz, “Les manifestes symbolistes,” Littérature 139 (2005): 97.
“La Revue wagnérienne allait, pendant quelques temps, verser successivement aux Wagnériens le doux et l’amer” (Édouard Dujardin, Mallarmé par un des siens [Paris: Messein, 1936], 218). For the relevant Lucretius passage, see De Rerum Natura 4:16–36. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0131%3Abook%3D4. Last consulted on 17 April 2023.
This was certainly the result of Mallarmé’s influence on Dujardin. Bertrand Marchal has argued that Mallarmé reproached Wagner for espousing a nationalistic viewpoint in his conception of myth, which would prevent him from disclosing metaphysical truths to his audience and would also disqualify him from making claims of universality. See La Religion de Mallarmé (Paris: José Corti, 1988), 182–83. For an example of a review of a Wagnerian performance by Dujardin, see “Les chagrins d’un vieux wagnérien,” Le Figaro (18 May 1893): 1.
I am paraphrasing Baudelaire’s sentence “Par vous j’ai été vaincu tout de suite.” The letter to Wagner can be found in Correspondance 1, ed. Claude Pichois (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 672.
“Nous n’avons pas ici à analyser et à apprécier l’œuvre colossale que nous avons été entendre: nous dirons seulement quelques mots de l’interprétation et de l’impression produite” (Dujardin, “La Tétralogie à Londres,” La Renaissance musicale 20 [14 May 1882], 155).
The letter was transcribed by Dujardin and published as “Une lettre de Richard Wagner,” La Renaissance musicale (21 May 1882): 165. One week later, Edmond Hippeau clarified his publication’s official position in the face of the controversy caused by Wagner’s letter and distanced himself from some of the composer’s assertions. See “La lettre de Richard Wagner,” La Renaissance musicale 21 (28 May 1882): 169–70. The letter also prompted another opinion piece from the composer Ernest Reyer. See “Encore la lettre de Wagner,” La Renaissance musicale (4 June 1882): 177–78.
“À chacun de ses voyages à Munich, il logeait près de la Maximilianstrasse à l’hôtel Roth, qu n’existe plus aujourd’hui, et nous nous rencontrions tous les jours. Nous étions de fervents wagnériens en ce sens que nous sentions profondément résonner en nous la musique de Wagner; mais étions de très mauvais wagnériens en ce sens que nous connaissions fort mal l’œuvre et la vie du maître et l’histoire de sa pensée. On ne peut se rendre compte aujourd’hui à quel point la compréhension de cette pensée a été difficile il y a encore cinquante ans” (Rencontres avec Houston Stewart Chamberlain [Paris: Grasset, 1943], 12).
See Dujardin, Mallarmé par un des siens, 199.
While earlier Francophone critics like François-Joseph Fétis had loosely translated and summarized some of Wagner’s theoretical texts during the early 1850s, there were no full French translations of these texts available. Wagner himself sought to rectify this situation with his Lettre sur la musique (1861), which condensed the insights spread across the Zürich writings (1849–52). Twenty-five years later, the Revue wagnérienne put these essays on the map for the French public, mainly via summaries by Dujardin and Mendès among others, and also through the contribution of Teodor de Wyzewa, who serialized his translation of Beethoven between May and August 1885. It took until the 1900s for a systematic attempt at translating Wagner’s complete theoretical writings into French, with Jacques-Gabriel Prod’homme’s thirteen volumes of Wagner’s Œuvres en prose published between 1907 and 1924.
Early on, Chamberlain encouraged Dujardin to translate the Ring cycle in full, believing him to be “a poet who has a deep intuition of Wagner’s thought and who knows how to translate it into his own tongue” (un poète ayant l’intuition profonde de la pensée de Wagner, et sachant la rendre dans sa langue). See Dujardin, Rencontres avec Houston Stewart Chamberlain, 28.
See Pamela Genova, “A Collective Experiment in Literary Journalism: The Case of La Revue Wagnérienne,” Models of Collaboration in Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Several Authors, One Pen, ed. Seth Whidden (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009), 138.
For instance, Dujardin recounts a scene at a dinner party during which Mallarmé’s “Hommage” poem was mocked by the assembly who found it both pretentious and almost nonsensical. See Mallarmé par un des siens, 41.
For an example of mid-twentieth-century contempt toward the Revue’s literary ambitions, see André Cœuroy, Wagner et l’esprit romantique, 265.
See Wyzewa’s letter to Dujardin dated 30 March 1885 in which he writes, “[Agénor] Boissier’s letter . . . seems a bit acerbic to me . . . I think it might be good to cower and please this Geneva native. Could you not write to him that despite everything you have resolved to always write your works in the correct manner. . . .” (La lettre de Boissier . . . me paraît un peu aigre . . . il serait bon, je pense, de complaire bassement à ce Genevois. Ne pourrais-tu lui écrire que, malgré tout, tu es résolu à écrire toujours tes œuvres de cette façon correcte . . . ) Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Folder 91.6. Henceforth abbreviated as HRC. Agénor Boissier was a Swiss financier and one of Dujardin’s patrons.
For a more detailed analysis of Wyzewa’s criticism in La Revue wagnérienne, see Alexandra Kieffer, Debussy’s Critics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 23–74, and my “Comment bâtir ‘l’art suggestif de demain’: la critique musicale de Teodor de Wyzewa dans La Revue wagnérienne (1885–1886),” La Revue belge de musicologie 74 (2020): 71–84.
See Wyzewa, “Notes sur la littérature wagnérienne et les livres en 1885–1886,” La Revue wagnérienne 2 (8 June 1886): 158–59. Dujardin reprises Wyzewa’s vision of literary history in “Richard Wagner et la poésie française contemporaine,” Revue de Genève (July 1886): 252–53.
While these concepts are alluded to in the “Notes sur la littérature wagnérienne” article, they are explained in more detail in the previous article “Note sur la peinture wagnérienne et le salon de 1886.” See La Revue wagnérienne 2 (8 May 1886): 100–13.
The only surviving collaboration between Dujardin and another composer is a song cycle by his friend Xavier Perreau, Chansons du rivage (1913). Dujardin’s relationship to music performance, when compared to other Symbolist poets, is therefore, once again, exceptional.
On René Ghil’s controversial theory of instrumentation verbale, see Joseph Acquisto, French Symbolist Poetry and the Idea of Music (London: Ashgate, 2006), 81–116.
For instance, this type of humility is visible in many passages from Mallarmé’s correspondence dealing with writer’s block and the poet’s artistic mission, coupled with the fact he never published what was supposed to be his grand masterpiece, Le Livre.
For more information on Dujardin as composer, see Steven Huebner’s thorough discussion of the song cycle Les Litanies in “Édouard Dujardin, Wagner, and the Origins of Stream of Consciousness Writing,” 70–77.
In Dujardin’s personal papers, I was able to locate what looks like an attempt at writing a French music drama or poème dramatique entitled Thusnelda. The author’s annotations make clear he had no intention to compose the music, specifying that the musician may make cuts here and there. Thusnelda may be proof that perhaps Dujardin did contemplate a career as a librettist in the vein of Catulle Mendès, who did write the libretto for Emmanuel Chabrier’s Gwendoline (1886) and later collaborated with Jules Massenet. Undated document. HRC Box 11.4.
See section V of “Notes sur la littérature wagnérienne,” 169–71.
“On n’aura plus des perceptions isolées, inexpliquées, mais la génération même, continue, des états mentaux” (“Notes sur la littérature wagnérienne,” 170).
See his very critical assessment of the recently published L’Œuvre (1886) by Émile Zola in the same article in which he laments Zola’s alleged lack of interest in character psychology (Ibid., 166).
Part of this subtitle quotes from the epigraph “Seule vit notre âme” for Dujardin’s short-story collection Les Hantises (1886), itself inspired by Wyzewa’s idealist doctrine as exposed in La Revue wagnérienne, “Seul vit le Moi et seule est sa tâche éternelle: créer” (“Le pessimisme de Richard Wagner,” La Revue wagnérienne 1 [8 July 1885]: 169).
“Les Hantises sont un joli labyrinthe d’âme . . . car l’important c’était, après Poë [sic], de décrire des états d’âme, exacerbés, de recréer un fantastique raisonneur qui ne fut point américain et c’est ce que je trouve dans ce trop court livre—suggestif d’idées, faible à certains endroits, de style, je pense.” Letter dated June 1886. Jacques Doucet Library, Paris. MNR Alpha 507.
For a more comprehensive analysis of Les Hantises, see Leblanc, Wagnérisme et création, 277–94. For another brief reading of “Le Kabbaliste” and “Histoire d’une journée” in relation to Les Lauriers, see Huebner, “Dujardin, Wagner, and the Origins of Stream-of-Consciousness Writing,” 64.
“L’autre soir, je me suis rencontré avec le vieux Trilby,—c’est un sylphe,—dans un parc aérien sable de diamants d’éther” (Les Hantises, 204).
On the impact of Scribe on the vaudeville genre and the plays he wrote especially for the Gymnase theater, see Jean-Claude Yon, “Scribe vaudevilliste pour le Gymnase,” Le Vaudeville à la scène, ed. Violaine Heyraud and Ariane Martinez (Saint-Martin-d’Hères: UGA Éditions, 2017), 37–45.
In 1875 it was still listed as part of the Gymnase repertoire. See Arthur Pougin, Figures d’Opéra-Comique: Madame Dugazon, Elleviou, les Gavaudan (Paris: Tresse, 1875), 17.
Was the title inspired by Ivan Goncharov’s 1847 novel Обыкнове́нная исто́рия (A Common Story)? This is mere speculation, but Dujardin was aware that Wyzewa had undertaken a translation of the novel by early 1886, so the timing would be right. See Wyzewa’s letter to Dujardin dated 26 December 1885, in which Wyzewa asks Dujardin for a copy of Goncharov’s novel in Russian in order to begin his work of translation. HRC Folder 103.3.
“Par le théâtre, peu à peu, durant ces premières années, il apprit à connaître ce qu’était la vie de Paris . . . il s’était initié au chic” (Les Hantises, 168).
See Les Hantises, 174.
Dujardin can be seen sporting a monocle on Toulouse-Lautrec’s lithograph, Divan japonais (1893), while sitting next to his then-mistress, the cancan dancer Jane Avril. The picture can be seen on the MOMA’s website. See https://www.moma.org/collection/works/62041. Last consulted on 17 April 2023.
“Il se fait habiller par un bon tailleur de la rue Richelieu, qui, dans ses discours, devient un grand tailleur; et son bottier a trois clients au Jockey-Club” (Les Hantises, 168).
See Alain Rustenholz, Les Traversées de Paris: L’esprit de la ville dans tous ses quartiers (Paris: Parigramme, 2006), 106.
A transcription of the full lyrics along with some extra context can be found in Marc Robine, Anthologie de la chanson française: La tradition, des trouvères aux grands auteurs du XIXe siècle (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994), 715–16.
Sand mentions the round dance (ronde) complete with the first couple of verses in her autobiography, Histoire de ma vie 2 (Paris: Calmann Lévy Éditeur, 1893), 161; while Mahler uses the first few bars of the oboe part in the third movement of his first symphony and Debussy quotes from it in Quelques aspects de ‘Nous n’irons plus au bois’ parce qu’il fait un temps insupportable (1894), Jardins sous la pluie (1903), and the third movement of Images pour orchestre entitled “Rondes de printemps” (1905–09). For a theoretical analysis of Debussy’s use of “Nous n’irons plus au bois,” see Matthew Brown, “Follow the Leader: Debussy’s Contrapuntal Games,” Debussy’s Resonance, ed. François de Médicis and Steven Huebner (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2018), 395–418.
See the Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French (London: Routledge, 2011): “This text refers to the sexual practices prevalent at the court of Versailles of Louis XIV. The thousands of workers employed to build the château brought in their wake hordes of prostitutes. . . . Their activity was restricted by royal order but they simply took to exercising their trade in special houses,” 26.
The poem can be found in the collection Stalactites (1846). See Les Stalactites (Paris: Paulier, 1846), 9–10. For the English translation, see The Penguin Book of French Poetry 1820–1950, ed. and trans. William Rees (London: Penguin Books, 2005), 126.
Les Lauriers sont coupés, 51; Suter, trans., 15.
“M. Scribe plaît aux masses. Il est en communion avec elles; il ne les devance pas, il les suit. . . . Il écrit comme les bourgeois voudraient parler” (Théophile Gautier, Histoire de l’art dramatique en France depuis vingt-cinq ans 3 [Brussels: Hetzel, 1859], 135).
“Cette vie de la pensée donnée comme objet de la poésie, - cette conception musicale, c’est-à-dire désintellectualisée, de la poésie” (“Le monologue intérieur,” 257; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 134).
The idea that human language derives from singing, or at least, to emotional cries was defended by Rousseau in his Essai sur l’origine des langues, published posthumously in 1781.
“Cette unité respiratoire qui est à la base de la poésie comme de la musique” (Dujardin, Mallarmé par un des siens, 98). The concept of jaillissement is also used by Valery Larbaud in his preface to Les Lauriers sont coupés, thus signaling its importance. See Larbaud, preface to Édouard Dujardin, Les Lauriers sont coupés (Paris: Albert Messein, 1925), 8.
“Et c’est pourquoi j’ai toujours cru qu’il serait possible de trouver une forme qui passerait, sans transition et sans heurt, de la forme vers à la forme prose, suivant l’état lyrique du moment. . . .” (Dujardin, Mallarmé par un des siens, 127).
“Il y a ceci que la mélodie, après tout, n’est autre chose que la notation exacte du cri humain” (Dujardin, “De la Périchole et de l’absolu en musique” La Revue blanche [July 1895], 20).
Les Lauriers sont coupés is in fact part of a wider trend of fin-de-siècle novels named “romans célibataires” (novels of singledom) starting with J. K. Huysmans’s À rebours (1884) all the way to André Gide’s Paludes (1895). See Jean-Pierre Bertrand et al., Le Roman célibataire d’À rebours à Paludes (Paris : J. Corti, 1996).
Les Lauriers sont coupés, 51; Suter, trans., 15.
There is also the added layer that Mendès originated from Toulouse and likely had at least a hint of a southwestern accent.
Les Lauriers sont coupés, 52; Suter, trans., 16
According to Les Annales du théâtre et de la musique, La Dame blanche had received seven performances at the Opéra Comique in 1886 and had even been chosen as the work of music theater that was to be performed for free for the crowd on France’s national holiday, 14 July. See Les Annales du théâtre et de la musique 12 (1886): 138–39.
Nowadays, the “Dame blanche” is more known as a popular Belgian dessert made of vanilla ice cream covered in hot chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
“mais ici je ne peux qu’entendre jouer La Mascotte et des ballets de Delibes. La merde en résumé” (Letter from Wyzewa to Dujardin [8 Sept. 1886]. HRC Folder 91.6).
“l’immonde opérette de MM. Lecocq et Audran” (La Revue indépendante 3 [June 1887], 321).
“Il y a là tout autre chose que les valses et les romances de La Mascotte ou de Miss Helyett. . . . L’esthétique des opérettes contemporaines est bien simple; il s’agit de réunir, sous l’unité d’un vaudeville quelconque, une suite de valses, de romances sentimentales, de couplets égrillards et de quelques temps de galop; c’est purement et simplement du café-concert” (“De la Périchole et de l’Absolu dans la musique,” La Revue blanche 9 [July 1895], 19). Miss Helyett (1890) is another successful operetta by Audran.
See L’Initiation au péché et à l’amour (Paris: Mercure de France, 1898), 136–43.
Richard Traubner, Operetta: A Theatrical History (London: Routledge, 2003), 91.
“La vie d’âme est un continu emmêlement de lyrisme et de prose; le roman qui voudra dire la vie d’âme sera balancé incessamment entre l’exaltation poétique et le quelconque du quotidien vulgaire” (Cited in Frida Weissman, “Dujardin, le monologue intérieur et Racine,” Revue d’histoire littéraire de la France 74:3 [May-June, 1974]: 491).
“Si pourtant l’on regarde de près Les Lauriers sont coupés, on verra qu’ils sont pleins de leit-motifs [sic] . . . ” (“Le monologue intérieur,” 228; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 112).
“Moi qui ai reçu une éducation musicale” (For someone with a musical background like myself). See “Le monologue intérieur,” 229; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 113.
“On en trouvera un exemple particulièrement évident, au commencement du huitième chapitre. . . . ” (“Le monologue intérieur,” 228; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 112).
Les Lauriers sont coupés, 39; Suter, trans., 3. Translation slightly amended.
Les Lauriers sont coupés, 96; Suter, trans., 59.
“De même que le plus souvent une page de Wagner est une succession de motifs non développés dont chacun exprime un mouvement d’âme, le monologue intérieur est une succession de phrases courtes dont chacune exprime également un mouvement d’âme, avec cette ressemblance qu’elles ne sont pas liées les unes aux autres suivant un ordre rationnel mais suivant un ordre purement émotionnel, en dehors de tout arrangement intellectualisé” (“Le monologue intérieur,” 226; Suter, trans., “Interior Monologue,” 111).
“Je serais plus heureuse à garder des dindons en Bretagne” (Les Lauriers sont coupés, 89; Suter, trans., 52).
Stefan Buck takes a closer look at Prince’s characterization as flâneur in Édouard Dujardin als Repräsentant des Fin de siècle (Würzburg: Königshausen and Neumann, 1987), 97–103.
Original notation and excerpt from Les Lauriers sont coupés, 83; Suter, trans., 47. The picture from the score is taken from the original edition of Les Lauriers in La Revue indépendante 4 (July 1887): 123–24.
As an amateur composer who had studied composition at the Conservatoire alongside Paul Dukas, Dujardin was more than capable of transcribing a score accurately.
Ibid., 83; Suter, trans., 47–48.
“Le même orgue de Barbarie vient comme autrefois à la même heure me jouer le même air de Barbarie, j’entends émettre et soutenir les mêmes opinions de Barbarie, prôner les mêmes œuvres et les mêmes hommes de Barbarie” (Hector Berlioz, Mémoires 2 [Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1878], 177).
Laurence Tibi, La Lyre désenchantée: L’instrument de musique et la voix humaine dans la littérature française du XIXème siècle (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2003), 447–60.
“Ah! quelle existence, quelle existence! des envies me prennent de tout lâcher. (. . . ) Je serais plus heureuse à garder des dindons en Bretagne” (Les Lauriers sont coupés, 89; Suter, trans., 52).
Ibid., 92; Suter, trans., 55.
“J’ai été poursuivi par un orgue de Barbarie qui remplissait mon chemin de gémissements” (ibid., 113; Suter, trans., 76).
“Vous aimez pourtant la musique” (ibid.; Suter, trans., 77).
See La Belle que voici (Paris: Éditions universelles, 1949).
“Le microcosme-homme est par sa constitution ternaire: (esprit, âme, et corps) l’image et le miroir du macrocosme-univers (monde divin, humain et naturel), qui est lui-même l’organe du Dieu ineffable, de l’Esprit absolu, lequel est par sa nature: Père, Mère et Fils (essence, substance et vie).—Voilà pourquoi l’homme, image de Dieu, peut devenir son verbe vivant” (Édouard Schuré, Les grands initiés: esquisse de l’histoire secrète des religions [Paris: Perrin, 1921], XX). English translation from Édouard Schuré, The Secret History of World Religions, vol. 1, trans. Fred Rothwell (New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1986), XXIII.
In Linda Hutcheon’s Narcissistic Narrative, the mirror’s association with passivity is debunked, “The familiar image of the mimetic mirror suggests too passive a process; the use of micro-macro allegorical mirroring and mises en abyme in metafiction contests that very image of passivity, making the mirror productive as the genetic core of the work” (42).