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Paul Marchand, F.M.C.

Paul Marchand, F.M.C.

Charles W. Chesnutt
Edited with introduction and notes by Dean McWilliams
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 212
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    Paul Marchand, F.M.C.
    Book Description:

    Evoking the atmosphere of early-nineteenth-century New Orleans and the deadly aftermath of the San Domingo slave revolution, this historical novel begins as its protagonist puzzles over the seemingly prophetic dream of an aged black praline seller in the famous Place d'Armes. Paul Marchand, a free man of color living in New Orleans in the 1820s, is despised by white society for being a quadroon, yet he is a proud, wealthy, well-educated man. In this city where great wealth and great poverty exist side by side, the richest Creole in town lies dying. The family of the aged Pierre Beaurepas eagerly, indeed greedily, awaits disposition of his wealth. As the bombshell of Beaurepas's will explodes, an old woman's dream takes on new meaning, and Marchand is drawn ever more closely into contact with a violently racist family. Bringing to life the entwined racial cultures of New Orleans society, Charles Chesnutt not only writes an exciting tale of adventure and mystery but also makes a provocative comment on the nature of racial identity, self-worth, and family loyalty.

    Although he was the first African-American writer of fiction to gain acceptance by America's white literary establishment, Charles W. Chesnutt (1858-1932) has been eclipsed in popularity by other writers who later rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. Recently, this pathbreaking American writer has been receiving an increasing amount of attention. Two of his novels,Paul Marchand, F.M.C.(completed in 1921) andThe Quarry(completed in 1928), were considered too incendiary to be published during Chesnutt's lifetime. Their publication now provides us not only the opportunity to read these two books previously missing from Chesnutt's oeuvre but also the chance to appreciate better the intellectual progress of this literary pioneer. Chesnutt was the author of many other works, includingThe Conjure Woman & Other Conjure Tales, The House Behind the Cedars, The Marrow Tradition,andMandy Oxendine.Princeton University Press recently publishedTo Be an Author: Letters of Charles W. Chesnutt, 1889-1905(edited by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Robert C. Leitz, III).

    Originally published in 1999.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6495-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-2)

    TheNorton Anthology of African American Literaturerecords a common assumption about Charles W. Chesnutt’s literary career: “Although he continued writing and speaking on various social and political issues . . ., Chesnutt produced only a handful of short stories in the last twenty-five years of his life” (523). This assumption is mistaken and deserves correction, for Chesnutt remained a novelist until the end of his years, completing two long narratives in the seventh and eighth decades of his life. Although Chesnutt submitted both manuscripts for publication, neither was published, and, as a consequence, African American literary history records an...


      (pp. 3-4)

      The visit of a French duke to New Orleans, in the early part of the last century, and the social festivities in his honor, are historical incidents. If there was not a Paul Marchand case in New Orleans, there might well have been, for all the elements of such a drama were present, as is clearly set out in the careful studies of life in the old Creole city by Miss Grace King and Mr. George W. Cable,¹ which are available for the student or the general reader—the author has made free reference to them—as well as in...

    • CHAPTER I In the Vieux Carré
      (pp. 5-18)

      Toward the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, New Orleans, the little city planted on the banks of the Mississippi, was in the full tide of a newborn prosperity. Always French at heart, in spite of the successive strains of alien humanity which penetrated and mingled with its population—Spanish, Indian, African, English, Irish, American—it had been nearly a score of years under the government of the United States. Eight or ten years before, General Jackson, defeating the British in a famous battle, had firmly established the American influence, and made the word “Yankee” a symbol...

    • CHAPTER II The Prophecy
      (pp. 19-31)

      Flushed with prosperity, Zabet began to give away cakes to several little half-naked pot-bellied black children who were eyeing her basket wistfully. This altruistic pastime was interrupted by the return of the young man who had received the blow from Raoul Beaurepas.

      With downcast eyes, and looking neither to right nor left, he was passing old Zabet without looking at her, when he heard himself called, in insinuating tones:

      “Oh, miché—Monsieur Marchand—oh, master!”

      The young man thus accosted, who was known as Paul Marchand, hesitated. The old woman had witnessed his humiliation, but her form of address was...

    • CHAPTER III Monsieur Pierre Beaurepas
      (pp. 32-48)

      When adolphe beaurepas, following the suggestion made by Zabet Philosophe the day before, ascended the steps of his uncle’s mansion the next morning about ten o’clock, his bosom was fluttering with hope. His uncle’s house, the temple of the Beaurepas cult, stood on Royal Street, a block from the Place d’Armes and a little to the south of the cathedral. It had been built by Antoine Beaurepas, the father of Pierre, of limestone brought from France in his own bottoms, with a tiled roof, a vaulted entrance leading to a large paved court surrounded by broad galleries or verandahs with...

    • CHAPTER IV Philippe and Josephine
      (pp. 49-61)

      Philippe beaurepas was singing, light-heartedly, snatches from a Creole love song, as he rode along the avenue of mighty trees, draped with Spanish moss, which lined the Natchez Road from the city to Trois Pigeons plantation. To the left at a little distance and visible through the trees, lay the broad river, and to the right plantations of cotton and cane, with now and then a large plantation house with the slave quarters grouped around or near it, and dark-hued laborers toiling with plow or hoe. Philippe was astride of a good horse, the road was dry, the morning fair,...

    • CHAPTER V The Quadroon Ball
      (pp. 62-77)

      Though louisiana had been part of the American Republic for nearly twenty years, the historic visit of a French duke to New Orleans, which took place at about this period, was an event of tremendous social importance. The spiritual nexus which bound the Creoles to the land of their forefathers had been modified but not destroyed by the change of political dominion. The echoes of the French Revolution still resounded loudly in New Orleans, although its watchword of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” no more harmonized with slavery and the Code Noir than did the Declaration of Independence, and the fall...

    • CHAPTER VI In the Calabozo
      (pp. 78-84)

      When marchand recovered consciousness he found himself lying on a rough bed in the Calabozo, or city prison. What hour of the night it was he did not know, for the prison was shrouded in darkness, except for the dim light of a lantern which but faintly illuminated the corridor, so that he was unable to consult his watch.

      The quadroon men were, as a rule, of amiable disposition and cheerful temperament. While they regarded their social treatment as cruel and unjust, and discussed it among themselves with much animation, the cruelty was mainly a matter of feeling and might...

    • CHAPTER VII Monsieur Renard
      (pp. 85-91)

      In the morning Marchand sent for his lawyer. While, under the old regime in Louisiana, as under the system in the more northern states, the law provided that a man charged with a crime or misdemeanor should have a right to a speedy trial, the accused was in fact brought to bar when it suited the convenience of the judge, the prosecuting attorney, or others who might be interested in the outcome. The wishes of the prisoner were the last to be consulted. Moreover, the French system regarded solitude, with its opportunities for reflection and meditation, as an excellent thing...

    • CHAPTER VIII The Will
      (pp. 92-104)

      New orleans society had resumed its wonted placidity, after the departure of the Due de Nemours, which took place about a week after the quadroon ball given in his honor, when it was thrown into a state of even greater commotion by the will of old Pierre Beaurepas, the filing of which for probate was duly chronicled in theLe Moniteur de la Louisiane. For this fine old Creole gentleman, having successfully stood off the common enemy from the outposts during a long siege of the gout, was at length compelled to capitulate when the disease attacked the citadel, his...

    • CHAPTER IX The Five Cousins
      (pp. 105-113)

      Paul beaurepas, late Marchand, f.m.c., had listened to the lawyer’s statements with a countenance the immobility of which cloaked a variety of emotions. When Renard declared him fitted in all respects to wear the mantle of the late Pierre Beaurepas, and hand on the traditional glory of his race, whence came the shadow that flitted momentarily across the pale olive of his cheek? When the lawyer announced that his client had no word of blame for his dead parents, was it a flash of resentment that for a moment lit up his dark eyes with a lambent flame? Or was...

    • CHAPTER X Julie and Her Chickens
      (pp. 114-117)

      Julie and her children were gathered in the living room of the family home on Bourbon Street, which had come to her from her father. Jacques Lenoir had been a man of culture, as evidenced by the books on the walls, most of which had been his, and of discriminating taste, as shown by the choice of the pictures and art pieces which decorated the room. There was an open piano, with sheet music on the rack, a harp, and on the table some current French novels and magazines. The interior was not so magnificent as that of the Beaurepas...

    • CHAPTER XI The Black Drop
      (pp. 118-124)

      Paul beaurepas, after taking possession, as we have seen, of the family mansion, went through his father’s papers. The deeds, contracts, notes and securities, of which there were many, were on deposit in the vault of the Bank of New Orleans, but in his father’s desk there were numerous diaries, commonplace books and memoranda dating back for many years, throwing light upon the history and traditions of the important family of which he was called to be the head.

      If he came upon any obscure point upon which he desired information, Terence, who had acted in part as his late...

    • CHAPTER XII The Honor of the Family
      (pp. 125-135)

      Despite his outward calm, Paul Beaurepas, during the weeks which had passed since the discovery of his birth, had gone through a fiery furnace of emotion. No one but a man of spirit finding himself in that condition could quite have known what it was to belong to an inferior caste in a city like New Orleans. Even the Negroes retained a measure of natural dignity and self-respect, which slavery had not been able to eradicate entirely and which yearned dumbly for recognition, and the proud blood of French gentlemen, even when mingled with that of slaves, sometimes clamored for...

    • CHAPTER XIII A Tip from Perigord
      (pp. 136-140)

      Adolphe beaurepas, sauntering idly along Royal Street on Sunday afternoon, on his way to theCafé des Exilés, where he had an appointment with a San Domingan gentleman, to arrange the details of a cock fight, met Guillaume Perigord, the fencing master.

      Bonjour,Monsieur Beaurepas,” exclaimed Perigord with the military salute which he affected.

      Bonjour,Perigord,” returned Adolphe. “How do you carry yourself?”

      “Very well, thank you. And you, monsieur?”

      “Passably. What could you expect, after an earthquake—a revolution. The cursed will of my uncle—”

      “Ah, yes,” returned the other with seeming sympathy. “It was astonishing, almost incredible....

    • CHAPTER XIV The Duel
      (pp. 141-149)

      The meeting which Paul Beaurepas had demanded of his cousins took place at The Oaks,¹ the fashionable Creole dueling ground, a cleared vacant space several squares north of the cathedral, marked by three large water oaks. While the place and time of the meeting had not been advertised, enough about it had leaked out to draw a small knot of curious spectators, who kept themselves in the background, however, behind the screening shrubbery which surrounded the dueling ground.

      The gentlemen met and exchanged formal greetings. There had come of Paul’s five cousins only four. Philippe was present, though not among...

    • CHAPTER XV Don José Pays His Respects
      (pp. 150-154)

      Don josé morales called upon the heir of Beaurepas soon after his succession.

      “Monsieur,” he said, “I wish to pay my respects to the son of my old friend. I wish it had been my privilege years ago. I have heard your father criticized for leaving you so long in ignorance of your birth. But he was my friend; do not think too harshly of him.”

      “Never fear, Señor Morales, I have not uttered one word of reproach against him. Did he not, by the stroke of his pen, lift me from the painful condition of quadroon—a Negro—to...

    • CHAPTER XVI At Trois Pigeons
      (pp. 155-162)

      One morning, glancing at the daily newspaper, Paul gave a mighty start. An item on the first page announced the escape, from the city prison, of two prisoners—a Negro and a mulatto—who had been arrested two weeks before as runaways, on the plantation of Trois Pigeons, and sentenced to be sold as vagrants. They answered to the names of Jean Lebeau orGrande-Tête, and Pedro Valdez, orle Borgne—the one-eyed. A description of their persons followed, with the statement that a posse had been sent in pursuit of them.

      Paul’s memory ran swiftly back to the colloquy...

    • CHAPTER XVII Paul’s Dilemma
      (pp. 163-171)

      The impassivity which had characterized Paul Beaurepas’s demeanor since his new birth had masked a seething caldron of emotions, and had been achieved by very great effort. No more radical change in one’s life would have been possible. In one moment, by the stroke of a decrepit old man’s pen, he was raised from a man of color to a white man. What that might mean in the South today is at least conceivable to any thoughtful, observant person who reads the newspapers. The reader must have already gathered something of what it meant in New Orleans in 1820, but...

    • CHAPTER XVIII The Decision
      (pp. 172-186)

      A week after the duel, Paul Beaurepas sent each of his cousins, by old Terence, a written invitation to dine at the family mansion on Royal Street. The physical wounds were sufficiently healed to permit their attendance, though Raoul wore a scar on his cheek, Hector wore a bit of plaster on his ear, and Henri walked with a cane. Their spirits, however, were still sore, and had they dared, they would have declined the invitation. With the exception of Philippe, despite their outward mask of deference, not one of them but hated the interloper with a sullen fury, all...

      (pp. 187-190)
      (pp. 191-192)