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Pierrots on the Stage of Desire

Pierrots on the Stage of Desire: Nineteenth-Century French Literary Artists and the Comic Pantomime

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Pierrots on the Stage of Desire
    Book Description:

    This book, a companion to the author's Pierrot: A Critical History of a Mask (Princeton, 1978), provides a detailed history of nineteenth-century French pantomime, from the feeries of Jean-Gaspard Deburau at the Theatre des Funambules to the cabaret entertainments of Georges Wague at the height of la Belle Epoque.

    Originally published in 1985.

    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: 978-1-4008-5482-0
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-2)
  6. I Deburau
    (pp. 3-35)

    “ ‘Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the French resistance,’ ” protests a character in a recent novel.

    “[…] Its brave raids and acts of sabotage undermined the Germans and helped bring about their downfall. But in many ways Marcel Carné’s movie, hisChildren of Paradise, was more important than the armed resistance. The resisters might have saved the skin of Paris, Carné kept alive its soul.”¹

    It is a fatuous remark, the kind we expect from the determinedly fatuous hero, but its praise of Carné suggests with embarrassing accuracy the seductiveness ofLes Enfants du Paradis....

  7. II Paul Legrand, Champfleury, and Pantomime after Deburau
    (pp. 36-73)

    Deburau was, of course, not the only mime of the “Golden Age of the Boulevard.”¹ There was the man-monkey Mazurier, the rage of Paris inJocko, ou le Singe du Brésil; there was Emilie Bigottini of the Ambigu-Comique, “queen of the mimic art before Madame Quériau during the preromantic era”;² there was, most famously, the rope-dancer Madame Saqui, who enthralled her public at the Spectacle Acrobate “on that rope, on that imperceptible wire,” where—I am quoting Théodore de Banville—“she performed mimodramas all by herself in which she was all of the characters; in which she imitated—with what...

  8. III In Pursuit of Colombine: Charles Nodier and Charles Baudelaire
    (pp. 74-104)

    Nodier, if we can believe the expansively unreliable Dumaspère, “adored” three actors: Talma, Potier, and Deburau. “When I became acquainted with Nodier,” Dumas recalls in hisMémoires, “Talma had been dead for three years; Potier had been retired for two; there remained to him then, as an irresistible attraction, only Debureau [sic].”¹ The attraction, at least, is no invention. Indeed, so irresistible was the mime’s appeal that Nodier rented alogefor the year at the Funambules after his daughter had persuaded him to spend his first evening there;² he returned to assist atLe Boeuf enragé—according to...

  9. IV Pierrot posthume: Théophile Gautier
    (pp. 105-126)

    “Shakspeare aux Funambules”: the title of Gautier’s most important tribute to the pantomime is more than an affectionate irony conferred upon an entertaining popular stage. It identifies that stage as “the fantastic, extravagant, impossible theater”¹ of which d’Albert dreams inMademoiselle de Maupin. “If Shakespeare’sMidsummer-Night’s Dream, Tempest, orWinter’s Talecan ever be produced in France,” writes Gautier of the Boulevard theaters in “Shakspeare aux Funambules,” “rest assured that it will be only on these wretched, worm-eaten stages, before these ragged spectators” (OC, XXIX, 56). For the drama of d’Albert’s naïve Shakespeare is of pantomimicdésinvolture:

    Everything is tied...

  10. V Pierrot narcissique: Théodore de Banville
    (pp. 127-151)

    “The old Spectacle des Funambules on the Boulevard du Temple,” wrote Banville towards the end of his life, “[…] was certainly one of the most charming and entertaining things that Paris had to offer, and if I except the incomparable joys of poetry and love, the hours I spent in that little smoke-filled hall were without a doubt the best of my life.”¹ His remark expresses more than nostalgia: it betrays Banville’s thirst for a charmed interior space. For “cette petite salle enfumée” was clearly, for the poet, the stage for plays of the secret mind. Of the mind’s dimensions,...

  11. VI Pierrot emmerdant: Gustave Flaubert
    (pp. 152-179)

    Flaubert to Eugène Delattre, prescribing conduct appropriate to the provinces:

    Terrify the bourgeois by your extravagances and desolate your family by your talk! If you’re invited out to dinner, stuff yourself! and belch at dessert! Maybe they’ll be offended? Doesn’t matter! You’ll answer: “It’s the way things are done in Paris.” Caress the serving-maids, take snatch off the ladies, excite the adolescents […] and the provincials to bestiality! In a word, be sleazy: that’s the way to please!¹

    One of course turned a public face tomaman: “We have adopted the principle,” wrote Flaubert to his mother from Alexandria of...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. VII Pierrot glacé: Edmond de Goncourt
    (pp. 180-207)

    When, on December 27, 1876, Edmond de Goncourt first recorded in theJournalhis intention to write the book that would becomeLes Frères Zemganno(1879), Parisian Boulevard pantomime was virtually lifeless. The old Funambules had been demolished in 1862;¹ the new, on the Boulevard de Strasbourg, had all but abandoned thepantomime classique. Hippolyte Hostein, manager of several theaters in the course of his busy life, described its repertoire at just about the time of Edmond’sJournalentry: “In place of the melodrama and of the grandly spectacular pantomimes of the old repertoire, that of today offers the genre-comedy,...

  14. VIII Pierrot oedipien: J.-Κ. Huysmans
    (pp. 208-229)

    In a playful pseudonymous self-portrait for Léon Vanier’s seriesLes Hommes d’Aujourd’hui, Huysmans described the heroes of his novels as “one and the same person, transported into different milieux,” then added: “And very obviously this person is M. Huysmans […].” With the solemn deprecation of the true hack, he went on to deplore how far we are “from that perfect art of Flaubert, who effaced himself behind his work and created characters so magnificently diverse.”¹ But we are not, of course, so far as Huysmans pretended to suppose; his own self-portraiture is simply more explicit than that of the Master...

  15. IX Pierrot pubère: Paul Verlaine
    (pp. 230-252)

    Un paysage choisi. Orretrouvé, the landscape of theseFêtes gadantes. For the shudders rippling across its pools, dissolving the soul into the vague languors of its pines, are thefrissonsof an infant’s body, curled, blissful, about the breast. It was one of the primal fantasies of Verlaine.¹ As it was of hisamiPierrot: “I am the infant suckling at/The breast,” declares the eponym of Georges Loan’sPierrot voleur!(1896), the full moon in his hands at last, “from which one drinks the milk of tomorrows.”² That moon hangs heavy over theFêtes galantes, entrancing the birds into...

  16. X Pierrot Vanishes: Paul Margueritte and Stéphane Mallarmé
    (pp. 253-282)

    Derrida’s lecture “La Double Séance” brings together three unlikely pieces—a passage from thePhilebusof Plato, a pantomime by Paul Margueritte entitledPierrot assassin de sa femme(1881), and “Mimique” by Mallarmé, a response to his reading of Margueritte’s pantomime in the text of its second edition (1886). The latter two are actually offered as a critique of the ideas in the first, for despite the puerility ofPierrot assassin de sa femmeand the brevity of Mallarmé’s “Mimique,” both encourage, according to Derrida, a radical rethinking of mimesis. Plato, as Derrida reminds us, conceives thought in thePhilebus...

  17. XI Epilogue: Eclipse
    (pp. 283-316)

    “This little book,” wrote Margueritte ofPierrot assassin de sa femme, “[…] remained almost unknown: but I sent it to several writers. It made explicit, as early as 1882, what I hoped to draw from this moribund art, at a moment when, if anyone had hopes for it, no one thought that it could truly be revived.”¹ One of those writers was probably Jean Richepin: in April of 1883 the Trocadéro produced hisPierrot assassin, a pantomime in which Pierrot murders for love of Colombine and then is disabused of his illusion. (The Pierrot was Sarah Bernhardt, who, “angular and...

  18. Handlist of Pantomime Scenarios
    (pp. 317-334)
  19. Index
    (pp. 335-351)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 352-352)