, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Two decadents' fragrant prayers

  • Kristiaan P. Aercke


Comparative Literature 
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  1. 1.
    Robert Musil,Der Man ohne Eigenschaften, Vol. I, Bk. 2 Pt. 1, Ch. 72.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Lucien Descaves, ed. “Les Foules de Lourdes,” in Huysmans,Œuvres complètes (Paris: Crès, 1928), vol. 18, uses this term to summarize all of Huysmans' critical butts, such as adulterated plainchant, modern church architecture, devotion of relics and false piety. Abbreviation:Lourdes.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Huysmans' priritual conversion to an austere Catholicism was already noticeable in the final passates of his “decadent” novelA Rebours (1884) and inLà-Bas (1891) it became very obviour. Especially this novel and the followingEn Route (1895) andLa Cathédrale (1898) mirror his own evolution.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Huysmans thought the theatrical conception of the new church an insult to the Virgin because she had asked for a new, plain builing herself. InLourdes, 112.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Flower, 94. See Note 6 for citation.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The collectionFive Novels, ed. 0. Sitwell, New Directions Paperbook, No. 518 (New York: New Directions, 1981) contains all the novels I have used: “The Flower Beneath the Foot”' (1–94) “Prancing Nigger,” (95–145), “Valmouth: A Romantic Novel,” (149–239) and “Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli,” (289–342). All references are to this edition, and in the notes I will use abreviated titles for reference:Flower, Nigger, Valmouth, andPirelli.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Théophile Gautier,Mademoiselle de Maupin (Paris: Charpentier, 1879), p. 146.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mademoiselle de Maupin, p. 221.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Albert Farmer,Le mouvement esthétique et “décadent” en Angleterre (1873–1900), Bibliothèque de la Revue de Littérature Comparée, No. 75 (Paris: Champion, 1931), 189.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Flower, 20.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Whether Pirelli himself introduced this quaint choir at Clemenza or inherited them is not specified. But the latter consideration is an important one in the light of Pirelli's latervituperatio by the bourgeois “guardians of morality.”Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Huysmans, as ex-Naturalist, emphaiszed the genune horror involved in acquiring the status of Saint, inSte. Lydwine de Schiedam (1901). In connection with contemporary hagiography, he wrote that it was “une branche maintenant perdue de l'art; il en était d'elle ainsi que de la sculpture sur bois et des miniatures dex vieux missels ... pour extraire le charme des légendes, il fallait la langue naïve des siécles révolus, le verbe ingénu des âges morts,” InEn Route (Paris: Plon, 1913), 31.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Herbert Kech,Hagiographie als christliche Unterhaltungsliteratur, Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik, No. 225 (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1977), 117.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lourdes, 35, 184, 281.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Nigger, 105–6.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Pirelli, 328, andFlower, 88.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    “L'Art moderne,” (1883) inŒuvres complètes, Vol. 6, 95.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid. “L'Art moderne,” (1883) inŒuvres complètes, Vol. 6, 95.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Namely, a sculpted “ronde d'anges qui ... dansent, en l'honneur de la Vierge, un immobile rigaudon de marbre,” in the Paris Madeleine church. InEn Route, 18.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    What Huysmans took to be authentic plainchant was actually an adaptation of original Greco-roman music to liturgical needs, as it was sung for instance in the Basilica of St. Peter under Gregory the Great. Margaret Deanesley,A History of the Medieval Church, 590–1500 (London: Methuen, 1969), 27.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    InA Rebours, for example, des Esseintes studies El Greco's “Christ aux teintes singulières—d'un dessein exagéré, d'une couleur féroce, d'une énergie détraquée ... aux tons de cirage et de vert cadavre.”Œuvres complètes, 87–7.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Nigger, 114 andPirelli, 313. These descriptions are not only Baroque but also “modernist” for reminding us that a painting essentially consists of paint.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L Cathédrale, 265.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lourdes, 174.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    La Cathédrale, 16.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    His flamboyant Spanish Virgin is decked out “as though bound for the Bull-ring.”Pirelli, 333.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Pirelli, 249.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Valmouth, 169. Also fashionable is a “loose, shapeless gown ... draped from the head à l'Evangile.”Valmouth, 165.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    As in Lourdes, where Huysmans with horror beholds “deux sœurs colossalement riches, qui avaient, il y a de cela cinq ans, fait le vœu, le jour de la fête de saînt Benoît Labre, de vivre comme lui, dans un linceul de crasse; toutes deux, en haillons, sous leurs robes, se dispensaient de jamais se déshabiller et se laver.”Lourdes, 227.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Pirelli, 298.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Le Lys rouge (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1913).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Pirelli, 305.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Pirelli, 304.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    J.-A. Kiechler,The Butterfly's Freckled Wings, Swiss Studies in English, No. 60 (Bern: Francke, 1969), 14–28.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Like the “two fresh eggs in a blue paper bag” on the table in Sister Ursula's otherwise austere cell.Flower, 92.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    James Laver,The First Decadent (New York: Citadel Press, 1955), 53.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Le Lys rouge, (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1913). 184.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Anatole France,L'Ile des Pingouins (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1903), 316–17.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Anatole France, “L'Etui de Nacre” Gestas” inŒuvres complètes illustrées (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1925), vol. 5, 334.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Flower, 29.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Nostradamus and Picpus appear inFlower, Père Ernest inValmouth.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pirelli, 312.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Pirelli, 300.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Huysmans calls the wordly priests who “lower themselves” to these activities “imbéciles” and “abjects.” Fernande Zayed,Huysmans, peintre de son époque (Paris: Nizet, 1973), 469–70, 480.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Although at the same time the Beardsleyan and the eighteenth-century (Gothic) elements become stronger, there is no evidence that the priests themselves also become increasingly decadent and corrupt, as Edward Potoker mistakenly suggests inRonald Firbank Columbia Essays on modern writers, No. 43 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 10.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Pirelli, 319.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    En Route, 93.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Pirelli, 328.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Pirelli, 323.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristiaan P. Aercke

There are no affiliations available

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