Philothée O’Neddy, romantic all-over (Acta Fabula)

1PAmong the “little romantics” or “marginal romantics”, Philothée O’Neddy is undoubtedly the most famous of the lesser known. Aurelia Cervoni recalls, in fact, in her preface entitled “Philothée O’Neddy, the other ‘lycanthrope'” (we will return to this name), that O’Neddy belonged to Jehan Duseigneur’s Petit Cénacle alongside Borel, Nerval and Gautier, but also Alphonse Brot, Auguste Maquet or even Jules Vabre, famous for a title without work, the famous Essay on the inconvenience of dressers. O’Neddy, in the eyes of posterity, therefore occupies an intermediate place, he is neither completely known nor completely unknown. To use a formula by Pascal Brissette, O’Neddy had neither the glory nor the curse, but an “average misfortune.”1 ».

twoThe publication of this first critical edition of fire and flame, an 1833 collection, is therefore important: this poetic collection had been republished for almost a century, the last edition being acquired by Marcel Hervier of Éditions des presses françaises in 1926. Hervier had already written there, about the Jeunes – France, that his “forgetfulness is unfair; because if no work imposes itself, at least the richness of the temperament, the sincerity of the feeling, the poetic value of many pieces, the preoccupation with the style allow you to cling to ittwo. For a century, studies on romanticism have shed new light on these authors, in particular on Nerval, Gautier and, more recently, Borel. The work of A. Cervoni thus gives new visibility to the main work of one of these young people who certainly occupied a smaller place, but important enough to arouse the interest of a reader in 2022. Because make no mistake: O’Neddy’s work has value not only in terms of literary history, but also from the point of view of the text itself. in the preface to Bulletin of the Théophile Gautier Society dedicated to O’Neddy, the first volume of its kind, Anthony Glinoer writes about it:

The challenge of such prominence is not small. It’s even double, like this writer who knew how to play the pseudonym like few others. With Philothée O’Neddy we find a kind of quintessence of Petit’s exacerbated romanticism Upper Room; with Théophile Dondey, his other mewe find a complex man, an intransigent Hugolâtre critic, a minor civil servant removed from literary life, but not from artistic creation, a man broken by contingencies, a poet who suffers from a paralyzing inferiority complex, but who never completely leaves the ” “sacred” fire. To O’Neddy’s romantic volcanism, to Dondey’s petty-bourgeois retreat to private speech3.

3The volume proposed by A. Cervoni is composed of three main sets: an introduction that presents O’Neddy, his contemporary critical reception in the university period; collection fire and flame ; an anthology of “Documents” by and about O’Neddy.

4The biographical presentation uses the few documents, mainly external testimonies, that we have: the Unpublished letter from Philothée O’Neddy for Charles Asselineau (1862), the “medallion” of O’Neddy by Gautier, included in his history of romanticism (1874), and Ernest Havet’s biographical note, published at the beginning of the second volume of Complete Works (1877-1878) by O’Neddy. These sources are already known to specialists, but the interest of this edition is to bring them together in a single volume.

5A. Cervoni focuses his observations on Théophile Dondey’s connections with the other members of the Petit Cénacle, within which he is written and published. fire and flame. It is in fact in reference to Pétrus Borel that A. Cervoni titles his introduction “Philothée O’Neddy, the other ‘lycanthrope’”; however, it may be regretted that this analogy is not justified or commented on in the body of the introduction, especially as the passage from the preface to fire and flame where O’Neddy “distances himself from his comrades” (p. 18): O’Neddy admits the presence of “some strong marks of lycanthropy”, but immediately adds that these “are, for the most part, just fiery jests” (cited ibid., text p. 43). José-Luis Diaz showed that for Borel it’s not about playing: “And don’t let anyone tell you it’s just a game. Borel the Lycanthrope”, as in André Breton’s, a charismatic rigidity that is policed ​​as soon as skepticism shows itself4. In fact, it is less in lycanthropy that Borel and O’Neddy find themselves than in the general authorial scenography, of which lycanthropy is only one element, that they put into practice. José-Luis Diaz perfectly showed how Borel, O’Neddy and Charles Lassailly, author of Trialph Roueriesto build the image of “thought thieves” (p. 56), the “youth-France pact” based on faith “in the truth of passionate life and the sanctity of revolt5 ».

6On the other hand, the volume offers a rich overview of O’Neddy’s reception and his collection. A. Cervoni still adds to public knowledge a hitherto unknown report, published in The Political and Literary Tribune of December 23, 1833, mentioned in the introduction and reproduced in the “Documents” (pp. 187-188). The contemporary texts of the publication, whether the two reports or the letters of Béranger and Chateaubriand, all agree in seeing in fire and flame the work of a talented young poet who was very much subject to the Byronic model. Thus Béranger criticizes “the aristocratic tendency of our young Byronic school” (p. 184), when Chateaubriand criticizes O’Neddy for desecrating “the gifts” he received “from Nature” (p. 185). The limited number of documents that constitute the immediate reception of the collection confirms O’Neddy’s formula, according to which “the collection had to open itself, that is, it did not do so at all” (p. 224). Gautier or Borel, who continued their works despite the failure of their first collections (Rhapsodies for one, poems to the other), O’Neddy stops publishing—but not writing. A. Cervoni cites the moving anecdote told by Gautier in 1872: at a banquet given in honor of Célestin Nanteuil — draughtsman and engraver, member of the Petit Cénacle — Gautier meets an old O’Neddy, taken “from the catacombs of this mysterious life in who immersed himself” (p. 240), and asks him when his second volume of verses will be out. ” » (ibid.) Gautier was in fact convinced that O’Neddy could have a much more important job:

If he hadn’t retired so soon, he would certainly have gotten himself a place in the holy battalion. He had that rare quality in art, strength; but he was discouraged from the beginning by one of those lassitudes whose secret remains in the soul and more often still in the heart of the poet. (page 237)

7Ernest Havet, in his note added to the top of the posthumous poems (1877) and that A. Cervoni reproduced in part, writes about the sonnet the two blades and verse piece the fever of the times (reproduced p. 189-195) that they “contain the painful expression of a feeling whose weight he carried all his life, the consciousness of a talent that cannot be recognized6. » the fever of the times in fact formulates the failure of those “Minds of second rate, incomplete poets, / Fewer artists, alas! only artistic reflections” (p. 189), victims of the spleen, of a misfortune that in fire and flame takes on the characteristics of Destiny. A. Cervoni rightly indicates, in his introduction, O’Neddy’s influence on Baudelaire.

8Finally, let us add that A. Cervoni opts, for his annotation, for the most significant handwritten variants and for the identification of intertextual references.

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9This new edition, the first review, of fire and flame by Philothée O’Neddy will allow the curious and experts to have easier access to this collection. If the critical apparatus does not really offer an analysis of the work, it offers a welcome contextualization and a set of documents (biography, bibliography, intertextual references, etc.) that allow us to get to know O’Neddy better. We must therefore welcome this initiative, which will undoubtedly give rise to new readings of this young poet whose aesthetics and poetics are representative of the literary production of the Petit Cénacle.

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