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Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui, 209




Person cited Jules Laforgue
Illustrated by Émile Laforgue


The collection of Les Hommes D'Aujourd'hui was founded in September 1878 by André Gill and Félicien Champsaur. The journal was first published by Cinqualbre (until 1883), then by Léon Vanier after two years of interruption. The last publication appeared in 1899. André Breton posessed 27 numbers of the collection.

The review was originally inspired by the successful journal, Le Bulletin de vote, published in collaboration with the journalist Maxime Rude which was a collection of illustrated biographies, promoting the republican candidats in the legislative elections of October 1877. The collection of Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui strays from militant politics; each number (containing 4 pages) is devoted to a different contemporary figure belonging to the world of arts, literature or science. A colorful portrait of the spotlight celebrity is pictured each cover, followed by three pages of text including citations from the author, entire poems or various notable facts about the author's work. These texts, often satirical, combine contemporaneous and fantastic elements. 

When Léon Vanier took over the publication in 1885, he would finalize the element of caracature for the series (André Gill and Henri Demare were the consecutive authors of the first portraits). Among the graphic artists to join would be Émile Laforgue. In the number 209 of the collection, he has drawn his brother, Jules Laforgue, as a young bohemian poet, with a meditative look on his face. The caricature is free of sarcasm, which in fact caracterizes the writing of Jules Laforgue.  However, the  scathing melancholy and despair portrayed by the artist describes the poet perfectly:  the shadow of his figure is masked at the level of the head by a cover posed on the ground - a discreet echo in pictoral form of Baudelaire's famous verse:  « Quand le ciel bas et lourd pèse comme un couvercle » ("when the sky, low and heavy, weighs like a cover"). From the Baudelairian sky, there is nothing left but a moon with severe features insensitive to the call that Jules Laforgue entreats in his Complainte de la Lune en province of 1885 :

« Ah ! La belle pleine lune, / Oh! The beautiful full moon,
grosse comme une fortune ! / plentiful like a fortune !
La retraite sonne au loin, / The retreat sounds in the distance,
un passant, monsieur l'adjoint ; / a passerby, mister assistant;
un clavecin joue en face, / a harpsichord plays in front,
un chat traverse la place : / a cat crosses the square:
la province qui s'endort ! / the province that falls asleep !
Plaquant un dernier accord, / Striking a last chord,
le piano clôt sa fenêtre. / the piano closes his window.
Quelle heure peut-il bien être ? / What hour can it be ?
Calme lune, quel exil ! / Calm moon, what exile !
Faut-il dire : ainsi soit-il ? / Must one say : thus would it be ?
Lune, ô dilettante lune, / Moon, O dillitante moon,
à tous les climats commune, / to all the village climates,
tu vis hier le Missouri, / you live yesterday in the Missouri,
et les remparts de Paris, / and the ramparts of Paris,
les fiords bleus de la Norvège, / the blue fjords of Norway,
les pôles, les mers, que sais-je ? / the poles, the seas, what do I know ?
Lune heureuse ! Ainsi tu vois, / Happy moon, thus you see,
à cette heure, le convoi / at this hour, the train
de son voyage de noce ! / from his honey-moon !
Ils sont partis pour l'écosse. / They have left for Scotland.
Quel panneau, si, cet hiver, / What a sign, if, this winter,
elle eût pris au mot mes vers ! / she had been taken at the word of my verse !
Lune, vagabonde lune, / Moon, vagabond moon,
faisons cause et moeurs communes ? / we take cause and manners alike ?
ô riches nuits ! Je me meurs, / O sumptuous nights ! I die,
la province dans le coeur ! / the province at heart !
Et la lune a, bonne vieille, / And the moon has, good old dear,
du coton dans les oreilles. » / some cotton in her ears.

Suggested further reading: an article by Jean-Pierre Bertrand on the « mélancolie humoristique » (comic melancholy) of the Complaintes: « L'humour jaune des Complaintes ».

Bibliographical materialBreton Sale, lot 1107. Paris, Librarie Vanier, no date, In-4° soft cover.
ISSNL 1147-677X
Date of publication 1878
Publicationfirst publication
PublisherLibrairie Vanier, Paris
Breton Auction, 2003Lot 1107
Keywords, ,
SetJournaux et revues, [Journal] Les Hommes d'aujourd'hui
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