Aloysius Bertrand

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Aloysius Bertrand
Aloysius Bertrand -poete fr.(1807-1841).JPG
A herma of Bertrand, exposed at the Jardin de l'Arquebuse, in Dijon
Louis Jacques Napoléon Bertrand

(1807-04-20)20 April 1807
Ceva, Piedmont, France (now in Italy)
Died29 April 1841(1841-04-29) (aged 34)
Paris, France
Cause of death Tuberculosis
OccupationPoet, playwright, journalist
Notable work
Gaspard de la Nuit

Louis Jacques Napoléon Bertrand, better known by his pen name Aloysius Bertrand (20 April 1807 — 29 April 1841), was a French Romantic poet, playwright and journalist. He is famous for having introduced prose poetry in French literature, [1] and is considered a forerunner of the Symbolist movement. His masterpiece is the collection of prose poems Gaspard de la Nuit published posthumously in 1842; three of its poems were adapted to a homonymous piano suite by Maurice Ravel in 1908.

A pen name is a pseudonym adopted by an author and printed on the title page or by-line of their works in place of their "real" name. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise their gender, to distance an author from some or all of their previous works, to protect the author from retribution for their writings, to combine more than one author into a single author, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work. The author's name may be known only to the publisher or may come to be common knowledge.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.




Born in Ceva on 20 April 1807, Louis Jacques Napoléon Bertrand was the son of Georges and Laure (or Laurine-Marie) Bertrand, née Davico. Georges Bertrand was born on 22 July 1768 at Sorcy-Saint-Martin [2] (or Saulieu, according to other sources [3] [4] ) into a family of soldiers. A gendarmerie lieutenant, his parents wanted him to become a priest but he ran away from the seminary and enlisted in the 16e régiment de dragons of Orléans on 7 May 1785. His first marriage with Marie-Jeanne Rémond (born in Montbard on 23 February 1779) gave birth to a daughter, Denise, on 9 March 1800 but his wife died three months later. He married his second wife during his stay in the Department of Montenotte (now the Province of Cuneo), Laure Davico (born 2 August 1782), on 3 June 1806 in Ceva. After the birth of Louis, the eldest, in 1807, a second son, Jean Balthazar, was born on 17 July 1808. [5] [6]

Ceva Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Ceva, the ancient Ceba, is a small Italian town in the province of Cuneo, region of Piedmont, 49 kilometres (30 mi) east of Cuneo. It lies on the right bank of the Tanaro on a wedge of land between that river and the Cevetta stream.

Sorcy-Saint-Martin Commune in Grand Est, France

Sorcy-Saint-Martin is a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.

Saulieu Commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Saulieu is a commune in the Côte-d'Or department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in eastern France.

On 15 March 1812 Georges was appointed as gendarmerie captain in Spoleto, whose mayor was at the time Pierre-Louis Roederer. There, on 23 December, the poet's sister Isabella-Caroline (or Elizabeth) was born. On 3 September 1814 he was assigned to Mont-de-Marsan, where he made the acquaintance of Charles Jean Harel, then-prefect of the Department of Landes. Retiring at the end of August 1815, he left Landes and moved to Dijon, where on 19 March 1816 his fourth child was born, Charles Frédéric (who later became a journalist), [7] [6] and where his daughter Denise from his first marriage got married on 11 January 1818.

Spoleto Comune in Umbria, Italy

Spoleto is an ancient city in the Italian province of Perugia in east-central Umbria on a foothill of the Apennines. It is 20 km (12 mi) S. of Trevi, 29 km (18 mi) N. of Terni, 63 km (39 mi) SE of Perugia; 212 km (132 mi) SE of Florence; and 126 km (78 mi) N of Rome.

In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government such as that of a city or a town.

Mont-de-Marsan Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Mont-de-Marsan is a commune and capital of the Landes department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France.

A young romantic

Louis Bertrand studied from 1818 to 1826 at the collège royal of Dijon, [8] where he spent most of his life. Among his classmates were Lacordaire and Antoine Tenant de Latour, who would help him later. While in Dijon, Louis Bertrand developed an interest in the Burgundian capital. His father died on 27 February 1828 and he had to sustain the home on his own, receiving financial help from his aunt François-Marguerite also known as “Lolotte”. In the local literary paper “Le Provincial”, which had published the first verses of poet Alfred de Musset, he promoted his avant-garde aesthetic views and published around twenty works in prose and in verse. [7] [8] Still in 1828, it seems he loved an anonymous young girl who might have died, traces of her existence can be found throughout Bertrand's entire works. [9] [6]

Dijon Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Dijon is a city in eastern France, capital of the Côte-d'Or département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.

Alfred de Musset French writer

Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay was a French dramatist, poet, and novelist. Along with his poetry, he is known for writing the autobiographical novel La Confession d'un enfant du siècle.

First trip to Paris and return to Dijon

Encouraged by a laudatory letter from Hugo following a poem published in the journal that he had dedicated to him and by recognition from Sainte-Beuve, he moved to Paris at the beginning of November 1828. He met Sainte-Beuve at the salon of Émile Deschamps and read some of his prose to him. But he felt ashamed of his social status and could not find a place among the Parisian romantics. He got sick in January 1829 and during Spring found a publisher, Sautelet, to publish his poems, but he went bankrupt in August. [10] [6] He then got interested in the theater and offered a play to the Vaudeville without success. After that, he decided to return to Dijon on 4 April 1830 and collaborated to the “Spectateur”, a newly-founded liberal newspaper. On 15 February 1831, under the name “Ludovic Bertrand”, he became chief editor of the newspaper “Patriote de la Côte-d’Or” until December 1832, in which he displayed his republican opinions with virulence [8] [11]

Victor Hugo French poet, novelist, and dramatist

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles.

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve French literary critic

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a literary critic of French literature.

Émile Deschamps French poet

Émile de Saint-Amand Deschamps was a French poet. He was born at Bourges. The son of a civil servant, he adopted his father’s career, but as early as 1812 he distinguished himself by an ode, La Paix conquise, which won the praise of Napoleon. In 1818 he collaborated with Henri de Latouche in two verse comedies, Selmours de Florian and Le Tour de faveur.

The final years in Paris

In January 1833, he went back to Paris. Soon after, the publisher Eugène Renduel agreed to publish “Gaspard”, announcing even it would come out in October. He became a secretary for baron Roederer. He wrote “Peter Waldeck ou la chute d’un homme”, a play with chants in 3 acts and 6 tableaux inspired by the “Adventures of Martin Waldeck” by Walter Scott. In Spring of 1834, he met Célestine F., to which he proposed. According to Jacques Bony, his mother did not agree to the union, according to Max Milner his love was one-sided. Between 1835 and 1837, he was in serious financial difficulties and had to borrow money from a lot of people. He contracted tuberculosis [8] and was admitted to Notre-Dame de la Pitié on 18 September 1838 where he remained until 13 May 1839 before being transferred to l’hôpital Saint-Antoine where he stayed until 24 November. [7] In October 1839, a publisher had agreed to publish “Gaspard de la Nuit” and even printed flyers announcing its upcoming publication but the project never came to end while Bertrand was alive. In 1840, he believed he was cured of the disease and started to write verse again. He tried at last to contact the publisher in hopes of finally publishing his manuscript on 5 October, but the publisher had stopped his activity.

Eugène Renduel was a 19th-century French publisher.

Walter Scott 18th/19th-century Scottish historical novelist, poet and playwright

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Old Mortality, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

Tuberculosis infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Tomb of Aloysius Bertrand at the cemetery of Montparnasse in Paris, section 10. Tombe Aloysius Bertrand, Cimetiere du Montparnasse.jpg
Tomb of Aloysius Bertrand at the cemetery of Montparnasse in Paris, section 10.

Sickness forced him to go back to the hospital on 11 March 1841. He died there in the morning on 29 April 1841. His close family, mother and sister, did not come to the hospital, nor did they attend his funeral. His mother died in 1854.


Cover of the first edition of Gaspard de la nuit. Gaspard de la Nuit1842.JPG
Cover of the first edition of Gaspard de la nuit.

“Gaspard de la Nuit” was finally published in November 1842. It sold 20 copies. However, this edition was full of mistakes due to an inaccurate copy of the manuscript. In 1925, Bertrand Guégan published a new edition from an original manuscript that corrected most of the mistakes. It is only in 1992, when an original calligraphed manuscript was acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale, that the book could be published accordingly to the will of its author, with accurate display of the text and illustrations. In 1862, Charles Baudelaire admitted in a letter he was deeply influenced by Bertrand's work when writing “Spleen de Paris. [12] Théodore de Banville, an admirer and later rival of Baudelaire, also quoted Bertrand as a main inspiration in the opening of his book “La Lanterne Magique” in 1883. He became a cult author for the Symbolists, especially for Stéphane Mallarmé who discovered him at the age of twenty and referenced his work throughout his entire life. However, it is only in the 20th century that his work was really recognized. Max Jacob brought attention to Bertrand by making him the inventor of prose poetry. [13] [14] Afterwards, the Surrealists contributed to his fame, especially André Breton who referenced him in his 1924 “Surrealist Manifesto”. René Magritte named of his paintings “Gaspard de la nuit”, as it was inspired by the poem “Le Maçon”. Maurice Ravel set to music some of his poems and “Gaspard de la nuit”. Since 1922, there is an Aloysius Bertrand street in Dijon.

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  1. Stuart Friebert and David Young (eds.) Models of the Universe: An Anthology of the Prose Poem. (1995)
  2. Cargill Sprietsma, Louis Bertrand dit Aloysius Bertrand, 1807-1841 : Une vie romantique, 1926, p. 3.
  3. Henri Corbat, Hantise et imagination chez Aloysius Bertrand, José Corti, 1975, p. 22
  4. René Gibaudan, La Lyre mystérieuse : Gérard de Nerval, Aloysius Bertrand, Maurice de Guérin, Théophile Gautier, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, éditions du Scorpion, 1965, p. 46.
  5. Fernand Rude, Aloysius Bertrand, P. Seghers, 1971, p. 182
  6. 1 2 3 4 Voir la chronologie de Gaspard de la Nuit, présentation de Jacques Bony, Garnier-Flammarion, 2005, p. 428-430.
  7. 1 2 3 Chronologie de Gaspard de la nuit, présentation de Max Milner, Garnier-Flammarion, 2005, p. 303-308.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Felizitas Ringham, « Bertrand, Aloysius (Louis) - 1807-1841 » in Christopher John Murray (dir.), Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850, p. 83-85.
  9. Henri Corbat, Hantise et imagination chez Aloysius Bertrand, José Corti, 1975, p. 169
  10. Jean Bonnerot, Bibliographie de l'œuvre de Sainte-Beuve, L. Giraud-Badin, 1952, p. 303.
  11. Fernand Rude, Aloysius Bertrand, P. Seghers, 1971, p. 27, and Cargill Sprietsma , p. 234
  12. Charles Baudelaire, Lettre à Arsène Houssaye, Noël 1861, Correspondance, tome II, éd Cl. Pichois, Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1973, p. 208.
  13. Fernand Rude, Aloysius Bertrand, P. Seghers, 1971, p. 60
  14. Marvin Richards, Without Rhyme Or Reason, p. 122.