L'odeur de mon pays
L'odeur de mon pays était dans une pomme.
Combien de fois, aussi, l'automne rousse et verte
C’est la petite souris grise,
Le méchant chat de Paris
un méchant chat de Paris
prend dans les assiettes
NOS SECRÈTES AMOURS
Renverse-toi que je
prenne ta bouche,
Si tu viens
Si tu viens, je prendrai tes
lèvres dès la porte,
Je veux te prendre,
toi que je tiens haletante
Ah ! rouler ma
nudité sur ta nudité,
Et m'assouvir d'une
Ton âme d'eau
fuyante et mon âme de soif
Mon corps sur ton
corps est posé,
Que ne puis-je te
prendre et boire en un baiser ?
Eau claire, ah ! je
voudrais te boire ! Ah ! je ne puis !...
Le souvenir dansant
de toutes tes aimées
Doucement prise au
pli sublime des étoffes,
Je ne pleurerai pas
le remords des damnées.
Bouquinerie – Bio-Bibliographie
Remy de Gourmont
Omaha - Quelques poèmes
Jean François Côté, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, femme de lettres oubliée, Toronto, 1999
Mémoire présentée à la Faculté
French Women Writers ublished 1994 U of Nebraska Press, 632 pages, ISBN 0803292244
Lucie Delarue-Mardrus (1874-1845)
As a child, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus had many advantages. Her father was a successful lawyer and her mother a descendant of talented Parisian artists. She studied English and music at an early age and enjoyed playing with her five older sisters in the family’s country homes in the Paris suburbs and Normandy. The last of these, Vasouy serves as a backdrop for the semi-autobiographical novel Le Roman de six petites filles (“The Novel of six Girls”). All her life Mardrus remained attached to her native Honfleur and was intrigued with the character of the Norman peasants and with the dialects and customs of the region, which are vividly depicted in such novels as Graine au vent (“Seed in the Wind”) and L’Ex-voto (“The Ex-Voto”). Her most often quoted line of poetry captures her wistful nostalgia for her native province, in a striking synaesthesia: “I held my homeland in the smell of an apple” (“L’odeur de mon pays était dans une pomme”; Ferveur [Fervor]).
Mardrus memoirs tell of her early fascination with poetry, which she looked upon as a vehicle for the total expression of the self. When she was twenty, she summoned the courage to show her work to the older poet François Coppée, who advised her to take up sewing and housework instead. Not easily discouraged, she turned to Théodore de Banville’s well-known treatise on versification, ascribing to the view that craftsmanship is essential to the poet. Little by little, she gained enough self-confidence to recite her poems in social gatherings and was soon surrounded by a circle of admirers, including the well-known translator of the Arabian Nights, Dr. J.C. Mardrus, who proposed to her at a dinner party. Despite the eccentricity of his ways, he proved to be her most avid reader and promoted her career through his connections with the Revue Blanche.
The Mardruses spent a total of seven years in the Near and Fast East. During her travels, Lucie mastered Arabic, an accomplishment she attributed to her ear for music and gift of mimicry. In Cairo, she was able to converse with Princess Nazli in her native tongue and charmed all her hosts with her sketches, piano playing, and horsemanship. She took an obvious pleasure in being seductive and gave her recitals clad in lavish costumes and jewels. In Cairo, she was compared to Athena and Apollo for her beauty.
Back in Paris, the Mardruses entertained celebrated writers and artists, includind Henri de Régnier, Gide, and Debussy. Lucie became a close friend of Natalie Clifford Barney, whose mansion on Rue Jacob was open to a select circle of friends. Natalie did nothing to conceal her lesbian tendencies, and her daily rides on horseback with Lucie in the Bois de Boulogne were the subject of much gossip. In her memoirs, Mardrus records discovering, as a child, her own sexual attraction to an older woman. Her brief, passionate friendship with Natalie Clifford Barney is depicted in a volume of poems entitled Nos Secrètes Amours (Our Secret Loves), which Natalie published after her friend’s death.
After her divorce in 1913, Mardrus moved to an apartment on Quai Voltaire next to a doctor and his companion, nicknamed “Chattie”. A close friendship developed between the two women, which was interrupted by Chattie’s resentment when Mardrus left for America to visit a friend and, later on, when she invited the singer Victoria Gomez, otherwise known as Germaine de Castro, to her home in Honfleur. She hoped to capture the stage for Gomez, whose voice she admired, and did not hesitate to accompany her on the piano at recitals, much to the dismay of her admirers, who deemed such a role unworthy of the well-known writer.
During World War I, Mardrus drove an ambulance for the Red Cross. Her last years were marked by depression and loneliness. Crippling rheumatism and financial problems forced her to move into smaller quarters in Paris and to sell her house in Honfleur. Finally, she settled in another section of Normandy, Château-Gontier in Mayenne, in order to be close to Victoria Gomez. Three of her novels were rejected by the publishers, which shocked her into the realization that hard times were ahead. However, the year 1944 brought a resurgence of publications suspended during the war, and the corpus of Mardrus’s writing awaits fresh evaluation.
Lucie Delarue-Mardrus was at home in many forms of expression. She was the author of at least forty novels, nine volumes of poetry, essays, plays, biographies, and short stories. As a journalist, she was a contributor to important reviews such as Les Annales and Le Figaro. Although she considered herself primarily as a poet, she reached millions of readers through her serial novels in L’Illustration and other journals. She also painted watercolors that were exhibited in the Galerie Drouot in Paris, sculpted a statue of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux that stands in a church in Le Havre, and molded wax figures that were displayed in the Carnavalet Museum. Her flamboyant personality and many-faceted talents were legendary. Her wide array of friends and admirers included Colette, Sarah Bernhardt, and Rodin, and she was the heroine of a novel by Félicien Champsaur entitled La Caravane en folie (The Mad Caravan). Yet, celebrated in appearance, she often felt deserted in reality. Her nomadic tendencies were held in check by her attachment to her native province and a fast disappearing way of life. There is a wistful nostalgia in her writing for the belle époque (turn-of-the-century) society she knew so well, and she could never adjust to the realization, as she said in Up to Date, that “France remained aristocratic under three republics, and is now like a great lady of the manor who remarried a wine merchant”. She was apprehensive of modern technology with its impersonality, and fearful of the threat of war. She was sensitive to the plight of the orphan, the poor, and the homeless, and to the anxieties of the modern mind, torn between the aristocratic and the plebeian, the province and the city, the old and the new.
"Mes mémoires" par Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Gallimard, 1938
passait la vie à la Roseraie, quand y fit son entrée le visage nouveau qui,
mystérieux, m'orienta vers un monde inconnu.
Un matin, parmi mon courrier (à cette époque peu considérable) je trouvai le volume de vers de René Vivien, dont je n'avais jamais entendu parler, volume qui portait une dédicace débordante d'enthousiasme pour mes poèmes.
Après avoir lu ce livre saphique où je trouvais de secrètes correspondances avec les vers que jeune fille, m'avait inspiré Impéria, j'écrivis à René Vivien pour la remercier de son envoi.
La lettre qu'elle me répondit manifestait le désir de me connaître. Rendez-vous fut pris, et j'attendis sa visite avec quelque émotion.
Mon mari, toujours heureux de rencontrer des admirateurs de ma poésie, était à mes côtés quand elle entra dans mon cabinet de travail.
Nous vîmes une personne blonde, jeune, aux épaules découragées, aux yeux bruns, habillée sans aucune recherche, très anglaise d'allure. La voix molle, pourtant, ne trahissait aucun accent britannique.
Sa conversation nous sembla banale. Elle nous laissa l'impression d'une jeune fille quelconque de la Grande-Bretagne, - une jeune fille à marier. Cependant une chose en elle ne pouvait s'oublier : ses lourdes et délicates paupières et leurs longs cils noirs. On peut dire que sa personnalité n'apparaissait que lorsqu'elle baissait les yeux.
Peu de temps après sa visite, je reçus d'elle une invitation à dîner chez elle avec son mari.
Dans son grand appartement de l'avenue du Bois, à peine éclairé, de lourdes draperies, il me semble, calfeutraient l'atmosphère, établissant un silence que rien ne troublait presque par son habitante.
Un dîner raffiné nous fut servi. Le plat de résistance y était remplacé par des petits oiseaux rôtis. "Je ne peux pas souffrir la viande..."
A l'entremets, on vit tout à coup sortir d'entre les draperies une étroite et surprenante créature, véritable héroïne de Dante Gabriele Rossetti. Sa médiévale robe de veloours, pourpre sombre, serrait de près les lignes, anguleuses un pue d'un corps archaïque. Deux énormes nattes de cheveux rouges entouraient sa tête à la manière de lauriers. Son visage aux yeux bleus était celui d'un primitif italien.
René Vivien (ou plutôt Pauline Tarn, de son vrai nom) nous présentât son amie, miss Evelina Palmer, Américaine.
Je n'avais pas assez d'yeux pour regarder cette fille d'un autre temps, belle comme un poème.
Avec un accent bien britannique, elle, mais dans un français très pur, elle nous demanda si nous voulions, le lendemain, venir dans sa loge, au Théâtre (j'oublie lequel), pour voir une pièce (j'oublie laquelle), dont on parlait beaucoup.
Je ne demandais pas mieux, pour ma part. Mon mari s'en rendit compte. Il accepta gentiment tout de suite. Et, l'heure ayant été convenue, un moment après nous prenions congé.
Judith Thurman, Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette, London, Bloomsbury, 1999, ISBN 0-7475-4309-7.
Lucie, a Norman, had polluted herself by marrying the Orientalist Dr. Joseph-Charles Mardrus, famous for his fin-de-siècle translation of The Thousand and One Nights. Their wedding, in 1900, caused a minor scandal when the bride appeared at the ceremony in a cycling outfit. She was a prolific poet, novelist, playwright, biographer, and sculptor, famous for her love of cats and her affairs with women – Colette, it has been said, among them – and she considered Dialogues de bêtes “an eternal masterpiece”. Colette, in turn, paid Lucie the supreme compliment of calling her “a man of letters”. The correspondence of their youth attests to a mutual fondness, resemblance, and admiration, though something short of intimacy: it was not until the late 1920s that they began using the familiar tu. After her divorce, in 1914, Lucie lived in Normandy with her lover, Germaine de Castro, and her only flaw, Colette told her, “is that you never come to see me”. But as they aged, the chagrins of love, a passion for animals, and the agonies of arthritis were commonalities that intensified their bond.
Suzanne Rodriguez, Wild Heart, Natalie Clifford Barney and the decadence of literary Paris, HarperCollins, USA, 2002, ISBN 0-06-093780-7
Les Mardrus were playing a big role in Natalie’s (Clifford Barney) life in early 1903. Small wonder, since Natalie and Lucie had finally commenced a blazing-hot affair. The liaison probably began the previous November, but was stopped short by Albert’s death and Natalie’s subsequent trip to the United States. Upon her return, they picked up where they left out.
Until, Natalie, Lucie’s sexual appetites were unexplored territory. It was generally accepted among their friends that Delarue-Mardrus union was sexless, a mariage blanc. According to André Germain, J.C. delighted in showing visitors the twin beds that hed and Lucie slept in, and then announcing “My wife is still a virgin”. In Mes Mémoires Lucie wrote that J.C.’s love for her was completely intellectual and that “his garden interested hum much more” than whatever she was up with Natalie. “For him I remained above all and perhaps only: The Poet”.
Under Natalie’s touch, Lucie exploded with passion. Sex was such a revelation that she felt as if thrust into a new existence. Fully alive for the first time, her creative juices overflowed, as evidenced by the intensely erotic verse she wrote at this time, the lines burning with love and longing. Twenty-eight years old and in the throes of her first love, Lucie grew obsessed. “I think of you every second”, she scribbled to Natalie. “I live for the idea of seeing you again”.
As the months rolled by, Lucie became haunted by Natalie’s other loves. She began to sound on occasion line Pauline, accusing Natalie of “taking in your arms all the women who pass by (while) I wait… alone”. Her poetry echoes that feelings: “Despite the night of joy and the closed doors / I’m not alone with you! / Gomorrah burns around us!” (Sanglot). The poems gradually reveal her knowledge that she is simply another of Natalie’s conquests. Though her passion was unabated , she began to feel oppressed by her love.
Alarmed by Lucie’s depressed behaviour, J.C. decided that it was best to take her away. He planned a trip to Arabia, and in March 1904 the couple departed on a long journey. Visiting them in Tunis shortly afterwards, the Duchesse de Clermont-Tonnnerre admired Lucie’s boyish beauty and the way she “wore an Arab horseman’s costume, a practical one for her rides into the desert.” Some months later André Germain ran into them in Egypt, where by now Lucie was travelling on a camel she had named Sarah Bernhardt.
When the Mardrus returned to Paris, Natalie felt that Lucie had regained her equanimity. “I do not believe she has ceased caring,” she observed coldly to Eva, “but it no longer gets in my way.” In yet another example of Natalie’s pattern, fiery passion had been replaced by a strong friendship – one that would remain close until Lucie’s death in 1954.