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Title: Paris and the Social Revolution

Author: Alvan F. Sanborn

Illustrator: Vaughan Trowbridge

Release date: September 25, 2012 [eBook #40865]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Fritz Ohrenschall, Turgut Dincer and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at






They teach their motley audiences to sing
the songs they have the wit to sell them.

The consequence is, being of no party, I shall offend all parties; Never mind! Lord Byron.
I have no mockings or arguments I witness and wait. Walt Whitman.


With Illustrative Drawings By



Copyright, 1905, by
Small Maynard & Company

Entered at Stationers’ Hall

Press of
Geo. H. Ellis Co.
Boston, U.S.A.




IT was the author’s original intention to let this book make shift without the conventional preface, as befitted the unconventionality of its theme. But he has learned since it was begun—what it was very stupid of him not to have known at the outset—that in the matter of heresies, ethical, social, and political as well as theological, interest is bound to pass for approval, explanation for advocacy, and sympathy, be it ever so slight, for profound belief: as if a man who showed a curiosity about and appreciation of dogs should, by that very fact, become a dog; or as if (since there may seem to be an unfortunate implication of contempt in this illustration) a German who attempted to expound honestly English temperament, opinions, and traditions should, by that very fact, become an Englishman.

Once for all, then, the author is not a revolutionist, though there are moments when he fancies he would like to be one, it appears such an eminently satisfying state. It takes faith to be a revolutionist; and he is, alas! mentally incapable of faith. He is not an anarchist, not a socialist, not a radical, not a “red republican,” nor a “mangeur de prêtres.” His affiliations have not been even Dreyfusard in France, nor even Bryanite in America. He is a conservative of the conservatives, only prevented from being a reactionary by the fact that reaction is but another form of revolution, and the most hopeless and faith-exacting of them all. So far from being a revolutionist, he is an evolutionist only under protest,—vi et armis, as it were. He favours things as they are, things as they were quite as often, while things as they might be contain for him no allure. He cherishes enormously this imperfect old world as it is, still more as it was; has not the slightest desire to reconstruct it after his own formula, and would not willingly exchange it for any hypothetical world which, up to the present hour, restless human ingenuity has devised.


He is “naturally beforehand shy of novelties, new books, new faces, new years,” and is “sanguine only in the prospects of other [former] years.” He likes old cabinets, old comedies, old prints, old stuffs, old pipes, old wine, old ships, old trees, old shoes, old friends, old customs, old crotchets, and old ladies.

He prefers infinitely—it is very wrong and foolish, perhaps, but he cannot help it—ancient hostelries to modern hotels, spontaneous neighbourliness to organised benevolence, fireplaces to furnace-heaters, and waving meadows to close-cropped lawns; a blooded aristocrat to a social struggler, a patriot to a cosmopolite, a brave drinker to a total abstinence apostle, an illiterate Breton peasant to the “smart” product of improved schools, a mediæval cloister to a free-thinker’s hall, and an easy-going priest to a nervous sceptic; beauty to utility, superstition to science, ritual to plain sense. A uniform appeals to him more than a business suit, a coquettish gown more than the most advanced hygienic bloomer, a solicitous mother and competent housewife more than a brilliant club woman. He finds more satisfaction in old-fashioned, comfortable ideas than in disquieting progressive ones. He would quite as soon be domineered over by a noble as by a parvenu or a pot-house politician, and is less shocked by the colossal pretensions of a pope than by the puerile bumptiousness of a small-minded clergyman. He deplores railways, trolleys, bicycles, automobiles, and compulsory education, because they all tend to destroy native dialects, customs, and costumes, obliterate all local colour, and so render lands far separated dully alike. He resents the presumptuousness of that Reason which is so seldom reasonable, and would not shed a tear nor distil a regret if telephones, telegraphs, and psychical research were swept off the face of the earth.

He is well aware, therefore, that there is good to be said of time-honoured institutions: of the state; of the army, the church, and the ix courts of law, the props of the state; and of capitalists, the pets and protégés of the state. On occasion he could write a fervid defence of each and every one of these established things. But he is equally aware that there is good to be said of the conscientious opponents of the state, its props and its protégés. To say this good is his present business; and, if he seems to bend over backward sometimes in saying it, it should be borne in mind that they also have bent over backward—nay, turned double somersaults backward—who, prompted by terror, prejudice, intolerance, hatred, or contempt, have pronounced unqualified condemnation on the consecrated antagonists of things as they are; and it should at least be queried whether his indiscretions may not be excused (if not altogether justified) thereby.

No, the author is not a revolutionist, but he is acquainted with plenty of good fellows who are. “He has eaten their bread and salt; he has drunk their water and wine.” He has taken pot-luck with them, witnessed their privations, and listened to the telling of their dreams. He thinks he comprehends them, he knows he loves them, and he would present them as he has found them to the world.

This attitude will be understood by all who really believe in fair play, in giving every man his innings and the devil his due; who can admit merits equally in Christians and Pagans, Jesuits and Agnostics, Classicists and Romanticists, Greeks and Goths; who admire a beau geste alike in missionary and filibuster, condottiere and crusader, martyr and toreador, pirate and king,—in a Jeanne d’Arc and a Ravaillac, a Kitchener and a Joubert, a Sheridan and a Mosby, a Dewey and an Aguinaldo, a Hobson and a Cervera, a Makaroff and a Uryu, a Napoleon and a Musolino, a Richard Cœur de Lion and a Robin Hood, a Nelson and a Cambronne. It will be understood by all those who appreciate a joke, even when it turns against themselves; who recognise the x nobility of straight thinking and bold speaking, the sublimity of high passion, the regenerating force of righteous resentment and stubborn resistance, and the holiness of self-sacrifice for an ideal; who have a faculty for putting themselves in other men’s places or have learned the hard lesson of calling no thing “common or unclean”; who love men because they are men, serve women because they are women, compassionate suffering because it is suffering, reverence him who hath much struggled to no apparent purpose, and pardon much, like the Christ, to him who hath much loved.

That these persons are the few does not seriously matter. It is a great thing to be understood by a few.

Alvan F. Sanborn.

Paris, January, 1905.



I. What the Anarchist Wants 5
  Suggestions of the beginnings of anarchistic philosophy and of the history of the development of anarchy—The contemporary French Encyclopedists, Pierre Kropotkine, Elisée Reclus, and Jean Grave—The introductory chapter of Jean Grave’s L’Anarchie: son But, ses Moyens, selected as the best exposition of the French anarchistic doctrine—Current misconceptions of anarchy—The rational bases of anarchy—The reasons for its opposition to laws and to governments—The anarchistic ideal “l’individu libre dans l’humanité libre.”—Development of the physical, intellectual, and moral nature of the individual necessary to attain this ideal—Freedom to satisfy all physical, intellectual, and moral needs a necessity—The freedom of the soil the first prerequisite, after that the freedom of the domain of knowledge and art—Anarchy frankly international—Its demands for absolute liberty in the domain of thought as in that of deeds—Its utopianism denied.  
II. The Oral Propaganda of Anarchy 25
  The simplest, most natural form of propaganda, telling one’s faith to one’s neighbours—The group the unit of public oral propaganda—Characteristics of the group, its meetings, its statistics, its autonomy—Federations and congresses—Communication between groups—Union meetings of groups—Anarchist mass-meetings—Punchs-conférences and soupes-conférences—Ballades de propagande—Déjeuners végétariens—Amateur theatricals—The Maison du Peuple—Soirée familiale—The trimardeur—The chanson as a means of propaganda, with examples of revolutionary chansons.  
III. The Written Propaganda of Anarchy 61
  The anarchist press, Le Journal du Peuple, Les Plébéiennes, Le Libertaire—Jean Grave and Les Temps Nouveaux—The press as a means of intercommunication between the camarades, the trimardeurs, and the groups—L’Education Libertaire—Amateur papers—Ephemeral character of the anarchist press—Le Père Peinard and its editors—Anarchist almanacks—Financial difficulties of the anarchist press and methods of raising funds—Difficulties encountered in publication and circulation—“Les Lois Scélérates”—Placards and fliers—Paul Robin and his system of éducation intégrale—Le College Libertaire—The study of the masters and of their forerunners and disciples—Popular editions of great writers who tend towards anarchy—Violent brochures.  
xiiIV. The Propaganda of Anarchy by Example 91
  Thoreau and Garrison as precursors of the anarchistic attitude—Tolstoy on the propaganda by example—Its importance—Practicable and impracticable acts of this form of propaganda—Octave Mirbeau on depopulation—Pierre Lavroff on propaganda by example—Anarchist experiment stations and reasons for their failure—The attitude of anarchists towards trade-unionism—La grève universelle—The attitude of anarchists towards co-operation—La pan-coopération.
V. The Propaganda of Anarchy par le Fait 109
  Lack of unanimity among French anarchists regarding this method of propaganda—The emergence into public prominence of the insurrectional idea—César de Paepe’s speech at the Geneva Peace Congress of 1867—Declaration of the Fédération Italienne—Insurrections at Letino and San Galo, Italy—Utterances at the Congresses of Fribourg and of the Fédération Jurasienne—Distinction between the individual overt act when directed against an official of the state and when directed against an individual member of the bourgeoisie—The latter acts disapproved by the majority of anarchists—Elisée Reclus on this subject—The attitude of Les Temps Nouveaux—Zo d’Axa on the overt acts of Ravachol—Statistics of the victims of anarchists—Reasons for the alarm excited by the propaganda par le fait—Some humorous features of the panic during the period of “The Terror”—Theft as a form of propaganda par le fait—Charles Malato and Jean Grave on this subject—Cases of Clément Duval and Pini—Extent of anarchist thefts—Counterfeiting—Case of L’Abruti.  
VI. The Causes of Propaganda par le Fait 131
  Desire for vengeance the cause of the greater part of the overt acts of anarchists—The death of Watrin—Such acts proceed mainly from those who have suffered injustice either in their own person or in that of those near to them—The cases of Duval, Pini, Dardare, Decamp, Léveillé, Rulliers, Pedduzi, Ravachol, Lorion, Vaillant, Etievant, Salsou—Zo d’Axa on the police rafle of April, 1892—Recent questionable repressive measures—Collusion of state officials and police to turn revolutionary disturbances to selfish ends—Legality often strained by the government in its repressive measures—Overt acts almost never the result of conspiracy—Belief in his “mission” of the propagandist par le fait—The stigmata of this vocation—Testimony xiiiof Björnson, Zola, and other writers—Stimulating effect of the executions of anarchists upon anarchist fanaticism—Sympathy of many who are not anarchists excited by overstraining of legal forms and undue severity in repressive measures—The apotheosis of Vaillant—Anarchist anniversaries—Why so many violent anarchists are Italians—England’s immunity from overt anarchist acts—The futility of repressing the free expression of violent ideas—The case of Laurent Tailhade.  
VII. The Character of the Propagandist par le Fait 155
  The salient traits of the anarchist character—The average psychic type of the anarchist as indicated by A. Hamon—Personal character of Ravachol, Pini, Duval, Faugoux, Salsou—The anarchist’s abhorrence of cruelty to animals—The propagandist par le fait rarely a worthless fellow—Frugality and domestic virtues of prominent anarchist criminals—Personal courage of this type, with notable examples.  
VIII. Socialists and Other Revolutionists 167
  Revolutionary and evolutionary socialists—Radical differences between theoretic socialism and anarchism—Practical aims common to both—Similarity in methods of propaganda—Union of anarchists and socialists against common enemies in troubled periods—Similarity in attitude of both towards trade-unionism and co-operation—Revolutionary tendencies of royalists, imperialists, anti-Semites, and nationalists—Déroulède’s proclamation to his electors—Anarchist approval of Jules Guérin’s defence of “Fort Chabrol.”  
IX. The Revolutionary Traditions of the Latin Quarter 177
  The Sorbonne as a centre of epoch-making thought—Abélard—Richness of the Latin Quarter in souvenirs of intellectual and political revolution—Latin Quarter martyrs of revolutionary thinking—Periods of cringing on the part of the university the exception—The lawless student life of the Middle Ages—The students in the time of Louis XIV.—The cafés and cabarets as revolutionary agents—The conflict between Romanticists and Classicists at the beginning of the nineteenth century—The part played by the students in the revolutions of 1830 and 1848—The student protest against the coup d’état of the third Napoleon—The students as a revolutionary force under the Second Empire—Vallès, Gambetta, Vermesch, Blanqui, Rochefort—The students and the Commune—The relation of the Latin Quarter cafés and cabarets to the Commune—Love of laughter, love of liberty, and love of love the three characteristic traits of the spirit of the Latin Quarter.  
xivX. The Revolutionary Spirit in the Latin Quarter of To-day 189
  The alleged decadence of the spirit of the Latin Quarter—The truth and the falsity of the charge—Differences in the present-day manifestation of the three characteristic traits of the spirit of the Quarter—The dress and manners of students of to-day—The contemporary grisette—The anniversary of Mürger—The real student cafés and cabarets—The student publications—The cénacles of the Quarter—The present hour primarily a period of transition, the student of to-day seeking his way—Revolutionary thought well represented in the university faculties—Student outbreaks during the last thirty years.  
XI. Bohemians of the Latin Quarter 207
  Bohemians by choice—Those not attached to the university who inhabit the Latin Quarter for the sake of its advantages, from affection, or from force of habit—A typical example—Henri Pille, Maurice Bouchor, Jean Richepin, Paul Bourget—“Les Vivants”—Bohemians from necessity—Renegades from the Bohemianism of the Quarter—Clovis Hugues on the sacrifice of long hair—Two types of “moutons”—Ways and means of the Bohemians—Their hardships—The arrival of prosperity too late.  
XII. Those who Starve 221
  Mürger’s Biographie d’un Inconnu—A brief recital of its story—The hero of the novel a permanent type—Saint Joseph de la Dèche——La misère en habit noir—The case of Dr. Laporte—The verdict of the judge.  
XIII. Those who Kill Themselves 231
  “La littérature qui tue”—Picturesque suicide of a young Latin Quarter poet as narrated by Emile Goudeau—Suicide of René Leclerc—Other cases of suicide—Greater proportion of suicide among victims of la misère en habit noir.  
XIV. Freaks and Fumistes 239
  The chevaliers d’industrie of the Quarter—Their detestation of the bourgeoisie—More comedy than tragedy in their lives—The types of Vallès’ Réfractaires—Fontan-Crusoe, Poupelin, and M. Chaque—Other vagabond types—Eugène Cochet, Amédée Cloux, Bibi-la-Purée, La Mère Casimir, Le Marquis de Soudin, the artist bard of Père Lunette’s, Achille Leroy, Gaillepand, La Mère Souris, Victor Sainbault, Coulet—Professional humourists and deliberate farceurs—Sapeck, Karl, Zo d’Axa—A novel candidate—Relation of starvation, suicide, freakishness, and fumisterie to the revolutionary spirit.  
xvXV. Montmartre and La Vache Enragée 257
  The cavalcades of La Vache Enragée in 1896 and 1897—Origin of the phrase—Literary, artistic, and musical celebrities who have eaten of the Vache Enragée—The manner of living of the typical Montmartrois—His resourcefulness—His poses and so-called affectations often devices for cheap living—The restaurants, cafés, crèmeries, and cabarets of Montmartre—Their traditions and their esprit de corps—The Montmartre of the tourist—The real Montmartre—Its relation to Paris—Cost of living at Montmartre—Spring-time in Montmartre.  
XVI. Literary and Artistic Cabarets of Montmartre 281
  The history of Montmartre—The exodus of the “Hydropathies” and the “Hirsutes” from the Latin Quarter—The Grand’ Pinte—Rodolphe Salis—The origin, career, and influence of the Chat Noir—Its successors and imitators—Closest existing counterparts of the Chat Noir—Le Conservatoire, Le Cabaret des Quat’z’ Arts, Le Cabaret des Arts, La Veine, La Boîte à Fursy, and Le Tréteau de Tabarin—Bohemian conclaves which have superseded the cabarets—The chanson as a moulder of public opinion—Revolutionary chansons in Montmartre cabarets—Jules Jouy, Maxime Lisbonne, Marcel Legay, Gaston Couté, Xavier Privas—Cabarets brutaux—Bruant’s Mirliton, Alexandre’s Cabaret Bruyant—Three poets of talent imbued with a revolutionary spirit, Bruant, Jehan Rictus, Maurice Boukay—The revolutionary traditions of Montmartre—Bourgeois fear of Montmartre—“Montmartre va descendre”—The relations between the workingmen, the littérateurs, and the artists at Montmartre—Their revolutionary spirit.  
XVII. The Revolutionary Spirit in Prose Literature and the Drama 313
  The revolutionary attitude of Tolstoy, Ibsen, and Zola—Revolutionary influence of Anatole France and Octave Mirbeau—Lucien Descaves—Victor Barrucand and his campaign for free bread—Other novelists whose works have a revolutionary trend—Revolutionary psychology—Rosny’s Le Bilatéral—Other fiction writers who understand the gravity of the issue—The influence of “les auteurs gais”—Essayists, critics, and philosophers who are more or less militant iconoclasts or révoltés—The origin and influence of L’Endehors—The subsequent activity of the Endehors group—The group of L’Idée Nouvelle—Revues des jeunes—Other revues hospitable to revolutionary writings—Octave xviMirbeau, Lucien Descaves, Maurice Donnay—Other playwrights whose pieces are frankly revolutionary—Playwrights whose works are revolutionary by implication—The Théâtre Libre and its successors—Variety theatres and concert halls—The trend of literature from socialism to anarchism—The testimony of Clovis Hugues and Fierens-Gevaert—The relation of the French libertaire literary movement to that in other European countries.  
XVIII. The Revolutionary Spirit in Poetry, Music, and Art 361
  The anarchistic spirit more or less natural to the poet—Revolutionary singers in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century—Hégésippe Moreau, Victor Hugo, Eugène Vermesch—Living poets of revolt—Laurent Tailhade, Jean Richepin—Tailhade’s imprisonment—The socialist poets Clovis Hugues and Maurice Bouchor—The relations between freedom of expression and freedom of thought in poetry—More revolutionists among artists than in any other class engaged in liberal pursuits—Courbet, Cazin, Carrière—Impressionism and the revolutionary spirit—Luce and Signac—The Salon des Indépendants as a refuge for revolutionists—The import of the work of Rodin and Meunier—Jules Dalou—Painters who picture the Christ in a modern setting—The revolutionary leanings of the dessinateurs—Léandre, Forain, Hermann-Paul, Willette, Steinlen—L’Assiette au Beurre—The revolutionary attitude of the great body of contemporary French caricaturists towards the institutions of society—Bernard Shaw’s comment on the music of Wagner—Wagner as a revolutionist—The revolutionary spirit in the new school of French music—Alfred Bruneau and Gustave Charpentier—Louise—The evident connection between the anarchistic philosophy and polyphonic orchestration, vers libre, and impressionism in art.  
XIX. To What End? 391
  The advice of Gamaliel, the Pharisee, on innovators in religion and the words of Montaigne concerning the strange and the incredible—The proper province of philosophic doubt—“La folie d’hier est la sagesse de demain”—The difficulty with which human nature realises the truth of the maxim—The attitude of public opinion to Barrucand’s scheme for free bread—Pertinent questions regarding the alleged unreasonableness of revolutionary theories—The theories of anarchism and socialism in comparison with the history of social evolution—The natural result of education of the masses—A successful social revolution no guarantee of a millennium—The essentials of happiness found in the eternal realities of life.  


Sellers of Chansons Frontispiece
The Anarchist’s Dream Vignette Title-page
Place Clichy (Vignette Section Title) Page 1
Jean Grave in his Workshop facing    ”     10
La France Libre (Tailpiece) ”     22
Mauled to Death for shouting “Vive l’Armée ”     35
A Contrast in Dances:—    
      I. A Ball at the Maison du Peuple facing    ”     38
    II. Dancing at the Moulin Rouge ”     38
A Trimardeur disputing with Socialists ”     40
Evening in a Cabaret facing    ”     42
A la Renommée des Pommes-de-terres Frites ”     52
Enlevez l’homme tonneau” (Tailpiece) ”     57
Dormer-window of Jean Grave’s Workshop (Office of “Les Temps Nouveaux”) facing    ”     62
Pierre Joseph Proudhon ”     74
Little Anarchists ”     75
A Revolutionary Poster (Tailpiece) ”     87
Charles Malato ”     112
Possible Revolutionists ”     121
A Raid by the Police (Tailpiece) ”     127
Salsou ”     135
A Street Riot (Place de la Concorde) facing    ”     148
The Guillotine in Moonlight (Tailpiece) ”     152
Louise Michel ”     158
Anniversary Decorations, Mur des Fédérés (Tailpiece) ”     163
A Socialist Bookshelf ”     167
xviiiM. Vaillant ”     168
Léandre’s Caricature of Paul Déroulède facing    ”     168
M. Brousse ”     169
M. Jaurès ”     170
M. Guesde ”     171
M. Allemane ”     171
Jules Guérin ”     172
Montmartre va descendre” (Vignette Section Title) ”     173
Mégotiers of the Place Maubert ”     179
Notre Dame from Pont d’Austerlitz (Tailpiece) ”     185
A Caveau of the Latin Quarter ”     189
A Latin Quarter Type (Félix Gras’ Son) facing    ”     198
The Panthéon (Tailpiece) ”     203
Jean Richepin ”     212
Taverne du Panthéon on Mardigras facing    ”     216
The Institute (Tailpiece) ”     218
The Louvre (Tailpiece) ”     227
A Suicide of the Latin Quarter ”     233
The Pont du Carrousel (Tailpiece) ”     236
Site of the Château Rouge (rue Galande) facing    ”     246
Zo d’Axa’s Novel Candidate ”     248
Second-hand Book Mart of the Latin Quarter (Tailpiece) ”     253
Grün’s Design for Float in Cavalcade of La Vache Enragée ”     258
The Real Montmartre (I. La rue Mont-Cénis) facing    ”     262
Montmartre Types ”     268
The Real Montmartre (II. La rue St. Vincent) facing    ”     268
The Real Montmartre (III. La rue Mont-Cénis) ”     273
xixA Montmartre Carrousel (Tailpiece) ”     278
The Real Montmartre (IV. Cabaret du Lapin Agile) ”     281
At Aristide Bruant’s (Cabaret du Boulevard Rochechouart) facing    ”     284
“Buffalo” ”     290
Alexandre ”     294
At Alexandre’s (Cabaret de la rue Pigalle) facing    ”     296
Maurice Boukay ”     297
Maquereaux ”     300
Jehan Rictus (with fac-simile of manuscript) facing    ”     300
Les Corbeaux” (Tailpiece) ”     310
Emile Zola facing    ”     314
Anatole France ”     317
A Pair of Army Officers ”     321
Octave Mirbeau ”     326
Xavier Privas delivering his Lecture “L’Argent contre l’Humanité facing    ”     342
La Comédie Française (Tailpiece) ”     358
Laurent Tailhade facing    ”     368
Clovis Hugues ”     369
Paris from Montmartre (Tailpiece) ”     388
A Contrast in Funerals facing    ”     394
The Eternal Realities (Endpiece) ”     399


Place Clichy
Part I

Place Clichy


I think I hear a little bird who sings The people by and by will be the stronger: The veriest jade will wince whose harness wrings So much into the raw as quite to wrong her Beyond the rules of posting,—and the mob At last fall sick of imitating Job. Lord Byron.


Chapter I



Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire! To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,! Would we not shatter it to bits, and then! Remould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire! Rubáiyát of Omar Kháyyám.

“Le moins de gouvernement possible.”

Victor Hugo (Programme Politique).

“The state is the curse of the individual.”Ibsen.

Manual labour, far from being an occasion for shame, honours man. What is shameful is to use man as a vile instrument of lucre, to esteem him only in proportion to the vigour of his arms.”—Encyclical of Leo XIII.

Enough of these ambiguous formulas, such as ‘the right to work’ or ‘to each the integral product of his labour.’ What we proclaim is the right to a competency, to a competency for all.”—Kropotkine.

And the savants will be troubled in their knowledge, and this knowledge will appear to them like a little black point when the sun of the intelligences shall rise.”—Lamennais.


THERE is nothing new under the sun,” and anarchism is no exception to the truth of this maxim. But the beginnings of anarchistic philosophy and the development of anarchism, however suggestive they may be, do not fall within the province of this volume. Therefore it is not necessary to expound the tenets or to trace the influence of the anarchist or semi-anarchist devotees through the ages: the Taoists of China (whose founder, Lao-Tse (600 B.C.), was a contemporary of Pythagoras and Confucius), the social prophets of Islam from Mazdak in the sixth century to the wonderful Bab in the first half of the nineteenth century, Saint Anthony of Padua and Jean Vicenza in the thirteenth century, Savonarola at the end of the fifteenth, the Anabaptists under Thomas Munzer, Mathiesen, and Jean de Leyde in the sixteenth, Razine the Cossack and the Scottish Covenanters in the seventeenth, Mandrin the brigand in the eighteenth, and the Jesuits of Paraguay in the last half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries. I do not pretend to determine whether the Guelph-Ghibelline feud, which rent Europe for more than two hundred years, was or was not a struggle between despotism and religious democracy, or whether Gregory VII., Alexander III., Gregory IX., Innocent IV., and Boniface VIII. were or were not revolutionary popes endeavouring to realise the social dreams of the Franciscans and Dominicans. I do not try to discover what there is of truth in the astonishing claims of certain exalted students of occultism, mysticism, and comparative religions, that anarchism found expression in the worship of the Indian Siva, the Persian Mithras, the Chaldean Baal-Moloch, and the Greek Bacchus; in the conspiracy of the Bacchanals (described by Livy) in the first half of the second century before Christ; in the colossal extravagances of the Cæsars; in the bizarreries of the Nicolaites, the Cainites, the Carpocratians, the Ophites, and other Gnostics 6 of Egypt during the first five centuries of the Christian era; in the Consortia under Constantine; and in the fanaticisms of the Inquisitors, the Lollards, Flagellants, Bégards, Patarins, Templars, and Devil-worshippers during the Middle Ages. I do not dwell upon nor so much as collate the anarchistic tendencies and sanctions which anarchist scholars discern in the writings or sayings of Job and the Old Testament prophets, of Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Saint Francis of Assisi, Plato, Jesus, Rabelais, Bourdaloue, and Bossuet, and the pre-Revolutionary Encyclopedists (especially Diderot and Rousseau). I even pass by the far more pertinent teachings, systems, personalities, and careers of the admitted precursors of modern anarchism; of Max Stirner and Fourier, of Proudhon, the father of modern anarchist doctrine, and of “the mysterious Russian,” Bakounine, the father of the modern anarchist party. I also pass by the agrarian revolt of Gracchus Babœuf (guillotined by Barras in 1797); the emergence of the learned Russian Kropotkine, and of the Italians Cafiero and Malatesta; the relations between French anarchism and Russian nihilism; the struggle for Italian liberation; the founding of the Internationale and of the Fédération Jurasienne; the epic struggle for the control of the Internationale between Karl Marx, representing authoritative centralisation, and Bakounine, representing anti-authoritative federalism. I neglect, in a word, the more than interesting history of the slow evolution of modern anarchism, and coming directly, without further ado, to the France of to-day, attack the questions,—What is anarchy? What does the anarchist want? And how does he hope to get it?

Of the contemporary French Encyclopedists who are preparing, or think they are preparing, the revolution of the twentieth century, three are eminently fitted by their learning, by their capacity for straight thinking and utterance, by their sense of historical perspective, their power of keen analysis and bold synthesis, by their breadth, their tolerance, their humanity, their integrity, and their consecration, to answer these questions. They are Pierre Kropotkine, Elisée Reclus, and Jean Grave. 7 But Kropotkine, while the author of such epoch-making works as La Conquête du Pain, L’Anarchie: son Idéal, and Les Paroles d’un Révolté, is a Russian, not a Frenchman, by birth and breeding, and has been little in Paris of late; and Reclus1 (one of the most learned geographers of his time), though never far away from the anarchist movement, is, by reason of his devotion to his specialty, rarely in the thick of it. Besides, he has made his home in Belgium for many years.

It is to Jean Grave, therefore, the youngest of the three, the present editor of the journal Les Temps Nouveaux and author of La Société Mourante, La Société Future, La Société au Lendemain de la Révolution, L’Individu et la Société, and L’Anarchie: son But, ses Moyens, that it seems best to confide the delicate task of presenting the French anarchistic idea and ideal; and, because I cannot trust myself to summarise without bias the credo of a sect to which I do not belong, I quote in full the comprehensive first chapter of his important doctrinal volume, L’Anarchie: son But, ses Moyens:—

“In spite of the fact that the idea of anarchy has emerged from the obscurity in which men have attempted to stifle it, in spite of the fact that to-day (thanks to persecution, thanks to laws of exception such as are made in the worst monarchies) the words ‘anarchy’ and ‘anarchist’ are unfamiliar to none, there are not many who know exactly what anarchy is.

“The intervention of the anarchists in the Dreyfus affair, where they were much in evidence, had the effect of bringing them into contact with bourgeois politicians, who knew absolutely nothing about them; but anarchy did not come out into a clearer light from this association.

“Anarchy, in the eyes of some, is robbery, assassination, bombs, a return to savagery; anarchists are only house-breakers, loafers, who would divide all wealth in order to be able to amuse themselves with doing nothing.

“In the eyes of others, anarchy is a sort of Utopia, of golden-age 8 dream which they readily grant to be very beautiful, but a dream good at best to illustrate books of ethics or fantastic social schemes with. The most kindly disposed regard anarchy as a vague aspiration which they do not hesitate to recognise as desirable for humanity to attain, but as so completely inaccessible that there is no reason for making any decided effort to realise it, and consider the anarchist as a species of lunatic whom it is prudent to avoid, a pitiful illuminé who strays from the practicable paths to lose himself in the vagueness of Utopia.

“They are very few who know that anarchy is a theory resting on rational bases, that anarchists are men who, having collated the complaints of those who suffer from the actual social order, and having saturated themselves with human aspirations, have undertaken a critique of the institutions which control us, analysing them, weighing their worth, and estimating what they are capable of producing, and who, from the sum total of their observations, deduce logical natural laws for the organisation of a better society.

“Of course, the anarchists do not pretend to have invented the critique of the social order. Others had done that before them. As soon as power began to exist, there were malcontents who made no bones of railing at its acts; and, if we possessed the legends which men handed down from generation to generation before writing was known, we should probably find therein satires against the chiefs. It is quite possible to criticise the existing order of things without being an anarchist, and there are those who have done this in a successful fashion which the anarchists will never surpass.

“But what anarchists believe they have done more than the other critics, more than the existing socialistic schools or the socialistic schools which preceded them, is to have gotten their bearings in the midst of the confused mass of errors which spring from the complexity of social relations, to have remounted to the causes of misery, of exploitation, and finally to have laid bare the political error which made men place hope in good govern 9ments, good governors, good legislation, good dispensers of justice, as efficacious remedies for the ills from which humanity suffers.

“Anarchy, studying man in his nature, in his evolution, demonstrates that there cannot be good laws or good governments or faithful appliers of the laws.

“Every human law is necessarily arbitrary; for, however just it may be, and whatever may be the breadth of view of those who make it, it represents only a part of human development, only an infinitesimal fragment of the aspirations of all. Every law formulated by a parliament, far from being the product of a great conception, is, on the contrary, only the mean of public opinion, since parliament itself, by its very manner of recruitment, represents only a very mediocre mean.

“Applied to all in the same fashion, the law becomes thus, by the very force of things, arbitrary and unjust for those who are on this side or on that side of the mean.

“A law, then, not being able to represent the aspirations of all, can be made effective on those who would infringe it only by fear of punishment. Its application involves the existence of a judicial and repressive apparatus, and it becomes thus the more odious as its coercive force is the more sure.

“The law unjust to start with, because, conception of minority or majority, it wishes to impose itself on the whole, becomes still more unjust because applied by men who, having the defects and the passions, the prejudices and the personal errors, of appreciation of men, cannot act, whatever be their probity, except under the influence of these prejudices and errors.

“There can be no good laws, nor good judges, nor, consequently, good government, since the existence of these implies a single rule of conduct for all, while it is diversity which characterises individuals.”

“No society based on human laws, then,—and this is the case of all societies past and present,—can fully satisfy the ideal of every one.


“The minority of idlers alone who, by ruse and by force, have managed to seize the power, and who use, to their own profit, the forces of the collectivity,—this minority alone, I say, can find their account in this order of things and interest themselves in its prolongation. But they can only make it last with the help of the ignorance of individuals regarding their own personalities, their possibilities, and their capacities.

“But however great the ignorance of the people may be, when the pressure is too strong, they revolt. This is why our society is so unstable, why the laws are repeatedly violated by those who make them or by those who are charged to apply them, when their interest points that way; for, power being based on force, it is to force that all those resort who are in power and wish to maintain themselves there, as well as all those who are in pursuit of power.

“Made to be applied to all and to content everybody, the laws derange more or less every individual, who wishes, while he is under them, to abolish or relax them, but who wishes them more vigorous when it is his turn to apply them.

“Nevertheless, new aspirations do arise; and, when the antagonism becomes too great between these aspirations and the political laws, the door opens wide to disorders and to revolution.

“And it will always be the same so long as no other way is found to repair the harm done by a law recognised as bad than the application of a new law. This ignorance on the part of men makes human institutions, once established, resist changes. The names vary, but the things remain.

“Men, not having yet been able to arrive at a social conception other than that of authority, are condemned to turn in the same circle, and will be condemned to turn in the same circle so long as they shall not have altered their conception. Royalty, empire, dictatorship, republic, centralisation, federalism, communalism,—these are all at bottom so many phases of authority. Whether in the name of a single person or in the deceitful name of the majority, always the will of some is imposed on all.



There is no more intimate or engaging

business interior in Paris.


“Furthermore, if the individual increases his knowledge in a continuous fashion, it is only in a very slow fashion. Still he has arrived to-day at the point where, to develop himself in his integrity, it is necessary that his autonomy be complete, that his aspirations express themselves freely, that he be permitted to cultivate them in all their breadth, that nothing fetter his free initiative and his evolution.

“And so it is that now, at last, anarchists draw from their study of the existing social organisation this important lesson: that human laws ought to disappear, carrying with them the legislative, executive, judicial, and repressive systems which impede human evolution by causing murderous crises in which many thousands of human beings perish, by delaying all humanity in its forward march, and, sometimes, even by dragging it backward.”

“While the politicians have not got beyond this formula, which they believe the ne plus ultra of liberty,—‘l’individu libre dans la commune, la commune libre dans l’état,’—we know that these political forms are incompatible with liberty, since they tend always to submit a number of men to the same rule; and we formulate our device, ‘l’individu libre dans l’humanité libre,’—the individual, left free to attach himself according to his tendencies, his affinities, free to seek out those with whom his liberty and his aptitudes can accord, unfettered by the political organisations which are determined by geographical or territorial considerations.

“For man to develop himself freely in his physical, intellectual, and moral nature, for him to reveal all his capacities, it is necessary that each individual be able to satisfy all his physical, intellectual, and moral needs. And this satisfaction can only be assured to all if the soil, which is the creation of no one, is placed at the free disposition of whoever is capable of tilling it, and if the existing equipment, product of the labour of preceding generations, ceases to belong to a minority of parasites who exact 12 a large tithe upon the resultant of its activity and the activity of those who work it.

“The earth too much cut up, on the one hand, to permit the small land-holders to employ the powerful machinery which would effectively second their efforts, appropriated in immense lots, on the other hand, by a class of idlers who secure, without work, an income from the production of those to whom they consent to rent,2—the earth nourishes its existing population with difficulty. And I have not counted the ignorance which is fostered by a defective education and which causes the greater part of the cultivators to cling to the traditional processes of cultivation,—processes which demand far too much work and effort for the results.

“Yet, in spite of these sources of waste, the earth would still manage to nourish, after a fashion, every living being if the middlemen were not there to warehouse the products and to speculate and gamble upon them, in such a way that the majority of persons are never in a condition to buy what they need. The fault, then, if all have not enough to eat, lies with the defective social organisation, and is not due to lack of production. A better distribution of products would alone be sufficient to give every one enough to eat, while a better management of the soil and a better use of the instruments of production would bring about abundance for all.

“A clearer comprehension of things will bring the peasant to understand that his interest, properly understood, is to unite his parcel of land with the parcels of his neighbours, to associate his efforts with their efforts, in order to diminish his toil and increase his production.

“And as no one has the right to sterilise, for his sole pleasure, the slightest parcel of land, so long as there is a single being who has not plenty to eat, the coming revolution will have for one of its objects to put the soil into the hands of those who shall wish 13 to cultivate it and the farm machines into the hands of those who shall wish to operate them.

“All this, anarchy seeks to demonstrate to the peasant, explaining to him that the masters who impose upon him exploit likewise the workman of the towns, trying to make him comprehend that, far from considering the town workman as an enemy, he should stretch out his hand to him, to the end that they may aid each other in the struggle for life, and arrive thus at disembarrassing themselves of their common parasites.

“To the workman, anarchy demonstrates that he must not expect his enfranchisement to come from providential saviours, nor from the palliatives with which the puppets of politics, who wish to control his vote and so dominate him, try to dazzle him; that the emancipation of the individual can be brought about only by the individual’s own action, can result only from his own energy and his own efforts when, knowing how to act, he shall use his liberty in place of demanding it.”

“It is not alone to those who are dying of want that anarchy addresses itself. To satisfy one’s hunger is a primordial right which takes precedence over all other rights and stands at the head of the claims of a human being. But anarchy embraces all the aspirations and neglects no need. The list of its demands includes all the demands of humanity.

“Mirbeau, in his Mauvais Bergers, makes one of the characters proclaim to workmen on a strike their right to beauty. And, indeed, every being has a right not only to what sustains life, but also to whatever renders it easy, enlivens it, and embellishes it. They are rare, alas! in our social state, who can live their lives amply.

“Some there are whose physical needs are satisfied, but who are retarded in their evolution by a social organisation which is conditioned by the narrowness of conception of the average intellect,—artists, littérateurs, savants, all who think, suffer morally, if not physically, from the present order of things.


“Daily they are wounded by the pettinesses of current existence, and disheartened by the mediocrity of the public to whom they address themselves, and whom they must consider if they wish to sell their works,—a situation which conducts those who would not die of hunger to compromise, to vulgar and mediocre art.

“Their education has led many of them to believe that they are of an essence superior to the peasant, to the manual worker, from whom, for the matter of that, they are for the most part descended. They have been persuaded that it is necessary, if their ‘talent’ is to develop and their imagination is to have full swing, that the ‘vile multitude’ take upon its shoulders the heavy tasks, devote itself to serving them, and wear itself out in making, by its labour, life easy for them; that they must have, if their genius is to attain its complete fruition, the same atmosphere of luxury and of idleness as the aristocratic classes.

“A healthy conception of things teaches that a human being, to be complete, must exercise his limbs as well as his brain, that labour is degrading only because it has been made a sign of servitude, and that a man truly worthy of the name does not need to impose the cares of his existence on others.

“One man is as good as another: that there are degrees of development is due to causes of which we are ignorant, but such or such an illiterate may have moral qualities superior to the moral qualities of those who are more learned than he. In any case, intelligence, if it blesses him who possesses it, does not confer on him the right to exploit or govern others. These differences of development merely imply differences of desires, of aspirations, of ideals; and it is for the individual himself who is so favoured to realise what responds best to his conception of happiness.

“Besides, these differences of development only appear to us as great as they do because education, ill understood and ill distributed, perpetuates prejudices and errors. Imagination, invention, observation, judgment, if they vary somewhat in intensity in different individuals, do not differ in essence. They are simple faculties of our brain which do not lose their quality for 15 being employed to construct a machine or a house, solder a kettle, or make a shirt, rather than to write a romance or a treatise on anatomy.

“Greedy of hierarchy, we humans have divided into high and low occupations the diverse employment of our forces. The parasites who have made themselves our masters, all in proclaiming themselves superior, have established that there is nothing truly noble but idleness, that there is nothing truly beautiful but force exerted to destroy; that force expended to produce, to draw out of the earth and out of industry whatever is necessary to sustain life, is of a vile, inferior quality, and that its use should be reserved to the servile classes.

“On this basis we continue to declare certain occupations low, forgetting that they are such only because one class is forced to pursue them in the service of another class, to submit to its orders and caprices, to abdicate its liberty; but there can be nothing base in no matter what work which consists in ministering to our own needs.

“The artist and the littérateur belong to the masses. They cannot isolate themselves, and inevitably feel the effects of the surrounding mediocrity. It is vain for them to intrench themselves behind the privileges of the ruling classes, to attempt to withdraw into their ‘tour d’ivoire’: if there is debasement for him who is reduced to performing the vilest tasks to satisfy his hunger, the morality of those who condemn him to it is not superior to his own; if obedience degrades, command, far from exalting character, degrades it also.

“To live their dream, realise their aspirations, they, too, must work—for the moral and intellectual elevation of the masses. They, too, must understand that their own development is made up of the intellectuality of all; that, whatever the heights they believe they have attained, they belong to the multitude. If they strain to rise above the multitude, a thousand bonds hold them to it, fetter their action and their thought, preventing them forever from reaching the summits they have glimpsed. A society 16 normally constituted does not admit slaves, but a mutual exchange of services between equals.”

“The very savant, who considers dealing with knowledge the noblest employ of the human faculties, must learn that knowledge is not a private domain reserved for a few adepts uttering oracles before a public of ignoramuses, who take them at their word; and that in science, as in art and in literature, the faculties of judgment, of observation, and of comparison, do not differ from the faculties employed in occupations which we consider more vulgar.

“In spite of the intellectual compression which has held humanity down for so many centuries, science has been able to progress and develop, thanks to the critical spirit of individuals refractory to official teaching and ready-made conceptions. It ought, then, to be put within the reach of all, to become accessible to all aptitudes, in order that this spirit of criticism which has saved it from obscurantism may contribute to hasten its full efflorescence.

“Knowledge is divided into so many diverse branches that it is impossible for the same individual to know them all in their entirety, the duration of a human life being far from sufficient for a man to acquire enough ideas to be able to investigate them in their minutest details.

“To study them,—that is, if he expects to be able to criticise them,—he is forced to have recourse to the labours of his predecessors and also of his contemporaries.

“It is from all human knowledge that the general synthesis must proceed. What we know to-day is only a means for acquiring the knowledge of to-morrow. And an individual obtains reliable knowledge only in accepting the help of all. The observations of the humblest persons are not always to be disdained. Let the savants also, then, cease to believe themselves a caste apart, let them understand once for all that knowledge 17 does not demand special aptitudes, and that it must be accessible to all, in order that all, in developing themselves, may contribute thus to the general development.”

“What is true for individuals is true for nations. Just as an individual cannot live without the support of all, a people cannot exist without the co-operation of the other peoples. A nation which should shut itself up within its frontiers, ceasing all relations with the rest of the world, would not be slow to retrograde and perish. It is then absurd and criminal to foment, under colour of patriotism, hatreds nominally national, but which are in reality only pretexts for the governing classes to legitimise the scourge, militarism, of which they have need to assure their power.

“Every nation has need of the other nations. There is not a region which, for one product or another, is not the customer of another region. And it is no reason for you to hate your neighbours because they speak a different language, because a hundred years ago they invaded and ravaged regions which are indifferent to you to-day; and it is no reason for you to feel yourselves outraged by this ancient invasion because, once upon a time, the inhabitants of the invaded regions suffered under the yoke which now galls you.

“There is not a single nation which cannot reproach its neighbours with some crime of this sort; not a single nation which at the present moment does not hold within its borders some province incorporated against the desire of its inhabitants. And, if those who performed these acts of brigandage were highly detestable, in what respect are their descendants responsible therefor? Should we also be held responsible for the acts of brigandage which our histories teach us to admire as glorious achievements?

“Who among those who aspire to live solely by their own work can take delight in seeing one nation rush upon another nation? It is only those who have made themselves the masters of nations, and who find it for their interest to augment the numbers of those 18 whom they exploit, who feel the need of supplying aliment to the troops they train for the work of slaughter. These understand perfectly that a menace of war with a neighbour serves to justify the existence of the armies which are their main prop.

“The despots who have exalted patriotism into a new religion know very well how to ignore frontiers when the defence of their privileges or the extension of their exploitation is at stake. If it is a question of hunting down subversive ideas, the French, German, Italian, Swiss, Russian, and other bourgeois are ready enough to lend to each other their diplomats and their police.

“Is it a question of putting down a strike? The exploiters are not slow to engage foreign workmen, so that they consent to work at the lowest wage; and governments would not hesitate, if there were need, to lend each other their armies.

“And do not all the international understandings which have been established for finance, the postal service, commerce, navigation, railroads, prove that it is the entente pacifique, after all, which is the supreme law?

“The anarchists would bring the workers to see a brother in every workingman, on whichever side of the frontier he chances to have been born.

“Brothers in misery, suffering from the same ills, bowed beneath the same yoke, they have the same interests to defend, the same ideal to pursue. Their veritable enemies are those who exploit them, who enslave them and prevent their development. It is against their masters that they should arm themselves.”

“Anarchy pays little attention to the shady combinations of politics. It professes the most profound disdain for politicians. The promises of the place-seekers interest it only as they disclose all the inanity of politics, and only as they can be made use of to demonstrate that the social organisation will not be transformed until the day when a resolute attack shall be made against its economic defects.


“If the politicians believe the lies they retail, they are simple ignoramuses or imbeciles; for the slightest reasoning should suffice to make them understand that, when a disease is to be cured and its return prevented, its causes must be attacked. If they lie purposely, they are rascals; and, in the one case as in the other, they deceive those whose confidence they win by their babble and their intrigue.

“Those who exploit the actual economic organisation will always seek to direct to their own profit all the attempts at amelioration that are suggested, and there will always be people who are dismayed by brusque changes and who prefer to rely on middle terms which seem to them to conciliate all interests.

“It will always be for the advantage of the masters to deceive the oppressed regarding the veritable means of enfranchisement, and there will always be enough cormorants greedy of power to assist them in their work of muddling questions.

“Anarchy demonstrates the inanity of every attempt at amelioration which attacks only the effect while letting subsist the cause.

“So long as the wealth of society shall be the appanage of a minority of loafers, this minority will employ it in living at the expense of those whom it exploits. And, as it is the possession of capital which makes strength and gives the mastery of the social organisation, they are always in a position to turn to their own profit every amelioration which is undertaken.

“For an amelioration to benefit all, privileges must be destroyed. It is to re-enter into the possession of that of which they have been despoiled that the efforts of those who possess nothing ought to tend. To break the power which crushes them, to prevent its reconstitution, to take possession of the means of production, to create a social organisation in which social wealth can no more be concentrated in the hands of a few,—this is what the anarchists dream.

“If the exploitation of man is to be prevented, the bases of the economic order must be changed: the soil and all that which is the product of anterior generations must rest at the free disposition 20 of those who can work them, must not be monopolised for the gain of any party whatsoever,—individual, group, corporation, commune, or nation.

“This is what the partisans of partial reforms do not comprehend, and yet this is what conscientious study of economic facts demonstrates. Nothing good can come from the activity of the charlatans of politics. Human emancipation cannot be the work of any legislation, of any concession of liberty on the part of those who rule. It can only be the work of the fait accompli, of the individual will affirming itself in acts.”

“Basing itself upon the evolutionist doctrine, rejecting all preconceived will in the phenomena by which the evolution of worlds and beings is manifested, recognising that this evolution is solely the work of the forces of matter in contact, simply the result of the transformations which this matter undergoes in the course of its own evolution, anarchy is frankly atheistic, and repels every idea of any creating or directing entity whatsoever.

“But, as it is absolute liberty, if it combats religious error, it is primarily from the point of view of truth, and, specifically, because the priesthoods which have sprung up about the different religious dogmas pretend to use the force which their authority and capital lend them to impose their beliefs and to make even those who reject all religions help pay for them.

“As to whatever concerns the intimate thought of each, anarchists understand that an individual cannot think otherwise than his own mentality permits. They would see no objection to people gathering together in special buildings for the purpose of addressing prayers and praises to a hypothetical being if they did not attempt to impose their beliefs on others.

“Anarchists look for the triumph of reason from, and only from, the culture of minds; and they know from themselves that force and oppression cannot stifle ideas.


“They demand absolute liberty in the domain of thought as in that of deeds, in the family as in society.

“Like all the forms of human activity, the association of the sexes has not to brook the control or solicit the sanction of any person whatsoever. It is absurd to wish to set limits to, raise barriers against, or impose restraints on the affections of individuals. Love, friendship, hatred, do not come at call: we feel them or endure them without being able to help ourselves, without even, more often than not, being able to explain them and unravel their motives.

“Marriage, then, can be trammelled by no rule, by no law other than that of mutual good faith and sincerity. It can have no duration beyond the reciprocal affection of the two beings associated, and should be dissoluble at the will of the party for whom it becomes a burden.

“True, there will always remain some problems which cannot be solved without friction and pain, such as the disposition of the children, the suffering of the party in whom love survives, and other matters of sentiment. But these difficulties cannot be resolved any better by pre-established rules: on the contrary, constraint only envenoms the difficulties. It will be the duty of the interested parties to find the solution of the difficulties which estrange them.

“The best that can be hoped for is that the moral level of humanity will be so far elevated that goodness and tolerance will increase and bestow their healing balm on the human passions, which by their very nature elude regulation and control.

“The great objection behind which the adversaries of anarchy intrench themselves when driven into their last redoubts is this, that the anarchist ideal is beautiful, certainly, but much too beautiful ever to be realised, since humanity will never be well-behaved enough to attain it.

“This objection is specious. No one can say what humanity will be to-morrow; and there is no phase of its past development which, if it had been foreseen and announced to the generations 22 preceding, would not have been held (with reasons galore) quite as unrealisable as the anarchist ideal is held by those who cannot abstract themselves from the present,—a mental state not hard to understand, since the average brain has not yet accomplished the evolution which will smooth the way for the new order of things.

“As long as individuals stagnate in servitude, waiting for providential men or events to put an end to their abjectness, as long as they shall be contented to hope without acting, so long the ideal that is the most beautiful, the ideal that is the simplest, will rest, necessarily, in a state of pure reverie, of vague Utopia.

“Where, except in the fable, has Fortune been seen to descend to the threshold of the sleeper, and wait patiently till it pleases his indolence to take her?

“When individuals shall have reconquered their self-esteem, when they shall be convinced of their own force, when, tired of bending the back, they shall have found once more their dignity, and shall know how to make it respected, then they will have learned that the will can accomplish everything when it is at the service of a trained intellect.

“They have only to will to be free, to be free.”

La France Libre


Chapter II



“Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!”Saint Paul.

“The orthodox believers went to hear Him, but understood nothing.”


“For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Saint Matthew.

The chanson, like the bayonet, is a French weapon.”—Jules Claretie.

“We must arm the camarades, we must never rest from arming the camarades, with stronger and stronger arguments. We must enrich their memories and imaginations with fresh facts which prove more clearly the necessity of the social revolution.”Pierre Lavroff.


ANARCHIST propaganda is of four sorts, viz.: I. Oral. II. Written. III. By example (propagande par l’exemple). IV. By the overt act of violence (propagande par le fait).

With the anarchistic as with other creeds the simplest, most natural form of oral propaganda is, of course, that which consists in telling one’s faith to one’s neighbour.

The proselyting zeal that prompts a man to take his gospel with him wherever he goes,—to his workshop, to his café, to his restaurant, to the street corner, to “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker,”—and to couple with exhortation the

Little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love

that make up neighbourly service, is a force not the less real and potent because its operations are unseen and the measure of them cannot be taken. It is a factor to be reckoned with, the

presence of a good diffused, And in diffusion ever more intense”;

but it is essentially an affair of the soul not to be declared save by the novelist or poet, and it is of the same substance in all cases of genuine conviction, whatever the basis of the conviction may be.

The unit of the only oral propaganda of which the public can take cognisance is the “group” (le groupe).

The anarchist group is unique—among organisations, one would say if one might. Whether it consist of three persons or thirty, or some number between these limits,—in point of fact it is oftener three than thirty, with an average of perhaps a dozen,—it has neither constitution nor by-laws, neither president, vice-president, nor executive board. It is as exempt from human guidance as a Quaker meeting, to which, for the matter of that, it bears more than this one superficial resemblance, and as guiltless 26 as an old-fashioned ladies’ committee meeting of parliamentary law. Now the camarades do not always conduct themselves with exemplary decorum, and it sometimes happens that two or three of them are on their feet together and talking at once; but, at the most, this predicament does not arise more frequently than in more rule-bound bodies, and it cannot, on the whole, be said that the groups are any more disorderly, distrait, dilly-dallying, and ineffective than the boresome assemblies in which, often, conceited lack-brains make parliamentary tactics an end, not a means, by perpetually “rising to points of order” and “appealing from the decisions of the chair.”

The group meets sometimes at a café or wine-shop and sometimes at the lodging of a member. It is oftenest born of a mutual desire for fellowship on the part of the anarchists of a street or quarter; but it may result, quite independently of propinquity, from a common enthusiasm for a special phase of the doctrine, a common wish to pursue the same line of study, or from a common interest in some concrete enterprise, such as coming to the rescue of strikers, raising funds for the families of the victims of police persecution, founding libraries and lecture courses, or the circulation of tracts. In any case there are no formal conditions of membership, a group never being at a loss to rid itself, without appeal to written law or precedent, of an intruder who makes himself obnoxious.

The programmes of group meetings vary infinitely with the tempers and caprices of the members, as well as with the objects of the groups; but they may be said, in general, to consist of the reading of original essays and poems, reports on the progress of the cause at home and abroad, a consideration of the bearing on the cause of the latest events in the world at large, an exchange of journals and brochures accompanied by expositions and discussions of their contents, a volunteering of service for the tasks in hand, and that untrammelled exchange of ideas in which the lines between speech-making and conversation, wrangle and discussion, are not too rigidly drawn.


The group is highly ephemeral. Everything about it being guided by the exigencies of the moment, it rarely survives the accomplishment of the special object for which it is formed. It dies, as it is born, easily; or, rather, yielding to the charm of the untried, it takes to itself a new body when the old body grows cramping or monotonous. Such deaths do not signify complete exhaustion of vitality or even a diminution of strength. By a sort of transmigration of souls the vital force is redistributed, that is all.

This remarkable fluidity makes it practically impossible to get any group statistics that are worth the paper they are written on. An estimate made a few years back by a person who seemed as well situated as any one to know, put the number of groups at about one hundred in Paris and between four hundred and five hundred in the rest of France. The same authority would probably give rather higher figures now. But such figures, even if accurate, are of very slight importance, since the number of groups is no criterion whatever of the number of anarchists. The most militant anarchists hold aloof from the groups in order to have complete freedom of action and escape police surveillance; many are in commercial or administrative situations which counsel reticence; and many labourers are constrained to a similar reticence by the danger of losing their jobs. Furthermore, many anarchists call themselves socialists in order to benefit by the greater tolerance accorded to the socialists, especially since the Combes ministry came into power. In a word, the anarchist has every reason to conceal his identity from the prying statistician, and usually succeeds in doing so. Mark Twain, commenting once on the inadequate census returns of the Jews in America, affirmed that he himself was personally acquainted with several million. The meagre numbers ordinarily assigned to the anarchists in France tempt one strongly to imitate Mark’s facetious audacity. At least, if French anarchists are really so few, one may affirm with safety that he is personally acquainted with them all.


Group names are of no great moment when group identity is so evanescent; but some of the names are picturesque or suggestive enough to bear recording:—

Les Enfants de la Nature, La Panthère de Batignolles, Les Gonzes Poilus du Point-du-Jour, La Jeunesse Anti-Patriotique de Belleville, Le Drapeau Noir, Les Quand Même, La Révolte des Travailleurs, Le Cercle Internationale, La Torpille, Le Groupe Libertaire, Les Forçats, Le Réveil, Les Résolus, L’Emancipation, Les Anti-Travailleurs, Les Indomptables, Les Sans-Patrie, Les Amis de Ravachol, Les Cœurs de Chêne, La Dynamite, Terre et Indépendance, Les Indignés, La Vipère, L’Affamé, Le Glaive, Les Parias de Charonne.

As each individual of a group is a law unto himself, recognising no authority in the group as a whole, so each group is a law unto itself, independent of every other group and recognising no higher authority whatsoever. In France, formerly, as is still the case in several countries, groups of the same region formed a federation; but the only present tangible proofs of the existence of an anarchist movement on a large scale are district, national, and international congresses to which whoever wishes3 may be a delegate. These congresses have no legislative, administrative, or coercive power over their component parts; their functions are purely advisory like those of the district conferences of the Congregational churches in America.

A newly formed group usually gets itself into touch, by correspondence, with its senior groups somewhat after the manner of a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle or the local branch of a “correspondence university.” Thus: “The group Les Vengeurs would like to put itself into communication with the existing groups. Those who have not received a personal letter, but who wish to correspond, are requested to direct their letters to the following address,” etc.

Union meetings of several groups are not infrequent. Thus: “L’Avenir Social of St. Ouen invites the camarades of the groups 29 of St. Denis, Stains, Argenteuil, Puteaux, and Aubervilliers to a grand meeting which will be held Sunday, February 17, at 8.30 o’clock.” But these union meetings can no more bind by their action the individual groups participating than the “union temperance meetings” of the churches of New England towns can bind the action of the individual churches participating.

Anarchist mass meetings are relatively rare. If landlords are found willing to let their halls to anarchists,—and such landlords are not plentiful,—the police interpose at the last moment. Besides, money to pay for a hall is not always forthcoming, and the hesitancy of even the warmest sympathisers to compromise themselves by appearing publicly in the company of the camarades has to be reckoned with. But the anarchist has ways of holding a mass meeting—without holding it—that are worth two of holding it in the stereotyped fashion, and that speak volumes for his resourcefulness.

One of his favourite devices is to get himself named in due form a candidate for the Chamber, which gives him the right to cover the walls of the government buildings with unstamped posters4 and the free use of the public-school property for meetings. “Several camarades are astonished” (I quote from a number of Le Libertaire) “to see Libertad a candidate. Reassure yourselves. With his customary enthusiastic and communicative eloquence he exposes in his meetings the imbecility and the infamy of the parliamentary system. Paraf-Javal seconds him with his marvellous talent as a logician. Between them they are doing an excellent and useful work. At the last meeting an auditor—to carry out the farce of the campaign rally—proposed a resolution which was not voted, but which was gayly read by Libertad in the midst of general approbation. You will perceive by this resolution that our camarade is not on the point of occupying a seat in the Palais-Bourbon:—

“‘The electors assembled in the school building of the Boulevard de Belleville, after having listened to the bogus candidate 30 Libertad and the camarade Paraf-Javal, conclude (agreeing thus at every point with the candidate himself) that voting is too stupid to be thought of, and that liberty of opinion, like every other liberty, is not to be asked for, but to be taken, whatever the obstacles. They are determined to send packing all the genuine candidates in whom they see only imbeciles or knaves.’”

The anarchist’s sense of humour, you see, is much more highly developed than is ordinarily supposed. Nothing tickles this sense of humour more than to pack the meetings of his antagonists, the bourgeois politicians, divert these meetings from their primitive object by virtue of numbers, address, strength of lung, hardness of fist, or all of these combined, and so carry on his propaganda at the expense of the very persons it is directed against.

He effects this peacefully, as a rule, if his numbers are overwhelmingly superior. In this case it is very much an affair of bravado and lungs. He simply elects a bureau5 to his mind—for so good an end he is more than willing to stifle his scruples against parliamentarianism—and, having installed a number of the camarades upon the platform, carries on the meeting with his own orators and as nearly in his own fashion as circumstances permit; of course, not without more or less noise and abusive protest, if the adherents of the original cause remain in the audience.

If, however, the numbers are more evenly matched, the interlopers, without attempting to capture the organisation of the meeting, make a dash for the front at a preconcerted signal, scale the platform as though it were a rampart, throw down every member of the bureau into the body of the house, and send the speaking-desk with its pitcher and glass of eau sucrée, the secretary’s table, and all the rest of the platform paraphernalia flying after them. Then, if resistance is offered on the floor of the hall, a pitched battle ensues, and the possession of the platform (except as it gives the advantage of position and an admirable 31 chance to strut, game-cock fashion) counts for little, in the utter impossibility of getting heard, even if it is maintained, which it is not always, there being instances on record of the platform being taken and retaken, quite as if it were a strategic redoubt, several times in a single evening. Supposing, however, that the interlopers follow up the platform victory by another victory in the body of the hall, and succeed in ejecting the rightful occupants completely; the dispossessed, if they are not able to call up re-enforcements for a re-entry and renewal of the conflict, have no other redress than to persuade the proprietor of the hall to vacate it by cutting off the gas supply or by summoning the police. Either way, they gain nothing but the emptiest sort of dog-in-the-manger vengeance, since they cannot hope to resume their own interrupted meeting.

During the days succeeding the Dreyfus affair, when excitement was running high over the struggle between the nationalists and the socialists for the control of the Paris municipal council, a great nationalist mass meeting (”une grande réunion patriotique”), to be presided over by a nationalist deputy and addressed by other celebrities of the party, was announced for half-past eight of a certain Friday evening, in the assembly room of the Tivoli-Vauxhall, close by the Place de la République. On the morning of the night set for the meeting all the nationalist organs printed the following item:—

“We are informed at the last moment that the anarchists are coming in force to-night to our patriotic meeting at Tivoli-Vauxhall in order to prevent its being held and to transform it into a demonstration of sans-patrie. They propose to wave the red and the black flag. We are obliged, therefore, much to our regret, to take measures to prevent the entrance of our adversaries, and must limit the entries strictly to those who are provided with invitations. Invitations may be had by applying at,” etc., etc.

On the other hand, the revolutionary organs of the same morning printed the following:—

“The Comité d’Action Révolutionnaire invites all republicans, 32 all socialists, and all libertaires [libertaire is a euphonious name for anarchist] to assist at the public meeting organised by the nationalists for this evening, Friday, at 8.30, Tivoli-Vauxhall, rue de la Douane in the Château d’Eau Quarter. All the camarades and citoyens are urged to wear the red eglantine.”

To one familiar with Parisian ways these antithetic notices promised a beautiful scrimmage. There was a beautiful scrimmage.

The doors opened at eight, and during half an hour or more the persons duly provided with invitations straggled into the hall; while, on the sidewalk opposite, a hostile crowd of socialists and anarchists, which the police had the greatest difficulty in restraining, asserted angrily their right to enter.

Just as the president of the evening, a phenomenally fat politician, arose to speak, the police lines gave way under the strain put upon them; there was a terrific stampede across the street, and before the public had time to pull themselves together again and before the ticket-takers could oppose the slightest resistance or really knew what was happening, more than two thousand persons without invitations had invaded the hall.

Vive la Sociale! Vive l’Anarchie! A bas l’Armée!” bellowed the invaders.

Vive le Drapeau! Vive Rochefort! Vive l’Armée!” screamed the invaded.

And, presto! pandemonium reigned.

In vain the elephantine president brandished his bell and pounded on the table. In vain he made a speaking trumpet with his hands and roared through it for order. The antagonistic yells mounted, collided, cracked, and exploded in mid air.

A bas la Calotte!”—“Vive l’Armée!

Mort aux Juifs!”—“A bas Drumont!

A bas Zola!”—“Vive Loubet!

Vive l’Internationale!”—“Vive le Drapeau!

In the rear of the hall, to the air of Les Lampions, a surging band chanted,


“Déroulède à Charenton,6 Déroulède à Charenton, Ton taine, Déroulède à Charenton, Déroulède à Charenton, Ton ton.”

And in the front of the hall another surging band retorted, to the same air,—

“Conspuez Loubet! Conspuez Loubet! Conspuez!”

Enlevez l’homme tonneau!” (Away with the hogshead-man!) a shrill and mocking voice in one corner piped.

Enlevez l’homme tonneau!!

a hundred, five hundred, a thousand voices caught up the derisive cry.


the whole two thousand interlopers bawled.

And, bawling thus, they seethed on to the platform like a wave, lifted the frantically gesticulating “homme-tonneau” and his two hundred of avoirdupois clean off his feet, and, receding with multitudinous laughter, swept him down the aisle and out through the door as if he were a chip, and all his satellites and followers in the wake of him.

The new broom of the proverb never swept one-half so clean. Not a nationalist, at least not a nationalist who dared to raise a nationalist cry, was left in the hall. The socialists and anarchists were in complete possession; but the real scrimmage of the evening was yet to come.

A bureau was chosen in which the two parties were about equally represented, and a resolution was passed branding the nationalists as tools of the bourgeois and as royalist reactionaries more dangerous than the royalists themselves. Then a socialist, in an 34 excess of zeal, made the blunder of introducing a resolution committing the meeting to the support of a certain socialist candidate for the municipal council. The anarchists, holding to their cardinal principle of non-participation in elections, vigorously dissented. Hot words followed; the crucial differences between the doctrines were evoked and emphasised; old injuries were recalled; old disputes were raked up; old sores were probed and laid open. Plainly, the hall was much too small for both.

From furious debate the meeting went to still more furious shouts and counter-shouts. Vive l’Anarchie, which had so lately locked arms with Vive la Sociale, now confronted it and hissed threatenings and curses in its teeth. And from shouts (there being no “homme-tonneau” to kindle saving laughter) the meeting went to blows. Fists, canes, umbrellas, chairs, and benches cleaved the air; shoes battered shins and heads concaved stomachs; clothes were torn, hats crushed in and trampled under foot; furniture was dismembered, and mirrors, windows, and gas globes were shattered. The field days of the French Chamber were left far in the rear, so was even the legendary South Boston Democratic caucus. The pushing, pulling, pounding, kicking, scratching, biting, and butting, the oaths and calls for help, the howls, growls, and yelps of baffled rage and pain, would need the pen of a French Fielding to describe and transcribe.

Finally, the socialists passed out by the same door as the nationalists, and in very much the same fashion. But the anarchists had barely time to catch their breath and to pronounce the socialists “the tools of the bourgeois and the most dangerous of reactionaries, because the most disguised,” when the police arrived, and with their fateful “Messieurs, la réunion est dissoute,” backed up by the extinction of the gas, evacuated the hall.

Once in the street, the anarchists were solidaire again with the socialists against their common bourgeois enemies, the nationalists. What is more, all three were solidaire against their common enemy, the police; and the latter were forced to call on their reserves and a body of the Garde Républicaine to disperse the rioters.


The joint debates (assemblées contradictoires) which are held, now and then, during the political campaigns, are very apt to degenerate into similar scrimmages. As a rule, such encounters—there must be a special providence for scrimmages as there is for MAULED TO DEATH FOR SHOUTING, 'VIVE L'ARMEE!' MAULED TO DEATH FOR SHOUTING, 'VIVE L'ARMEE!' MAULED TO DEATH FOR SHOUTING,
lovers—work no great harm beyond bruises to those engaged in them; but fatal results are not unknown. Not long ago, at an anti-militarist meeting in the hall of the “Mille Colonnes,” a man who had the bad taste or the misplaced courage to cry, “Vive l’Armée!” was quickly mauled to death by the infuriate36 audience. This was not an “assemblée contradictoire,” it is true; but, if it had been, the outcome would probably have been the same.

It is only fair to say, however, that the anarchists, on such occasions, are not more intolerant than others. There is no certainty that a man would have fared better who, alone, in a patriotic assembly at that time had raised the cry, “A bas l’Armée!

The anarchist, with all his haughty insistence on directness and sincerity, is not totally averse to taking or administering the sugar-coated pill. He has punchs-conférences (punch-talks) and soupes-conférences (soup-talks), the former for himself, the latter for others. At the punch-conférence he washes down the word with the beverage of his choice,—more often wine, coffee, or beer than the punch which gives the name. At the soupe-conférence he dispenses to hungry vagabonds the soup that sustains life and the doctrines that, to his mind, explain it and make it worth while; precisely as the city missionaries and the “Salvation lassies” dispense food and gospel to “hoboes” at the “mission breakfasts” and “hallelujah lunches” of English and American cities and large towns.

In the summer he has “ballades de propagande,”—picnic trips into the country, which are given a serious turn by doctrinal speeches, in the open air, after lunch.

He has also—at least he had for a season—his weekly déjeuners végétariens, at which the somewhat attenuated coating of sugar which a vegetarian lunch gives to the lecture pill is overlaid with the more substantial sweetness of frolic, song, and badinage.

He has his theatre (that is to say, he has his amateur theatricals) about which a glamour of mystery and adventure is shed by the fact the greater part of the répertoire is under the ban of the censorship. Entrance to the performances is by invitation only and free. It is thus the law is evaded, a fixed and obligatory cloak-room charge replacing the fee of admission.

The Maison du Peuple of the rue Ramey, which calls itself 37 socialistic from motives of prudence, has a permanent band of actors (le Théâtre Social) on the border line between professionals and amateurs, who give evening and matinée performances nearly every Sunday throughout the winter and spring, and who occasionally go upon the road.

A single announcement will suffice to explain the operations of this and all similar troupes:—

“Théâtre Social.

Maison du Peuple de Paris, 47 rue Ramey (4, impasse Pers).


“Before its departure for Belgium, where it is going to give a series of representations of its great success, L’Exemple, the Théâtre Social has decided to give two other representations (evening and matinée) of the piece of Chéri-Vinet, at the Maison du Peuple, in order to accommodate the camarades of the suburban districts.

“We invite you, then, camarades, to assist at the third and fourth representations (strictly private) of L’Exemple, interdicted by the Censorship, the unpublished revolutionary drama in 4 acts and 5 tableaux, which will be given Sunday, the 31st of March, at two o’clock and at half-past eight sharp.

L’Exemple will be preceded by En Famille, a piece by Méténier in one act.

“Obligatory cloak-room fee, ten sous.

“Invitations may be procured at the Maison du Peuple, 47 rue Ramey, at the offices of L’Aurore, La Petite République, and Le Petit Sou, and at the house of the citoyen A——, number —, rue Championnet.”

As at the Théâtre d’Application (formerly la Bodinière), the various independent theatres, and the “Thursdays” of the Odéon, the performance of the revolutionary troupe is usually preceded by an explanatory or relevant talk either by its author or some well-known thinker or littérateur. Thus, when Charles Malato’s 38 Barbapoux, announced as an “Œuvre Aristophanesque, Symbolico-fantaisiste,” was performed at the Maison du Peuple, Malato himself provided an introductory lecture, entitled “Le Cléricalisme et le Nationalisme.

Above all, the anarchist has his soirée familiale. For example:—

“The anarchist group, Les Résolus, announce for Mardi Gras a grand soirée familiale et privée, to begin at nine. Concert by amateurs, preceded by a lecture by L. Réville, subject ‘Le Socialisme et l’Anarchie,’ and followed by a ball and a tombola [lottery]. Entrance free. Obligatory cloak-room fee, six sous.”

In a big, barn-like, crudely lighted, smoke-begrimed, rafter-ceilinged hall, whose walls are adorned with the painted texts which are anarchy’s great watchwords,


La Fontaine









to the laboured sounds of a patient, plethoric orchestra, the Résolus couples, some commonplace, some grotesque, and some graceful, dance with honest zest; but with a restraint and modesty in striking contrast with the reckless abandon of such resorts as the Moulin Rouge, maintained mainly for the prudent depravity of touring English and American men and (alas!) women, who flock there to fan jaded or hitherto unawakened senses into flame, under the flimsy pretext or the fond illusion that they are studying French life.



To the laboured sounds of a patient, plethoric orchestra, the couples dance with honest zest; but with a restraint and modesty




in striking contrast with the reckless abandon of such resorts as the Moulin Rouge, maintained mainly for the prudent depravity of tourists.



In connection with the soirée familiale, it is highly diverting to note the same advertising dodges on the part of the managers; the same meaningless compliments to performers on the part of those who introduce them; the same ill-concealed impatience on the part of the audience during the serious part of the exercises for the dancing to begin; the same fluttering preoccupation with ribbons, robes, coiffures, and aigrettes, and the same jealousies of superior beauty, superior style, and more numerous or assiduous adorers on the part of the young women; and the same fussy solicitude on the part of doting mammas to have their daughters dance with the young men that are “likely” as in assemblies that do not occupy themselves with lofty ideas and ideals; also the same tiptoeing excitement over the drawing of the tombola as in the soirées of the working people, who do not profess a contempt for gain.

But he would be a precipitate reasoner, not to say a sorry churl, who should pounce on these little charming inconsequences as refutations of the anarchist theory, or should even call attention to them as other than reassuring evidence that the anarchist is a very human and likable being, not unaffected with amiable vices, and that he is not the abject slave of that angular consistency which, if it be a virtue at all, is the most unlovely of all the virtues. Your sound anarchist will probably tell you that he is sincerely ashamed of these failings, that they are deplorable relics of the old spirit of over-reaching which cannot, in the nature of the case, be entirely expelled so long as the old social régime continues. But this apology is so familiar, so threadbare even, it has been proffered so many, many times by so many very different sorts of people, that you prefer to ignore it, and attribute the anarchist’s dainty peccadilloes to the good old human nature which has always made men so much more companionable—let us guard ourselves against saying so much better—than their creeds.

In all the anarchist assemblies—the group meetings, the congresses, the mass meetings, and the various social and semi-social 40 evenings—the trimardeur is a noteworthy figure. The trimardeur7 (literally, pilgrim of the great road) is a camarade who devotes himself to winning converts while making his tour of France. He has a certain kinship with the ancient bard, the mediæval troubadour and itinerant friar, and the German apprentice on his Wanderjahre.



But he is chiefly interesting as being the nearest modern approach to the early Christian apostle and the most perfect embodiment of the missionary spirit in existence. Figure him as the contemporary missionary or missionary agent minus a salary and a domicile,—if you can imagine such an anachronistic phenomenon!

He is usually a skilful and reliable workman who has lost his 41 job from his irresistible propensity to spread radical ideas among his fellow-workmen or for his active connection with a strike. He sets out on his proselyting tour “with neither purse nor scrip nor shoes,” “neither bread, neither money” almost literally; and, literally, without “two coats.” In the country he mingles with the peasants and farm labourers, sleeping under their roofs, “eating and drinking such things as they give,” and converting as many as he may, sure of a welcome, for that matter, wherever there is a lodge—and where is there not?—of that most fraternal of all freemasonries,—discontent. In the cities he works during his sojourn, if work is to be had; and, when he “goes out of a city,” he blesses that city if it has “received” him, and “he shakes off the very dust from his feet as a testimony against it” if it has “received him not.”

The origin, methods, and manners of the trimardeur have been well described by one Flor O’Squarr. I take up his description at the point where the incipient trimardeur has been turned away by his employer. “He offers his labour to the factory opposite, to the foundry adjacent. Vain proceeding! Unfavourable reports immediately follow him or have preceded him there. The employers also combine. He will be received nowhere except by mistake and for a short time. At the beginning this conspiracy of the world against him surprises and disturbs him. He exclaims: ‘What have I done to them, then? Why do they drive me away thus, as they would a mangy or vicious cur? I have defended my interests and those of my fellows. It was my right, after all.’

“Later he discerns injustice in this persistent hostility,—bourgeois injustice, parbleu! This discovery provokes in him the idea of revolt, as a draught of alcohol inflames the blood. Persecution has begun then. Well, let it be so! He will accept it, not without pride. The theory of anarchy sinks a little deeper into his brain, after the manner of a spike on which the employers have tried their sledges. Then he buckles his belt, turns up his pantaloons, tightens his shoe-lacing, and gains the trimard 42 with a few sous in his pocket, en route for the nearest large town, where he hopes to find employment and an unworked field for his neophytic zeal.

“If he sets out from Angers, from Trélazé, for instance, he tramps as far as Nantes, where he improvises himself porter or stevedore along the quays of the Loire, undertaking with the rashest indifference any occupation for which only muscle is required....

“Signalled anew, ... our man rebuckles his belt, turns up again his pantaloons, retightens his shoe-lacing, and gains the trimard with a few sous in his pocket, headed towards St. Nazaire or Brest, towards Rennes or towards Cherbourg, towards any city whatsoever in which he can hope to earn his bread and convert men. Along the road he manages to get shelter on the farms, and he carries on his propaganda among the peasantry.

“This tireless fanaticism will carry him through Normandy towards the regions of the north. He will be expelled from the spinning-mills of Rouen, the glass-works of Douai, the mines of Anzin, the forges of Fives. From there he will pass into Belgium, always ‘on the hoof’ (à pattes) and on the trimard: he will visit Brussels, where the marvellous workingmen’s organisations of Brasseur and Jean Volders will make him shrug his shoulders,—‘Fudge, all that! authoritative socialism, that’; Antwerp, which will detain him a week, a bit disconcerted by the machine; Liège and Scraing, which will keep him a month; le Borinage, which he will contemplate as a promised land. Perhaps he will go into Germany, the vast Germany so inclement to anarchy,—that is, if he does not descend into the east by the Luxembourg, and gain the Jura by the Vosges.

“In two or three years he will have seen many districts and many countries, and will have scattered behind him everywhere, indifferently, seeds of revolt without troubling himself about the nature of the ground. His information will be considerably augmented. He will have made good by experience the defects of his education. He will know various languages and patois, 43 having spoken Breton at Vannes, Normand at Caen, Walloon at Namur, Flemish at Gand, Marollien at Brussels, German in the east or in Switzerland; and, like the cosmopolitan Bohemian who had learned to borrow five francs in all the tongues of the world, he will have become capable of preaching anarchy in all the ‘argots.’...



The little wine-shop concerts at which every person present is expected to do his turn.

“If during his travels the trimardeur has not acquired fine manners, at least he has acquired some very extended notions on customs and industries. He will know, without referring to a note, by a simple habit of memory, the distribution of the revolutionary contingents, here, there, and everywhere, in labour unions or socialist or anarchist groups, and the efficacy of each; what can be attempted at Montpellier, what is possible at Calais, how the iron is extracted at Mont-Canigan, and how it is worked at St. Chamond; why the fitters of the Seine are better paid than those of Nevers or Creuzot; where one stands a chance of being welcomed if one has been driven from the workshops of la Ciotat; by what artifice one may travel gratuitously in the baggage-cars of the company of the Midi, etc., etc. This miscellaneous information is not a bad substitute for science, and forms in fact a sort of fund of practical science very useful in the every-day life.”

Nous partons tous faire le tour du monde Quand nous manquons de travail et de pain; Et cependant notre terre féconde Produit assez pour tout le genre humain, Nos exploiteurs veulent jouir sans cesse: Dans tous nos maux ils trouvent un plaisir. Nous travaillons pour créer la richesse, Et de misère il nous faudrait mourir? Refrain. Allons, debout! les Trimardeurs, Tous les hommes, enfin, veulent l’indépendance; Supprimons donc nos exploiteurs, Afin d’avoir le droit de vivre dans l’aisance.


So runs the first stanza of the Chant des Trimardeurs; and this chanson, though execrable poetry, is, nevertheless, amply suggestive of the spirit of the trimardeur, and at the same time fairly illustrative of the popular revolutionary chanson (chanson populaire révolutionnaire).

“Of all the peoples of Europe,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “the French people is the one whose temperament is the most inclined to the chanson.

“The chanson is the Frenchman’s ægis against ennui.... He uses it sometimes as a kind of consolation for the losses and reverses he sustains. He sings his defeats, his poverty, and his ills as readily as his prosperity and his victories. Beating or beaten, in abundance or in need, happy or unhappy, gay or sad, he sings always. One would say that the chanson is the natural expression of all his sentiments.”

France’s chanson populaire has always been one of the most important breeders and disseminators of social and political discontent. It has always kept pace with and frequently forerun revolutions. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is looked on by the anarchists as one of the most efficacious means of propaganda. The circulation among the masses of songs of revolt (chansons de propagande) is vigorously carried on by a number of revolutionary publishing concerns, which retail them at two sous each8 and wholesale them at fr. 4.50 a hundred, and which also distribute them gratuitously as often as a camarade or sympathiser will provide a fund for the purpose.

In these chansons, logic is deliberately ignored, and metaphysics and ethics are very little meddled with. All the subtleties and refinements of the doctrine, all the gentleness and sweet reasonableness of the accredited expounders of the doctrine, are crowded out by the necessity for the simple, downright, direct appeal to the passion which is the chanson’s peculiar province.

The very titles of these chansons de propagande show that their 45 purpose is inflammation rather than persuasion. Notice a few of them:—

Ouvrier, prends la Machine!” “Crevez-moi la Sacoche” (money-bag)! “Fusille les Voleurs,” Les Briseurs d’Images, Le Drapeau Rouge, Le Réveil, “Vivement, Brav’ Ouvrier!La Chanson du Linceul.

When proselytism is not sufficiently pronounced in the chansons themselves, caustic foot-notes make up the deficiency. Thus this definition of the word députés: “Deputies are persons who make rules for others and exceptions for themselves.”

These chansons, besides being sung in the various anarchist functions, appear, along with ballads, amorous ditties, and the topical songs of the day, on the programmes of the little wine-shop concerts of the faubourgs, at which each and every person present is expected to “do his turn” and all are counted on to help out with the choruses. These diminutive faubourg concert halls are the lineal descendants of the famous historic workingmen’s goguettes and guinguettes into which the great Déjazet was happy to escape and from which the thought and the spirit of revolt were never far distant. “Behind their closed doors,” says Jules Claretie, “the government was roundly berated, the couplets of the chansonniers there becoming for it more redoubtable than the fiercest articles of the press.”

The chansons de propagande—the more catchy, least compromising of them, that is—are sung in the public squares and on the street corners of the working districts by the itinerant musicians, who are at all seasons, but especially at fête times, a picturesque feature of Paris streets, and who conduct so many open-air singing schools, as it were, in that they teach their motley audiences to sing the songs they have the wit to sell them.

Only a few of the anarchist chansons ever see the types. The majority either circulate in handwriting among the groups or, without having been taken down, are transmitted orally, like the mediæval folk-songs or the Homeric lays, suffering, like those, 46 all sorts of modifications and corruptions of text in the transmission.

Of the chansons populaires révolutionnaires which have come down to the present from the Great Revolution, the Marseillaise, a true chanson de propagande in its time, well called by Lamartine “the fire-water of the Revolution,” is not in favour with the orthodox anarchists, because it is essentially patriotic and uses the offensive word citoyen. The “Ça Ira” is still sung by the anarchists, but not always to its original words. The Père Duchêne, a part of which dates from the Directoire, is sung mainly by the coal-miners of the region of the Loire. The Carmagnole alone—the saucy, rollicking, explosive, diabolic Carmagnole!—has held its own against all new-comers, changing, but losing nothing of its sauciness, its explosiveness, and its diabolism as it has passed from the versions of 1792-93 through its seven clearly defined texts to the version of the memorable strike of Montceau-les-Mines in 1883.

After the execution of Ravachol9 the airs of the “Ça Ira” and the Carmagnole were combined into a chanson called La Ravachole, which, in spite of this hybrid origin, may fairly be classed as the latest and by far the most vindictive version of the Carmagnole.

LA RAVACHOLE I Dans la grande ville de Paris (bis) Il y a des bourgeois bien nourris, (bis) Il y a les miséreux Qui ont le ventre creux. Ceux-là ont les dents longues, Vive le son, vive le son, Ceux-là ont les dents longues, Vive le son D’ l’explosion. 47 Refrain Dansons la Ravachole, Vive le son, vive le son, Dansons la Ravachole, Vive le son D’ l’explosion. Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Tous les bourgeois goût’ront d’ la bombe, Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Tous les bourgeois on les saut’ra, On les saut’ra. II Il y a les magistrats vendus, (bis) Il y a les financiers ventrus, (bis) Il y a les argosins; Mais pour tous ces coquins Il y a d’ la dynamite, Vive le son, vive le son, Il y a d’ la dynamite, Vive le son D’ l’explosion! Dansons, etc. III Il y a les sénateurs gâteux, (bis) Il y a les députés véreux, (bis) Il y a les généraux, Assassins et bourreaux, Bouchers en uniforme, Vive le son, vive le son, Bouchers en uniforme, Vive le son D’ l’explosion. Dansons, etc. 48 IV Il y a les hôtels des richards (bis) Tandis que les pauvres déchards (bis) A demi-morts de froid Et souffrant dans leurs doigts. Refilent la comète, Vive le son, vive le son, Refilent la comète, Vive le son D’ l’explosion. Dansons, etc. V Ah, nom de dieu, faut en finir! (bis) Assez longtemps geindre et souffrir! (bis) Pas de guerre à moitié! Plus de lâche pitié! Mort à la bourgeoisie, Vive le son, vive le son, Mort à la bourgeoisie, Vive le son D’ l’explosion! Dansons, etc.

The revolutions of 1830, 1848, and 1871, as well as the Great Revolution, left to the people generous heritages of bourgeois-baiting chansons. The barricades of those agitated periods rang with lyric improvisations born of the ferment and frenzy of the hour. The authors were oftener clerks or day labourers than they were poets or professional chansonniers, and their songs, many of the best of which have survived, were genuine songs of the people. But the one supremely great chanson populaire révolutionnaire of the last half of the century just closed, a song as striking in its way as the Carmagnole, the “Ça Ira,” the Père Duchêne, or the 49 Marseillaise, is the Internationale. Wherever there is revolt or faith in revolt, brotherhood or yearning after brotherhood, this stupendous hymn of the religion of humanity (for it is much more a hymn than a chanson) is fervidly and reverently sung. The Internationale has something of the profundity and awfulness of Martin Luther’s “Ein’ Feste Burg.” Like that marvellous psalm, it is at once uplifting and crushing. In concept it is probably the biggest song of liberty that has ever been written. It is surely the biggest in this respect of all the French revolutionary chansons. As the Marseillaise, with its fierce, defiant staccatos and fiery, resistless appeal, is the perfect lyric expression of the fury of onset (furia francese) in the field, and as the Carmagnole, with its madly reeling, rolling, booming rhythms and its terrible, mocking, blasphemous mirth, is the perfect lyric expression of the drunkenness and dare-devilness of mobs and barricades, so the Internationale, with its slow, solemn, stately measure and its universal reach of feeling and of thought, is the perfect lyric expression of the eternal might and majesty of humanity. Hearing it, it is as if one heard the cadenced beat of the million-millioned tread of the advancing race, sweeping all barriers of pride and prejudice before it.

In the meetings, the numerous stanzas of the Carmagnole and the Internationale are generally delivered as a solo from the platform by a camarade who is blessed with a good memory and exceptional lung power, the audiences leaping into the choruses. The effect is invariably inspiriting, whatever the personality of the soloist or the quality of his voice, and whatever the composition and the voices of the audience. Indeed, these two chansons seem to belong to that rare sort of music which cannot be spoiled by bad, if it be not half-hearted, execution. So that there is conviction behind it, it carries,—the music in which sincerity and fervour atone for all defects of pitch, key, and voice.

In the open air, the more familiar stanzas are sung in unison just as is the Marseillaise, just as are the songs of the students, and just as are, for that matter, all the songs of the people in 50 France,—a method by which a great deal more is gained in lilt and concentration (where only the primal emotions are concerned) than is lost in charm. And I defy any one who has a drop of red blood in him to be at the centre of several thousand excited people who are shouting the Marseillaise, the Internationale, or the Carmagnole, and not join in, even though his every instinct and belief be anti-revolutionary and he has neither voice nor ear. He who has not shared the surging and chanting of an angry Paris mob has only half experienced the popular thrill, and can have only half an idea what solidarity of emotion means.

The Internationale is as much the rallying cry of the opening of the twentieth century as the Marseillaise was of the opening of the eighteenth; and it would not be surprising if its author, Eugène Pottier, who is already called by the faithful “the Tyrtæus of the Social Revolution,” should win ultimately the same sort of an apotheosis as Rouget de Lisle won by the Marseillaise.

Poor Pottier, who died in 1887 at seventy-one years of age, saw only the beginning of the phenomenal vogue of his masterpiece as a revolutionary slogan.

Pottier was one of the few who dared to speak his mind freely during the Second Empire, and was a prominent figure on the barricades of both 1848 and 1871. He was proscribed for his participation in the Commune, but escaped to America, where he remained till amnesty was declared. Unable to work steadily at his trade after his return, because his natural employers resented the part he had taken in the organisation of his craft, as well as his share in the Commune, and systematically neglected as a poet and song-writer by the bourgeois press, his poverty was terrible at times,—so terrible that it is no hyperbole to say that many of his best pieces were written with his heart’s blood. They were real cries of real anguish. His boundless love and pity for the poor and his incessant struggle for the emancipation of the oppressed turned his life—like that of the noble 51 Communard, Blanqui, to whom he dedicated a marvellous sonnet—into an uninterrupted series of self-sacrifices; and he stands side by side with Blanqui among the finest modern revolutionist types. Many of his chansons besides the Internationale have survived him. He left also a quantity of far from despicable poems.

They are legion, the men of the people whom anarchy has inspired of late years to sing; but the majority of them are unknown to the general public and even to other anarchistic groups than their own. A few, however, have a Parisian reputation for their abilities or eccentricities.

Paul Paillette, a quaint, picturesque personality, inhabits a correspondingly quaint and picturesque lodging, which he calls his “grenier de philosophe” (philosopher’s garret) on the summit of Montmartre. He was originally a jeweller; but of late years he has supported himself by rendering his own productions and those of Bruant and Xanrof in the salons of the bourgeois, who gladly pay him for ridiculing and abusing them. He is also a favourite feature of the union meetings and soirées familiales in several quarters of the city.

Paul Paillette can be bitter, caustic, and violent when he chooses; but his dominant note is gentle, hopeful, idyllic, and ideal, as the following chanson from his principal volume, Les Tablettes d’un Lézard, testifies:—

HEUREUX TEMPS Air: Le Temps des Cerises. I Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les humains joyeux auront un gros cœur Et légère panse. Heureux, on saura, sainte récompense, Dans l’amour d’autrui doubler son bonheur! Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les humains joyeux auront un gros cœur. 52 II Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, On ne verra plus d’êtres ayant faim Auprès d’autres ivres: Sobres nous serons et riches en vivres; Des maux engendrés ce sera la fin. Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Tous satisferont sainement leur faim. III Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Le travail sera récréation Au lieu d’être peine. Le corps sera libre, et l’âme sereine, En paix, fera son évolution. Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Le travail sera récréation. IV Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les petits bébés auront au berceau Les baisers des mères. Tous seront choyés, tous égaux, tous frères; Ainsi grandira ce monde nouveau. Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les bébés auront un même berceau. V Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les vieillards aimés, poètes-pasteurs, Bénissant la terre, S’éteindront, béats, sous le ciel mystère, Ayant bien vécu, loin de ces hauteurs. Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Les vieillards seront de bien doux pasteurs. VI Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Nature sera paradis d’amour; Femme souveraine, Esclave aujourd’hui, demain notre reine, Nous rechercherons tes ordres du jour! Quand nous en serons au temps d’anarchie, Nature sera paradis d’amour. VII Il semble encore loin, ce temps d’anarchie; Mais, si loin soit-il, nous le pressentons; Une foi profonde Nous fait entrevoir ce bienheureux monde Qu’hélas! notre esprit dessine à tâtons. Il semble encore loin, ce temps d’anarchie; Mais, si loin soit-il, nous le pressentons!


Fried potatoes sold at one sou the package


Brunel, a café garçon by profession, author of Le Chant des Peinards, has been associated with Paul Paillette in organising soupes-conférences and déjeuners végétariens.

Achille Leroy calls himself “author, publisher, and international book-seller,” and his invariable response to the simple salutation, “Comment ça va?” (How goes it?) is:—“L’idée marche” (The idea moves). He earns his living by selling his own and other iconoclastic works at the doors of revolutionary gatherings,10—anarchist gatherings preferred,—scrupulously devoting to the cause whatever he may gain beyond the bare necessities. Though an honest, harmless body, if ever there was one, he is so addicted to the spots where trouble is going on or brewing that he has been arrested many times; for instance, on the day of the 1899 Grand Prix for having cried, “A bas les Sergots!” Achille wrote a letter of self-defence at that time which was printed in certain of the newspapers and in the Almanach de la Question Sociale. 54 He was also defended in the Journal du Peuple by M. Lucien Perrin, as follows:—

“Among the condemnations which evoked violent murmurs from the listeners was that of our worthy camarade, Achille Leroy, the revolutionary publisher. He had bravely cried, ‘Vive la Liberté!’ when he was seized by the police and maltreated, as only these brutes know how. As he was unarmed, and had committed no violence, the police officers accused him of having cried, ‘A bas les Sergots!’ (what a crime!) The ruse succeeded, and our friend was condemned to a month of prison without reprieve.”

Auguste Valette, a roving vagabond character, sometimes attached to a Paris caveau (concert-cellar) or café-concert and sometimes to a strolling show, gained some little notoriety at the time of the trial of Salsou for his attempt against the Shah of Persia, and came near being indicted with Salsou as an accomplice because two violent anarchist poems by him, dedicated to Salsou, were found among the latter’s papers.

Other singers of anarchy are Olivier Souêtre, author of Marianne and La Crosse en l’Air, two chansons that enjoy and deserve high favour; H. Luss, author of La Défense du Chiffonnier and La Grève de Cholet; Félix Pagaud, author of Les Tueurs; Daubré, to whom is attributed the last stanza of Père Duchêne; Hippolyte Raullot, Jacques Gueux, Martinet de Troyes, Pierre Niton, and Jean la Plèbs, who style themselves “poètes plébéiens”; Théodore Jean, Luc, Marquisat, Doublier, etc. It is useless to go on naming them, as their names mean nothing outside of the revolutionary circles of Paris.

They are all most striking individualities, however, ranging all the way from freaks to heroes; and it is the individuality which they lavish on the rendering of their chansons that constitutes their drawing power. You must hear a Brunel, a Valette, a Paul Paillette, sing his own chansons to comprehend the influence they exert, since, in simple print, the most of these productions seem decidedly flat.

Père La Purge, the jovial-faced cobbler of the narrow, dark, 55 and tortuous rue de la Parcheminerie in the Latin Quarter, calls for a special word here, because he perpetuates worthily the revolutionary tradition of the cobbler.

Père La Purge is a perfect modern counterpart of the cobblers who secreted intended victims of the massacre of St. Bartholomew under the refuse of their shops; who, under Richelieu, managed to get letters to prisoners in the Bastille by sewing them between the soles of the prisoners’ shoes; who were among the first shop-keepers to set the tricolor cockade over their shops, and made themselves otherwise remarked for their zeal in the Revolution; and who, under the Restoration, played an important revolutionary rôle by placarding the walls of their shops with caricatures and Pasquinades (Pasquino, it should not be forgotten, was a cobbler) and by secretly circulating seditious pamphlets and chansons.

The invasion of machinery to do heeling and soling “while you wait” (ressemelage Américain) is driving out of Paris the old-time cobblers who made their shops rendezvous of the opposition and nurseries of revolt. But a few of these cobblers still persist; and of these Père La Purge is the best known, if not the most talented or most dangerous, example. His Chansons du Gars, which are issued with a superb cover design by Ibels, display a great deal of shrewdness and aptness of phrase,—

I ‘a d’ la malice! Oui, foi d’ Bap’tiss!

but his most popular work is the lurid and penny-dreadful Chanson du Père La Purge, which has given him his name.

LA CHANSON DU PÈRE LA PURGE I Je suis le vieux Père La Purge, Pharmacien de l’humanité, Contre sa bile je m’insurge Avec ma fille, Egalité. 56 Refrain J’ai ce qu’il faut dans ma boutique, Sans le tonnerre et les éclairs, Pour watriner toute la clique Des affameurs de l’Univers. II Pendant que le peuple s’étiole Sur le pavé, sans boulotter, Bourgeoisie, assez de la fiole! Avec ma purge il faut compter. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. III J’ai des poignards, des faulx, des piques, Des revolvers et des lingots, Pour attaquer les flancs uniques Des Gallifets et des sergots. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. IV J’ai du pétrole et de l’essence Pour badigeonner les châteaux; Des torches pour la circonstance, A porter au lieu de flambeaux. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. V J’ai du picrate de potasse, Du nitro de chlore à foison, Pour enlever toute la crasse Du palais et de la prison. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. 57 VI J’ai des pavés, j’ai de la poudre, De la dynamite, oh! crénom! Qui rivalise avec la foudre Pour vous enlever le ballon. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. VII Le gaz est aussi de la fête! Si vous résistez, mes agneaux, Au beau milieu de la tempête Je fais éclater ses boyaux. J’ai ce qu’il faut, etc. VIII Ma boutique est toute la France, Mes succursales sont partout. Où la faim pousse à la vengeance, Prends la bouteille et verse tout!   J’ai ce qu’il faut dans ma boutique, Sans le tonnerre et les éclairs, Pour watriner toute la clique Des affameurs de l’Univers.



For the great Idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals For that, the bard walks in advance, leader of leaders. Walt Whitman.


Chapter III



The wonder is that he didn’t take a pair of tongs to hand me my paper. He held it towards me with the tips of his fingers in a horrified fashion, full of bourgeois indignation at the idea that the> Père Trimard came to one of his lodgers.”—Journal d’un Anarchiste (Augustin Léger).

You are not guilty because you are ignorant, but you are guilty when you resign yourselves to ignorance.”—Mazzini.

What we should try to do is to sow ideas, to force reflection, leaving to time the care of making the ideas which it shall have received blossom into consciousness and deeds.”—Jean Grave.


In 1898-99 Sébastien Faure took advantage of the exceptional chance for agitation offered by the Dreyfus matter to found an anarcho-Dreyfusard daily, Le Journal du Peuple. All other attempts to establish a daily anarchist organ seem to have failed completely,11 and the Journal du Peuple lived—if its feeble panting for existence can rightly be called living—only a few months. After its demise, M. Faure, as if to conceal his defeat, started an anarchist weekly, Les Plébéiennes, the good will of which he was not slow and, apparently, not too reluctant to turn over to another anarchist weekly, Le Libertaire (eight pages, price two sous a copy), which had been printed intermittently at Montmartre for a considerable period, and which M. Faure himself had been instrumental in founding. The public proclamation of the consummation of the fusion between Les Plébéiennes and Le Libertaire, which, being the fusion of two miseries, was at the farthest possible remove from the up-to-date fusion that goes to the forming of a trust, is of interest because it throws a great deal of light on the make-up of an anarchist paper, and on the anomalous and difficult position in the newspaper world of the anarchist press:—

“Because of material difficulties—want of money, to speak frankly—the Libertaire was obliged to suspend publication. It reappears to-day after a very short eclipse, and we have every reason to hope that the regularity of its appearance will be exposed to no fresh interruptions....

“We have profited by this short, obligatory vacation to attempt to group about the Libertaire new forces and more numerous 62 signatures; in a word, to take all the measures necessary to insure it a vigorous life.... You will see elsewhere that our friend Sébastien Faure has interrupted the publication of his excellent Plébéiennes in order to rally as many readers as possible about the Libertaire. It is in the Libertaire, then, that Sébastien Faure will hereafter express his thoughts as often as he shall feel inclined to do so.

“Furthermore, precious and assiduous collaborators have formally promised us regular contributions; namely, Laurent Tailhade, who with his incisive and scholarly pen will treat especially of the vulgarities of Christianity; Paul Ary Cine, who will expose barrack life; Raphaël Dunois, who will chronicle and interpret the labor movement; Georges Pioch, dramatic and literary criticism; J. G. Prodhomme, musical criticism; A. R. Vertpré, art criticism; Alfred Griot, review of the reviews; Fred-Pol, review of the week; Alfred Bloch, scientific chronique; A. Harrent, anti-clerical chronique....

“In a word, we are doing what we can. Let our readers on their side do what they can in making known the Libertaire, in seeking new purchasers for it, in sending us financial aid sometimes, and in establishing in favour of their organ a serious and persevering propaganda.

“In this manner we can be certain that we and ours will have a journal to voice our opinions, our angers, and our hopes, and one which we can depend on to lead the people in the way that is frankly ‘libertaire’ on the fast-approaching day when it is going to be necessary to ‘fight it out,’ when all the political parties are going to fall on each other in order to retain power or usurp it. We are on the eve of important events. It is the moment for all of us to show ourselves, to shake off, some of us, our apathy, others of us our egoism, to silence all our dissensions, to combine with force will, abnegation, and audacity.”—Le Libertaire.



Office of “Les Temps Nouveaux,”
in the rue Mouffetard


Older, solider, more temperate, more dignified, and—if the word in such a strange connection is permissible—more conservative, indeed so solid, temperate, dignified, and conservative that it has been more than once referred to as the Temps of the anarchist press, is Les Temps Nouveaux, an eight-page weekly, sold, like Le Libertaire, at two sous a copy. Les Temps Nouveaux (formerly La Révolte, and before that Le Révolté), which was founded at Geneva, Switzerland, by Elisée Reclus and Pierre Kropotkine more than a quarter of a century ago, has appeared regularly ever since with only slight interruptions and the few changes of title that commemorate its encounters with the law. It came to Paris soon after its foundation, being forced to emigrate from Switzerland on account of the anarchist attempt against the Palais-Fédéral at Berne. Its most distinguished, and at the same time most distinctive, feature is a literary supplement made up in considerable part of selections from the French and foreign classics and from the writings of contemporary scientists and littérateurs, not avowed revolutionists, which arraign the evils of society or support any one of the articles of the anarchist creed. It also reproduces in full addresses by non-anarchist celebrities in which concessions are made to revolutionary ideals or ideas.

“You may seize our journals, our brochures,” says the editor, Jean Grave, “you will not prevent the camarades from reading what the bourgeois authors have written on the rottenness and abjectness of the present hour. This alone is more terrible than all the revendications and threats we can accumulate.”

From time to time this supplement serves to make public the addresses prepared for prohibited anarchist congresses, as in the year of the last Exposition, when it printed the papers which would have been read at the International Anarchist Congress (euphoniously named Le Congrès Ouvrier Révolutionnaire Internationale) if a frightened or over-prudent ministry had not forbidden the sitting of the congress.

The contents of all the literary supplements thus far issued have been classified under the heads of War, Militarism, Property, Family, Religion, Law, Justice, The Magistracy, Poverty, Wage-earning, etc., and they have been reproduced (with added selections, 64 illustrations, and complete bibliographies) in as many volumes as there are heads.12

Thanks, perhaps, to the clever handling of its literary supplement; thanks, perhaps, to the thoughtfulness and relative tolerance of the body of the paper, the Temps Nouveaux has an appreciable circulation among artists, littérateurs, savants, economists, bibliophiles, and various other sorts of cultured people quite outside of anarchist circles.

The present editor, Jean Grave, is one of the most winning personalities in the anarchist or any other contemporary movement for reform. A Lyonnais by origin, a shoemaker and later a printer by trade, Jean Grave came to Paris in his early manhood. He took part in the Commune, and was one of the banished after its downfall, passing most of his exile in Switzerland, where he was intimately associated with Kropotkine and Reclus.

As editor, despite his comparative moderation, he has not been immune from persecution. Like Kropotkine, his predecessor in the editorial chair, Jean Grave has a fair experimental knowledge of the inside of prison walls. A thorough man of the people, and proud of the fact,—he has always retained his printer’s blouse,—his person and his writings alike are nevertheless instinct with the most perfect urbanity.

There is no more picturesque corner in Paris than that on which, for many years now, the Temps Nouveaux has had its office in the top of an aged and mellow six-story building whose ground floor is a wine-shop and whose wrinkled roof and plant-bedecked dormer-window overlook the sixteenth-century church of St. Médard,—no more intimate and engaging business interior than the paper, book, and brochure bestrewn, flower-and-print-decorated, slanting-walled loft in which Jean Grave (veritable “attic philosopher”) and his assistant make up and administer their sheet. Nothing could be more open and kind than the welcome you get when, having felt your way up a winding stair 65 as damp and dark as a mediæval donjon-keep, you turn the latch-key, hospitably left in the outside of the door, and with a premonitory knock enter the loft; always providing your entry is courteous and your coming well motived. Indeed, I know in all Paris nothing morally finer than the example Jean Grave’s gentle, unassuming life offers of consecration to the ideal.

There is something peculiarly significant in the fact that the office of this anarchist organ (whose mission is to be, like the university settlement, a picket of civilisation carrying light into dark places) is located on the line where the university and the industrial districts overlap each other, at the very point where the Quartier Latin ceases and the Faubourgs Coulebarbe and Salpêtrière begin; at the junction of such typical highways as the rue Claude Bernard, passing the Ecole Normale, the rue Monge, in which many students lodge, the broad Avenue des Gobelins, with its evening and Sunday animation as a labourers’ promenade, and the steeply ascending rue Mouffetard, with its motley street market for the poor.13

The Temps Nouveaux, the Libertaire, and the anarchist weeklies of the provinces serve to keep the individual camarades, the “groups,” and the trimardeurs in close touch with each other and with the whole anarchist body, as well as to narrate events, establish the real significance of the casualty columns of the bourgeois press, and expound the doctrine of anarchy. They also lend themselves to mutual relief work,—raising subscriptions for the camarades in distress from lack of employment, and securing comforts for the camarades in prison and for their families. They likewise signal mouchards (police spies), and predict their movements, rehabilitate camarades unjustly accused of espionage, denounce the crookedness of employers, arrange for lectures, and, especially, utilise for the best interests of the movement the varied information gleaned here, there, and everywhere by trimardeurs, who are for them so many unsalaried correspondents.

An anarchist monthly, L’Education Libertaire, has lately been 66 founded by the Bibliothèque d’Education Libertaire of the Faubourg St. Antoine, which is not only the organ of the various Bibliothèques Libertaires14 of Paris and the provinces, but also a review of real solidity and distinction.

Its nature and scope may be judged by a brief excerpt from its first prospectus:—

L’Education Libertaire will contain:—

“I. One or two articles by the writers of note who have accorded us their literary collaboration. [Follows a list of a score or more collaborators, of whom Pierre Quillard, A. F. Hérold, Urbain Gohier, Charles Malato, Henri Rainaldy, and Laurent Tailhade have a Parisian or more than Parisian reputation.]

“II. Certain of the lectures delivered in the Bibliothèques Libertaires. These lectures will also be printed as brochures, which, the type being already set, will cost nothing but the paper and printing. We shall get thus the brochure at one sou.

“III. Articles upon the different theories of education and the attempts at ‘libertaire’ education, a large subject, which will give rise to interesting discussions.

“IV. Communications or articles from the Bibliothèques Libertaires.

“V. A concise summary of the month’s happenings, social, economic, foreign, scientific, etc.

“VI. Criticisms of the books of which we shall receive two copies,—one for the library of the review, the other to circulate among the libraries which have given in their adherence to the review.”

The number of camarades who are afflicted with the cacoethes scribendi being almost as great as those who are afflicted with the cacoethes loquendi, many of the groups have little amateur papers of their own. These amateur papers sometimes remain in manuscript, and are read aloud in the meetings (very much as in the old-fashioned American lyceums); are sometimes mimeographed for distribution among the members; and sometimes 67 are printed, to be sold, by a camarade who has a hand-press at his disposition,—rarely by a professional printer. When a group which is ambitious for a paper does not feel sufficient unto itself in literary talent, it solicits outside assistance, thus:—

“The group Les Résolus is going to print a journal in the form of a brochure. The ‘copains’ call upon the camarades who are willing to collaborate to communicate with the camarade Rodor.”

The number of anarchist papers in existence is as nothing to the number that has disappeared. Le Riflard, L’Attaque, La Lutte, Le “Ça Ira,” Le Forçat, L’Insurgé, Le Droit Social, L’Etendard Révolutionnaire, Le Défi, Le Drapeau Noir, L’Affamé, Terre et Liberté, L’Audace, L’Hydre Anarchiste, L’Idée Ouvrière, L’Homme Libre, La Révolution Sociale, L’Emeute, La Liberté Sociale, Le Droit Anarchique, La Misère, Le Deschard, Le Falot, L’Idée Libre, Le Père Jean Chiffonier de Paris, Le Père Peinard, and scores of others have lived and died in Paris and the provinces within the last thirty years. Of them all, the most famous, not because the most violent, but because the most violent with talent and wit (indeed, the most famous incendiary sheet in France since the Père Duchêne of Eugène Vermesch), was the Père Peinard. While its circulation was never enormous (8,000-15,000 copies), it came to the knowledge of the bourgeois, and gave them such a turn that it seems likely to remain in the public consciousness for at least a generation.

With no display of philosophy (which is not saying it had no philosophy), it played openly upon the appetites, prejudices, and rancours of the proletariat. Without reserve or disguise, it incited to theft, counterfeiting, repudiation of taxes and rents, killing, and arson. It counselled the immediate assassination of deputies, senators, judges, priests, and army officers. It advised unemployed workingmen to take food for themselves and their families wherever it was to be found, to help themselves to shoes at the shoe-dealers’ when the spring rains wet their feet and to overcoats at the clothiers’ when winter winds nipped them. It urged employed workingmen to put their tyrannical employers 68 out of the way, and to appropriate their manufacturing plants; farm labourers and vintagers to take possession of the farms and vineyards, and turn the landlords and vine-owners into fertilizing phosphates; miners to seize the mines and to offer picks to the stockholders, in case they showed a willingness to work like their brother men, otherwise to dump them into the disused shafts; conscripts to emigrate rather than perform their military service; and soldiers to desert or shoot down their officers. It glorified poachers and other deliberate breakers of the law. It recounted the exploits of the olden-time brigands and outlaws, and exhorted moderns to follow their example.

Citations from the Père Peinard are impossible, less because of a constantly recurring broadness that is more than broadness (since this might easily be dodged in extracts) than because it was written in the picturesque slang of the faubourg, which can no more be rendered into English than Chimmie Fadden, for instance, could be rendered into French. The very titles of the articles are untranslatable.

Whatever exception to its morals one may take, one is forced to admit that the Père Peinard was a remarkable production in its way. For blended drollery and diabolism, camaraderie and cynicism, gaminerie and gruesomeness, it would be hard in contemporary writing to find its counterpart. Like the unmatched narrative of the shipwreck in the second canto of Don Juan, it was at once rollicking and horrible, flippant and terrible, ribald and sublime. In it there was no distinguishing between the antics, grimaces, and piquant impudence of the buffoon and the imprecations of the tragedian or the anathemas of the prophet; and, while there were times when the sight of this grinning fury was merely grotesque, there were others (seconds, at least) when it was magnificent.

The Père Peinard was even more a one man’s paper than is Drumont’s La Libre Parole or Rochefort’s L’Intransigeant. Apart from the illustrations, which were the work of obscure caricaturists now thrice famous,—a fact which gives the file a high value 69 with collectors,—it was practically all written by its editor, Emile Pouget. Pouget is by general consent one of the “best fellows in the world.” Nevertheless, he is no dilettante revolutionist. His grievances against society are very real ones. He was forced out of his original occupation as a dry-goods clerk because he tried to organise his fellow-employees; and he was condemned (along with Louise Michel) on disgracefully insufficient evidence for a misdemeanour in connection with a meeting of the unemployed, of which he was not guilty. The following account of the affair is so fully substantiated by the official record of the trial that it may be accepted as practically authentic:—

“The organisers of this meeting of the unemployed simply had in view to bring together on the Esplanade des Invalides the greatest number possible of hungry persons. They intended it to be less a revolt than a demonstration. They had no thought whatever of marching on the Elysée or on the Ministry of the Interior. They merely wished to say to the bourgeoisie: ‘Look at us. We are 20,000 without means of existence.’ And the Esplanade des Invalides had been chosen in order that they might not be accused of impeding circulation. The police, disturbed at the idea of so large a number of men assembling in one place, took every precaution to prevent it. They closed the Esplanade, and forced those who came to the meeting into the streets adjacent, where disorders naturally arose. Certain individuals, who really had eaten nothing since the night before, invaded three bake-shops. The bake-shops were cleaned out in five minutes as if by enchantment.

“Pouget had pillaged nothing, planned nothing, directed nothing. He was simply overheard to say of these poor devils during the pillage: ‘They take bread because they are hungry. They are right.’ He repeated it spiritedly in the assize court, and he was condemned to eight years of prison for ‘incitation to pillage.’ It would have been more precise to condemn him for approbation of pillage, since, in point of fact, he had not committed any other crime.”


During its entire existence the Père Peinard carried on an extensive traffic in brochures, chansons, etc., of the same violent nature as itself. It also published an Almanack for 1894, which is now rare and much prized in book-collecting quarters.

The first anarchist Almanack was issued in 1892 by Sébastien Faure, who made the laughable and, from the point of view of sale, disastrous blunder of basing it on the anarchist-hated Gregorian calendar.

Pouget’s Almanack, forewarned, avoided this rock of offence. It was a rehash of his paper, supplemented by a lengthy philosophico-historical disquisition on the calendar, appreciations of all the months, allegorical observations on tides and eclipses, an anarchist chronology, and a bundle of fantastic predictions,—all in the paper’s highly coloured faubourien slang.

“If ever,” says Jean Grave somewhere, “the history of this movement is written, if ever it is revealed how the anarchist publications have lived, how they have amassed sou by sou the sums necessary to their appearance, the world will be astounded at the proofs of solidarity and devotion which will thus be brought to light. It will appreciate what a force conviction is, especially among the most disinherited.”

There is something pathetic as well as diverting about the forced preoccupation of the anarchist organs with the question of the money which they consider it a part of their mission to depreciate, something well-nigh cruel in the ironical destiny that compels them to be perpetually harping on the thing which it is one of their pet dreams to abolish,—to plead on their last pages for the same thing their first pages abuse.

This inconsequence between the thought and the deed is not, however, to be confounded with hypocrisy. It is accepted because unavoidable, but accepted sorrowfully and bitterly; and it does not profit individuals.

In choosing to depend for their sinews of war on the contributions of the camarades rather than on the advertising which would contaminate and enslave them, the anarchist journals have certainly 71 chosen the lesser moral evil. There is even a certain Quixotic heroism in this choice, which is the more apparent since it is at the price of this inestimable, if incomplete, moral independence that the socialists are able to carry on a propaganda of a wider range. By way of compensation for their sacrifice in refusing bourgeois advertising, it sometimes happens that the anarchist journals are supported, without running the slightest moral danger, by bourgeois funds. So it was that in the Faubourg St. Antoine several years ago the anarchist cabinet-makers preached the annihilation of their employers during several months. The cabinet-makers founded an organ entitled Le Pot-à-colle (The Glue-pot), in the first number of which they chanced to give one of the manufacturers a terrible castigation. The relatively small edition printed was sold so fast that the camarades most interested barely managed to get copies. A watch was set on the news-stands of the faubourg, and it was discovered that it was the business rivals of the attacked manufacturers who had snapped up the papers. The discovery was utilised to such good purpose that the phenomenal popularity of the Glue-pot continued just as long as there was a manufacturer left in the district to “roast.”

The following statement of the review L’Education Libertaire to its subscribers gives a better idea than pages of explanation by an outsider could give of the poverty to which anarchist publications are subject and of their uphill struggle to get the wherewithal to live:—


“Those of our readers who have followed our attempt month by month know by what a slow progression we have arrived at the bringing out of this Review.

“We shall continue, as in the past, to publish in each number the accounts of the preceding number. This will enable the readers to appreciate the pecuniary effort that must be made if the publication is to be continued.


“We have received a hundred francs for this number and forty for subsequent numbers. We have lumped the money all together to pay in part for this number. We shall not appear again until we have in the treasury the necessary sum. It is for our readers, if they approve of our attempt, to interest their friends in the Review, and engage them to subscribe.

“We have accepted subscriptions of three months, six months, and one year. By that we mean subscriptions for three numbers, six numbers, and twelve numbers. If the state of our treasury does not permit us to appear every month, our subscribers will, none the less, receive as many numbers as they have subscribed for at the rate of ten sous per number. We formally bind ourselves, having received subscriptions for one year, to print the Review twelve times. As to dates, we guarantee nothing. The camarades who are the administrators of this journal are workingmen, able to dispense very little money; and it would take them long months of self-assessment to get together the 200 francs necessary for the publication of each number.

“To facilitate the diffusion of our Review and the search for new subscribers, we have prepared special propagandist numbers, which we will send, postpaid, for five sous each to readers who are already subscribers. These special numbers have printed on every page in red ink, ‘Read and Circulate.’ They may secure subscribers for us if each of us pass one or two about in his own circle.

“As to the next number, we urge the camarades who have subscribed for only three months or six months to make their subscriptions annual, in which case we shall be able to appear again early in December.”

The accounts referred to in the second paragraph of the above are exceedingly suggestive reading. They recorded one subscription of twenty francs. The remainder of the subscriptions ranged from two sous to two francs. The total receipts were fr. 57.10. The expenses of printing and mailing the number were fr. 73.60, 73 and the incidental expenses were fr. 11.55. The deficit for this number was, therefore, fr. 28.05; but, the deficit on the two preceding numbers having amounted to fr. 32.80, the review at the end of its third number showed a deficit of fr. 60.85.

Very trifling seems this deficit to those of us who are accustomed to read the balance sheets of large journals, but very real and very embarrassing are the difficulties which it presents to the publishers of an anarchist periodical. The financial statement is followed by this notice:—

“To cover this deficit and reimburse the camarades who advanced us money, we offer for sale at ten sous, postpaid, the one hundred and thirty copies of the Preparatory Series which we still have left (3 numbers with covers, 18 pages each).”

The acknowledgment of subscriptions and contributions through the columns of the papers is theoretically for the sake of saving the labour and expense of correspondence and postage; and, when the names of the contributors are given by initials only, as is sometimes done, the device may stand for what it claims to be. But when, as too frequently happens, the names are printed in full, it is impossible not to suspect the editors of catering to precisely the same sort of vanity as that which lies back of bourgeois subscription lists.

These account columns are further utilised by the camarades—but here at least the taint is scarcely a bourgeois one—for the launching of pleasantries (more or less astute) and for the expression of sentiments, the affirmation of brotherhood, the declaration of principles, and the utterance of prophecies or threats.

In a recent subscription list of Le Libertaire these signatures appeared: Nemesis, fr. 0.50; L’Alouette, 0.50; Ni Dieu ni Maître, 0.50; Un Evadé du Bagne Schneider, 0.50; Trois Mètres de Corde pour le Roussin D——, 0.50; Un Va-nu-pied, 0.25; Un Coopérateur Communiste-anarchiste, 0.30; Trois Semeurs à Lille, 0.25; Après la Conférence de Sébastien Faure, 2 fr.; Trois Coopérateurs, 0.30; Un Miséreux, 0.10; Un Garçon de Café Ennemi de la Tyrannie, 0.30; Deux Trimardeurs, 2 fr.; Un Camarade Dévoué, 1 fr.; A Bas 74 la Lâcheté Humaine, 1 fr.; Vive l’Energie Individuelle! 1 fr.; Trois Copains Rochefortais, 4 fr.; Le Breton du Jardin des Plantes, 0.30.

A recent device for raising funds, which is at the same time an additional means of propaganda, PIERRE JOSEPH PROUDHON PIERRE JOSEPH PROUDHON15 is the sale of anarchist pictures. Up to 1886 a portrait of Louise Michel was the only picture published under anarchist auspices. In that year La Révolte (now Les Temps Nouveaux), having become convinced of the proselyting value of pictures, attempted to buy for reproduction such of the plates of the illustrated weekly L’Illustration as had or could be given a revolutionary meaning. This attempt failing, it set about producing a series of pictures of its own called Images de Propagande, to be sold at prices ranging from ten to twenty-five sous. These Images de Propagande are all genuine works of art by artists of renown, and the complete collection is much sought by amateurs. The Temps Nouveaux has also turned to the advantage of the propaganda the illustrated postal card fever, and has prepared a series of anarchist pictures especially for children.

The pictorial propaganda has gained even the provinces. The following is an excerpt from an anarchist periodical:—

“The camarades of Roubaix will soon enter into possession of their little press. For a long while they have ardently desired a press, but some efforts still remain to be made. If we make a pecuniary appeal to the camarades, it is that we may get together more quickly the sum necessary for the purchase.... To hasten matters, if possible, a Roubaisien camarade has had the idea of 75 photographing on a plaque of good size (18 by 24 centimetres) the engraving representing the Chicago martyrdom and a drawing with the portraits of Emile Henry,16 Caserio,17 and Angiolillo on a plaque of 9 by 12 centimetres. Price, Martyrs of Chicago, fr. 1.40, postpaid; Henri, Caserio, Angiolillo, 85 centimes, postpaid. Send orders to,” etc.

There is probably no greater obstacle to the progress of the written propaganda than the perpetual petty annoyances that arise from an inadequacy of funds. It is by no means the only one. The anarchist who has already in hand the means to pay for having his journal printed is often unable to find a printer who will undertake the work. “The copains of Grenoble,”—the item is from a trimardeur’s report,—“after having done everything in their power to launch their paper, rebuffed by all the printers (downright refusal, exorbitant charge, etc.), have decided to buy a mimeograph and to autograph manifests, which they will sow broadcast.”

Supposing his journal printed, however, the anarchist editor is still far from the end of his troubles. He has to get it properly distributed; and in this undertaking, likewise, he encounters numerous difficulties.

It is so compromising in every way LITTLE ANARCHISTS LITTLE ANARCHISTS LITTLE ANARCHISTS to be known as a reader of an anarchist publication that few even of the sympathetically inclined, unless they have a pronounced taste for martyrdom, care to lower themselves in the eyes of their postman, their concièrge, and their neighbours, and to run the risk of being black 76 listed in all quarters by receiving an anarchist paper regularly through the post. Besides, they have a perfectly natural reluctance to pay in advance the subscription price of three months, six months, or a year, for a paper that may not be able to keep alive two months. They prefer to buy the numbers at the news-stands as they come out,—a procedure which not only considerably diminishes the publisher’s net returns, but keeps him in a highly inconvenient uncertainty with regard to his budget. In some years the news-stand sale of the Temps Nouveaux, for instance, has been nine-tenths of the whole circulation.

This very news-stand sale is lessened by the indifference or positive ill-will of the newsdealers, who either decline to handle anarchist papers at all; or, if they do handle them, contrive to keep them well out of view. Furthermore, the railway and post-office authorities take a mischievous or malignant delight in delaying the delivery of anarchist printed matter when they cannot find pretexts for holding it up altogether.

“We receive frequent complaints, which we know are justified for the most part,” says Le Libertaire, “on account of tardiness in the arrival of our paper. We assure our dealers and subscribers that the journal is sent out regularly every Thursday, barring the weeks when money is lacking. Consequently, it is to the malice of the railroads and the post-office that the delay must be ascribed.”

To counteract these and other hindrances to the sale of their wares, anarchist editors have to resort to numerous devices. These devices may be in the form of stereotyped requests to readers to secure other readers, and to force the hands of the dealers, of which the following are good examples:—

Friends and Readers,

“If you would be useful to the Journal du Peuple, and serve the ideas which it defends, buy several copies and distribute them to the persons whom you judge capable of buying it later for themselves.”


“We urge our friends in Paris to keep demanding our paper of the newsdealers in order to compel them to handle it. A bit of determination on the part of each, and ça ira.”

Often the advertisement appears as a more presuming and exacting appeal to loyalty, as, for example:—

“Our liquidation of the end of the year permits us to spare a quantity of back numbers. We beg those of our friends who are willing to take upon themselves their distribution, either in the meetings or at the doors of the factories, to let us know how many copies to send them.”

At other times, resort is taken to such original and audacious schemes as the following:—

Journals for All

“The reactionary press penetrates into the rural districts, while many of the libertaire journals are unknown there. We remind our readers that the enterprise ‘Journals for All,’ 17 rue Cujas, holds itself at their disposition to give them the addresses of poor provincials who would be delighted to receive their papers once they have been read. It will cost them a stamp of two centimes each day and the trouble of wrapping and addressing. In thus sending away their papers, our readers will be doing a work highly advantageous to the propaganda. Write the secretary for fuller particulars.”

“Here is a means of circulating our paper which, employed upon a certain scale, would be highly efficacious: All the camarades who can make the sacrifice of a certain number of copies should roll them into a more or less tempting small package, wrap them well to protect them, and then throw them into the doorways of houses, slip them into the baskets of women on their way to or from market, or give them to the children in the street to take home to their parents.”


Finally, the wily stratagems of a determined and not over-scrupulous secret police and the special rigour of a body of more or less biased judges in applying Draconian laws of exception must be reckoned with. In no department of their work do the former display more cunning or the latter more severity. Nevertheless, they have never been able, combined, to prevail over the intensity of the anarchist proselyting spirit far enough to prevent for any length of time the spread of the written word. Trick has been matched by trick and audacity by audacity. The defiance with which the authorities are met is well typified by the following manifesto:—

Readers and Subscribers of L’Insurgé, take notice!

“We announce to our readers that we shall not be able to appear this week; but, in spite of all the rascalities of the government, we intend to appear in the breach again very soon. Vive l’homme libre dans l’humanité libre! Vive l’Anarchie!

“[Managing Editor of L’Insurgé].”

Previous to 1881 the press law was such that a condemned journal was forced to change its name, if it wished to reappear; and the tradition survives of an anarchist sheet at Lyons which suffered eighteen successive condemnations (involving for the managing editors imprisonment for terms varying from six months to two years), and which, therefore, bore successively eighteen different names.

After 1881 until the passage of the special anarchist restrictive acts popularly known as the Lois Scélérates, a journal could pass through any number of condemnations without losing its identity; the guilt of the responsible editor being held as purely personal. It was during this golden age of relative liberty that the Père Peinard saw ten of its managing editors condemned within three years—as a cavalry officer leading a charge may see horses 79 shot out from under him—without having its advance materially impeded.

“Once the condemned editor was out of the way,” says a writer familiar with the administration of this curious journal, “it was as if no condemnation had intervened. There was somewhere on the trimard in France or abroad an anarchist who owed to the state two years of Ste. Pélagie and a 3,000-franc fine,18 but the journal was not touched. Le Père Peinard remained unassailable....

“From the number and the gravity of the sentences imposed it would seem that the Père Peinard must have experienced great difficulty in the recruitment of its editors or that it must have paid them enormous salaries. Quite the reverse. The fanaticism of the anarchists was such that they vied with each other in imploring of Pouget the favour of a chance to be condemned. At any given moment several were impatiently awaiting their turn. Never did the Père Peinard pay one of its editors. Never did it even allow him a free subscription. The editor of the Père Peinard was a special type, a volunteer of the assize court, who went to the prison as water goes to the river, and who pushed his disinterestedness to the point of buying his own paper—two sous out of his pocket—every Sunday.”

Under the present laws it would be more difficult for so saucy and reckless a sheet as the Père Peinard to keep up its laughter over the discomfiture of the authorities; that is, if it were printed in France.

To-day a paper of this sort, to appear here with anything like an approach to regularity, would have to be printed in some foreign town that is tolerant towards anarchists, and smuggled through the mails inside of other journals or in covers with unsuspicious titles. This propaganda at long range is too expensive to be carried on in a wholesale fashion. It has its periods of favour, 80 however, and is never totally neglected. Apropos of unsuspicious cover titles, it is on record that the journal L’Internationale, which used to be printed in the French colony of London, regaled the prying eyes of the French post-office employees and the police with such more than reputable inscriptions as these: Mandement de S. E. le Cardinal Manning, Petit Traité de Géographie, Rapport sur la Question du Tunnel Sous-Marin, Contes Traduits de Dickens, Lettres d’un Pasteur sur la Sainte Bible.

Once, at least,—more than once, it is probable,—anarchist doctrines have been preached in a journal founded and supported by the prefecture of police,—an ideal arrangement, it would seem, since both parties thereto find their account therein, the anarchists in having a chance to say their say without grubbing for funds, and the police in having large occasion for self-felicitation over their shrewdness in keeping the anarchists under strict surveillance.

The practical impossibility of carrying on a journal successfully without a permanent and known office, subscription lists, and the assistance of the newsdealers, has made the anarchist resort to the secret issue by unknown presses of placards and hand-bills whenever he has anything very special or very incendiary to say,—particularly at election time, when he is exceedingly active in preaching abstention from the polls, and during the enrolment and departure of the conscripts. The police will tear down the placards, of course, but rarely before they have been read; and they may arrest the distributors of the fliers, but this does not recall the fliers which have been put forth. More than this they cannot do, since either there is no printer’s mark to guide them or, if one appears, it is false or fantastic, such as “117 rue de la Liberté, ville de la Fraternité, Etats-Unis de l’Humanité, Département de l’Egalité.”

The tantalising documents float into the streets quietly and gently like snowflakes, before the very eyes of the police, and are irresponsible as snowflakes, having nothing more than these about them to indicate their itinerary or origin.


Here is an election placard which may serve as a sample:—


“People, retake your liberty, your initiative, and keep them. The Government is the valet of Capital. Down with the Government! Down with the king, Loubet! To the sewer with the Senate! To the river with the Chamber! To the dunghill with all this ancient social rottenness! Away with the Chamber! Away with the Senate! Away with the Presidency! Away with Capital!

Vive la Révolution Sociale! Vive l’Anarchie!

“(Signed) An Anarchist Group.

In the view of the larger-minded anarchists—the Reclus, the Kropotkines, the Graves—the betterment of society must be preceded by the betterment of the individuals that make up society. Education is the corner-stone of the structure their hope has builded. They realise that they have undertaken a moral and intellectual labour of long reach, calling for infinite energy and patience, for years and perhaps generations of scattered, seemingly bootless initiative, exhortation, and example. So far as these leaders are concerned, no charge could well be falser than the one that is daily being brought against them of ignoring the calendar in all their calculations, juggling with an abstract social man,—very much as the elder economists juggled with their “economic man,”—and expecting with childlike naïveté to make human nature and the world over in a twinkling.

“For the establishment of the anarchist society,” says Jean Grave, “it is necessary that each individual taken separately be able to govern himself, that he knows how to make his autonomy respected while respecting the autonomy of others, and that he succeeds in liberating his volition from the tyranny of surrounding influences....

... “Now for individuals to dispense with authority, for each one to be able to exercise his autonomy without coming into conflict 82 with his fellows, it is essential that we all acquire a mentality appropriate to this state of things.”

The thoughtful anarchist is well aware that, for the production of this appropriate mentality, his placards, posters, and hand-bills, his pictures and chansons, his weeklies, monthlies, and annuals, are ludicrously inadequate and inapt. He is far from despising these agencies. He recognises their value as popularisers and as ferment; but he is struggling towards a propaganda of a deeper, more compelling nature as rapidly as he is able. He would (like the devout Catholic) assume complete control of the mental training of his children, taking them out of the public schools, which impose respect for his two bugbears—authority and property—along with other bourgeois commonplaces and superstitions, in order to give, in schools of his own, the complete, well-rounded education which he calls l’éducation intégrale.

M. Paul Robin, who made a passably successful experiment with this éducation intégrale at the Prévost Orphanage, Cempuis,19 during the years 1880 to 1894, has expounded the meaning of the phrase in an article which it would be a real pleasure to quote entire. A few paragraphs will suffice, however, to reveal the loftiness, the sweetness, and the eminent sanity of his ideas:—

“The word intégrale, applied to education, includes the three epithets, physical, intellectual, and moral, and indicates further the continuous relations between these three divisions.

L’éducation intégrale is not the forced accumulation of an infinite number of notions upon all things: it is the culture, the harmonious development, of all the faculties of the human being,—health, vigour, beauty, intelligence, goodness....

L’éducation physique embraces muscular and cerebral development. It satisfies the need of exercise of all our organs, passive as well as active,—a need given the authority of law by physiology. To note this development and to learn to direct it with 83prudence, anthropometric observations should be made and anthropometric statistics continuously kept.

“The exercise of the senses, the calculations necessary in sports and in physical exertion of every sort,—races, workshop labour, etc.,—have their influence on the intellect, and render attractive certain tasks often considered repulsive because of the awkward manner in which they have been approached.

L’éducation intellectuelle has to do with two totally distinct matters,—matters of opinion, variable, debatable, the cause of quarrels, antagonisms, rivalries; and matters of fact, of observation, of experience, whose solutions are identical for all beings. The old teaching occupied itself almost entirely with the first matters to the neglect of the second. The new teaching, on the contrary, should diminish as much as possible the number and prominence of the first in favour of the second. In whatever of the first is of necessity retained, notably the acquisition of languages, it should limit itself to the purely practical side, and reserve the study of the complicated, illogical evolution of language for a small, selected group of adults who are well grounded in the sciences....

... “On the other hand, the study of nature, of industry (by its practice in workshops), of the sciences (in laboratories and observatories), gives to the brain a harmonious development, makes it well balanced, and imparts a great justness of judgment. Theoretical study in books should only come after the excitation given by real practice, to supplement and co-ordinate the elements which the practice has furnished. From this concordance in the knowledge and appreciation of real facts results inevitably a tendency to concord upon all other matters; that is to say, veritable social peace....

“It should not be forgotten that the éducation intégrale, physique, and intellectuelle, must combine knowledge and art, the knowing and the doing.

“A genuine intégral is at once theorician and practician. He unites the two qualities systematically separated by the official routine, which maintains, on the one side, primary and professional 84 instruction, and, on the other, secondary and higher instruction. His is the brain that directs and the hand that executes. He is at one and the same time artisan and savant.

“There is no need of detailing at length a programme of moral education. Morality, like reason, is a resultant: it depends on the ensemble. The part of teaching in it is slight. The child assimilates in the measure of his intellectual development ideas of social reciprocity and of goodness; but moral education is especially a work of influence, the consequence of a normal existence in a normal environment. The physiological régime and the general direction given to the thoughts by the teaching as a whole are its principal elements.

“Great care should be taken to exclude false, demoralising ideas, narrowing prejudices, dismaying impressions, everything that can throw the imagination out of the true into trouble and disorder, morbid suggestions and excitation to vanity; to suppress occasions of rivalry and jealousy; to assure the continual view of calm, ordered, and natural things; to organise a simple, occupied, animated, varied life, divided between play and work. The progressive usage of liberty and of responsibility should be developed, preaching should be done mainly by example, and, above all, an effort should be put forth to make happiness prevail....

“As to the inferior, backward, degenerate children,—sad consequences of a succession of hereditary blights, aggravated by deplorable, haphazard births and a heels-over-head education,—these are moral invalids, for whom it is necessary to care with compassion and of whom almost nothing should be demanded. It is necessary, doubtless, to take, with all possible humanity, precautions to prevent their injuring or contaminating the others; but one must guard one’s self well against believing that he has the right to punish them because of a nature for which they are not responsible.”

Apart from this one notable experiment, little or nothing has as yet been done in Paris or elsewhere in France towards the systematic application of l’éducation intégrale. The anarchist 85 school, rather pretentiously called a college (le Collège Libertaire), opened in 1901 on the edge of the university quarter of Paris, has only succeeded so far in establishing a few evening courses for adults, the lack of funds that handicaps every anarchistic enterprise being supplemented in this case by the difficulty of securing proper teachers, because of the danger, amounting almost to a certainty, of loss of position, if regularly employed teachers lend themselves to a revolutionary enterprise. The recent foundation by the anarchists of a child’s paper, Jean-Pierre, is an interesting experiment along this educational line.

While waiting for the éducation intégrale to win its way, the more intellectual anarchists are making a strong effort to increase the study of the masters and of the forerunners and disciples of the masters. To this end the principal anarchist organs, especially the Temps Nouveaux, keep on sale and persistently recommend the reading of the works of the principal dead and living authors, native and foreign, who have expounded anarchy or who tend—or are claimed to tend—towards anarchy: Proudhon, Stirner, and Bakounine; Darwin, Büchner, Herzen, Godwin, and Herbert Spencer; Ibsen, Björnson, Tolstoy, Leopardi, and Nietzsche; Louise Michel, Elisée Reclus, Jean Grave, and Kropotkine; the anti-militarists Richet, Dubois-Dessaule, Vallier, and Urbain Gohier; the sociologists Charles-Albert and Jules Huret; the philosophers Guy and Letourneau; Lefèvre, the student of comparative religions; Guyau, the moralist; the novelists and dramatists Marsolleau, Darien, Descaves, Chèze, Raganasse, Lami, Lumet, and Ajalbert; the Italian Malato, the German Eltzbacher, the Hollander Nieuwenhuis, the American Tucker, and the Spaniard Tarrida del Marmol.

Furthermore, selected portions from nearly all these writers and from Hamon, Saurin, Malatesta, Tcherkesoff, Janvion, Chaughi, Darnaud, Sébastien Faure, Lavroff, Paul Delasalle, and Cafiero, are published, as brochures in editions running as high as sixty thousand and at prices ranging from one sou to fifteen sous (usually two sous) each, so that for a total outlay of two or 86 three francs those who have not the means to buy or the application to read the fr. 3.50 volumes may familiarise themselves with anarchist thought in all its most important bearings. The real nature of the contents of some of the brochures is disguised by the use of innocuous titles. Thus a certain appeal to desertion from the army bears on its cover this inscription: “Pour la Défense des Intérêts Typographiques.”

Unlike the placards, posters, and hand-bills, most of the brochures are restrained in tone. Now and then, however, an anonymous brochure is issued from nobody knows what printing establishment that startles the public and puts the policy on its mettle. The most famous of these (worth its weight in gold now to bibliophiles for its rarity) is the Indicateur Anarchiste: Manuel du Parfait Dynamiteur (40 pages, published 1887).

The Indicateur Anarchiste was practically a reprint of a series of articles that had appeared in the London journal, L’Internationale,20 under the rubric “Un Cours de Chimie Pratique,” which articles were in their turn practically a reprint of a series that appeared in La Lutte of Lyons under the rubric “Produits Anti-Bourgeois.” They included minute directions for the fabrication and use of several explosives and of Greek fire, the common and scientific names and the prices of their ingredients, and a detailed description of the tools and vessels best adapted to the various necessary processes. The announcement of the original series in La Lutte was as follows:—

Produits Anti-Bourgeois

“Under this heading we shall put before our friends the inflammable and explosive materials which are the best known, the easiest to handle and prepare,—in a word, the most useful. These preparations are not classical. If we point them out to the camarades notwithstanding, it is because we have discovered that they are superior to others and offer less danger.


“We shall mention only the most indispensable products, and yet these are unknown to many of the camarades. In the approaching conflict each one must be a bit of a chemist. This is why it is high time to take matters into our own hands, and demonstrate to the bourgeois that what we want we want in earnest.”

The excitement aroused by the publication and general circulation of this ominous brochure proved to be well-nigh gratuitous. Experience has demonstrated that in France, where the most scholarly anarchists are little inclined to participate in the propagande par le fait,21 the majority of dynamiters are forced (like Salvat in Zola’s Paris), to steal their explosives. They are not capable of putting the precepts of this so-called popular manual, rudimentary as they appear, into practice; the required manipulations, even when reduced to their simplest terms, being too dangerous and delicate for any but laboratory trained hands to execute.



The battles of the heroes of the future will be individualistic, not against the armed force of governments but against the apathetic routine and inertia of the human masses.”—Edward Carpenter.


Chapter IV



As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.


Resist not evil.”
“Swear not at all.”
“Judge not that ye be not judged.”
“If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast and give to the poor.”
“Ye shall know them by their fruits.
”—Jesus Christ.

And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.”—Saint Matthew.

The most dangerous foe to truth and freedom among us is the solid majority.... The majority has might,—unhappily,—but right it has not. I, and the few, the individuals, are right.

Dr. Stockman, in Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

Should you say to him, ‘But you injure your brother men by accepting a remuneration below the value of your labour, and you sin against God and your own soul by obeying laws which are unjust,’ he will answer you with the fixed gaze of one who understands you not.... Human laws are only good and valid in so far as they conform to, explain, and apply the law of God. They are evil whensoever they contrast with or oppose it; and it is then not only your right, but your duty, to disobey and abolish them.”—Mazzini.

To profit by all the circumstances of life, to make one’s acts accord with one’s ideas, is to carry on a propagande par le fait of a slow but continuous action which must produce its results.”—

Jean Grave.


WHEN that great and original child of nature, Thoreau, the Hermit of Walden, protested against the collection of taxes in Concord town, he little suspected, probably, that he was prefiguring a revolutionary movement which, before the century was over, was to alarm the sleek and the smug of the Old World and the New; and yet, whether Thoreau realised it or not, his attitude was the anarchistic attitude and his act an act of the propagande par l’exemple.

The attitude of the American anti-slavery champion, William Lloyd Garrison, was also essentially anarchistic.

“Garrison,” says Tolstoy, “as a man enlightened by Christianity, starting out with a practical aim,—the struggle against slavery,—understood very soon that the cause of slavery was not a casual, temporary seizure of several millions of negroes by the Southerners, but an old and universal anti-Christian recognition of the right of violence of some people over others. The means towards the recognition of this right was always the evil, which people considered possible to outroot or to lessen by rude force; that is, again by evil. And, realising this, Garrison pointed out against slavery, not the sufferings of the slaves, not the cruelty of the slave-owners, not the equal rights of citizens, but the eternal Christian law of non-resistance. Garrison understood that which the most forward champions against slavery failed to understand,—that the sole irresistible means against slavery was the denial of the right of one man over the liberty of another under any circumstances whatever.

“The Abolitionists attempted to prove that slavery was illegal, unprofitable, cruel, degrading, and so forth; but the pro-slavery champions, in their turn, proved the untimeliness, the danger, and the harmful consequences which would arise from the abolition of 92 slavery. And neither could convince the other. But Garrison, understanding that the slavery of the negroes was but a private case of general violence, put forth the general principle with which it was impossible to disagree,—that no one, under any pretext, has the right of ruling; that is, of using force over his equals. Garrison did not insist so much on the right of slaves to be free as he denied the right of any man whatever, or of any company of men, to compel another man to do anything by force. For the battle with slavery he put forth the principle of the battle with all the evil of the world.”

The refusal of the citizens of the little French commune of Counozouls to pay their taxes between 1902 and 1904 because they were deprived of their hereditary right to supply themselves with wood from an adjacent forest, and the “passive resistance” of the nonconformists in England to the enforcement of the new education act, and of the French Catholics to the expulsion of the monastic orders, are recent instances of probably unconscious propagande par l’exemple.

Tolstoy has made a clear and full statement of the purport of the propagande par l’exemple.

“Taxes,” he says, “were never instituted by common consent, ... but are taken by those who have the power of taking them.... A man should not voluntarily pay taxes to governments either directly or indirectly; nor should he accept money collected by taxes either as salary or as pension or as a reward; nor should he make use of governmental institutions supported by taxes, since they are collected by violence from the people.”

He holds military service in similar abhorrence:—

“Every honest man ought to understand that the payment of taxes which are employed to maintain and arm soldiers, and, still more, serving in the army, are not indifferent acts, but wicked and shameful acts, since he who commits them not only permits assassination, but participates in it.”

In an apologue, “Too Dear,” he demonstrates that law courts, prisons, and armies are alike useless to a sound civilisation. In 93 short, Tolstoy renounces the state, and prays for its extinction, root and branch:—

“The doctrine of humility, pardon, and love, is incompatible with the state, with its arrogance, its deeds of violence, its executions, its wars. Real Christianity not only excludes the possibility of acknowledging the state, but also destroys its foundation.... The sum of all the evil possible to the people, if left to themselves, could not equal the sum of the evil actually accomplished by the tyranny of church and state.”

What could a militant anarchist say more? And there is no limit to the extent to which these anarchistic utterances of Tolstoy might be multiplied.

Most French anarchists believe that the privileged will never surrender their privileges without a desperate resistance. Only a little handful of them are Tolstoyans in maintaining that simple non-resistance faithfully adhered to will alone suffice to regenerate the world. But they nearly all hold that cumulative non-resistance is, under certain conditions, the most effective resistance (”faire le vide autour des institutions sociales est le meilleur moyen de les démolir”); and a majority of them, probably,—certainly a majority of their more intellectual element,—esteem it by far the most important propaganda for the present hour.

The average French anarchist is forced to recognise at the outset the unpalatable truth that a good half of his customary doings are based on the government and property he opposes. He rejects the theory of money, but he must buy and sell. He abhors the state, but serves it, and uses its tax-supported institutions; and he is constantly finding himself in situations where he must do violence to his inmost convictions, or get out of life altogether by the portals of suicide or want. There are some unorthodox doings, however, which can be avoided without incurring a martyrdom out of all decent proportion to the seriousness of the occasion.

“If the force of power crushes you to-day, if, in spite of everything, authority fetters you in your evolution, there is always a 94 certain margin for resistance. Fill this margin without being afraid of overstepping it,” advises one of the moderate advocates of the propagande par l’exemple.

The two forms of non-resistance oftenest enjoined by Tolstoy (namely, non-payment of taxes and refusal to serve in the army) are so disastrous in their consequences—as Tolstoy himself would have seen, had he not been born into a high estate and had he not attained a ripe age and an assured position before his revolutionary ideas completely matured—that they can hardly be said to come within this margin. And they are inculcated in France less with a view to inciting isolated individuals to put them into practice immediately than in the hope that a day may arrive when they will be suddenly put into practice simultaneously by so large a number of persons that coercion will be out of the question.

Similarly, refusal to handle money, to pay interest, to pay rent, to take oath, to testify in court, and to do jury duty, call down such speedy retribution that these, too, must be interpreted as lying in the generality of cases outside the margin mentioned above.

On the other hand, protest against parliamentarianism by abstention from voting (la propagande abstentionniste) is a thoroughly feasible kind of non-resistance, and is practised almost universally by the anarchists of France.

“If we seek,” says Jean Grave, “to faire le vide around the political machine, it is to the end of not forfeiting our right to act by and for ourselves. It is to preserve our liberty of action that we reject every compromise with the actual political order of things. It is to habituate ourselves to this liberty which is the summum of our aspirations that we attempt to exercise it in our struggle against the present social state. To the individuals whom they wish to enlist under their banner, the advocates of authority say, ‘Send us to the Chamber to make laws in your favour!’

“To those whom they wish to make think, the anarchists, after having exposed the facts, explain that they have no favours to expect from anybody; and that, when a thing seems to them bad, the best way to destroy it is to ‘faire le vide’ about it; ... that they 95 never await from the good pleasure of their masters the authorisation to conform their acts to their thoughts; and that they commission nobody to legislate as to what they should do.”

Abstention from marriage (which, as ordinarily practised, the anarchist considers legalised prostitution, and the theoretical indissolubility of which he regards as nothing short of blasphemy) is another thoroughly feasible kind of non-resistance. And it is rare to find an anarchist, whose marital status was not fixed before he gave in his adherence to anarchism, who deigns to consult the pleasure or implore the blessing of any authority whatsoever in a matter which, to his thinking, concerns no one but himself and the person of his choice.22

Malthusianism, also,—in spite of a reverence for the procreative instinct, on the part of anarchists, which Zola’s Fécondité does not surpass,—is in high favour in anarchistic circles. The motives for the anarchist’s refusal to bring offspring into the world are set forth in Octave Mirbeau’s ejaculation of disgust called out by a project of law for checking depopulation introduced by one M. Piot into the Senate:—

“I dispute that depopulation is an evil. In a social state like ours, in a social state which fosters preciously, scientifically, in special cultures, poverty and its derivative, crime; in a social state which, in spite of new investigations and in spite of new philosophies, relies solely on the prehistoric forces,—murder and massacre,—what matters to the people—the only class, for that matter, which still produces children—this much-discussed question of depopulation? If the people were clairvoyant, logical with their wretchedness and their servitude, they would desire, not the cessation of depopulation, but its redoubling. We are constantly being told that depopulation is the gravest danger which threatens the future of the country. In what, pray, dear Monsieur Piot, and you, also, excellent legislators, who lull us ceaselessly with your twaddle? In this, you say, that there will come 96 inevitably a time when we shall no more have enough men to send out to be killed in the Soudan, in Madagascar, in China, in the bagnes, and in the barracks. You are dreaming of repeopling now, then, only for the sake of depeopling later on? Ah, no, thank you. If we must die, we like better to die at once and by a death of our own choosing.”

Besides discountenancing elections and marriage, the zealous propagandist par l’exemple flouts “those whose sole power lies in the obedience of cringers”; defies “those whose character he despises”; refuses to go to law or to accept interest for loans; abstains from the luxuries which the bourgeois deems indispensable; protests against insolence on the part of government functionaries, brutality, high-handed invasion of domiciles, and insults to women on the part of the police, cruelty on the part of landlords, and bulldozing on the part of foremen and employers. He violates deliberately the deep-seated social usages which, equally with the political, judicial, and economic usages, twist and warp existence; and strives to keep himself in his labour, his friendships, and his domestic relations “saturated with aversion for the bourgeois, and for whatever in existence savours of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, and with a sentiment of solidarity towards all who are struggling for sincere living.”

“There is a view [of culture],” says Matthew Arnold in his immortal essay Sweetness and Light, “in which all the love of our neighbour, the impulses towards action, help, and beneficence, the desire for removing human error, clearing human confusion, and diminishing human misery, the noble aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it,—motives eminently such as are called social,—come in as part of the grounds of culture, and the main and pre-eminent part. Culture is, then, properly described, not as having its origin in curiosity, but as having its origin in the love of perfection: it is a study of perfection. It moves by the force not merely or primarily of the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but also of the moral and social passion for doing good.”


Something of the same noble and refined philosophy underlies this insistence, by the greater anarchist teachers, on the proselyting value of truth of intercourse and of downright living and on the consequent necessity of the training and purifying of the individual as the surest means of changing a social milieu. In the individual refusal to live the “conventional lies” which Max Nordau (who has long trembled on the verge of anarchism) anathematised is a real disintegrating force. “We must begin with ourselves,” says Jean Grave, “in our efforts at transformation.” And it is sure that the saintliness of Louise Michel, the fine simplicity and modesty of Elisée Reclus, the voluntary poverty of the gentle Jean Grave, and the unobtrusive virtues of their obscure disciples are factors of tremendous importance to the anarchist movement. Dialectics are powerless before the blameless living of such real apostles of “sweetness and light.” They may not have the whole truth,—they would be the last to claim that they have,—but there must be some shred of truth in a belief that is thus witnessed by beautiful character.

In pinning so much of their faith to the gradual modification of daily habits of thinking and acting, these anarchists reveal themselves no mean psychologists and no ordinary students of human nature; and it is regarding this relatively prosaic propagande par l’exemple that the choicest anarchist spirits have spoken their most sagacious and most winning words.

Thus, the late Pierre Lavroff wrote: “There exists another form of propaganda accessible to all temperaments, provided the conviction be sincere; and many times this form, though wanting the éclat which accompanies the burning word or the heroic act, proves to be the most efficacious in the life of every day.

... “The conditions of the actual social régime oppose themselves at every instant to a life in conformity with conviction more than the juridical conditions retard the extension of advanced ideas and more than the police surveillance prevents the revolutionary agitation.

“It has often been remarked that the most considerable transformations 98 in the ideas of society have occurred, not because the arguments which were advanced against existing forms and beliefs had acquired more force, but in consequence of an insensible modification in mental habits. During entire centuries the same arguments were repeated; but the habits of thought acted as a cuirass, and repulsed for a long time all the attacks made against error. Then, at a given moment, this cuirass yielded, all at once, without any apparent cause. Religious doubt, political liberalism, the propaganda of socialism, are more or less prominent examples. The heroic acts which strike the imagination merely prepare a soil which befits these changes. The great majority lets itself—and will a long time yet let itself—be guided by habits. Arguments make no great impression upon it. It modifies its customs by imitation alone. In the case of heroic acts this imitation extends only to individuals exceptionally placed. Its veritable domain is the daily living. Every new doctrine which embraces practical moral elements must provide a series of models which may be imitated, not by an exceptional hero, but by an ordinary man. The numerous examples incorporate the new doctrine into the daily life. They are, broadly speaking, the most efficacious propagandists of new ideas. Truth realising itself in living is much more accessible than truth in a state of thought. The ideas which an individual propagates act upon a small number, upon the best prepared. A way of life is less conspicuous, but exercises a more intense action on the masses. The propaganda carried on by the daily example is the most potent auxiliary of the spoken word. It surpasses often in influence the most energetic agitation directed against an existing evil....

“For the majority of men the propagande par l’exemple is the only form which makes tangible the spoken propaganda. It alone changes the habits of thinking and living. It produces, in fact, a modification of the psychic dispositions of society; and it opens the way for society to be influenced by the energetic acts of exceptional individuals, for whom it prepares a receptive soil.”

Before words of such keen observation and high moral and philosophic 99 import from men who have not forgotten how to think because they seem sometimes to dream, only an attitude of reverence is possible; and the admission is forced that some of these anarchists are not so very flighty, after all, and that some of them are “not so bent on acting and instituting, even with the great aim of diminishing human error and misery ever before their thoughts, but that they can remember that acting and instituting are of little use, unless they know how and what they ought to act and institute.”

Another manifestation of the propagande par l’exemple has been the creation, in France and abroad, of anarchist experiment stations where an effort has been made to realise on a small scale, by isolation from the world at large, the social arrangements which are, on a large scale, the anarchist dream.

The agricultural colony founded in Algeria by M. Regnier, one of the sons-in-law of Elisée Reclus, seems to have been the only really successful venture in this line; and I am not sure whether even this is still in existence.

The other anarchist colonies set up abroad—notably La Colonie Cecilia, which was one of the by-products of the emigration from France to South America—have all come to more or less speedy grief.

The reasons are not far to seek. The colonists were totally ignorant of the regions to which they emigrated. They looked to find easier living and well-nigh perfect liberty, and were amazed and disillusionised when they discovered that conditions were not so very different under these new civilisations from what they were under the old.

They were ignorant of each other. No selection having been exercised in forming the groups, the orthodox were overshadowed by the heterodox and by adventurers who were not anarchists at all; and many even of the orthodox were too timorous or too weary to resume, under new skies, the struggle which they fancied, in quitting Europe, they had left behind forever. Misunderstandings, disputes, and even spoliation were the natural result.


They were farther handicapped by a lack of preliminary funds for their installations, by the absence of the appliances of civilisation to which they were accustomed, and by unfamiliarity with the agriculture or other work they had to do.

But the primary reason—the reason which may indeed be said to include all the other reasons—for the failure of the French anarchist colonies in foreign lands is that the transition the colonists were called upon to make was far too abrupt. As Jean Grave has pointed out in this connection, “People cannot pass thus brusquely from a society where fighting and egoism are obligatory on every being to a society where the relations between individuals are those of love, of sympathy, of benevolence, of solidarity, where you take no heed of the faults of those who surround you, ignoring the follies of your neighbours while they ignore yours. The existing social state has in no way prepared us for solidarity and benevolence.”

The French attempts to found anarchist colonies at home have fared little, if any, better than the attempts to found them abroad.

A communistic workshop, opened in Paris in 1885 by a number of anarchistic tailors whom a strike had left without employment, was closed at the end of a year; but whether by reason of internal disagreements or by reason of the intrigues of interested employers it is not easy, from the evidence, to determine. The product was divided equally among all the members of the association,—the unskilled, the sick, the aged, and the impotent included.

The anarchist Commune de Montreuil (said to be the original of the phalanstère of Descaves’ and Donnay’s highly successful play, La Clairière) was established in 1892 at Montreuil-sous-Bois, a suburb of Paris. A workshop was rented in which the members spent all the time they could spare from their regular employments in working for the benefit of those who might be in need, and Saturday lectures were given. The plans involved, further, hiring a piece of ground to be cultivated for a similar purpose in a similar fashion, a gradual cessation of working for employers 101 as occasion permitted and results warranted, a school for children, and a library for adults. These plans were frustrated, not by the petty rivalries of the women (as in the Descaves-Donnay play), but by the dissolution of the Commune by the government as a part of the wholesale anarchist repressions of 1893-94. Some of the original members of the Commune de Montreuil have since banded themselves together for an exchange of services with the idea of habituating themselves to make and utilise products “without commercial exchange, representative value, or appraisal”; but the exchangers remain in their respective homes.

At Angers, in the Maine-et-Loire, a department remote from Paris, a number of anarchist workingmen pledged themselves some time since to divide their wages at the end of each week “in order to equalise the conditions of existence.”

It is impossible to draw any conclusion whatsoever from experiments that are so partial as these and that have been conducted under such unfavourable conditions.

In the two great modern industrial reform movements—trade-unionism and co-operation—the anarchist finds other fields for the propagande par l’exemple.

He is bound to look askance at trade-unions, and, if a purist, to hold himself aloof from them, because by the very fact of trying to raise wages they recognise the legitimacy of the wage system, and because they often resort to politics, and implore the intervention of parliament to gain their ends.

“The unions are wheels in the capitalistic machine because they are placed—if only temporarily—under the conditions of the capitalistic system,” says one. “To accept discussion with one’s exploiters is to confess their right to exploitation,” says another. “The raison d’être of the union is to negotiate with the employers, to quibble over the greater or less degree of exploitation; while an anarchist should aim only at the destruction of this exploitation,” says still another.

Regarding the efficiency of trade-unions as a means of permanently bettering the conditions of the working classes, to say 102 nothing of insuring their emancipation, the anarchist has no illusions. On the contrary, he does them scanter justice than even the capitalist, who, however he may antagonise them, at least pays them the sincere compliment of fearing them. The anarchist has not a particle of faith in trade-unionism as such. He is more orthodox than the most orthodox of economists as to the iron law of wages (la loi d’airain des salaires), the inexorableness of the operation of supply and demand, and the impotence of strikes. He maintains stoutly that a so-called trade-union victory can, in the nature of the case, be only the semblance of a victory, since gains cannot be defended, since an increase in wages cannot be maintained, against an unfavourable market, and since, even if it could be maintained, it would be counterbalanced in the long run by the increased cost of living consequent thereon. Whoever would oppose the trade-union theory and practice will find in the anarchist writings and speeches the completest possible arsenal of weapons ready forged to his hand. No apologist for things as they are can have exposed more relentlessly than he the financial foolishness of fighting millions of dollars with hundreds of dollars, and of pitting the danger of actual starvation against the relatively insignificant danger of decreased profits,—of combating strength with weakness, in a word, on the former’s chosen ground.

Nevertheless, the anarchist recognises that the trade-union is a natural grouping of the proletariat; that it was the first important grouping to acknowledge, by acts, the irrepressible conflict between capital and labour, the first to boldly lift and wave the standard of industrial revolt, the first to shift the attempt at enfranchisement from the political to the economic ground, and the first to appreciate the advantages of internationalism; that it is the best considerable example thus far of solidarity in action, the most favourable soil for anarchistic good seed—particularly the good seed of the propagande par l’exemple—within present reach, the most favourable ground for disputing the future with the socialists, and an excellent weapon of offence and defence. 103 And he approves of strikes, with all their demonstrable financial futility, because they keep to the fore the idea of revolt, and because—a sort of left-handed reason—every unsuccessful strike is an argument in his favour, inasmuch as it shows the emptiness of partial measures that do not reach the cause.

Besides, he discerns a trend his way in the growing trade-union advocacy of the “universal strike” (grève universelle or grève générale) which he regards as but another name for the revolution.

At the time of the memorable grève des terrassiers,23 Gustave Geffroy contributed to Le Journal a sketch entitled “Tableau de Grève,” which is at once a vivid pen-picture and a prophecy:—

“We could easily have believed ourselves, these latter days, borne backward to the days of the siege of Paris or the weeks which followed the time of the Commune, in perceiving above the pedestrians the silhouettes of cavaliers on patrol and the hands of soldiers in campaign accoutrements in the public squares and along the banks of the Seine.... When the redoubtable question of labour and of misère is the order of the day, it is anguish with silence which reigns in the street where pass the soldiers under arms.

“It has been so everywhere this week. About the stacks of arms, along the route of the cavaliers, not a cry has escaped, as if each one, by some tacit understanding, knew that destiny must not be tempted nor risks run. The public regarded without uttering a word, gazed fixedly at these sons of the soil and of the faubourg, wearing uniforms and equipped with provisions and cartridges as if they were entering on a campaign in this peaceful city. Where was the enemy? These strikers, slowly promenading, listlessly dangling their arms,—they who set forth habitually to work, and who return from work with a rapid, cadenced step,—and quite stupefied at having become idle strollers; adversaries little fierce, without arms, without their tools even, 104 having in their favour only their patience, their passivity, their hope, and especially their assurance that sooner or later they will conquer, when all their fellows shall will it like them.

“It is this fatality of the victory of numbers which is the enemy; it is against this that the regiments and the squadrons have been sent out, against this that to-morrow they would have trundled out the artillery. All this parade of force would have been made this time, could have been made, in fact, only in pure loss.... And so it will be—we can now affirm it—on that future day when the grève générale shall be interpreted in this fashion, when there shall be everywhere only dismaying calm, the tragic refusal to work, when the soldiers called out to guarantee order shall find only order everywhere,—placid visages and folded arms. Military display will be useless on that day. The great social change will have come by the fact of that new sort of revolution which a reactionary journalist designated very justly, the other day, by the name of the passive revolution....

... “Ah! the good time when the people offered itself freely as a target on a pile of paving-stones in a narrow street!

“This good time is no more. The great boulevards, the broad avenues, the power of the artillery which can sweep everything from afar without the insurgents seeing anything but the quick flame, the sounding light, the cloud of smoke, were already there to assure the end of the ancient street war. It was not enough. The revolutionary tactics also have changed, in proportion as the revolutionary party has extended, has gained in force, and has become more conscious of its destinies....

“Seek not elsewhere than in a profound transformation of the human mind the cause of the tranquillity of a strike in which we behold the placid confrontation of the workingman and the soldier. For all observers endowed with reason and sang-froid, to whatever party they belong, the spectacle is that of the toiling mass reconnoitring the ground and testing its strength. Nothing less than a pacific and irresistible transformation is announced. Of course, the grève générale can be realised only by an understanding 105 throughout an organisation far-seeing and complete, and then, only, thanks to a certain combination of circumstances; but this is not saying it cannot be realised.

“It is easy to brand such a programme as tainted with Utopia and struck with sterility. But to do so is to refuse to recognise the sense of facts and especially the power of a unique idea. Bear in mind that this idea of the grève générale has already thousands of adherents, not only in France, but in Germany, in England, in America, and you will have some chance of appreciating the significance of the strike of to-day, so different from the strike of yesterday, in spite of a few traditional incidents into which the strikers and the government have been betrayed.”

Geffroy, the writer of the above, is not an anarchist, but a socialist. Few anarchists see in the grève générale, as he does, a purely passive revolution, which will prevail without the shedding of a drop of blood or any other violence whatsoever. Most of its anarchist advocates regard it, “not as a strike of folded arms, but as a general revolt of the proletariat, outside of all political lines, for the conquest of the means of production and for complete emancipation.”

The grève générale apart, the anarchist who enters the trade-union24 does it, incidentally, perhaps, to rid the union of the curse of politics and to score over the socialists, but primarily to transform it by the influence of precept (and, still more, of example) from “a reform movement for the defence of the material and moral interests of the workers, and especially the satisfaction of such immediate desires as the amelioration of salaries and the diminution of the working day,” into “an economic movement of the working class against the capitalistic class for the suppression of the latter and of the régime which they represent.”

Consequently, anarchist writings are replete with solemn warnings to the faithful against the insidious peril of having anything 106 to do with the unions with any other object in view than that of making them other than they are.

From co-operation, as from trade-unionism, the purists of anarchy keep themselves prudently aloof by reason of the risk of contamination from too close contact with commercial processes and partial measures.

Other anarchists—the majority, perhaps—are still holding co-operation under observation, waiting for it to display more satisfactory credentials before they declare themselves. Thus the Etudiants Socialistes Révolutionnaires Internationalistes25 “have pronounced for it,” says A. D. Bancel, “all in pronouncing against it.”

Others do not object to participating passively in the movement, so that they are not called on to aid in the work of organisation and serve on boards and committees.

The rest have espoused it with more or less enthusiasm because its efforts are economic rather than political, because it militates against socialism, because it is a phase of the struggle between classes; because it is of a high educational value to the proletariat in showing it its real position; because it fosters internationalism; because its unit, the co-operative group, like the union, is an expression of solidarity, an excellent field for the propagande par l’exemple and a convenient weapon of combat; and finally because its ultimate aim is la liberté intégrale.

There is a pan-coopération as there is a grève universelle. And, as the grève universelle (which is the revolution) is regarded by some as the inevitable consummation of trade-unionism, so la pan-coopération, alias la république coopérative, alias l’alliance coopérative internationale (which is likewise the revolution), is regarded by some as the inevitable consummation of co-operation.

By these latter a critical moment is foreseen when the angry meeting of le capitalisme autoritaire and le coopératisme libertaire will kindle a colossal, world-wide, and purifying conflagration.


Chapter V



I came not to send peace, but a sword.... I am come to send fire on the earth.”—Jesus Christ.

It is not by metaphysics that men will be undeceived: the truth must be proven by deeds.”—Voltaire.

Not songs of loyalty alone are these, But songs of insurrection also, For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over, And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him, And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.” Walt Whitman.

“La force destructive est une force créatice.”—Bakounine.

If I were dying of starvation, and had no means of buying a piece of bread, and were to go by a baker’s where bread was within reach, I should help myself to it. And the way I should reason would be this: That bread belongs to the baker, but it is more God’s bread than it is the baker’s, and I am one of God’s little boys, and therefore understand the proximity of this loaf to be the answer to the prayer I offered my Father this morning: ‘Give me this day my daily bread.’”—Dr. Charles Parkhurst.

His [Dr. Parkhurst’s] principle of necessity is one easily misapplied; but it is right, notwithstanding Dr. Johnson’s reply to the man whose excuse for stealing a loaf of bread was that he ‘must live.’ ‘I don’t see the necessity,’ said the rude moralist. And so said the custodian of morality when David stole the shew-bread for his starving soldiers; but our Lord said he did right.”—Editorial in New York Independent.

I hold it blasphemy that a man ought not to fight against authority. There is no great religion and no great freedom that has not done it in the beginning.”—George Eliot, in Felix Holt, the Radical.


WITH regard to doctrines, ultimate aims, and the three methods of disseminating them already described,—oral and written propaganda and the propaganda by example,—French anarchists are all of the same mind; but with regard to the fourth means, the propaganda by the overt act of violence (la propagande par le fait), there is anything but unanimity among them.

No anarchist, the simon-pure Tolstoyan excepted, denies the right to collective revolt, the duty, even, of insurrection. But this attitude has nothing distinctive about it. The same right and the same duty have been affirmed and reaffirmed by the republicans of all ages, and by the royalists, also, when they have been temporarily out of power, the only appreciable difference being that the republicans and royalists have esteemed them as a means of realising rather than a means of spreading their ideal.

The emergence into public prominence of the insurrectional idea which anarchists had long held—more or less consciously—dates from the Peace Congress held in Geneva in 1867, at which the Belgian César de Paepe created a sensation by declaring that “not peace, but war, must be preached.” “Peace,” he explained, “can be hoped for only as a fruit of victory in the social war.” Bakounine, just then coming to the front in Europe, lent the weight of his authority to De Paepe’s idea.

In 1876, the Fédération Italienne approved a definite declaration (signed by Cafiero and Malatesta) of the same purport:—

“The Fédération Italienne believes that insurrection, destined to affirm by deeds the principles of liberty, is the most efficacious agency of propaganda and the only one which, without corrupting and deceiving the masses, can penetrate even the lowest social 110 strata, and draw the live forces of humanity into the struggle the Internationale is carrying on.”

Four months later, in the spring of 1877, this credo of insurrection was put in practice at Letino and San Galo, Italy, where Cafiero, Malatesta, Ceccarelli, and the rural priests, Fortini and Tamburini, with thirty followers, took possession of the public buildings, imprisoned or drove out the local authorities, set fire to the archives and property records, and seized and distributed the tax money among the people.

The same year a memorial of the Congress of Fribourg, signed by Kropotkine and Elisée Reclus among others, declared:—

“We are revolutionists because we desire justice. Never has great progress, special or general, been made by simple, pacific evolution. It has always been made by a revolution. If the work of mental preparation is accomplished slowly, the realisation of the ideas occurs quickly,”—an utterance with which may be compared Kropotkine’s, “Governments have never done anything but give a legal sanction to accomplished revolutionary facts”; Jean Grave’s, “We are revolutionists because we have the reasoned conviction that the privileged will not abandon one of their privileges if they are not forced to it”; and this confession of Guillaume Froment in Zola’s Paris:—

“I was only a positivist, a savant given over entirely to observation and experience, accepting nothing beyond the verified fact. Scientifically, socially, I admitted a simple and slow evolution, generating humanity as the human being himself is generated. And it was then that, in the history of the globe and in that of societies, I was forced to make a place for the volcano, the abrupt cataclysm, the sudden eruption, which has marked each geologic phase, each historic period. One comes thus to perceive that a step has never been taken, nor a progress made, without the aid of terrible catastrophes. Every forward march has sacrificed billions of existences. Our narrow justice revolts, we treat Nature as an atrocious mother; but, if we do not excuse the volcano, we must, nevertheless, endure it as forewarned savants when it breaks 111 out, and then, ah! then, I am perhaps a dreamer, like the others: I have my ideas.”

The year following the Fribourg Congress (1878) Kropotkine warmly advocated insurrection before the Congress of the Fédération Jurasienne. “By insurrections,” he said, “the anarchists seek to quicken popular sentiment and initiative to the double end of a violent expropriation and the disorganisation of the state.” The congress pronounced formally in favour of the insurrectional principle, and from that day to this it has never been seriously questioned in any important anarchist quarter.

If the overt act by the individual anarchist is not viewed with the same unanimous and unqualified approval as the collective act of insurrection, it is because there is an easy distinction (representing, perhaps, a real difference) to be made between the individual act directed against the principle of authority incarnated in an official of the state,—president, minister, deputy, general, senator, judge, and police prefect,—when it comes under the general head of regicide (a reform measure which is almost as old as the world), and the individual act directed against the principle of property incarnated in any member of the bourgeoisie whatsoever, when it comes under the general head—O deterrent power of a name!—of murder.

The first kind of individual attempt (regicide) encounters little opposition based on principle within the anarchist ranks. It is opposed, as Alexander H. Stephens opposed the foundation of the Confederacy (of which he accepted the vice-presidency, once it was declared), on grounds of expediency. As regicides, Caserio, Vaillant,26 Bresci,27 Pallas (whose attempt against the Maréchal Campos was glorified by the International Labor Congress at Chicago in 1893), and the assassin of Alexander II. fall into much the same category as Brutus, Cromwell, Harmodius and Aristogiton, and the executioners of Louis XVI.; and, in the 112 case at least of the assassin of the czar, the classification, while not perhaps ideal, might be worse.

As to weapons, the popular distinction (which is, in fact, more nice than wise) between the pistol and stiletto, on the one hand, and the bomb, on the other, is not made. “I admit all means, even the bomb,” says Charles Malato, who approved Pallas and Vaillant, but regretted Henry’s attempted slaughter of the bourgeois at the Café Terminus, “if only it be well placed; and yet I am not a drinker of blood.”

The second kind of individual attempt—the suppression of members of the bourgeoisie for the sole reason that they are bourgeois—is CHARLES MALATO CHARLES MALATO disapproved by all the anarchists but a small knot of extremists.

This disapproval, which is for the most part purely formal and passive when the act attains the person against whom it was directed, and its unselfishness is immediately evident, may become aggressive, not to say bitter, in certain quarters, when a tragic botch has been made of the job (by a mistake in victims) or when its significance as an act of propaganda has been obscured by the presence of motives of personal revenge. Elisée Reclus, of all the eminent French theoricians, has shown himself the most consistently refractory to this sort of propagande par le fait. In an article called out by the rapid succession of individual attempts in 1892, he said:—

“When you have a grudge against a person, you seek him out, you have an explanation with him, but you do not make innocent persons bear the brunt of your rancour.

“Anarchy is the summum of humane theories. Whoso calls himself anarchist should be gentle and good. All overt acts of the nature of that of yesterday are looked on by true compagnons 113 as crimes. If those who perpetrate these barbarities act with the design of promulgating the anarchist creed, they deceive themselves completely.

“Things will come to such a pass, there will be such disgust with the compagnons, they will inspire such horror, that no one will be willing to hear anarchy so much as spoken of.

“And yet the idea is beautiful: it is grand. See to it that it is respected. The persons who do evil in its name befoul our doctrines.”

It is not always easy for the outsider to grasp why, of two anarchist acts of violence with similar exterior aspects, the same camarade praises the one and deplores the other. What is more, he will understand still less when the camarade has explained. There are labyrinths of subtleties in anarchist apologetics through whose intricate windings the lay intelligence has no Ariadne-given thread to guide it, and depths of esoteric metaphysics which only the plummet of the adept can sound.

Vaillant had almost unanimous plaudits from the camarades, no little praise from the socialists, and approval—mark the humorous note!—from certain of the deputies whose lives he had jeopardised.

Ravachol, author of the explosions at the houses of the judges Benoit and Bulot and of other overt acts less readily comprehensible, was practically repudiated at first by the Temps Nouveaux (then La Révolte) on account of a dubious past, but was recognised loyally, if languidly, as soon as his entire disinterestedness was made plain.

The general attitude of the Temps Nouveaux towards the propagande par le fait is one of guarded detachment, verging on complete indifference,—an attitude of rare prudence, sanity, and sagacity. It treats the whole matter of the individual attempt as a side issue, with an unfortunate tendency to divert the attention of both the faithful and the unfaithful from the basal principles of anarchy, and makes it very clear that it would ignore it altogether if it could.


“If anarchy,” says this representative journal, “does not reject violence when it is demonstrated to be indispensable to enfranchisement, it does not elevate it into a system. Violence is for it a means, debatable, like everything, but which is, at most, only an accessory affair. It must disappear when the obstacles are overcome, and weakens in nothing any of the elements of the ideal itself....

“Deeds are not counselled, nor spoken, nor written. They are done. Sometimes a deed done effects more than a long period of writing. This journal will always be the first to applaud those who act. We are, then, far from repelling the propagande par le fait. Only—we have said it before, and we repeat it—the propagande par le fait cannot be the work of a journal. It is not for us to say to individuals: ‘Do this! Do that!’ If they are convinced and conscientious, they will know what they have to do....

“To say to the workers, ‘Do this, burn that, hang that one,’ is child’s play, since the reader may demand with reason why he who preaches so glibly does not do himself what he urges others to do.”

The American labour leaders are wont to assure us, while reserving to themselves in all cases the right to criticism and opposition, that there never has been, using terms broadly, and never can be, an unsuccessful strike, since the strike that is the least necessary and most immediately disastrous serves the large purpose of focussing public attention on the strained relations between capital and labour, of revealing by a sort of cathode-ray efficacy the hidden ills of the body politic, and so of bringing just that much the nearer the final cure.

Similarly, the anarchist leaders assert that in anarchy no forces are lost, and that the manifestations which are, in appearance, the most foolhardy and shocking may have, equally with those which are, in appearance, the most reasonable, the saving merit of compelling the thoughtless world to think. “And perhaps,” says one of these leaders, “it will occur to the hide-bound bourgeoisie 115 to find society defective when they shall have discovered that there is some danger in perpetuating its errors.”

“The anarchist had been told,” wrote Zo d’Axa in L’Endehors, apropos of the dynamite exploits of an unknown, who turned out to be Ravachol, “that the idea for which he was willing to brave every danger did not exist. He had had it dinned into his ears that, in other times, the precursors talked less and acted more. His theory had been laughed at. His hope had been mocked. When, upon the highway as an apostle, he had attempted to convert the people, no one of these laughers and mockers had been willing to tarry and listen an instant.

“Now, behold him!

“Like the street vender drawing crude charcoal pictures on the sidewalk to attract the cockney crowd to which he means to offer an article de Paris a little later, a primitive propagandist of anarchy has decided to force attention by the brutality of an act.

“Back of this act is the faith, so much tabooed, to which he has at last drawn fruitful discussion.

“It was an Idea the dynamiter displayed.

“And no one can deny it,—at the moment when, by favour of the excitement, the journals are giving their readers the very ‘articles de Paris’ which the terrible unknown dreamed of showing. Side by side with their invectives the Figaro, the Eclair, other sheets, print and expound theories which had not had the freedom of their columns before. These journals have become, in spite of their reserves, the propagators of the accursed Idea.

“Is it a result?

“Men read, discuss, realise perhaps.”

To comprehend the foregoing manner of reasoning or, rather, point of view (the word “comprehend” is italicised lest any one confound inoffensive comprehension with dangerous approval), one must have had in some country or other some bitter experience—stinging rebuke or angering, insulting rebuff—with the vapid self-complacency, the dogmatic thick-wittedness, the dictatorial 116 stubborness, and the cruel hard-heartedness of the bourgeois. One must have been shocked and sickened by his vulgar flaunting of a stupid—or wicked?—determination to persist in his denial that his fellow-men ever starve, unless he can see them, with his own eyes, throw up their hands dramatically, stagger, and fall around him.

If one has had this disillusionising experience with the bourgeois, he will comprehend—there will be no lapsing here into such atrociously bad form as hinting the possibility of acquiescence—that there are numerous poor devils who say, “Let the bourgeois have the dramatic demonstration of starvation, since he will credit no other!”

He will comprehend that there are some, not poor devils, who think that a certain manifestation of the hungry in Trafalgar Square was a beautiful eye-opener for the British public; that there are others who look upon the march of Coxey’s grotesque army as anything but a ridiculous failure; and that there are still others who, recalling a memorable famine winter in Boston,—the shudderful winter when the authority of the state was invoked to disperse a peaceable assembling of the unemployed,—hold it a real pity that the assembling was quite so peaceable.

He will comprehend these last when they say that a few broken window-panes in the swaggering Back Bay and self-sufficient West End would have made the inhabitants of those districts less glib in their assertions that there was no real suffering in the city and less eager, by way of a clinching argument, to parrot, as having happened to their very selves, the incident which probably did happen sometime and somewhere to some one, thanks to some irresponsible tramp’s sense of humour,—of the professedly hungry man who refused to work because he had a previous engagement to march in the procession of the unemployed.

There is an appreciable distance from broken windows to broken heads. Still it is plain enough that the person who can comprehend the point of view that in a given exigency applauds the first 117 can comprehend (always bear in mind that this word is an innocuous one) the point of view that in a graver exigency applauds the second.

If it is true that there are bourgeois, as there are dogs, who understand no argument and respect no appeal but the blow,—let it not be said here that it is true,—it is not surprising, however deplorable it may be, that there are those among the proletariat who find it “a source of innocent merriment,” in the words of Gilbert’s Lord High Executioner, “to make the penalty fit the crime.”

Anarchist and dynamiter are so far from being interchangeable terms that it would be possible and, perhaps, justifiable to write a treatise on the theory of anarchy without making the slightest reference to dynamiting or any other form of the propagande par le fait. Taken by itself, the list of the overt anarchist acts in France during the last twenty-five years seems a long one; but, when it is viewed in the light of the total number of anarchist believers, it is evident that the dynamiter is the exception among the camarades. When, furthermore, the few hundred victims anarchy has made in all the world during the quarter of a century it has been militant are compared with the number of the victims the Minotaur—poverty—devours in a single country in a single year,28 or with the havoc wrought by any one of the commoner diseases, anarchy as a menace to human life ceases to appear a very serious matter.

Nevertheless, the alarm the propagande par le fait has excited is not to be wondered at. The dread of the dynamiter, like the savage’s dread of the railroad, is a dread of the mysterious and uncontrollable, superstitious perhaps, but which no amount of civilisation can entirely eradicate from the human mind. Lightning, which also does relatively little damage, is feared, and will probably continue to be feared so long as there is no forecasting where it will strike.

In the case of the new dynamite propaganda the unknown 118 quantities were, in the beginning at least, so numerous as to be bewildering; and several of them still remain uneliminated. Much more is now known about anarchist doctrines, about the nature and power of dynamite, and the other fabulously destructive modern explosives, and a little more about the characters of the persons who employ these explosives. But the dynamiter’s seeming illogicality in the choice of his victims and his actual inability—comparable only to a woman’s proverbial awkwardness in throwing a stone—to attain the victims he has chosen, while he does attain others, are as pronounced as ever.

When throwers of bombs massacre persons they would not have harmed for the world, and when bombs are found in such diverse spots as cafés, restaurants, hotels, churches, soldiers’ recruiting offices and barracks, police stations, bazaars, private dwellings, public markets, stock exchanges, employment bureaus, and old people’s homes, who, indeed, can boast of his security? In the course of the years 1891-95 the fear of the dynamiters assumed such proportions as to amount almost to a panic, and this period is still referred to as “The Terror” in certain quarters.

Ah, ah! c’est pas un’ crac La dynamit’ nous fich’ l’ trac,

sang the clever Montmartrois chansonnier Eugène Lemercier in a witty topical song, Le Trac de la Dynamite, which had an enormous vogue.

At that time irresponsible rumour attributed to the camarades, to the “catastrophards,” such fell and fantastic schemes for the annihilation of the old society as the dispersion of malignant microbes, the poisoning of the water supply, and the introduction of nitro-glycerine into reservoirs, conduits, and sewers. There were frequent thefts of dynamite, the authors of which remained for some time at large. An anarchist cocher (probably demented) rode down pedestrians in pursuance of a vow he had made to exterminate the bourgeois. Public alarm was aggravated by the professional imaginings of the reporters and the police. It was 119 wantonly played upon by the estampeurs (blackmailers and swindlers vaguely affiliated with “the groups”), who coined money by selling to a willingly gullible press bogus tips of conspiracies and contemplated explosions,—notably the mining of the Opéra, the Palais de Justice, and the Presidential Tribune at Longchamp, and the assassination of Leo XIII.,—and by fumistes (practical jokers), who perpetrated sardonic jokes with sand, iron filings, and sardine boxes, which were taken to the municipal laboratories29 with the same infinite precautions as the real bombs in the ominous-looking vehicle presided over by the cocher “Ramasse” and drawn by the horse “Dynamite.”

During “The Terror” landlords begged or ordered magistrate tenants to quit their premises, lest they draw down bombs as trees draw down the thunderbolts, and added to their “To Let” notices these reassuring words, “Il n’y a pas de Magistrat dans la Maison”; the neighbours of judges compromised by the anarchist trials hastily moved into other parts of the city and even into the country; rag-pickers and concièrges fainted or had hysterics at the sight of sardine tins in the garbage boxes; concièrges quakingly told their heads before venturing to open the street doors for their own belated lodgers; anarchist tenants were as sedulously sought as magistrate lodgers were avoided, were loaded with soft words and favours, and implored not to worry themselves about their rent bills; and café and restaurant garçons vied with each other in flattering the caprices of their anarchist customers.

Flor O’Squarr tells of an anarchist, real or assumed, who, having regaled himself with a bountiful repast in a high-priced restaurant close by the Madeleine, called for the proprietor, and said:—

“I have had an excellent meal, and I haven’t a sou to pay for it. Arrest me, if you like; but I warn you that I am an anarchist, and that you expose yourself to the vengeance of my associates. 120 Choose!” The panic-stricken Boniface insisted on drinking the audacious fellow’s health in champagne, and, when visited the following day by the police, who had heard of the affair, refused to make complaint against the swindler or give information that might lead to his detection. “A charming person, very polite, very well bred, and not proud,” was all that could be got out of him.

Le vol” (theft) is another recognised form of the propagande par le fait.

“Are you cold,” says Charles Malato, “then enter the great bazaars which are crammed with unused garments, and take them; are you hungry, invade the meat-shops. Everything human industry produces belongs to you because you are men, and you are cravens if you do not take what you need.” Several international congresses have passed resolutions exhorting the hungry to take food wherever they can find it.

About this right of the individual to take for himself whatever is necessary to sustain his life, a right admitted theoretically, for the matter of that, by many who do not consider themselves revolutionists,—by popes, prelates, and theologians even, all the way from Saint Thomas to Manning and Parkhurst,—anarchists of all complexions agree absolutely. But over the right to steal in general there is as much dispute among them as there is over the right to kill. Some hold stealing meritorious, if the victims are properly chosen; others, if the profits are devoted scrupulously to the oral or written propaganda; others still, if they are turned over to the poor. Those who approve theft unreservedly are few indeed. Jean Grave admits that he is somewhat perplexed, but inclines to approve the open, defiant theft. He says:—

“Anarchy recognises in every individual from the moment he has seen the light of day the right to live. Individuals suffer from hunger by reason of a defective social organisation. And yet the planet has still, and will have for a long time, enough and more than enough to nourish the beings it carries. Every individual who finds himself reduced by the fault of society to 121 a want of bread has the right to rebel against society, to take food wherever it exists....



“Nevertheless, there is a thing that puzzles many of us; namely, the ignoble means it is necessary to employ, if one would steal, the perpetual deceit to throw the victim off his guard, the constant duplicity to capture his confidence....

“Every one acts as he understands, as he can. If his ways of proceeding are in contradiction with the established order of things, it is for him and the defenders of the code to have an explanation. But, when certain persons pretend to derive their way of living from a special order of ideas, when they seek to disguise with the cloak of the propagande deeds done for their own preservation, we have a right to say what we think.

“If, then, we place ourselves at the view-point of the right which the individual has to live, he may steal. It is his privilege, especially if society drives him to want by refusing him work. And I add that it would be very stupid of him to commit suicide when society has made him destitute. The right to the defence of one’s own existence being primordial, one must take where there is.

“But, if the act of stealing is to assume a character of revendication or of protest against the defective organisation of society, it must be performed openly, without any subterfuge.

“‘But,’ retort the defenders of le vol, ‘the individual who acts openly will deprive himself thus of the possibility of continuing. He will lose thereby his liberty, since he will be at once arrested, tried, and condemned.’

“Granted. But, if the individual who steals in the name of the right to revolt resorts to ruse, he does nothing more nor less than the first thief that comes along who steals to live without embarrassing himself with theories.

“It is with stealing as it is with the military service. There are persons who refuse to let themselves be enrolled, preferring to expatriate themselves. This way of proceeding has its little character of protestation. But alongside of these there are others who, by the simulation of an infirmity, by taking advantage of 122 an exemption or the utilisation of an efficacious protection, manage to evade military servitude. They are right, surely,—a thousand times right,—from their point of view. But, if they tell us that they have thereby performed acts of revolutionary propaganda, and contributed to demolish the régime, it would be easy to demonstrate that their claim is false....

“To resort to ruse, to dissimulate, in order to capture the confidence of the person one is planning to despoil, is, it must be confessed, an unwholesome and degrading line of conduct.”

Among the few Paris pilferers whose lives have distilled the odour of sanctity, who have taken on themselves to perpetuate the tradition of the magnanimous bandit, the philanthropic pirate, and the tender-hearted outlaw, to incarnate the paradox of the “bon voleur” (honest thief), the two most famous are Pini and Duval.

Clément Duval, who robbed and attempted to burn the mansion of Mlle. Madeleine Lemaire, was an iron worker of an independent spirit, who became so disgusted with the sufferings and humiliations of the labourer’s lot that he determined to make a dramatic protest. His previous record was absolutely clean, save for a petty theft from an employer when his compagne and children had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours; and he carried away from the Lemaire residence only a small part of the valuables at his disposal, which shows that gain was not his primary object. In his written defence, which the presiding judge, Berard des Glajeux, did not allow him to read, he dwelt at great length on the hardships of the working-woman. In fact, Duval was a feminist of the first water. Saint Clément Duval! Forget him not, feminists, when you make up your calendar of saints!

In the Revue Bleue, a publication which can hardly be accused of having a revolutionary bias, M. Paul Mimande wrote of Duval: “Well, to my thinking, this thief, this incendiary, is honnête.... I believe him incapable of robbing and killing to satisfy his cupidity. He worked for the collectivity alone. Duval has the serenity of the illuminé who suffers for a holy cause. He is logical 123 in submitting, without murmurs or protestations, to the hard rules of the bagne. Very sincerely, he refuses to find himself disgraced by the livery of the convict; and he shows it by his bearing and his talk. His conscience cries out to him that he has acted well. What does the rest matter!

“I had a long conversation with Clément Duval. I questioned him searchingly; and I discerned in his phrases, ardent, but hollow, a sort of atavic duplicate of the times of John Huss.”

Duval had neither instruction nor the gift of eloquence, and succeeded ill in explaining his theories to the jury of the Seine. Pini, on the other hand, who had been at great pains to educate himself, was an orator and philosopher as well as a student. His defence—less a defence of himself than of his theory of the right to steal (le droit au vol)—was as splendid a bit of impertinence as was ever delivered in a court-room.

Calmly, cynically, with a control of voice and charm of gesture that would have done credit to the most gifted advocate, he said (in part):—

“As to us anarchists, it is with the untroubled assurance of performing a duty that we make our attacks on property. We have two objects in view: first, to claim for ourselves the natural right to existence which you bourgeois concede to beasts and deny to men; second, to provide ourselves with the materials best suited for destroying your show, and, if it becomes necessary, you with it. This manner of reasoning makes your hair stand on end; but what would you have? This is the state of the case. The new times have come. There was a time when the starving wretch who appropriated a morsel of bread, and was arraigned before your plethoric persons therefor, admitted that he had committed a crime, craved pardon, and promised to perish of hunger (he and his family) rather than touch again the property of another. He was ashamed to show his face. To-day it is very different. Extremes meet; and man, after having sunk so low, is retrieving himself splendidly. Arraigned before you for having smashed the strong boxes of your compeers, he does not excuse his act, 124 but defends it, proves to you with pride that he has yielded to the natural need of retaking what had been previously stolen from him; he proves to you that his act is superior in morality to all your laws, flouts your mouthings and your authority, and in the very teeth of your accusations against him tells you that the real thieves, messieurs les juges! are you and your bourgeois band.

“This is precisely my case. Be assured I do not blush under your charges, and I experience a delicious pleasure in being called thief by you.”

Maître Labori’s eloquent pleading, though it did much to establish his reputation as an advocate, proved as vain in the case of this refractory prolétaire as it did later in the case of his bourgeois client, Dreyfus; and Pini was given twenty years of hard labour for his thieving and his impertinent impenitence.

Pini whose thefts were legion, Pini who in the guise of the son of an Italian cardinal paid reconnoitring visits to the archbishopric of Paris, and dreamed the colossal dream of rifling the Vatican, Pini, I say, never stole for himself nor for his friends, but only for the propaganda, for humanity. He was the altruistic thief of the century’s close par excellence. Every son of his thieving was devoted to the cause. He gave to street beggars freely, but always from his legitimate earnings, never from the proceeds of his expeditions, and never without reproaching them for stretching out their hands to beg when they might steal. “Sometimes, even in winter,” says one who claims to have known him well, “Pini, half-clothed and almost barefoot, traversed Paris to carry assistance to the destitute compagnons. He distributed among them one franc or two francs out of his own pocket; but he did not encroach upon the capital of two or three hundred louis which had resulted from his last exploit. He subsidised several French and Italian presses for the printing of journals, manifests, and placards. The stolen money belonged to the cause, to the idea, to the future.”

When he gave of his consecrated hoard to individuals, as he sometimes did, it was always because the propaganda was directly 125 involved. Thus he supported for two years at the University of Milan the son of an imprisoned camarade, and aided many of the camarades who were in prison or who had been obliged to flee to escape imprisonment. He was blamed by some of his associates for having invested a sum of stolen money in an industrial enterprise. The blame was just from the anarchist point of view; and yet, even in this case, the profits were plainly destined in advance for the propaganda.

Within the last two or three years the treasures of the churches have been the greatest sufferers from the pilferers on principle, who have been inflamed by the anti-clerical campaign of the Combes ministry.

As anarchist killings have been very little formidable, viewed in the large, so the aggregate of the anarchist stealings is, in social or criminal statistics, a negligible quantity. These stealings have not brought expropriation appreciably nearer, and have only served the anarchist cause, if they have served it at all, by keeping before the public mind the fact that the anarchist theory is as much opposed to property as it is to government.

The majority of the thieves who call themselves anarchists in court are thieves first and anarchists afterwards,—eleventh-hour converts, who, having fallen on the misfortune of detection, essay to play anarchist rôles, prompted thereto by a sense of humour, a hope of securing the sympathy and support of the camarades, or a yearning for the homage of the “petit peuple de Paris”, who, as Marcel Prévost has pointed out, “adore all revolutionists.”

One other form of propaganda par le fait remains to be mentioned; namely, counterfeiting. But anarchist counterfeiting has not been advocated, it seems, by the accredited anarchist theoricians, and has not been provided with a romantic halo by any master practitioner, like Pini; in short, has not attained the dignity of a public peril, and calls for no extended notice here. The greater part of the so-called anarchist counterfeiters are common criminals or vulgar charlatans with whom anarchy is a mercenary after-thought, or they are simple police spies.


The most picturesque of the real anarchist counterfeiters who have passed through the judicial mill is the Lyonnais poète-chansonnier known as “L’Abruti.”

L’Abruti” (“The Imbruted”), the uncomplimentary name, intended as a fling against society, is of his own choosing, tormented by that craving for the great road, for space and liberty which has been the blessing and the curse of the best and the worst of men since time was,—from Abraham, Homer, Cain, Esau, and John the Baptist to Morrow, Salsou,30 Ravachol, Richepin, and Josiah Flynt; L’Abruti swore off working for the detested bourgeois one fine day, and, shouldering a little pack in which he had stowed a stew-pan, a coffee-pot, a set of mysterious steel implements, and some scraps of writing-paper, set out from Lyons in true troubadour or, to be more accurate, in true trimardeur style, to make his tour of France.

Sauntering out of the sunrise in the morning, between hedge-rows traceried with the fragrant eglantine, free of fancy and free of limb; ruminating the “heureux temps d’anarchie” prophesied by the poète-camarade Laurent Tailhade, “temps où la plèbe baiserait la trace des pas des poètes”; casting about for couplets with a mind attuned to Verlaine’s poetic precept,—

Que ton vers soit la bonne aventure Eparse au vent crispé du matin Qui va fleurant la menthe et le thym”;

exploring the motionless blue and the scudding white of the sky for a fresh image; exchanging good words and snuff-pinches with passing rustics and smiles and badinage with the rustics’ wives and daughters; halting now and again to quaff from a wayside spring, to catch a thrush’s liquid note, a magpie’s gibe, or a linnet’s whistle, to unshoulder his pack, and, using it as an escritoire, to fix on paper a just-discovered rhyme, or, using it as a pillow, to enjoy the discreet fellowship of a pipe and out of its curling smoke-fantasies fashion Utopias; beguiling the hours of the short shadows with alternate scribblings and siestas; and 127 sauntering into the sunset when the long shadows came,—L’Abruti passed the days.

He dined and supped by the roadside under spicy limes or voluptuous acacias, lavishing his omelettes, his coffee, and his chansons on all chance passers-by.

With his mysterious implements and the aid of flame, in some dusky forest thicket where a witch might weave a spell, he fabricated the wherewithal to buy his eggs and coffee; and he passed the nights, according to the weather, under the stars or in some hospitable grange.

The idyl was rudely interrupted—a fig for civilisation!—by the Philistine-minded gendarmes. L’Abruti was tried, and condemned to prison, though he had never gone beyond the fabrication of the ten-cent piece, instead of being decorated, as certain bourgeois are who deserve no better of society, and counterfeit talent instead of dimes.

Served him right, perhaps, for violating his country’s laws! Served him right, unquestionably,—delicious, whimsical minstrel that he was,—for departing from the good old begging tradition!

It seems a pity, all the same. He was such a jolly good fellow.




“He [Souvarine] was going out into the unknown. He was going, with his tranquil air, to his mission of extermination wherever dynamite could be found to destroy cities and men. It will be he, no doubt, when the expiring bourgeoisie shall hear the street pavements exploding under every one of its steps.”—Emile Zola, in Germinal.


Chapter VI



For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Jesus Christ.

“As soon as an intelligent workingman says, ‘I ought to earn so much,’ he is denounced as a leader of a band, and is discharged.

J.-H. Rosny, in Le Bilatéral.

On the pavement in mid December—a mother with her two months’ child still at the breast!
But this is forcing her to beg, it is condemning the children to death. And I am well, and I am strong, and I am courageous; and they refuse me work. Ah! I am under the ban of society.

Journal d’un Anarchiste (Augustin Léger).

You, Meyrargues, will speak, others will act. But let it be understood that this blood [Vaillant] calls for blood.
They were silent, reconciled, baptized in the fluid of this death. A state of heroic grace possessed them, effaced their differences, their quarrels, and their gibes.”—Victor Barrucand, in Avec le Feu.

John Brown’s body lies mouldering in the grave, His soul goes marching on. American Popular Song.


A study of the various manifestations in France of the propagande par le fait shows that the greater part of the overt anarchist acts, whether counterfeitings, stealings, or killings, have proceeded from a more or less well-grounded desire for personal or party vengeance; they have been committed by persons who have either suffered unjustly themselves at the hands of government or society or have lived very close to those who have so suffered.

The sensational killing of the assistant superintendent, Watrin,31 by the striking miners of Decazeville (1886) was a horrible crime or a wholesome act of popular justice, according to the point of view. The fury of the mob is explained, if not excused, by the fact that this Watrin was allowed a premium of five per cent. upon every reduction of wages he was able to accomplish, coupled with the other fact that his brutal and insatiate rapacity had forced wages down thirty per cent. in eight years.

The anarchist house-breaker, Clément Duval, had been seriously handicapped in the struggle for existence. In the Franco-Prussian war he had received two wounds which had rendered him permanently unfit for his trade of iron worker, and had contracted a disease which had forced him to spend nearly four years out of ten in various hospitals. He had experienced real want in the course of his many periods of enforced idleness.

Pini had suffered much at the hands of society and the state. Many a time, when out of work, he had been glad to sleep on straw, at two cents a night, in the faubourg of La Glacière. His autobiography, which he wrote in jail, while awaiting his trial, is, like every formal utterance Pini ever made, exceedingly illuminating. Of his early life he says:—


“Son of a poor pariah, I began my career surrounded with the luxuries which the bourgeoisie heaps upon us from our very cradles. I saw six of my brothers die of want. One of my sisters wore herself out in the service of a stingy family of bourgeois.

“My old father (an ancient Garibaldian), after a painful existence, in which he had given to the bourgeoisie sixty years of his sweat and enriched a good number of employers, died like a dog in a charity hospital.

“I passed my childhood in a charity asylum; and, my primary studies finished, I was forced at the age of twelve years to go to work in a printing-office, where I earned just one franc a week.”

Driven from Italy in his young manhood for his connection with the leaders of the “Workingman’s Party,”32 he took refuge in Switzerland, and after a few months came to Paris.

His disillusion in regard to Paris is highly significant. He had dreamed of finding there democracy, and found flagrant inequality instead.

He was successively chimney-sweep, bricklayer, groom, coal-heaver, sawyer, clerk, and street-hawker. His tribute to the Paris workingmen, with whom he was thus intimately thrown, is especially fine:—

“They were mostly illiterate, but reasoned better than I. They had studied the great, practical book of suffering, the pages of which are printed in characters of blood and tears. It was these poor pariahs who initiated me into the great anarchistic ideal, and who, out of the midst of their misery, expounded to me how society could be tranquil and happy under the régime of essential justice.

“How noble they appeared to me, these men whom the bourgeois loaded with insults after having sucked their blood!

“The Paroles d’un Révolté of Kropotkine made a fervent anarchist of me, and it was only then that I began to perceive men and things in their true light.”


The outrages inflicted by the Clichy police on Dardare, Decamp, and Léveillé, who had defended their right to carry the black flag, revolvers in hand, and the cavalier treatment of these same men by the personages of the court before which they were summoned, were the probable provocations for the unsuccessful attempt,33 of which Ravachol was suspected to be the author, on the Clichy station-house and for the explosions of the rue de Clichy and the Boulevard St. Germain for which he was condemned.

“Manacled and bleeding,” wrote Zo d’Axa at the time in L’Endehors, “the three men were landed in the station-house. Their respite was not long. The officers were not slow to pay the prisoners a visit, and this is what they brought with them: kicks for shin-bones, pummellings for panting chests, blows of revolver butts for aching heads. It was the dance of the vanquished. They mauled the poor fellows with inexorable malice and ignoble ingenuity. The police band tortured with ferocious joy.

“When they stopped, it was from weariness and only to reopen the séance half an hour later. So passed the day of the arrest and other subsequent days.

“Their eyes blackened, their heads swollen and unrecognisable, their bodies bruised, their spirits broken, the poor fellows had no more force to resist. They remained inert under poundings as under the lash of insult. Their wounds festered, and they were refused water to wash the sores. A month after the arrest the bullet that might have given him gangrene had not been extracted from the leg of Léveillé.”

Some allowance should be made in the above account for the evident partisan spirit of Zo d’Axa. But there is plenty of unbiased evidence to demonstrate the culpability of the police in this affair and to explain the epidemic of overt acts that came after it.

Rulliers and Pedduzi, who attempted (the latter with success) to kill their employers, had both had their work taken away because of their anarchist belief.


Ravachol had been driven from workshop after workshop for his opinions. In his defence, which the presiding judge, Darrigrand, refused to allow him to read, he said:—

“I worked to live and to make a living for those who belonged to me. So long as neither I nor mine suffered too much, I remained what you call honest. Then work failed me, and with this enforced idleness came hunger. It was then that this great law of nature, this imperious voice which brooks no retort,—the instinct of self-preservation,—pushed me to commit certain crimes and misdemeanours for which you reproach me and of which I recognise myself to be the author.”

The explosion at the Véry restaurant was in retaliation for the delivery of Ravachol to the police by the garçon L’Hérot.

Lorion, who fired on and wounded gendarmes to prove he was calumniated in being treated by the socialists as a police spy, had been detained for five years in the House of Correction for having insulted the police at the age of thirteen.

President Carnot signed his own death warrant in refusing to commute the sentence of Vaillant, who was condemned to the guillotine for throwing a bomb which neither killed nor seriously wounded anybody.

“Whether he admits it or not,” wrote Henri Rochefort, prophetically at the time, “M. Carnot will remain the veritable executioner of Vaillant

Qu’il aura de ses mains lié sur la bascule.

“And, as he will be the only one to benefit by his decision, the least that can be asked for is that he assume all the risks.”

The exasperation produced by the execution of Vaillant was aggravated by the indelicacy—unpardonable from the Parisian point of view—of holding the execution during the Carnival, and by the atrocious pleasantry of the Minister of the Interior, Raynal, who said, “J’ai donné des étrennes aux honnêtes gens.

Georges Etievant, who wounded two policemen, had had his life rendered absolutely impossible by the persecution of the 135 police. Implicated by them in a theft of dynamite in 1891, he is said, on good authority, to have served his time rather than denounce the real culprit, who was a father of a family. Banished for the first article he wrote after his release, he tried to SALSOU SALSOU practise sculpture in London, but was prevented by the machinations of the French secret police, who made him lose all his work. He was a starving, shelterless outcast at the moment of his crime.

Salsou, who attempted the life of the Persian shah during the Exposition of 1900, had lost work by reason of his opinions earlier in life. Furthermore, he had been arrested for vagabondage at Fontainebleau while making his way from Lyons to Paris on foot in 1894, and, this charge of vagabondage being groundless, had been condemned to three months of prison for vaunting his anarchist belief, on the dubious testimony of a police spy, who had been put into the same cell with him for the express purpose of “drawing him out.”

Finally, the condemnation of Salsou to hard labour for life, in punishment of a relatively insignificant attempt by which no one was hurt, was based on diplomatic rather than judicial reasoning. He died soon after his arrival at Cayenne, in consequence, probably, of the hardships to which he was subjected. His body was thrown to the sharks in the presence of a number of functionaries, who amused themselves by taking photographs of the fight for its possession. Certain of the prisoners, who were witnesses of this revolting scene, have taken a solemn oath to avenge it.

It looks very much as if the high-handed suppression of free speech in France during the early eighties had been largely instrumental 136 in producing the numerous overt anarchist acts during the nineties, and as if the continued policy of the authorities in “making examples” by an overstraining of the law had inspired other anarchists to follow the examples of those who were made examples of.

“The anarchists,” says Jean Grave, very justly, “suffer governmental persecutions, not only when they revolt, which is quite comprehensible, but even when they content themselves with a peaceable propagation of their way of understanding things, and that notwithstanding the fact that at the present time the majority of the governors pretend to have granted the greatest political liberty.... The police have been ferocious, pitiless, towards the workers. They have hunted the anarchists like wild beasts. For a word a bit strong, for an article a trifle more violent than usual, years of prison have fallen on them.... Treated like wild beasts, certain ones act like wild beasts.... ‘Who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind.’”

In 1882 sixty-six anarchists were tried at Lyons, and sixty-one convicted (fifteen for contumacy), among them Kropotkine and the scientist Emile Gauthier. The unjust condemnation of Emile Pouget and Louise Michel, referred to in a previous chapter, came soon after.

“Cyvoct was sentenced to death34 at Lyons,” says the Chronology of the Père Peinard, under the date December 11, 1883, “for the crime of having been managing editor of an anarchist journal at the moment when an unknown person placed a bomb in a dive where the swells amused themselves.”

It could not be better put. Cyvoct was in Switzerland at the time of the explosion, and could not by any possibility have been the author of it. He was not even the writer of the article which was held by the court to have provoked the attempt.

The next year Gueslaff was condemned to ten years of hard labour for an attempt at Montceau-les-Mines, which he made at the instigation and under the direction of a police agent.


Three years later—to pass rapidly on—anarchists were sentenced for revolutionary speeches at Laon. In 1890 Merlino, Malato, and Louise Michel were incarcerated on the same charge. There was an indiscriminate and purely preventive ingathering (rafle) of anarchists the 22d of April, 1892, in prevision of the trial of Ravachol and the dreaded demonstration of May 1, and another rafle, also indiscriminate and purely preventive, on the New Year’s Day preceding the execution of Vaillant,—a measure which wrought untold injury—could governmental malice or stupidity go farther?—to anarchist workingmen, and brought untold suffering on their families, from the fact that it coincided with the moment for the payment of the January rent (terme).35 It was of the former rafle, in which he was included, that the littérateur Zo d’Axa, in his piquant De Mazas à Jérusalem, wrote:—

“The police drag-net trick of this month of April, ‘92, will become historic.

“It is the first in date among the most cynical assaults of modern times upon liberty of thought.

“The true inwardness of the affair is now known.

“The government wished to profit by the emotion caused by the explosions of the Caserne Loban and the rue de Clichy to encircle in a gigantic trial of tendency the militant revolutionists. The ministry and its docile agents pretended to believe that certain opinions constituted complicity. The writer, explaining how the disinherited gravitate inevitably towards theft, became, by the simple fact of this explanation, a thief himself. The thinker, studying the wherefore of the propagande par le fait, became the secret associate of the lighters of tragic fuses. The philosopher had no right to counsel indulgence and to view without giddiness the facts.

“Society must rid itself of those of its members who are so corrupt as to desire it better....

“Evidently, the impartiality of the judges was not to be counted 138 on. The word of command had been passed along. It would be useless to prove that not only we were not cut-purses nor cut-throats, but that no organisation existed among us, even from the political point of view. The tribunals would sentence us with the same unconcern.

“A single point was doubtful. For the success of the manœuvre it was indispensable that the other countries prosecute their refractory citizens in the same fashion.

“Well, what the French Republic had premeditated, Holland, England, and even Germany had the decency to be unwilling to undertake. The venerable monarchies did not yield to the solicitations of the young republic, which dreamed of reconstituting in an inverse sense the Internationale. There were parleyings to this end, but they came to nothing. The hunt of the free man was not decreed by all Europe. Our fallen democracy realised from that moment that she could not do worse than the worst autocracies.... The order was given to set us at large.

“The politico-judiciary machination had miscarried. All it had been able to do was to hold us a month in jail, and gall our wrists slightly with the infamous irons....

“In making arbitrary arrests, our masters, for all their excitement, had no illusions. They knew very well that they would be forced, in the end, to restore to liberty men against whom not a single specific fact could be adduced; but they said to themselves this, ‘Mazas will calm them!’ Now Mazas calms nothing at all....

“It is just the opposite that happens. Deranged in their habits, perturbed in their affairs, losing often their means of subsistence, those who are victims of the provocative raids go out of prison more rebellious than they entered it....

“The little ones are hungry in the house, the baker refuses credit, the landlord threatens eviction, the employer has given another the job.

“Rage mounts. It overflows. Some commit suicide by an overt act; and, surely, the least sturdy take a step forward. The 139 timid grow bold. In the solitude of the cell logical thought has gone back to causes, has deduced responsibilities.

“Ideas become clarified. The man who has been incarcerated for the platonic crime of subversive social love learns hatred.”

Among other questionable repressive measures may be mentioned the famous “trial of the thirty” (procès des trente), embracing several of the theoricians, dilettanti, and littérateurs which resulted, necessarily, in acquittal, but which left much bad feeling behind; the “trial of the forty” (procès des quarante); the condemnation of Zo d’Axa and his managing editor, Matha, to eighteen months of prison and a 3,000-franc fine; the expulsion of the littérateur Alexandre Cohen and the art critic Félix Fénéon; in the winter of 1900-01—to pass over the intervening period—a long-drawn-out series of wholesale rafles made, nominally, to suppress the bands of thieves and thugs who had grown numerous and insolent during the comparative immunity of the preceding summer, in reality quite as much to enable the police to locate anew the camarades of whom they had lost track during their preoccupation with the Exposition; countless perquisitions and preventive arrests throughout the length and breadth of France just before the last visit of the czar; and in the spring of 1904 the turning over of Russian refugees to the Russian police,—so many arbitrary and oppressive acts which will bear, if they have not already borne, their inevitable fruit of hatred and revolt.

For these superfluous persecutions of the anarchists it is sometimes the police and sometimes the ministry that is responsible; which it is not always easy to determine, owing to the close connection between the French national and the Paris municipal governments.

If it has never been conclusively proved that a ministry has gone to the extent of organising riotings36 and bogus anarchist attempts (as capitalists have been known to organise strike violence) in 140 order to maintain itself in power, to further a domestic project, bolster up a foreign policy, or win in advance the moral support of the community for a contemplated rigorous suppression of free assembling and free speech, there have been times, as is more than hinted at in Zola’s Paris, when a ministry has been publicly accused and currently believed to have done these things.

According to M. Rochefort, who makes a specialty of launching sensational hypotheses,37 the attempts of Vaillant and Salsou38 (by which practically no damage was done) were prepared by the police, acting under government orders. These charges are not to be taken more seriously, of course, than others from the same charlatanical source. They are, perhaps, their own best refutation. On the other hand, it has been proved over and over again that not only cabinet ministers, but politicians in general, as well as financiers and journalists,—all those, in a word, who “fish in troubled waters,”—sometimes act in collusion with the police in turning street disturbances, even at the risk of bloodshed, to their own selfish or partisan advantage.

Furthermore, as if it were not enough to be able to repose on laws of exception that belong logically to the worst monarchies, the government has an unfortunate way of straining legality, ever and anon, even to the breaking point.

Such governmental acts as the transference of papers taken from nihilist refugees in Paris (1890) to the Russian authorities in order to enable the Russian police to arrest nihilists living in Russia; the prohibition of the holding of the International Labour Congress (1900), which it would have been so easy to suppress at the first really incendiary utterance; the extradition of the boy Sipido (the would-be assassin of the then Prince of Wales), a proceeding of such doubtful legality that the ministry responsible for it was censured by a vote of 306 to 206 in the Chamber; 141 the invasion of the Bourse de Travail (1903) by the police, an act which Premier Combes himself was obliged to denounce in the Chamber; and the refusal of the Minister of Justice (1904) to rehabilitate Cyvoct, who adduced overwhelming proofs of his innocence;—all these are fair samples of the far from edifying means the authorities are constantly employing to secure respect for the law.

It is not to be expected that the servant will be more scrupulous than the master, and we long ago became accustomed to the idea that it takes a knave to catch a knave. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to experience a sensation of disgust at the vileness of some of the methods to which the police descend whenever anarchists are concerned.

The police chieftains exaggerate (if they do not deliberately aggravate) the gravity of the public peril (as a wily physician might exaggerate the gravity of an illness) in order to win from their ministers the praise and gratitude which mean for them enlarged brigades, increase of secret funds, and individual promotion.

The rank and file of the police, feeling a similar necessity of making a good showing with their immediate superiors, entrap anarchists into street disturbances or violations of the common law, and fabricate, with the aid of false witnesses, fictitious crimes for the suspects on their lists who are not obliging enough to make incendiary speeches or commit violence. They invade the privacy of their homes on the flimsiest pretexts; slander them to their compagnes, their neighbours, and their friends; poison the minds of their concièrges, their landlords, and their employers against them; in short, they render their lives generally unlivable by mean and meddling tricks.

This is no imaginative sketch,—so far from it that, if the police should take it into their heads, during one of the anarchist flurries which occur periodically, to make a descent upon the lodgings of the writer, who is anything but an anarchist, he would probably be imprisoned (or, at least, confined preventively) for the sole offence of having in his possession the numerous red-covered 142 volumes, brochures, caricatures, placards, and chansons which he has found it necessary to collect in the preparation of this book. If he were a Frenchman, he would certainly have much difficulty in avoiding temporary confinement under such circumstances. Being an American, he might escape with being courteously, but strenuously, requested to cross the border.

This elaborate spy system, this shrewdness, chicanery, and, not to mince words, villany on the part of the police, is, after all, more or less futile. It serves no great purpose in the suppression of the propagande par le fait.

It is well enough for a police prefect to boast publicly, as did M. Andrieux, back in the eighties, of the ease with which he penetrates the meetings of the groups, and recruits spies among the camarades,39 and to shake his sides over the fine trick he plays on the camarades in conducting a journal40 for them with funds provided by the state.

Such boasting and such self-gratulatory chuckling are well enough in their way; but they are rather idle in view of the looseness of organisation of the groups, which any one, if he dissemble ever so little, may frequent, and the insignificance and unreliability of the information obtained from such easily recruited spies. Besides, there is a class of anarchists who become police spies, nominally, for the express purpose of leading the police astray by false information. Controlling one journal is not controlling all, and a controlled journal is not less a propagandist force because the public money goes (however secretly) to the making of it. M. Andrieux’s La Révolution Sociale not only preached anarchy, but preached it (here the police short-sightedness appears) very effectively. It converted some of those who have since become the most feared of militant propagandists, and goaded certain of the previously converted into action.

Overt acts are seldom, if ever, arranged in the groups. Vaillant 143 did not breathe a word of his projected attempt against the Chamber of Deputies to his group of Choisy-le-Roi. It is the exception rather than the rule when a really dangerous character is an assiduous frequenter of the groups; and, if he is, he does not often take the group members into his confidence. The “conspiracy” which is bruited about at every fresh anarchist attempt is rarely proved in France, for the very good reason that in France it rarely exists outside of the excited imagination of the frightened public and the professional suspiciousness of the detective and judge. “Why will they prate of plots?” says Zo d’Axa. “There is something better. There is an idea which is alive and stirs, and which is making its way on every hand.”

It is well enough, again, for the anthropometric expert, M. Bertillon (since it seems to amuse him), to enrich his criminal museum with photographs, relics, and statistics of the militant and non-militant anarchists who are brought his way by the police rafles; but what, after all, does it profit him to know the “bigness of the skull, the standing height, the sitting height, the size of the right ear and the left foot,” so that “he has no instrument to register,” to borrow Zo d’Axa’s pregnant phrase, “the significance of a shoulder-shrug”?

The police may plume themselves on knowing the anarchists’ resorts, faces, and aliases, and their tricks of cipher and invisible ink. But this police knowledge of the anarchists is offset by the anarchists’ knowledge of the police.41 It is diamond cut diamond in this respect.

In 1901 a café garçon, acting on a wager, mounted the step of President Loubet’s state carriage, and dropped in the president’s lap a mysterious bundle which contained a photograph of the garçon’s little daughter. The bundle might as easily have contained a bomb, and all Paris shuddered.

After the great rafle of April, 1892, this same M. Loubet (then 144 a minister), relying on the assurance of the police, proclaimed to the bourgeoisie that they might sleep in peace for a time, since all the dangerous anarchists were under lock and key. Four days later the Véry restaurant was dynamited precisely as it had been predicted that it would be, whence arose, as the Père Peinard exultantly and maliciously remarked at the time, “a new and capital word, Véryfication.”

Somebody’s shoulder-shrug had not been taken account of.

The police expert knowledge of the anarchists, much as it is vaunted, has not sufficed to prevent numerous overt anarchist acts in the immediate past; and there is little reason to believe it can prevent the next overt act to which a resolute man may make up his mind.

In carefully guarding dynamite from theft, the French police have rendered a real service to the public safety. But until the revolver and the poniard, which are surer than dynamite of their chosen victims, can be submitted to a similar control, the greatest service the police can render against the propagande par le fait would seem to be the purely negative one of not exasperating anarchists indiscriminately and unnecessarily, and of not brutally crowding them to the wall.

The injustice of courts, the deceitfulness of ministries, the corruption of parliament, and the unscrupulousness of the police, as well as the inequalities of society, are important factors in the formation of the “catastrophards,” or propagandists par le fait. But they all become insignificant before the passion for martyrdom, which has always, in some form or other, possessed a minority of the human race.

The French propagandists par le fait, from Ravachol to Baumann,42 may have grievously deluded themselves; but they have unquestionably believed themselves to be apostles honoured in being set apart for martyrdom.

The stigmata are many and unmistakable. They have had the singleness of purpose and the merciless logic of zealots. They 145 have preached in season and out of season,43 before judges, in prisons, and at the guillotine. They have consecrated the time allotted for their own defence to the defence of anarchist tenets, have accepted advocates under protest, and have refused to sign requests for the commutation of their sentences. They have borne the odium of deeds of which they were not guilty, because they thereby secured a pulpit for their preaching, and left the real authors free to operate. They have held it sweet to die for the faith. They have displayed, in the awful presence of the knife, the trance-like ecstasy of the illuminate.

In Part I. of his powerful two-part drama, Au-dessus des Forces Humaines, the hero of which is a dynamiter, the great-minded Norseman, Björnson, has emphasised this fact, that it is among the propagandists par le fait of anarchy that we must look for the modern martyrs, for the men who witness their faith with their blood, who sacrifice themselves unreservedly for their fellow-men, who welcome death with smiles and outstretched arms because they are confident that their martyrdom will usher in the redemption of mankind.

Zola and a host of lesser literary lights have been emphasising the same fact in France.

“I know Vaillant,” says one of the characters of Victor Barrucand’s novel Avec le Feu. “He is afflicted with a hypertrophy of the sentiments. He believes in nature, in humanity, in justice. He hopes for the reign of the entities. He is the embodiment of disinterestedness. He wanted to act. Like a brave bull, he charged the imaginary obstacle.... He is sincere, he carries his faith like a torch, he would set the world on fire by way of persuasion.... He is generous, sanguine, sentimental,—the typical French revolutionist.”

And of Emile Henry, author of the explosion of the Café Terminus, Zo d’Axa writes:—

“I hear him still, little more than a child, but already grave, self-centred, and close-mouthed, sectarian even, as all those forcibly 146 become whose faith is troubled by no doubts, those who see—hypnotised, may I say?—the end, and then reason, judge, and decide with mathematical implacability. He believed firmly in the advent of a future society, logically constructed and harmoniously beautiful. What he reproached me for was not counting enough on the regeneration of the race, not referring everything to the ideal standard of anarchy. Apparent contradictions shocked his logical sense. He was astounded that any one who came to realise the baseness of an epoch could continue to take any pleasure therein.”

The ferociousness of the self-styled conservators, who made it their business to hang and burn witches, engendered the morbid exaltation that made inoffensive, impressionable people accuse themselves of being witches. The logical and inevitable counterpart of a Saul of Tarsus breathing threatenings and slaughter is a Stephen beholding the heavens opened. It has always been so, and probably always will be.

“The guillotine is the nimbus of the saints of this new religion,” writes Félix Dubois, a declared opponent of anarchy, in Le Péril Anarchiste; and this revised version of the venerable proverb, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” donne à penser. It makes one query whether the fanaticism of this latter-day sect has not been inflamed rather than allayed by every anarchist head that has fallen. Fancy the feelings of a fervent, conscientious anarchist assisting at the public decapitation of one of his coreligionists. Zola has described in unforgettable pages the entry of the contagion of martyrdom into the system of his sincere, learned, and great-souled anarchist character, Guillaume Froment, at the execution of Froment’s protégé:—

“Ah! the dumb stroke, the heavy shock of the knife! Guillaume heard it penetrate far into this quarter of want and work, heard it resound in the inmost recesses of the wretched lodgings, where, at this hour, thousands of workers were rising for the hard labour of the day. It took on there a formidable meaning. It told the exasperation of injustice, the madness of martyrdom, 147 the agonising hope that the blood shed would hasten the victory of the disinherited.”

So long as the guillotining of the anarchists is as dispassionate as that of other killers of their kind, the guillotined are exalted into martyrs by their coreligionists alone. But when, as in the case of Vaillant, who had destroyed no life, the evident purpose of the courts is to wreak vengeance, not to deal justice, and when legal forms are stretched, if not completely snapped, by the weight of popular prejudice and passion with its old, old cry of “Crucify, crucify!” then, not only the sectaries of anarchy, but revolutionists of every shade, and all those who, while not revolutionists, are not quite ready to subscribe to the formula that society, like the king, “can do no wrong,” are pained and shocked. These last add, unconsciously perhaps, several rays to the halos of martyrdom about the heads of the anarchist thus wronged; and the cause of a single tiny sect is confounded for the time being with the cause of the oppressed at large.

The apotheosis of Vaillant is one of the most significant phenomena of modern times. His fate was sincerely and widely deplored in literary and artistic circles and by reputable contributors (if not by editors) in even the capitalistic press.

The spontaneous public pilgrimage to his burial-place, the Champ de Navets, took the police so completely by surprise that they were not prepared to arrest it. A stone, inscribed “Labor improbus omnia vincit,” was hastily erected over his grave while its guardians were at breakfast.

Although it was midwinter, bunches of fresh flowers were fairly showered upon the mound. These and the wreaths of immortelles and artificial flowers, which the French so much affect as funeral tributes, were nearly all accompanied by striking legends. A significant one of these read: “Glory to thee who wast great. I am only a child, but I will avenge thee.” There was also a symbolic crown of thorns.

The scenes that were enacted over this anarchist grave were of a poignant, mystic, almost uncanny intensity.


An aged man raised a babe above the heads of the crowd, and said impressively, “Behold the tomb of the martyr!”

A labourer lifted his voice to utter five simple terrible words, “Vaillant, thou shalt be avenged.”

A blind man declaimed: “In its lethargy the people is like a person buried alive. It wakes sometimes in the night of the tomb, and convulsively strains to break the planks of its coffin. From the depths of darkness I have heard thy cry of rage and of despair, O Vaillant! Thou hast threatened the powerful, those who live on the people and serve them not. Thy arm was raised, but thou wast thine only victim; and now earth fills thy mouth. Alas!”

A poet recited,—

Un ciel boueux taché de sang, c’était l’aurore, La vieille aurore avec ses roses de festin, Qui se levait honteuse à l’appel du destin Pour éclairer des yeux que la mort allait clore.

Another poet intoned,—

Que ton souffle se mêle à la création, Que la rosée de ton sacrifice mouille nos âmes stériles, Que ton exemple unique soit comme l’eau d’un seule nuage Qui fait germer toutes les plantes dans la forêt!

A ragged snail-gatherer led the crowd to the spot (a hollow against the wall) where a basket of the clotted blood that had flowed from the severed head had been hidden. Men, women, and children knotted lumps of the ensanguined sawdust in their handkerchiefs and besmeared their hands.

A fierce handbill, “A Carnot le Tueur,” was distributed broadcast. Two red flags were planted on the grave, and a black flag was unfurled, bearing the inscription, “Vive la Mort!

On every anniversary of Vaillant’s death, unless the police interfere, similar scenes are enacted in the Champ de Navets; and in these weird, commemorative rites the dead man’s little 149 daughter, Sidonie, who was adopted by the camarades, plays a spectacular part.



The anniversary of the death of Ravachol is celebrated by a pilgrimage of the faithful to the tomb of Diderot, who is regarded as a precursor of anarchism (Montbrison, where Ravachol is buried, being too far away for Parisians); and every anniversary of the deaths of those who have died for the cause and every funeral of a camarade is made a pretext for keeping alive the morbid cult. But the great saint day of the French anarchist calendar is the 11th of November, the anniversary of the anarchist executions at Chicago.

All anarchistic (one might almost say all revolutionary) Europe honestly believes—whether rightly or wrongly history has yet, perhaps, to decide—that the Chicago hanging was as flagrant a violation of human rights, and the preceding trial as disgraceful a travesty of justice, as the worst absolute monarchy has ever had the audacity to perpetrate. Whatever the influence of this dramatic execution may have been in America, it was highly inflammatory in Europe. Under a practically free immigration system, America will be indeed fortunate if she does not, sooner or later, import long-stored-up rancour, originating from this event.

In the rest of Europe, as in France; in Russia, Germany, and Austria, in Italy and Spain, the violent anarchist acts of the last twenty-five years have been, broadly speaking, so many reprisals for real or fancied injuries suffered at the hands of government or society.

It is as nearly proved as a thing that is not susceptible of mathematical proof well can be that the almost complete immunity of England from anarchist violence (the Fenian attempts can hardly be so classed) has been due, in part at least, to the relative liberty of speech, press, and assemblage she has accorded,—accorded with an almost heroic consistency, in view of the pressure European governments have brought to bear upon her to change her policy. And it is surely something other than mere chance 150 that so large a proportion of the propagandists par le fait hail from Italy. The unconcerned fashion in which the Italian peasants and labourers—at Milan, at Carrara, in Sicily—have been given cold lead when they have had the effrontery to ask for bread, and the mediæval tortures, a hundred times worse than death, inflicted on Passanante44 and his successors, under the hypocritical guise of clemency and humanity, have acted naturally enough as provocations toward anarchism rather than restraints against it.

The following account of the fate which awaited Bresci appeared in the Paris Matin immediately after his condemnation had been pronounced:—

“The penalty of imprisonment for life which has fallen upon Bresci is very rigorous, and will be aggravated by solitary confinement day and night.

“The condemned man will probably be taken to the bagne of St. Etienne, where he will be clothed in the black and yellow striped prison uniform. During the first years he will occupy a cell two and a half metres long and one metre wide, which has never more than a half-light. Later he will be transferred to a cell a little larger and fully lighted. A table, slightly inclined, half a metre wide, will serve him for bed and furniture. His food will be bread and water once a day only. The jailers will hand it in to him through a hole covered with coloured glass, which permits them to see the prisoner without being seen by him.

“The days must pass in absolute silence. The punishments which threaten the prisoner who does not submit to this terrible régime are: I. The “strait-jacket” (chemise de force). II. Irons which bind the hands to the feet, holding the body bent forward. III. The lit de force, a wooden box exactly like a coffin, pierced at the lower end with two holes for the feet. The legs cannot be moved, and the arms are held motionless by the chemise de force.

“After ten years of this régime the prisoner is allowed to work during the day; but at night he returns to isolation and silence. 151 Neither visits nor letters—nothing—can penetrate this tomb till the day when death or madness comes to deliver him who inhabits it.”

The above is given for what it is worth without a guarantee of the strict accuracy of every detail. But the Matin is not a revolutionary sheet, and would seem to have no good reason for misrepresentation. If only one-half of what it reveals is true, the crime of the Italian government will seem to many more heinous than the worst thing the anarchists have ever done or been accused of doing. No wonder Bresci contrived to put himself out of the way before a year had elapsed, and little wonder that the friends of Bresci have threatened reprisals.

The folly of taking official cognisance of the expression of incendiary views was signally demonstrated at the time of the last visit of the czar to France, when the poet Laurent Tailhade was sentenced to a year of prison and a 1,000-franc fine for a prose-poem glorifying regicide, published in Le Libertaire. This article would have been seen, had the authorities but had the tact to ignore it, only by the few regular readers of Le Libertaire, and would have been read through, it is safe to say, only by a small and unexcitable minority of these; for M. Tailhade is characterised by a style that is incomprehensible, save to the lettrés. But the author must needs be haled into court;45 and, presto! Paris and the provinces are in an uproar. Well-known literary and artistic personalities—Zola, Gustave Kahn, Frantz Jourdain, E. Ledrain, and Jean Marestan among them—testify for their brother craftsman in person, and Mirbeau, De Hérédia, and Anatole France by letter. The auditors applaud the culprit’s utterances, bear him away, after the announcement of the verdict, in triumph, and hold banquets in his honour. The dangerous article, or at least its incriminated passages, and the proceedings of the court are published, in spite of the fact that such publication is expressly forbidden by law, throughout the length and 152 breadth of France; and all the papers teem with chroniques, leading articles, and skits upon Tailhade or anarchism. Indignation meetings are held in every corner of Paris, and resolutions of protest are passed by socialists, free thinkers, and simple republicans, and even by Masonic lodges.

The obscure Libertaire is given an enormous quantity of free advertising, the anarchist propaganda is carried on by its enemies, and a martyr is made of a man with no special vocation for martyrdom. To be sure, the offender is in durance for a twelve-month, but he is not silent; and nobody is deterred from following his example. A clearer instance of making a mountain out of a molehill it would be hard to find.



Chapter VII



Give the devil his due.”—Popular proverb.

He rose at five, and read until the work hour. His shop associates, knowing him sincere, generous, incapable of platitude, did not detest him in spite of his unsociable ways.”—J.-H. Rosny, in Le Bilatéral.

Granted, the ship comes into harbour with shrouds and tackle damaged; the pilot is blameworthy; he has not been all-wise and all-powerful: but to know how blameworthy, tell us first whether his voyage has been round the globe or only to Ramsgate and the Isle of Dogs.”—Thomas Carlyle.

J’ai regardé le juge en face. Certain d’abord d’être pendu, Je ne me suis pas défendu. A quoi bon mendier sa grâce! Le cuir est fait pour le tanner; Le code est fait pour condamner. J’ai regardé le juge en face. Maurice Boukay, in Chansons Rouges.


THE first anarchist I ever knew in any country was a dear, grandfatherly American workingman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who conducted me, the Sunday following our chance meeting, to an ethical culture society in Dorchester on purpose to show me how children should be taught to be good.

The second was a young doctor of philosophy, dreaded by reputable Boston for his well-documented sans-gêne, who chanced to be rusticating on a farm where I spent ten days with a gang of a dozen city street boys. I found him infinitely gentle and kind; and it was he of all the farm household who came to relieve me one night while I was keeping an anxious bedside vigil beside one of the boys, who had received an accidental injury to the head that threatened to prove dangerous.

These my first two experiences with anarchist types were scarcely of a nature to dismay me, nor have I ever found anything dismaying in the private characters of the anarchists I have since known in the Old World.

In an every way remarkable study of the anarchist temperament, based on a thorough investigation of anarchists of many professions and all stations in life, A. Hamon, author of La France Sociale et Politique and Une Psychologie du Militaire Professionnel, has arrived at these suggestive conclusions:—

“The positive method confirmed by the rational method enables us to establish an ideal type of anarchist whose mentality is the aggregate of common psychic characteristics. Every anarchist partakes sufficiently of this ideal type to make it possible to differentiate him from other men. The typical anarchist, then, may be defined as follows: a man perceptibly affected by the spirit of revolt under one or more of its forms,—opposition, investigation, criticism, innovation,—endowed with a strong love 156 of liberty, egoistic, or individualistic, and possessed of great curiosity,—a keen desire to know. These traits are supplemented by an ardent love of others, a highly developed moral sensitiveness, a profound sentiment of justice, an alert logical faculty, and pronounced combative tendencies.

“Such is the average psychic type of the anarchist. He is, to summarise, a person rebellious, liberty-loving, at once individualistic and altruistic, enamoured of justice, and imbued with missionary zeal.”

To these conclusions every one who has been privileged to know well any number of anarchists will be likely to subscribe. And, if M. Hamon, instead of extending his investigations to all sorts and conditions of anarchists, had limited them to the propagandists par le fait, his conclusions would not have been essentially different. He would probably have felt constrained to admit that the “ardent love of others” and the “profound sentiment of justice” were curiously blended with petty cravings for notoriety or large desires for glory; the “missionary zeal,” with a reticence amounting to mystification about matters of purely personal concern or projects of violence; and the “highly developed moral sensitiveness,” with a seemingly contradictory moral callousness regarding the means permissible to attain an end. But, on the other hand, M. Hamon would surely have added these sterling qualities: a rare love of animals, surpassing sweetness in all the ordinary relations of life, exceptional sobriety of demeanour, frugality and regularity, austerity even, of living, and courage beyond compare.

Ravachol, the most difficult of all the French propagandists par le fait to comprehend, Ravachol who never allowed (no more than a great financier might) a sentiment of humanity to interpose when the success of a plan was at stake, who never showed a gleam of remorse for his murder of the miser hermit of Chambles and the pillaging for jewels of the tomb of the Marquise de la Rochetaille,46—Ravachol was by the testimony of all who knew 157 him well, even his enemies, an unusually kind-hearted man where the Cause—I had almost said where politics—was not concerned. In his young manhood he supported his mother and younger brother, and treated them with the greatest consideration. He was fond of children, and remonstrated fiercely against cruelty to animals. The presiding judge tried in vain to wrest from the little son of Ravachol’s compagne some hint of brutality on Ravachol’s part. “Il était très doux avec maman et avec moi” was all the boy could be got to say; and the only time Ravachol broke down during his detention and trial was at the sight of this little one. Chaumartin, who had betrayed Ravachol from fear or some baser motive, said on the witness-stand, “He taught my little children to read, and cut out pictures for them”; and Ravachol forgave this same Chaumartin his baseness in open court.

Only a short time before the explosion of the rue de Clichy, Ravachol escorted to a shoe store a pitiable beggar girl he had chanced upon in the street, and saw her provided with a new pair of shoes, for which he paid seven francs.

The charities and compassions of Pini, and Duval’s more than platonic solicitude for the welfare of working-women, have been previously noted.

Decamp, though he earned barely fr. 2.50 per day, and had a wife and three children to provide for, adopted a homeless six-year-old child to save it from vagabondage.

Faugoux, who was given twenty years of hard labour for stealing dynamite, wrote to a camarade regarding the damaging testimony of one Drouet:—

“As to Drouet, I pardon him his want of frankness regarding me. He has little instruction, and he hoped in this way to save himself from the law. This compagnon, although convinced, has much sentiment for his family; and this is a powerful motive. When he thought of the struggle and the misery which his wife and child would have to support, he forgot that he was an anarchist. Let us not lay it up against him nor refuse him our hands.”


Salsou adored, as he was adored by, his father and mother and his several brothers and sisters. He wrote them often in the years after he left home for the trimard; and his letters were replete with affection, notably one in which he acknowledged the photograph LOUISE MICHEL LOUISE MICHEL of his mother and two of the children, Martha and Henri, playfully calling the last named “Henricon.” His compagne had no complaint to make of his treatment of her, and even his laundress testified to his being courteous and kind.

Reader’s of Zola’s Germinal will remember the anarchist Souvarine’s affection for the pet rabbit, Pologne, and his sorrow at her death. The point is well observed. Nearly every French anarchist, whether propagandist par le fait or not, is a defender of the rights of all four-footed things; and many are strict vegetarians. In her fascinating autobiography, Louise Michel returns again and again with flaming wrath to the sufferings of domestic animals.

“Under my revolt against the strong,” she says, “I find, farther back than I can remember distinctly, a horror of the tortures inflicted on dumb beasts. I would have liked to see the animal defend himself,—the dog bite the one who abused him, the horse, bleeding under the lash, trample on his torturer. But always the dumb beast endures his lot with the resignation of the subdued races. What an object of pity is the beast!”

This typical anarchist trait is graphically illustrated by the following anecdote related by Flor O’Squarr:—


“One day in July I stopped before a book-stall of the rue Châteaudun, close by the rue Laffitte, when I was joined by an anarchist who led me before the show window of a bird dealer a few steps away. There, with a hand that shook, he pointed out to me some white mice shut up in tiny iron cages that were provided with squirrels’ wheels, whereon the little beasts galloped without respite.

“‘See there,’ moaned the dynamiter, ‘tell me if men are not villains! These poor white mice, so delicate, so pretty, suffer frightfully, don’t you know it, churning like that in this instrument of torture. It gives them nausea and pains in the stomach.’ He would have strangled the dealer without remorse to avenge the mice.”

Zola, in his account of the trial of the dynamiter Salvat (Paris), makes the culprit’s fellow-workmen testify that he was “a worthy man, an intelligent, diligent, and highly temperate workman, who adored his little daughter, and who was incapable of an indelicacy or meanness”; and this characterisation of a bomb-thrower of fiction might be applied with little change to almost every real bomb-thrower who has operated in France. Scarcely one appears to have been—the propagande apart—what we call a “bad egg” and the French call a “mauvais sujet” or to have had a bad disposition. There is scarcely a drunkard, a gambler, a libertine, or a domestic tyrant, in the lot. Indeed, they have had so few of the vices of genius that one almost sighs over their essential commonplaceness.

They have nearly all been highly abstemious and nearly all great readers. Pini’s living expenses averaged less than three francs a day, and were no more after a successful theft than before,—the best possible proof that he was not given to reckless dissipation.

Ravachol spent somewhat more than Pini,—seven or eight francs a day, on an average,—but was no hard liver. Philip, one of the French authors of the explosion at Liège (spring of 1904), devoted a legacy to the cause. Baumann educated himself in 160 evening schools after reaching manhood. Salsou, who had read the Révolution Sociale of Proudhon at fifteen, devoted a good part of his earnings to the purchase of journals and books. He paid from four to seven francs a week for his lodgings, and lived in other respects accordingly. Potatoes and onions “were the chief of his diet.” He left his room regularly about seven in the morning, returned about the same hour at night, and went out very little evenings even to the group meetings, preferring to stay at home and read till a late hour. In fact, the only things his associates found to reproach him for were his over-seriousness and his taciturnity.

“He was an honest, laborious, sober man,” testified his employer at his trial, “and ever ready to do a favour, but very much shut up in himself,—not in the least communicative. He passed for a scholar.” Whereupon Salsou, referring to his condemnation at Fontainebleau for having talked of his faith, retorted, “If they reproach me with being uncommunicative, it is because I know what it costs to be communicative.”

“The aim of the press,” said Zola, apropos of the public reception of Salvat’s attempt (Paris), “seemed to be to besmirch Salvat, in order, in his person, to degrade anarchy; and his life was made out to be one long abomination.... His faults, magnified, were paraded without the causes that had produced them, and without the excuse of the environment which had aggravated them. What a revolt of humanity and justice there was in the soul of Froment, who knew the true Salvat,—Salvat, the tender mystic, the chimerical and passionate spirit, thrown into life without defence, always weighted down and exasperated by implacable poverty, and finding his account at last in this dream of restoring the golden age by destroying the old world!”

Whenever a fresh anarchist trial occurs in France, this inglorious farce of press vilification is re-enacted. Not content with heaping on the culprit’s head all the misdemeanours of which he has been guilty and many crimes of which he has not been guilty, the bourgeois organs try to strip him of his one incontrovertible 161 attribute,—courage. They dare—knowing him well under lock and key—to call him “coward.”

No, my respectable, quaking bourgeois, not that! Robber, murderer, incendiary, fornicator, what you will (if you must judge by your rule of thumb), but not coward! It is too much! You cannot deny the dynamiter what you concede to the vilest criminals and even to the beast of the jungle.

Duval all but killed the police brigadier Rossignol, who attempted to arrest him. For the judge who tried to worm out of him proofs of the existence of accomplices, he had this fine epigram: “Vous n’aurez ma langue qu’avec ma tête.” Condemned to death, he refused to sign a petition for clemency. The innocent Cyvoct, under sentence of death, also refused to sue for pardon.

Two officers were wounded before Francis47 could be secured on the Boulevard de Strasbourg, and it took four officers to hold Parmeggiani.48

Pini had to be lassooed in the heart of Paris like a buffalo of the plains, and it was only when wounded that he could be retaken after his escape from Cayenne.

Lorion, advertised everywhere by the police for an incendiary speech at Roubaix (immediately after his release from a five years’ imprisonment), openly led a band to the sack of the office of a Lille newspaper which had treated him as a police spy, and then made good his escape to Havre; but, determined to purge away the last vestige of the charge against him, he returned to the region of Lille, and wounded two officers before he could be taken.

Decamp defended himself, after his cartridges were finished and his knife gone, with a bayonet,—which he succeeded in wresting from one of his assailants,—until he swooned from loss of blood. In court he said:—

“You can guillotine me. I prefer it. I have had enough of your prisons and your bagnes. Off with my head! I do not defend it. I deliver it, shouting, ‘Vive l’Anarchie!’ What does 162 one camarade’s head more or less amount to, if only our beautiful Hope spreads!”

Baumann constituted himself a prisoner, and demanded the guillotine. Etievant wrote from London a little while before his attempt:—

“We are here in large numbers, the proscribed of all countries, convinced of the final triumph of Liberty, having made great sacrifices already for the Idea, and fortifying ourselves with the hope of rendering service to poor humanity which has limped along painfully for so many centuries; and yet I begin to doubt that we have done everything that we might have done and in consequence everything that we should have done. Would it not have been better to struggle even unto death there where the hazard of birth had placed us? Rather than to flee precipitately before the threats and the blows of authority, would it not have been better to make the sacrifice of our lives?” By deliberately returning to Paris, Etievant answered his own question in the affirmative.

Henry, whose attitude in court was that of a pontiff, “defended himself in the street like a little lion,” says Barrucand. “He resisted till he was at the very end of his forces, even under the heels of the police. Flippant, ferocious, he mocked the officers, said that he had just arrived from Pekin, and would not give his name.”

Vaillant denounced himself when he stood a fair chance of escape, and bore himself proudly before his judges and before the guillotine.

Ravachol, king of cynics, risked discovery in passing the octroi (city revenue office) with dynamite in his satchel; walked long distances on foot and rode in jolting omnibuses while carrying materials that the slightest shock might explode; showed himself after each of his attempts with an appalling indifference to recognition; defended himself superbly before the Véry restaurant, whither he had returned for no other apparent purpose than to finish the conversion of the garçon L’Hérot, whom he had found 163 sympathetically inclined a fortnight before; advanced to the guillotine (though bound in a painful and ignoble fashion) singing the most blasphemous and defiant of all the stanzas of the venerable Père Duchêne;49 hurled in the teeth of Deibler, the headsman, the epithet, “Cochon!” and, as the knife fell, cried “Vive la Ré”—The word was never finished. Some of the bourgeois papers, determined to deprive Ravachol of the cynical grandeur of his death by making him out a retractor, claimed the unfinished word to be République instead of Révolution.

It is the petty work of little men to call a man a coward who can die like this. A consummate villain,—yes, judged by conventional standards,—but no coward.

The man who dies like a man—and let it not be forgotten there are a hundred and one ways of doing it—is to be admired for that, whether he be called John Huss or John Brown, Saint Stephen or Saint Jean Népomucène, Charles I. or Louis XVI., Raleigh or Ravachol, Petronius Arbiter or Louis Lingg.




He [Ravachol] endured everything without a murmur, all the pain and all the punishment, because, in the sombre heaven to which his criminal reveries mounted, he had seen his chimera pass, because he believed himself an apostle.”—Flor O’Squarr, in Les Coulisses de l’Anarchie.


Chapter VIII



If the spirit of revolt is an essential part of the anarchist mentality, it is not alone in this sort of mentality that it is found. All anarchists are révoltés, but all persons who display tendencies to revolt are not anarchists. Thus in the political and social sphere a number of the partisans of the bygone régimes are révoltés.”—A. Hamon.

I went yesterday to hear Paul Déroulède.... As for me, I confess that I particularly relished this frankness of accent, this conviction capable of folly.”—Alexander Hepp.

Honour, to my thinking, consists entirely in the fine quality of the motive which directs the act. Now I have always seen the conduct of Paul Déroulède dominated by an anxious and continual care for our national greatness, by the reparation of our disasters. All the movements, all the supreme prayers of his heart, are eminently French. That suffices me.


There are no practical socialists but the anti-Semites.

Edouard Drumont.



ONE of the plainest after-results of the Dreyfus affair, into which the socialists50 as well as the anarchists threw themselves with glee for the superb opportunity it offered to undermine patriotism and destroy the army, has been a cleavage between the more conservative and the more radical elements of the socialist party.

The primary cause of this division may be found in the fact that two socialists (one of whom, M. Millerand, had previously been decidedly militant) accepted portfolios in the coalition ministry which supervised the Dreyfus trial at Rennes and which survived it for a time. This official service had such a sobering effect, both upon the ministers themselves and upon their immediate following, that their socialism became frankly opportunist; and the more radical and doctrinaire among their fellow-socialists felt compelled, because of this, to withdraw from them their support. 168 In like manner the socialist deputies who have helped to maintain the Combes ministry have been constrained to a similar opportunism. So it has come about that the French socialists, M. VAILLANT M. VAILLANT52 who formerly were, broadly speaking, all revolutionary, are now divided into the two distinct and even hostile camps51 of evolutionary socialists and revolutionary socialists.

With the evolutionary socialists—who are, perhaps, for being the less logical only the more philosophical—this book has, from the very nature of its subject, nothing to do. The revolutionary socialists alone concern us.

It is needless to say that doctrinaire socialism and doctrinaire anarchism are at opposite poles of the world of thought. Absolute authority is as much the ideal of the one as absolute liberty is the ideal of the other. For the anarchist the betterment of society depends primarily on the betterment of the individual, while for the socialist the betterment of the individual depends primarily on the betterment of society. The complete realisation of socialism presupposes the perfection of human machinery, and the complete realisation of anarchism the perfection of human nature. The theories of the vicarious atonement and salvation by character present, in another field, a somewhat analogous contrast. Nevertheless, these theoretically antithetical systems find in their antagonism to actual conditions so many points of contact that it is not always easy for an outsider to determine whether a given revolutionist is an anarchist or a revolutionary socialist, and not always easy, one more than half suspects, for a revolutionist to determine himself in which of the two classes he really belongs.



By permission of “Le Rire”

The revolutionary socialists, like the anarchists, are high-minded dreamers, who are bent on procuring happiness for 169 the human kind. Unlike the anarchists, they participate in elections, and do not desire the abolition of the state (as is indicated by their use of the word citoyen, which the anarchists abhor); but they do wish for the downfall of the present state (with whose bad faith and impotence they are thoroughly disgusted) as the first step towards setting up the socialistic state, and they hold collective revolt the most likely means of effecting this downfall; all of which, in troubled periods, amounts to very much the same thing practically as if they abjured the state altogether. Like the anarchists, they demand the abolition of private property, and they are opposed, like them, to charity (as the term is popularly understood), to patriotism, and to armies. Like the anarchists, furthermore (though this does not seem to be a logical necessity for either), they are violently opposed to the church; and they are (with less inevitableness than the anarchists in the same matter) more or less hostile to marriage.


They do not advocate the individual overt act of violence (though they often sympathise with it when committed), and, hoping for social salvation from social machinery, neglect the propaganda par l’exemple. With these exceptions their methods of propaganda are identical with those of the anarchists. They dispense the word orally, as the anarchists dispense it by means of mass meetings, punchs-conférences, soupes-conférences, matinées-conférences, ballades propagandistes, soirées familiales, and amateur theatricals, and have a similar penchant for the chanson populaire.

The socialists have their special books and brochures and ingenious methods of circulating them and their special propagandist press, which includes several dailies, as well as weeklies 170 and monthlies,54 and serves as a bond of union and a means of communication between individuals and groups; and they make a copious use of placards, manifestos, pictures, artistic posters, and souvenir postal cards.55


Anarchists and socialists unite in anti-clerical and anti-militarist mass meetings, in interfering riotously with public worship, in shouting, A bas l’Armée! and A bas la Patrie! They also unite in distributing to the conscripts manuals reciting their duties in the regiments, chief of which are disobedience and desertion; and they commemorate together many of the same anniversaries, especially those of the Mur des Fédérés57 (May) and of Etienne Dolet58 (August). It is at election times mainly that they try conclusions fiercely with each other, because of their antagonistic sentiments towards the exercise of the vote.

The revolutionary socialists esteem lightly trade-unions, except as a means of coercing ministries to paternalism, and take little interest in co-operation59 as practised at present; but they have something of the same faith as the anarchists that la grève générale, which several of their congresses have indorsed, and la pan-coopération will coincide with the revolution.

In a certain sense—and not so very far-fetched a sense, either—every political party in Paris is revolutionary, inasmuch as all 171 the “outs” are willing to resort to revolutionary methods to overturn the statu quo and all the “ins” would be willing to resort M. GUESDE M. GUESDE60 to revolutionary methods to restore their respective dispensations if, by a turn of the wheel of fortune, they should become the “outs.”

The anarchists and the socialists are by no means the only bodies who find the Third Republic detestable, and who, to make way with it, would gladly descend into the street. The royalists and imperialists are reactionary revolutionists, only deterred from insurrection and a coup d’état by the absence of the magnetic man and the propitious occasion. The nationalists would pause at nothing that would enable them to substitute a plebiscitary for the present parliamentary republic, and the anti-Semites M. ALLEMANE M. ALLEMANE61 at nothing that would expel or dispossess the Jews. Rochefort and Drumont call themselves socialists; and Guérin’s organ, L’Anti-Juif, regularly carries this head-line, “Défendre tous les travailleurs, Combattre tous les spéculateurs.” L’Autorité, L’Intransigeant, La Libre Parole, and La Patrie are as truly revolutionary sheets as are Les Temps Nouveaux and Le Libertaire; while Paul de Cassagnac, Baron Legoux, Lur-Saluces, the gilded youth of the “Œillet Blanc” (“White Carnation”) who battered the President’s hat at Auteuil, Rochefort, Drumont, Guérin, Régis, and Déroulède are as much revolutionists as the socialist Jules Guesde or the anarchist Jean Grave.


Some time before his expulsion Déroulède said to his electors: “There is no other means of safety than a revolution at once popular and military, having at its head a civilian and a soldier, both loyally resolved to maintain the republic. To deliver France and the republic, there are three methods possible: the will of a man (that is, the coup d’état); the will of the people (that is, revolution); the will of the representative assembly (that is, parliament). I will do all in my power to make the last method—the most peaceable—effective; but I do not greatly count on it, and I declare myself determined to venture everything for the triumph of the other two.”


Déroulède and Guérin are both in banishment at this moment for overt acts against the state. And, while the strict legality of the forms of the high court trial that condemned them is more than dubious, there is no doubt possible as to their essential guilt.

While Guérin was holding Fort Chabrol, the Dreyfusard anarchists were exhorted by the anarchist leader, Sébastien Faure, to change their cries of A bas Guérin! to Vive Guérin! since, whatever the anti-Dreyfusard, anti-Semite rebel might have been before the siege or might be after it, he was logically one of them as long as he was defying the authority of the state.

The fact is that Paris, in spite of her excessive conservatism in certain directions, has, and ever since the Great Revolution has had, an état d’esprit révolutionnaire. Paris revolutionists and Parisians, then, are, in the last analysis, pretty nearly one and the same thing.


Montmartre va descendre Part II

Montmartre va descendre

Montmartre va descendre!


The man Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys. Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men and, of the human frame, A mechanized automaton.” Shelley.


Chapter IX



When the students sing the Carmagnole, France trembles.

The monarchy of July persecuted the cancan, which historically seems to have been the anarchy of the period.”—Aurélien Scholl.

Humble spot, dingy little court, oh, how charming I find you! Hence will go forth some day the Revolution which shall save us; the age which by chloroform has already suppressed pain will suppress hunger also.

Michelet on the Collège de France.

The great movement of ideas which occurred in France under the silent reign of Napoleon III., when the tribune was mute, the press muzzled, and the right of assembly confiscated, had for its stage the brasseries of the Latin Quarter.”—Edmond Lepelletier.


THE Sorbonne,” says Eugène Pelletan, “shines from the heights through the early mists like the dawn of intelligence. It is there that the French Revolution was really born, thence was its point of departure....

“On this sacred mount of the university a philosopher in monkish garb spoke one day in the open air. What did he say? It matters little. He said something new, and the multitude listened because he was the first to defend the claims of the earth,—the right of reason to reason; and, while he spoke, a veiled woman, with lips on fire, clung to the grating of a convent over yonder, and encouraged him with gestures in default of words.

“The man represents human intellect hampered by the church, and the woman represents France confined in a cloister; but Abélard will grow, and will assume day by day, like the Indian god, a fresh avatar. To-morrow—for what is to-morrow in the life of a people?—he will bear, according to the ironical or severe humour of France, the name of Rabelais, the name of Descartes, the name of Rousseau, the name of Voltaire. And, side by side with him, the Idea, the insulted, the abused Idea, will advance with slow and tragic steps between two rows of fagots, a flame in her forehead and her hands at her sides, until the day when she shall wrest the torch from the executioner, and proclaim herself Queen.”

Whoever would unfold the progress of the revolutionary spirit in France from the earliest times through the centuries must needs write a history of the Sorbonne and of the seat of the Sorbonne, the Pays Latin (the Latin Quarter).

In the relatively limited area included between Notre Dame, where the goddess of Reason was enthroned in the Great Revolution; 178 the Place Maubert,62 with its statue of Etienne Dolet, the sixteenth-century printer, burned for impiety and atheism; the Square Monge, with its statue of François Villon; the Place Monge, with its statue of Louis Blanc; the Panthéon, with its memorials to the intellectual liberators, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and Voltaire; the Place de l’Ecole de Médecine, with its statue of Danton doughtily inscribed, “Pour vaincre les ennemis de la justice, il faut de l’audace, encore de l’audace et toujours de l’audace”; the Place St. Germain des Prés, with its statue of Diderot; and the Place de l’Institut, with its statue of Condorcet,—every inch of ground is rich in souvenirs of the intellectual history of France and of the convulsions by which this history’s various stages have been marked.

Here on the left bank of the Seine, where Abélard, in the twelfth century, “discoursed to all the earth,—to two popes, twenty cardinals, and fifty bishops, to all the orders, all the modern schools which descended from the mountain and inundated Europe”;63 whither came Dante in the fourteenth century for the lectures of Siger de Brabant; the Greek Lascaris in the fifteenth and Calvin and Loyola in the sixteenth centuries; where the trouvère Rutebœuf in the thirteenth century and the poet Villon in the fifteenth carried on the propagande par l’exemple and even the propagande par le fait; where, in the early part of the fifteenth century, the Cabocherie decreed the reign of virtue and equality, pillaged the dwellings of the wealthy, and had all things common; where, in the sixteenth century, the Commune Catholique was set up at the instigation of an anti-royalist preacher of St. Sévérin; where, in the same century, François Rabelais, Clément Marot, and La Boétie (friend of Montaigne and social democrat before his time) prepared themselves, in their very different fashions, to alternately edify and castigate the civilisation of their epoch, and René Descartes, in the seventeenth century, to found 179 modern philosophy and to destroy scholasticism; where the eighteenth-century Encyclopedists set themselves to solve the problem of human destiny, and begot the Revolution; where, in the century just closed, the trinity of the Collège de France, Michelet, Quinet, and Mickiewicz, formed the men who were to set up the Third Republic on the ruins of the Second Empire,—in this intellectual and nerve centre of Paris, of France, and at intervals of the world, revolutionary action has been so often suited to the revolutionary thought that no one dreams of crying out crime or mystery when, in the course of excavations, human bones are exhumed.


Revolutionary thinking has not been practised with impunity in the Quartier Latin. From Abélard to Michelet and Renan, religious, political, and philosophical heresies have called down ecclesiastical, governmental, and academical 180 wrath with the usual result of helping to propagate the heresies.

Abélard was censured for heterodoxy, hounded from one monastery to another, and condemned finally to perpetual silence. Ramus, antagonist of the philosophy of Aristotle, was included in the massacre of St. Bartholomew. “In Ramus,” says Michelet, “they fancied they were killing a second Abélard. They thought to butcher mind.” Clément Marot was imprisoned, and forced to flee from France. Descartes, maltreated by Catholics and Protestants alike, forbidden to teach, and threatened with death, took refuge first in Holland and then in Sweden. Vanini was burned at the stake. Buffon was persecuted for his Histoire Naturelle, and Montesquieu for his Esprit des Lois. Michelet, who “scratched the heavens with his white hand,”64 Mickiewicz, Quinet, and Renan were expelled from the Collège de France.

There have been periods, it is true, when the university faculties have been servile and cringing,—mere tools of the potentates of church and state,—and periods when the students have been craven or lethargic; but these periods are the exceptions. Speaking broadly, the Quartier has been from first to last a preserve of free living and free thinking, a stronghold of opposition, a centre of agitation, and a hot-bed of revolution.

Eugène Pelletan thus describes the students of the university’s beginnings:—

“A mixed, vagabond population, drifted together from nobody could say where, they live by the grace of God, they eat when they can, they sleep on straw, and carry their begging wallets proudly, as if conscious they hold there the word of the future.... When they do not dine, they have the resource of the cabaret; and, always noisy, always care-free, they prowl about at nightfall, they force now and then the door of a bourgeois, and, when the watch rushes to the uproar, they put it to rout, quit with answering for the misdemeanour to the rector, who invariably exonerates.”


“Scantily clad and almost vagabonds,” says another historian of this early period, “but not depriving themselves of good cheer, the future magistrates and theologians, who were to antagonise in parliament the will of the king, were already revolutionary.”

In the fourteenth century the faculties, morally, and the students, both morally and materially, cast in their lots with the revolution of Etienne Marcel, who is credited with having invented the barricade.

Reign succeeded reign, and still the good habit of thrashing the watch was kept up. Besides, there were battles-royal galore between the students and the troops of the king.

The students made themselves jugglers, fakirs, and buffoons on the Pont-Neuf, then a favourite, shop-lined promenade. They sacked cook-shops and taverns, and levied tribute from belated pedestrians. The lawless exploits of François Villon, singer of villanelles to Guillemette, the tapissière, and Jehanneton, the chaperonnière, in the reigns of Charles VII. and Louis XI., have become legendary.

That other great François (Rabelais) has portrayed the democratic and turbulent temper of the students of a somewhat later period.

During the reign of Louis XIV., the merry, strolling players and mountebanks, Tabarin and Gaultier-Garguille (the latter the inventor of the farce), had numerous imitators among the students; which jovial humour did not prevent the latter from entering heartily into the Fronde,65 risking their lives on “the Day of the Barricades” and exercising their caustic wit against the court and the hated foreign minister, Mazarin, in lampoons called Mazarinades.

The trenchant criticisms and the comprehensive formulas, which appeared in the Encyclopedists’ published works, captivated many professors of the university,66 and made a direct and 182 profound impression on the students. But it seems to be no exaggeration to say that it was the cafés and cabarets of the Left Bank rather than the university that fanned the smouldering flame of discontent into a conflagration of rebellion. In them the fiercest revolutionary clubs of the epoch had their rendezvous. At the Café Procope,—transformed, alas! into a vulgar restaurant only a year or so back,—Hébert presided over a club which burned before the door the journals found too tame for its ideas, and Danton met with Marat, Legendre, and Fabre d’Eglantine; and the Procope was only one of a score. Indeed, it would take a volume to do full justice to the part played in French history by the Latin Quarter cafés from 1780 to Napoleon’s establishment of himself in power.

Under the Restoration the social and political Utopias of the Icarians, the Fourierites, and the Saint-Simonians, commanded the interest, if not the allegiance, of a considerable portion of the university. “The new Sorbonne,” says Vacherot, “far from viewing unmoved the liberal movement which was to culminate in the revolution of July, participated in it actively, lending it the prestige of its most spirituel, its most serious, and its most eloquent teaching.”

It was in great part the students, as all know who have followed the vicissitudes of Marius and Cosette in Les Misérables, who were responsible for the insurrection of 1830.

It was in the spheres of literature and art, however, where Romanticism was struggling to supplant Classicism, that the hottest passions were kindled. The influence of Scott, Byron, and the rising Hugo dominated, even in the matter of dress. Romanticists adopted the costumes of Moslems, Corsairs, and Giaours: the Quartier resembled a fancy-dress ball-room, and men fought in its streets for their artistic as they had in other times for their political and religious creeds.

The students of the reign of Louis Philippe have been thus pictured by De Banville: “Young, gay, reckless, but possessed of native distinction, coquettishly arrayed in velvet and all sorts of 183 original and fancy costumes, capped with Basque bérets and felts à la Rubens, they went up and down, sauntering, singing, gazing into space, alone, or in pairs, or in groups, or three by three, selling their text-books willingly at the old book dealers in order to enter the cabaret,—a custom which, as you know, dates from the twelfth century.”

Of this same youth and that which came immediately after it Aurélien Scholl writes: “The young men of the schools thought solely of fêtes and of fun. The Quartier resembled strangely the Bohème of Mürger,—la noce, nothing but la noce. The historiographer of this epoch finds only farces to narrate, and such farces!”

And yet the students played almost as large a part in the revolution of 1848 as in that of 1830. Under their masks of flippancy they were serious. They had merely been waiting for the strategic moment and a leader; and, when in 1847 Antonio Watripon, bent on a “reawakening of the schools,” founded a journal, La Lanterne du Quartier Latin, as a means of organising and directing the student opposition, they took an active part in the demonstrations which brought about the downfall of the government of Louis Philippe.

They sprang to arms again, soon after, against the disillusionising coup d’état of the third Napoleon, while the workingmen remained relatively submissive. “At the news that Louis Napoleon is getting ready to confiscate the public liberties,” says Scholl, “a wave of indignation sweeps over the length and breadth of the Quartier. The students invade, and pronounce inflammatory discourses in, café after café, crèmerie after crèmerie. They descend without hesitation into the street to combat the troops of the tyrant, and many pay for their heroism with their lives.”

The discouragement which followed the complete establishment of the authority of the usurper naturally gave rise to a sort of lassitude, which was mistaken by many for sycophancy or indifference, and was generally regarded as proof positive of the degeneration of the student type. But the students, although 184 temporarily silent and outwardly submissive, had not disarmed. It was not long before Vallès, Gambetta, Vermesch, Blanqui, Rochefort, and scores of others, who participated a little later in the Commune or in the founding of the Third Republic, were busily sowing the seeds of disaffection in the cafes; and in 1865 this fresh revolutionary movement was given coherence and direction by Les Propos de Labienus, the little masterpiece of Rogeard.

It was, in point of fact, mainly in the cafés of the Latin Quarter rather than in the university proper that the revolution of 1871, as well as that of 1789, was fermented.

In 1866, at the Café de la Renaissance Hellénique, a revolutionary club was formed, consisting of eight persons, the oldest of whom was barely twenty-two,—five law students, a medical student, a painter, and a rentier,—the first overt act of which was a riotous protest against the production of Augier’s La Contagion at the Odéon. Most, if not all, of the charter members of this club, which was soon consolidated with a club of older men meeting at the Café Serpente, saw the inside of the prison of Ste. Pélagie before the Commune was achieved.

“The Renaissance,” says Auguste Lepage in his Cafés Artistiques et Littéraires de Paris, “had a special physiognomy at the absinthe hour and after dinner. Noisy, uncombed students entered, mounted to the second floor, got together in groups, and talked politics or took a turn at billiards. They lighted long pipes, artistically coloured; and through the smoke clouds might be heard, together with the voices of the speechifiers, the clicks of the ivory balls as they met on the green cushions. Etudiantes accompanied the students. These strikingly dressed girls smoked cigarettes and occupied themselves with politics.”

The imperial police had a special fondness for the Renaissance, and this café shared with the Brasserie de St. Sévérin, after the Commune was set up, the distinction of being used as a headquarters by the Communard officials.

The Procope, also affected by police spies, was frequented by Spuller, Ferry, Floquet, Vermorel, and Gambetta, who preserved 185 their liberty on more than one occasion by utilising the back door, which had rendered a similar service to Danton in another century.

The Café Voltaire harboured, among others, Gambetta and Vallès, the Café de Buci Vallès and Delescluze, and the Brasserie Audler and the Restaurant Laveur Courbet and his unconventional intimates.

To summarise: from the time of Abélard—the Abélard who was sustained and inspired by the thought of the flaming lips of Héloïse pressed against the convent grating—to and through the Commune, the Pays Latin was characterised by a revolutionary spirit which was composed of three seemingly independent, if not mutually antagonistic, but, in reality, complementary and vitally interrelated traits,—love of laughter, love of liberty, and love of love.

The different persons of this emancipating trinity were equally potent impellers to Quixotic thought and action; and no one of the three could have long survived—such is the French temperament in or out of the Quartier—without both of the others. The Gallic imagination and conscience are dependent on good cheer and affection; they cease to operate if a fellow may not unbend in buffoonery with the boys and may not adore a woman. And, without conscience and imagination, is no revolution.



“Ever the undiscouraged, resolute, struggling soul of man ********* Ever the grappled mystery of all Earth’s ages old or new; ********* Ever the soul dissatisfied, curious, unconvinced at last; Struggling to-day the same—battling the same.” Walt Whitman.


Chapter X



“Each Jack with his Jill.” Ben Jonson.
“What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter; Present mirth hath present laughter; What’s to come is still unsure: In delay there lies no plenty; Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty; Youth’s a stuff will not endure.” Shakespeare.
“It once might have been, once only: We lodged in a street together, You, a sparrow on the house-top lonely, I, a lone she-bird of his feather.” Robert Browning.

“The rôle of a pretty woman is more serious than we think.”

Montesquieu (Lettres Persanes).

“I was twenty, age when the heart all illumined with poesy guards religiously the subtile vibrations of the beautiful and the just; the sweet human season in which one yearns to have a thousand mouths to bite to bleeding—during an eternity—the bare pink bosoms of the beautiful chimeras that go singing by.”Clovis Hugues.

I shall eternally hide my deepest emotions under the mask of insouciance and the perruque of irony.

Jules Vallès, in Jacques Vingtras—Le Bachelier.



has been said of late years about the change which has taken place in the Pays Latin and in the student character. The “old boys” tell us, with sneering superiority or quavering regret, that the Quartier Latin is no longer what it was. Some evoke the revels and the grisettes depicted in Louis Huart’s Physiologie de l’Etudiant, Musset’s Mimi Pinson, and Mürger’s La Vie de Bohème, and others the rebellious souls of the student martyrs of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871.

According to the former, the contemporary student is a morose, prudent, selfish, woman-hating, digging prig, with no higher dreams than 190 pettifogging politics and bourgeois comfort, and the étudiante a scheming, avaricious adventuress. According to the latter, he is snobbish, extravagant, and dissipated, a brainless spendthrift, gambler, debauchee, and drunkard, and his amorette, aside from differences of sex, his perfect counterpart.

There is truth in these somewhat conflicting charges, since both these types of student do exist. The curious thing is that similar complaints have been made by the alumni out in the world for almost as long as there have been alumni. It is not easy to go back far enough into the history of the Quartier Latin to escape caustic aspersions on its ignoble present and fond reversions to its fine and proper past.

If there is one period that is vaunted to-day above another as the golden age of the Latin Quarter, it is the period portrayed in the writings of Mürger, De Musset, and Nestor Roqueplan,—period when “le vin était spirituel et la folie philosophique”; period of innumerable drolleries and of two revolutions; and yet each of these three writers, even the happy-hearted Mürger, had recourse to that necessary, if puerile, vanishing point of the perspective of thought,—an anterior golden age.

A person who did not know their authorship would take the opening chapters of De Musset’s Confession d’un Enfant du Siècle to have been written in this year of grace 1904 by a disgruntled university alumnus, who was casting longing, lingering looks behind him to De Musset’s time. As, for instance, this passage: “The ways of the students and the artists—ways so fresh, so beautiful, so full of buoyant youthfulness—felt the effects of the universal change. Men, in separating from women, had muttered a word which wounds unto death,—disdain. They plunged into wine, and ran after courtesans. The students and the artists did likewise. They treated love as they treated glory and religion: it was a hoary illusion. They haunted low places. The grisette so imaginative, so romanesque, so sweet and tender in love, found herself left behind her counter. She was poor, and she was no more lovable; she must have hats and 191 gowns; she sold herself. O shame! The young man who should have loved her, whom she would have loved, he who formerly escorted her to the forests of Verrières and Romainville, to the dances on the greensward, to the suppers in the shady coverts, he who came to chat by the lamp in the back shop during the long winter evenings, he who shared the morsel of bread steeped in the sweat of her brow and her poor but sublime love,—he, this very man who had deserted her, found her, during some night of orgy, within the lupanar, pale and livid, utterly lost, with hunger on her lips and prostitution in her heart.”

A sight-seeing visitor to the highways of the Quartier is apt to feel that the grumbling of the elders is well grounded. The conventional, imperturbable, faultlessly attired fils à papa, and the over-dressed, over-breezy, blondined young (?) women he observes on the café terraces and in the public places, seem to have little or nothing in common with the students and grisettes of poetry and romance he is out for to see.

The Quartier Latin has changed along with the rest of the world, of course, in the last thirty eventful years. The humiliating memory of the Franco-Prussian war and the failure of the Third Republic to fulfil its promises of social equality and freedom have necessarily rendered the student somewhat more reflective; the analytic fearlessness of science has made him more relentlessly introspective; the growing fierceness of the struggle for existence occasioned by the overcrowding of the professions and the obligatory military service has forced him, in his own despite, to be somewhat more practical; the phenomenal expansion of industry, commerce, and finance, and their disillusionising tendencies, have not, in the nature of things, left him entirely untainted; and the equally phenomenal spread of luxury has instilled some absurd and deplorable sybaritic notions into his head.

There has been a net loss in the Quartier—and where has there not been?—in picturesqueness and spontaneity. But the vapouring cads and the stolid “digs” who call down the wrath of the elders are not representative: they are at the extremes of the 192 student body. Taken all in all, the student has changed less than the big world about him, not only during the last thirty years, but even during the centuries which have elapsed since he came to his class with a bundle of straw under his arm for a seat and his professor lectured sub Jove, liable to the interruptions of passing washerwomen and street porters.

He has changed less; and such changes as he has undergone are, for the most part, superficial. His love of laughter, his love of liberty, and his love of love have not been lost. They manifest themselves a little differently, that is all.

His love of liberty is not, for the moment, manifested, as it was in the beginning, when Rutebœuf and Villon played the highwayman and Clément Marot was king of the Bassoche, by forcing the doors of the bourgeois and beating the watch; nor, as it was in 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1871, by mounting the barricade, though there is never a certainty that he will not mount a barricade to-morrow. His love of laughter does not often lead him to the pillaging of taverns and workshops nowadays, as it did the roistering blade of the time of Louis XI., nor to the metamorphosing of himself into a juggler, tumbler, clown, or mountebank. And his love of love rarely blossoms into such dainty idyls as are recounted of the period of the Restoration and Louis Philippe. Perhaps, if the truth were known, it was rarely they so blossomed even then.

The ragged doublets, begging wallets, and pallets of straw have gone forever, as have the street classes exposed to the inclemency of the weather, of which they were the fitting accompaniment. The stiff, ugly fashions of this superlatively ugly age—the cut-away and frock coats, the “plug” and Derby hats, and the close-cropped hair—have, in a measure, replaced the felts à la Rubens and flowing ties and the wavy locks, velvet jackets, and blouses and tasselled Basque bérets of Romanticism. Among the étudiantes the simple muslin caps and chintz, muslin, and gingham frocks have fled alarmed before modish hats and tailor-made gowns. The cancan, a pitiably tame cancan, is danced—in public—only to satisfy 193 the curiosity of sensation-seeking tourists. But, allowing for differences of customs and costumes, for the unavoidable concessions to the more insistent claims of the spirit of the age, the Quartier Latin is still the same old Quartier.

There are numbers who still “live by the grace of God, eat when they can,” not when they would, and “sell their books to the old book dealer for a meal or an evening at the cabaret.” Poverty still stalks through the Pays Latin, and is still bravely cuffed or blithely bluffed out of countenance there. The student demand for rooms ranging from fifteen to thirty francs a month, and the lively, almost fierce student patronage of the crèmeries, bouillons, and little wine-shops (where an à la carte expenditure of 18 sous verges on extravagance), and of the prix fixe restaurants at 22 and 25 sous, are eloquent of a wide-spread scarcity of funds.

“Flicoteaux exists, and will exist,” wrote Balzac in Illusions Perdues, “as long as the student shall wish to live. He eats there,—nothing more, nothing less; but he eats there, as he works, with a sombre or joyous activity, according to his circumstances and his character.”

One cannot have lived in the Quartier long and not have had student friends who had more than a passing acquaintance with hunger and for whom a fire in winter was a festival event. In his mansard, where the student is doomed to freeze in winter and broil in summer, or in his stuffy, windowless cabinet, where he is doomed to suffocate the year round, are enough outward signs of destitution to rive the heart of the most hardened professional charity visitor; and yet, ten to one, this poor devil of a “Jack” has his “Jill,” for the grisette exists.

Yes, countless Jeremiads to the contrary notwithstanding, the grisette exists; under another name or, rather, under several other names,—there are words that defy strict definition; but she exists; changed somewhat, as the student himself is changed somewhat, but unchanged, as he is unchanged, in her love of laughter, her love of liberty, and her love of love. Gracious, graceful, and tender as ever; ignorant and clever, superstitious 194 and sagacious, selfish and self-sacrificing, garrulous and reticent, cruel and kind-hearted, outspoken and deceitful, conscientious and unscrupulous, generous and avaricious, and so forth ad infinitum; inconsequent, inconsistent, capricious, contradictory, bewitching bundle of opposites; best of comrades and sincerest, because ficklest, of mistresses; adorable, ever-changing, and unchangeable grisette!

Greedy of dress, the dance, and the theatre, she will sacrifice them all at the beck of a real affection. Indifferent to fortune when it comes her way, she will go without eating to have her fortune told her. She will ruin a nabob without a twinge, and share her last crust with the poor. She is true to nothing but her latest impulse. She fears nothing but being bored.

Jack nibbles scant bread and cheese, goes without wine and a fire, pawns his overcoat, his watch, and his best hat to provide Jill with a silk petticoat or a new hat. Jill refuses a carriage and pair for love of Jack, and makes merry, coquettish shift, for his sake, with “a ribbon and a rag”; and she will be as ready to go with him to the barricade to-morrow (for she dearly loves a scrimmage) as she is to go with him to a banquet or a ball to-night.

Thanks to Jack (this latter-day Abélard) and almost as much to Jill (this latter-day Héloïse), to their unaffected sentimentalities and innocent deviltries, the Quartier has a luminous atmosphere of gayety and poesy, is, in a word, an adequate emblem of “the folly of youth that amuses itself breaking window-panes, and which is, nevertheless, priceless beside the wisdom of age that mends them.”

Note the student’s street masking, dancing, and singing, and his manifold extravagances at the time of the Carnival, the Mi-carême, and the Quatorze Juillet, and on special outdoor festival occasions of his own. Watch his pranks and listen to his magpie chatter in his restaurants, cafés, and brasseries,—not the big, gaudy establishments of the “Boul’ Mich,” where he apes the chic of the bourgeois with whose purse he comes into direct and, for him, disastrous competition, and where, for the matter of that, 195 the bourgeois often outnumbers him; but in the dingy resorts of the back and side streets, where he is quite his harum-scarum self, where he is free to shout, sing, caper, and guy to his heart’s content, play combs and tin horns, and applaud with beer-mugs and canes, use floors for chairs, chairs for hobby-horses, tables for floors and chairs, and sandwiches for missiles, and dance his Mariette upon his shoulder or dandle her upon his knee; and where he can vary the monotony of his dominoes and manille by throwing a somersault or executing a pigeon-wing or by a turn at savate, leap-frog, or puss-in-the-corner. Follow him into the meetings of his bizarre clubs and sodalities; to the spots where he dances for the love of dancing,—not the Bullier, where, except for rare occasions, he merely forms part of a show; to his midnight suppers and masquerades,—Bal des Internes, Bal des Quat’z’ Arts, Bal Julien, and others quite as characteristic because less renowned: in all these places and situations he displays a faculty for impromptu larking, for fabricating jocund pandemoniums at short notice, that prove him no degenerate son of his father and no mean perpetuator of the mirthful prowess of his grandsires and great-grandsires.

Go with him and his Finette, his Blanchette, his Rosette, his Louisette, or his Juliette, for a Sunday picnic at Bois-Meudon or Joinville-le-Pont, and share with them—if your wind is sufficient and your Anglo-Saxon dignity can bear it—their more than infantile or lamb-like gambols over the meadows and under the trees. Keep with him, if you can be so privileged, his or her Saint’s Day. Celebrate with him the Fête des Rois, the Jour de l’An, and the Réveillon. Rejoice with him at the successful passing of his “exams” or condole with him for being plucked. Help him empty the pannier and the cask received from home. Enter into the spirit of his yarns, toasts, gaudrioles, and chansons on these occasions; into the spirit of his betrayal of sentiment and play of wit, of his gallantry and persiflage, his repartee and poetry, his exaggerations and fantasies; of his pas-seuls and pas-à-quatres, his revivals of cancan (not the tame variety), bourrée, and chahut, 196 his imitations of fandangos and jigs, his ceremonious travesties of saraband and minuet, and his impulsive launching of danses inédits. Enjoy with him his accompaniments on glasses and symphonies on plates, his sallies and his salads, his coffee and his antics, his pâtés and his mummeries, his horse-play and his wine. Under their spell you will be convinced, if you have any relish for life in you, that for graces of fellowship, refinements of revelry, and subtleties of tomfoolery the student of the Quartier has not his peer upon the planet.

The memory of Mürger and the cult of merriment under misfortune which his immortal Vie de Bohème symbolises is faithfully cherished. His anniversary is observed every summer about the time of St. Jean by a pilgrimage to his monument in the Luxembourg and a banquet at an average price of fifteen sous in some indulgent cabaret or café. A recent menu was as follows: bread, wine, blood pudding, fried potatoes, almond cakes, cigars for the students and flowers for the étudiantes. One year a thoughtless board of managers committed the indiscretion of elevating the price of the Mürger banquet to something over a franc, whereat the whole Quartier was thrown into a veritable tumult of protest.

The real student cafes and cabarets67—which I would not name nor locate for a kingdom, since their obscurity is the one thing that saves them from being spoiled—are the lineal descendants and, mutatis mutandis, the worthy successors of the cafés and cabarets of the students’ fathers and grandfathers and of the taverns of his remote forbears.

There the ancient custom of charcoaling or chalking the walls with skits, epigrams, and caricatures, is kept up.68

There long-haired, unkempt poets mount on tables and counters, glass in hand, and flaunt their new-born epics, tragedies, and ballads, or loll in dreamful, languishing poses and intone their elegies and idyls, as did Rutebœuf, Villon, Gringoire, and Cyrano 197 de Bergerac in their respective epochs; Molière, Boileau, Racine, and Crébillon, in the seventeenth century, at the “Mouton Blanc”; as did only yesterday Mérat, Anatole France, Léon Vallade, and Leconte de Lisle at the Café Voltaire; De Banville, Mürger, Daudet, and Paul Arène at the Café de l’Europe; Coppée, Mendès, Rollinat, Mallarmé, Bourget (who began as a poet), Bouchor, Richepin, and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam at “The Sherry Cobbler”; and as did all the versifiers of a generation at the Café Bobino (adjoining the famous little theatre of the same name), “which was,” says Daudet, “the holy of holies for everybody who rhymed, painted, and trod the boards in the Quartier Latin.”

There they fête the victories of their respective poetic sects—Roman, Instrumentiste, Magique, Magnifique, Déliquescent, Incohérent, or Néo-Décadent, as the case may be, just as the Romanticists in their time, and the Parnassians, Décadents, and Symbolists in their times, fêted their victories at the Café Procope. There they burn incense—as it was burned erstwhile at the Soirées and Petits Soupers Procope to Hugo, Baudelaire, and Verlaine—to their divinities who have consented—oh, monstrous condescension!—to foregather with them.

There, too, they blend becomingly philosophy and disputation with good cheer, as did D’Alembert, Voltaire, Condorcet, Diderot, and Rousseau in this same all-absorbent Procope; Corot, Gérôme, Français, Jules Breton, Baudry, Harpignies, Garnier, Falguière, André Theuriet, and Edmond About at the Café de Fleurus; and Thérion, the original of the Elysée Mérant of Daudet’s Rois en Exil, Wallon, the original of Colline in Mürger’s Vie de Bohème, and Barbey d’Aurévilly, as famous for his lace-embroidered neckties and red-banded white trousers as for his caustic wit, at the Café Tabourey.

The student’s lyric gift and penchant for good fellowship find further vent in little cellar (caveau), back-room, or upper-room café-concerts69 of his own founding, at which, in a congenial atmosphere 198 of tobacco and beer, he sings and recites to sympathetic listeners chansons and monologues of his own composition, and at which he permits the étudiante, who almost invariably fancies herself predestined to a brilliant career on the operatic stage, to dispense, by way of interlude, the popular risqué and sentimental songs of the day.

The editorial staffs of the ephemeral literary journals and reviews (revues des jeunes and journaux littéraires) are so many mutual admiration societies whose business meetings—there is so little business to be done—are very apt to be banquets or soirées littéraires. In fact, more than one sheet of the Quartier has no other business office than the back room of the cabaret its editors frequent.

These amateur publications (in which, for the matter of that, nearly every one who counts in French literature has made his début) are not burdened with modesty. Witness the closing paragraph of the leading editorial of the first, last, and only number of the Royal-Bohème:—

“Our aim is to demand charity of those who, having intelligence and heart, will not see in us a band of useless beggars; our hope, to more than repay our benefactors with the fruits of our thoughts and the flowers of our dreams.”

For a naïve and concrete statement of the revolutionist’s pet formula, “From every one according to his ability and to every one according to his need,” or as an example of what would be called, in good American, “unmitigated nerve,” the above would be hard to match.

An anonymous writer has defined the Bohemian as “a person who sees with his own eyes, hears with his own ears, thinks his own thoughts, follows the lead of his own heart, and holds to the realities of life wherever they conflict with its conventions.” The typical Bohemian student of Paris is a Bohemian of this sort. He loves his comfort as well as another fellow, but he is not ready to sell his soul for it. Material well-being at the price of submission—moral, social, or political—he will none of. Practical 199 considerations do not count with him when they antagonise his ideals.



In his monumental Illusions Perdues, Balzac describes at length a Latin Quarter cénacle of nine persons, of which his hero, the poet Lucien de Rubempré, became a member. Among other things, he says:—

“In this cold mansard the finest dreams of sentiment were realised. Here brothers, all equally strong in different regions of knowledge, enlightened each other in good faith, telling one another everything, even their base thoughts,—all of an immense instruction, and all tested in the crucible of want.” Something of the beautiful earnestness of these ideal and idealised Bohemians of Balzac has laid hold on the Bohemian student of to-day. Like the members of this mansard cénacle, he is seeking conscientiously and eagerly for a comprehensive formula of life.

“The student is thinking,” writes an actual student, in answer to the charges of materialism, dilettanteism, and subserviency brought against the student body. “His thought is fermenting, trying its force, preparing the future. The present hour is grave, an hour of transition. In literature, in art, in politics, something new is desired, expected, sought after. Everywhere is chaos. Everywhere opposing elements clash. A general synthesis or an exclusive choice from which harmony may spring is called for. What are the laws of this synthesis, what is the criterion of this choice? These are the questions which, anxiously, without ceasing, and, perhaps, in spite of himself, the contemporary youth is asking.”

There have been brief seasons when the whole university world—students and faculties alike—has been afflicted with intellectual snobbishness, indifference, discouragement, disillusion, fatigue, and even despair.

The present has its share of disillusion and discouragement, but it is primarily a period of search. In the faculties, alongside of those figure-heads—in which faculties always and everywhere have been rich—who cling tenaciously to whatever is ancient, 200 respectable, and commonplace, are men who are looking up and out.70 M. Lavisse, for instance, with his recurring emphasis on the necessity of a closer union of the university with the people, is a sort of second (and a more scientific) Michelet; and M. Lavisse has several colleagues who are little, if any, behind him in large suggestiveness. The thought-stirring influence of the disinterested, investigating zeal of Pasteur (and his successors, Roux and Duclaux) and of Berthelot is also profound. A provincial professor, M. Hervé, has recently been disciplined for unblushing anti-patriotism.

The Collège Libre des Sciences Sociales (subsidised by the state) and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Sociales have flung their doors wide open to socialism. Furthermore, this once descried doctrine has a hold on the university itself. Just what the following of socialism is among the students, it is not possible, in the complete absence of reliable statistics, to determine; but it is safe to say that it is large and fervent, since student socialists appear in convincing force at every important socialistic demonstration.

At the last anniversary of the “Bloody Week” of the Commune, in Père-la-Chaise I chanced upon two students wearing red eglantines in their buttonholes, with whom I had taken my meals for several weeks previous without having been given the slightest intimation that they were interested in social or political problems, to say nothing of being socialists. The talk that resulted from this chance meeting revealed to me that they were actively affiliated with an important socialistic organisation, and that their convictions had marched fearlessly and far. There are many such unproclaimed and unsuspected socialists in the Quarter.

Anarchy also—that is, the philosophical type of anarchy so much in favour in certain literary and artistic and even in certain scientific groups—has an indefinite and fluctuating but extensive student penumbra.

No, the student’s noble aspirations have not all forsaken him. He abhors, as he has always abhorred, the prudish, the prudent, 201 the politic, the hypocritical, and the mean. He has not become hopelessly subservient any more than he has become hopelessly morbid or hopelessly unsentimental. He can still resent dictation, as he can still laugh and love. If he truckles to his professors in the matter of Greek and Latin roots, it is that Greek and Latin roots are subjects of supreme indifference to him. When his honest thinking and his deeper emotions are concerned, he is as recalcitrant as ever. He recognises no authority, neither president nor prelate, general nor judge, nothing but his own sense of truth and right.

He is thinking. What is more, he is ready to accept the logical consequences of his thinking. When the time comes that these consequences tally with action, he will act. He has the same imperious need to act that he has to romp and to love. He looks to action—direct action, street action—for redress of wrong. He cannot help it: it is his nature. Intensity is the primal law of his being and will out, though he is merely telling a story, playing a joke, kissing a cheek, or singing a song. He is not fifty, and he is French. He has the Quixotism, the fine rashness, the sublime foolhardiness, of his years and of his race.

With a mobility impossible for the Teuton or Anglo-Saxon to understand, but which may be, notwithstanding, the highest form of self-control, he passes from vigorous frolic to vigorous work and vice versa instantaneously. For him it is no farther from a laugh or a kiss to a barricade than it is from a laugh to a kiss; and why should it be, when the laugh, the kiss, and the barricade are (as they are with him), co-ordinate assertions of liberty? “Frivolous as a pistol bullet,” he flashes to his mark. Given the impact of provocation, he does not know what veering or wabbling means.

Some contemporary—De Vogüé, I think—has said, “The student always rules those who think they are ruling him,” in which he resembles a womanly woman; “and, when the critical moment comes, he resumes his liberty of action.”

If he has not been on a barricade in thirty years, it is because 202 neither Boulangism, Dreyfusism,71 Déroulèdism, nor anti-Combeism, though he played some part in each, won, or deserved to win, his full allegiance. He has not taken the traditional chip off his shoulder, however, nor given any one permission to tread on his toes. On the contrary, he has shown flashes of his old temper, even in the tranquil third of a century just passed, often enough to leave no doubt of its persistence. It is only a little more than twenty years since the Quartier was in an uproar by reason of a slanderous article on the students published in the Cri du Peuple the day after the death of Jules Vallès.

It is only a round fifteen years since the students, taking into their own hands the punishment of the souteneurs of the Quartier, ducked a number of them in the frog-pond of the Luxembourg.

It is only ten years since the students set all Paris and all France by the ears because the government had interfered—unwarrantably, as they believed—with the immemorial usages of the Quat’z’ Arts ball. The Quartier was flooded with soldiers, blood was shed, and there was one life lost. The students carried their point. Parliament intervened, and the proceedings begun in the courts against the organisers of the ball were dropped. What the consequences might otherwise have been no one can tell; but it is almost certain they would have been not local, but national.

It is only six or seven years since it took a strong force of police to defend against the wrath of the students the director of the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, whose offence was nothing more heinous than favouring the sale, under school auspices, of the drawing materials, by dealing in which a medical student had hitherto earned the money to pursue his studies; and this state of things lasted several days. And only a little over two years ago the students protested as vigorously against the condemnation of Tailhade for his incendiary article in Le Libertaire as they had against the condemnation of Richepin for his Chansons des Gueux a quarter of a century before.


It was in a café of the Left Bank that French volunteers for the Boer war were recruited; and it was most of all from the students, when Kruger came to Paris, that the ministry feared the anti-British demonstrations that might bring international complications,—demonstrations which it craftily diverted by allowing the student pro-Boer enthusiasm the fullest scope.

The persecution of the Russian students by the Russian government aroused among the students of Paris no little sympathy, which was given expression in indignation meetings. It was probably quite as much the dread of the student displeasure as of the anarchist bomb that kept the czar on his last visit to France from entering Paris.

The above illustrations of the students’ irritability are the proverbial straws that show which way the wind blows, and they might be multiplied indefinitely.

There is no possible doubt of the student’s growing disgust with the corruption and hypocrisy of the present republic,—this nominal democracy that is in reality a plutocracy,—nor of his slowly crystallising resolution to have either something better than a republic or a better republic; and, in the long run, he always gets what he wants. The student strength is out of all proportion to the student numbers. Let the students take their old place in the streets of the Quartier to-morrow—5,000 or 500 strong—with a real rallying cry, and thrills of joy and shudders of apprehension will traverse the length and breadth of France.




The Quarter knows that the student is its aristocracy,—an aristocracy that gives more than it gets, against whom the Carmagnole or the ‘Ça Ira’ could not be sung, whose spirit is democratic and of the people.

Gilbert Parker.


Chapter XI



It took a rugged faith in the future to pass the evenings—without a fire—polishing verses, after having painted all day long interminable registers.”—Emile Goudeau, in Dix Ans de Bohème.

If an artist obeys the motive which may be called the natural need of work, he deserves indulgence, perhaps, more than ever. He obeys then neither ambition nor want. He obeys his heart: it were easy to believe that he obeys God. Who can know why a man who is neither vain nor in want of money decides to write?”—Alfred de Musset.

“How much of priceless life were spent With men that every virtue decks, And women models of their sex, Society’s true ornament,— Ere we dared wander, nights like this, Through wind and rain, and watch the Seine, And feel the Boulevard break again To warmth and light and bliss!” Robert Browning.
“Say I’m weary, say I’m sad, Say that health and wealth have missed me, Say I’m growing old; but add—Jenny kissed me.” Leigh Hunt.


THE persons organically connected with the University of Paris—the students and the professors—are only the nucleus, the rallying-point, so to speak, of the intellectual population of the Latin Quarter. About them, and quite as numerous as the thousands the university at any one time enrolls, are gathered those students in the largest sense of the word—painters, sculptors, architects, poets, novelists, critics, journalists, historians, philosophers, philologists, scientists, inventors, and bibliophiles—who need the help of lectures, museums, laboratories, and libraries in their daily tasks, or who, dependent on that indefinable something called atmosphere for productiveness, can hardly conceive being at their scholarly or artistic best anywhere in the world but in this particular corner of it which has given them their training and inspiration.

About the university as a centre are also grouped those alumni who, quite independently of their callings, cling to the Quartier as a cockney clings to the town for reasons gay or serious, trivial or weighty, fantastic or rational,—attachment to a lodging, a café, a club, a restaurant, to the Luxembourg Gardens or the quays of the Seine, to book-stalls or shops of antiquities, to a chum or a mistress,—from any of the various motives of habit, taste, sentiment, or passion.

Finally, the Quartier retains those alumni who, cut off (whether by the achievement of a degree or the failure to achieve one) from the convenient parental remittances, are dismayed by the risks of a penniless plunge into the great, unfamiliar world. In the Quartier, where they are known, they can count on a modicum of credit for a modicum of time from tailors, restaurateurs, and landlords, and on the unusurious loans of a little knot of friends. “One knows,” wrote Richepin, apropos of this matter, in his Etapes d’un Réfractaire, “that at such an hour in the rue de l’Ecole de Médecine or at the head of the rue Monsieur-le-Prince 208 an easy-chair holds out its arms to him, a tobacco pouch opens its heart to him, a friend lets him bellow his verses. These are so many consolations. What do I say? They are so many resources,—sometimes the only ones.”

In the Quartier, with these resources, a fellow will not starve in one month or two, as he might elsewhere. Besides, if the worst comes to the worst, there is the familiar and friendly Seine near by and the sweet, clean “Doric little morgue,” where he is bound to feel at home and where he will be speedily recognised.

A good proportion of these post-graduate denizens of the Quarter are either by choice or by necessity Bohemians. To the former class (Bohèmes par goût) belongs my friend B——, whom for conveniences’ sake we will call Berteil,—Gustave Berteil.

In a dingy hôtel of the rue Racine, just off the Quartier’s highway, the Boulevard St. Michel, in a room which costs perhaps forty francs a month, perhaps forty-five, and which has nothing about it to distinguish it from the room of a student who arrived in Paris yesterday, except for a shelf of original and other editions of the elder French dramatists, M. Berteil (Gustave Berteil, simple Gustave to his friends), bachelor, aged forty-three, has lived continuously ever since his salad days.

Twenty-three years ago Gustave came up to Paris from a Provençal town, where his father was a wealthy notary, to prepare himself, in pursuance of the paternal desire, for admission to the bar. He was equipped with so much knowledge of life as the average provincial youth has at twenty, so much book knowledge as the average provincial lycée affords, a close acquaintance with the old French drama, for which the lycée would have shuddered to be held accountable, and a consuming desire to write for the contemporary stage.

During as many years as are ordinarily required for taking a degree in law, Gustave devoted the pleasant days to foraging for old dramatists in the book-stalls and along the quays, the rainy days to play-writing and to perusing, repairing, and fondling his yellowed, tattered, worm-eaten acquisitions in his room,—where 209 he had his meals served him,—and his evenings (whatever the weather) to the auditoriums or stage entrances of the theatres and to the cafés where the cabotins (actors) most do congregate.

His relations to the law were limited, so far as is known, to the bona fide purchase of expensive legal text books, which he invariably bartered, after a decent interval, for editions of his favourites,—a device, less ingenious than ingenuous, for at once quieting his conscience and obtaining larger remittances from home.

When the time came for Gustave (supposed young advocate) to return to the Côte d’Azur and there assist his father in handling testaments and deeds, he made a clean breast of it by post.

Thereupon the father cut off the son’s allowance, thinking thus “to starve the rascal,” as he bluntly expressed it, “into submission.” He very nearly succeeded in the starving part of his programme, as he discovered to his genuine horror,—for he was at bottom not a bad papa,—when, at the end of an anxious year without tidings from the boy, he came to Paris and found his novel prodigal out at heels and elbows, hollowed in at stomach, and rickety at the knees; with absolutely nothing quite intact in fact about his person or surroundings—except the shelf of old dramatists, which would easily have procured him food and fuel. Berteil père was mollified, if sadly disillusionised, by this ocular demonstration of pluck on the part of Berteil fils. He settled on his unnatural offspring an allowance of 2,500 francs a year, to be trebled whenever he should abandon Bohemia for legitimate business, and left him to live his own life in his own way.

This way has not turned out to be greatly different from the way of Gustave’s nominal student days, and for at least ten years it has not varied from one year to another by the value of a hair.

Every morning at ten, winter and summer, the hôtel garçon enters M. Berteil’s room, without rapping, to bring him his coffee and to inform him of the weather. If the garçon reports that it is really pleasant,—and the garçon knows from long experience, you may be sure, what M. Berteil considers really pleasant, 210—M. Berteil spends the day book-hunting on the quays, where every bouquineur and bouquiniste greets him cordially as an old acquaintance. If the garçon’s weather bulletin is unfavourable, he orders his déjeuner and dinner sent up to his room, and spends the day in the society of his old dramatists and such of his friends, whose name is legion, as may chance to call. He still haunts, evenings, as he did in the beginning, the cafés affected by the cabotins, with whom he passes for the most brilliant conversationalist on theatrical matters in or out of the “profession.” But he abjured long ago theatre auditoriums and stage entrances, the latter because he can now meet histrionic celebrities on an equal footing, the former because he holds modern plays trash and modern methods of interpreting old plays tinsel. He also put away long ago his youthful, disquieting ambition to write for the contemporary stage, because he despaired of matching the old dramatists in their manner and disdained the manner of the new.

When he receives his monthly remittance of fr. 208.35, he gives the odd centimes to the first street beggar he meets,—for luck,—and consecrates fifty francs at once to a dinner with one or two of his intimates and the amie of his law-student (?) days, who, still fair, though “fat and forty,” is the prosperous proprietress of a little stationery shop in his street. The balance of the remittance amply suffices him to live thirty days more in his modest fashion and to add a new specimen or two to his collection of books.

I do not know of a person whose life is organised more rationally,—I would say scientically if Gustave did not abhor the word science and all its derivatives; and, in the teeth of the adage which warns us to call no man happy till he dies, I do not hesitate to say that Gustave Berteil is happy, and has been happy from the day of his reconciliation with his sire. Indeed, if I were asked to name the happiest man of my acquaintance, I should answer, “Gustave Berteil,” without a moment’s pause.

Gustave, like the majority of the Bohemians from choice, was a Bohemian by necessity for a time; but the Quartier has always had a sprinkling of brilliant, forceful personalities who 211 have taken Bohemian vows without ever having had to consider the bread-and-butter question.

Such was the deceased artist Henri Pille (associated in his latter days with Montmartre), whose appearance implied utter poverty, but who is said to have had landed property in a southern province which made the fluctuations of the picture market a matter of little concern to him.

Such is, or, perhaps, was, the poet Maurice Bouchor, to whom Richepin dedicated his virile volume, Les Blasphèmes. Bouchor, who now devotes almost all his time and energy to the elevation of the working people through reading clubs and the Universités Populaires, is regarded by many of his old associates as a renegade from Bohemia. He is confessedly a renegade from many of its livelier and noisier pleasures, as his age and his gentle nature entitle him to be. But he still lives less pretentiously than his means permit, is still “thinking his own thoughts, following the leadings of his own heart, and holding to the realities of life where-ever they conflict with its conventions,” and so has not entirely forfeited his claim, it is to be hoped, to be ranked with the Bohemians of the Quarter.

Such also is Jean Richepin, in spite of his sumptuous establishment on the Right Bank, a sort of Parisian Menelik, whose barbaric costumes and audacious exploits have entered as completely into the legendary lore of the Quarter as the explosive inconsistencies of Jules Vallès and the alternate aspirings and back-slidings of Paul Verlaine. In the early eighties, when he paraded the fantastic title of Roi des Truands (King of the Vagrants), Richepin wore a talismanic bracelet and a curiously-shaped hat, as badges of his rank. “There was even,” says his fellow-Bohemian, Emile Goudeau, “an epic struggle between Jean Richepin and the poor but great caricaturist André Gill [a Bohemian by necessity] as to which of the two would root out of the hatteries of Paris the most bizarre head-dress. Now Gill and now Richepin had the advantage. The illustrious Sapeck was the judge of last resort, and awarded the palm to the victor.” It would take 212 a long chapter to describe the costumes which have played a part in Richepin’s numerous and strange avatars. At one time, if the narrative of a friend can be trusted, he remained in hiding for almost a fortnight because his wardrobe was reduced to a simple JEAN RICHEPIN JEAN RICHEPIN window curtain; and his adventures have been so extraordinary that this ludicrous incident, improbable as it sounds, does not defy belief.

Richepin, Bouchor, and Paul Bourget, returning from “The Sherry Cobbler” one night, halted under the arcade of the Odéon, named themselves Les Vivants, and solemnly pledged each other eternal aid and fidelity. This was the period when Bourget’s ambition was poetry, when he wore pantaloons of water green, and imitated the miraculous cravats of Barbey d’Aurévilly and the mode of living of Balzac. “Bourget submitted himself,” says Goudeau, “to a ferocious Balzacian régime. He dined very early, went to bed immediately after, and had himself called on the stroke of 3 A.M..... The poet-recluse then drank two or three bowls of black coffee, like Balzac, and, like Balzac, worked until seven. Then he slept again for an hour, rose, for good this time, and applied himself to the bread-winning activities which poverty imposes on young littérateurs.”

Bourget, who began thus as a Bohemian from necessity, has 213 ended as a snob. He is a fair sample of the “arrivé” who disavows his past, and

“Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees By which he did ascend.”

“I shall be adjudged severe, perhaps,” says the poet and socialist deputy Clovis Hugues; “but I am of those who think that the sacrifice of the chevelure [long hair] is the most dangerous of concessions to the modern bourgeoisie.... In literature there is an affinity between the sudden disappearance of the familiar mane and the forsaking of the good comrades of the days of want. The transformation effected, one may still have much esprit, but one has ceased to be a good fellow. Beware, then, of the tribunes and the poets who establish relations with the garçons coiffeurs!

I do not know that Bourget ever had any “chevelure” to leave in the hands of the Delilah of bourgeois respectability, but it would seem that he had sacrificed on the altar of his parvenu-ship the sincere soulfulness of which the “chevelure” as well as another thing may be the visible symbol, since he apparently has no sympathy or helping hand for his younger painter brother who is bravely struggling up to recognition against heavy odds.

Even the conceited “arrivés” of literature and the arts are entitled to a certain respect, especially when they have “arrived,” as has Bourget, by force of genuine talent and persistent work. However ridiculous the pretentious airs they assume, they are not cravens. They have left Bohemia, but they have left it with colours flying, with all the honours of war. As much cannot be said for the recreants,—called the “soumis” or, still more expressively, the “moutons,”—who have forsaken Bohemia, without the excuse of having “arrived,” from sheer pusillanimity, because they found its paths of hardship, struggle, and sacrifice too rugged in comparison with the easy highways of bourgeoisdom. Towards these one’s dominating sentiment can hardly be other than pity or contempt,—contempt, if they take greedily to the flesh-pots without regret at selling their souls to Mammon; pity, if they do regret.


Richepin, who knows this Bohemian world so well, has characterised the two varieties of “moutons.” Of the first (the unconscious “moutons,” so to speak) he says, “Having returned to the paternal roast, married their little cousins, and established themselves notaries in towns of thirty thousand inhabitants, they have the self-satisfaction of rehearsing before the fire their poor-artist adventures with the magniloquence of a traveller who describes a tiger hunt”; and of the others (the conscious “moutons”), “Wretchedly sad in the existence into which they have entered against their wishes, in the intellectual tombs to which they have consigned themselves, they slowly atrophy. The banal is particularly terrible in this,—that, if one returns to it after having been disgusted with it, it is to find it more banal still, and to die of it.”

Few of the Bohemians who have been intimately associated with the Quarter during the last twenty-five or thirty years have been able to make shift with their literature or their art alone. In order to keep body and soul together, most have been constrained to resort to compromises which are humiliating and disillusionising, but which are not necessarily demoralising, and which stop a long way this side of absolute surrender. Mallarmé taught English in the lycées nearly all his life, and conducted alone, during a short period, a journal entitled La Dernière Mode. Verlaine was long an employee of the Hôtel de Ville, had periods of teaching, and even tried his hand at farming. Edmond Haraucourt,72 Camille St. Croix, Léon Dierx, Emile Goudeau, Canqueteau, and Trimouillat have been at one time or another petty functionaries. Nearly all have dabbled in journalism. The happiest compromise, however, the most independent form of dependence, so to say, has been hit upon by Jacques Le Lorrain, poet and author of L’Au Delà, who set up as a cobbler in 1896 in the rue du Sommerard, close by the Cluny Museum.73


It is no infrequent thing for the loyal Bohemian to “arrive” too late to profit by his success because his spirit has been imbittered or his constitution ruined by the hardships he has undergone.

“The maimed heart, the heart poniarded in this mute struggle for life,” says Jules Vallès in his Réfractaires, “cannot be taken out of the chest and replaced by another. There are no wooden hearts in the market. It remains there, bleeding, the poniard at its centre. Rich one day, famous, perhaps, these victims of obscure combats may perfume their sores if they will, sponge up the blood, wipe away their tears; memory will tear open the wounds, strip off the bandages. A word, a song,—joyous or sad,—will be enough to raise in these sick souls the phantom of the past.”


Jehan Rictus more recently, in his terrible Soliloques du Pauvre, has expressed the same thought in another fashion:—

“Même si qu’un jour j’ tornais au riche Par un effet de vot’ Bonté, Ce jour-là j’ f’rai mett’e une affiche, On cherche à vendre un cœur gâté.”

The following poem embodies the experience of a Latin Quarter Bohemian whose hard-won victory came too late because his health was gone:—

I Do you remember, Marguerite, How first we met in the Latin Quarter? I was a poet, far from gay, And you, well, you were—somebody’s daughter. You dropped a glove upon the curb, Say, was it Fate or yourself who willed it? I picked it up, a natural thing, Laid it within the hand that had filled it. Merci, monsieur,” was all you said; But, somehow, I knew from your tone, as you said it, That, if I kept the hand awhile, It would not count to my discredit. 216 So, hand in hand, we strolled and we chatted, Happy as pups whose heads have been patted. We drank a bock on the Saint Michel; And, when we parted, I knew you so well That I even dropped the “Mademoiselle.” Do you remember I whispered low, As I gazed in your eyes, so dark, so sweet, A bientôt, Marguerite, Au revoir and à bientôt”? II Do you remember, Marguerite, How we rubbed along in the Latin Quarter? I Roland, the poet, almost gay, And you, my mistress and—somebody’s daughter? There were only a bed and a chair or two In our tiny chamber under the mansard; But our thoughts were simple, our hearts were true, Something in each to the other answered. Fresh youth was there, and love was there, My hopes were strong, your face was fair; And we lived and loved as devoted a pair As ever old Paris sheltered. In a worn béret and a faded blouse, I scribbled for fame. You kept the house, That is, as much as there was to keep. You must, sometimes, have suffered in silence then, It was, oh, so little I earned with my pen! But you never allowed me to see you weep. And whenever I left for an hour or so, My Marguerite, do you remember? Over and over you made me repeat, As if you’d a dread I’d get lost in the street, A bientôt, Marguerite, Au revoir and à bientôt.” 217 III For ten long years, my Marguerite, Heart has beaten to heart in the Latin Quarter, The heart of the poet, almost gay, The heart of the mistress, the—somebody’s daughter. We’ve hold to each other through thick and through thin, As the years have gone out and the years have come in; And we’ve always held to the Latin Quarter. Now fame has come and my pen earns more, We have furnishings choice and books in store. What a change it is from the days of yore! The starving days when we lived on air! No more we climb to the hundredth stair; We have plenty to eat and plenty to wear; Whenever we wish, we can have a fire. Once that was the acme of our desire. We’re as snug and slick as the parvenus; But it’s come too late for me and for you, This luck that we prayed for when days were blue. My work is done in the Latin Quarter. God bless you, my dear, for your love for me! Bless God for my love for—somebody’s daughter! IV It’s over, over, Marguerite, The fair, fair life in the Latin Quarter. I’m dying, dearest; and, when I’m dead, You’ll be once more just—somebody’s daughter. But you’ll not be driven to work for bread, Or worse than work in the Latin Quarter. Thank God for that! You can hold up your head: So you’ve funds, it’s enough to be—somebody’s daughter. All that is mine will be yours, of course,— The world has been kind these last glad years,— Don’t be foolish, I beg of you, over my corse, 218 Just give what is natural,—a few real tears. Be a good girl, don’t yield to regret For the thing that is gone. What is must be. You were born for love, don’t you dare to forget! Make some poor devil happy, as you’ve made me! It’s the very last thing I shall ask, I ween; For I feel the whirr of Death’s sickle keen.... I know not what this death may mean, For I scarcely credit what churchmen tell Of a future heaven and a future hell. Without any future all is well, If the life that is past has been loving and true, As the life has been that we have to review; But my heart is breaking at leaving you. Well, just because it’s my habit so, And because it makes it more natural to go, I’ll say, quite as if we were likely to meet A bientôt, Marguerite, Au revoir and à bientôt.”


Chapter XII



Whoever throws himself into the streets of a great city, into the mêlée of rapacities and ambitions, with a pen for a weapon, takes ‘La Misère’ for a flag.”—Jean Richepin, in Les Etapes d’un Réfractaire.

You have the stuff of three poets in you; but, before you become known, you run the risk of dying six times of hunger, if you count on the income from your poetry for the means to live.

Etienne Lousteau to Lucien de Rubempré, in Balzac’s Illusions Perdues.

Cressot died of want the day want forsook him. He died because his body, habituated to suffering, was not able to accept well-being.

Jules Vallès.


FIFTY odd years ago, in a volume of short stories,—little read in France nowadays, and quite unknown, I fancy, elsewhere,—Le Roman de Toutes les Femmes, Henry Mürger, author of the universally known and loved La Vie de Bohème, narrated, under the title “La Biographie d’un Inconnu,” the life history of a young sculptor who died of “the malady to which science does not dare to give its true name, la misère.”

Joseph D——, born in a provincial town of poor, hard-working, respectable parents, manifested a strong vocation for sculpture from his early boyhood. His father having decided to put him to the carpenter’s trade, Joseph, who had no notion of becoming a mechanic, went secretly to the Free School of Design. The professor of the school procured him a place as pupil with a government architect, which his father, under the impression that carpentry and architecture were very much the same thing, allowed him to accept. Joseph made such progress that he paid his way at the end of a month, and at the end of six months earned his seven or eight francs a day. But he was getting no nearer to sculpture by this work; and he left the architect’s office, in the face of his father’s opposition, and entered a sculptor’s atelier for study, paying a month in advance for his teaching. He took part in a competition for admission to the Beaux-Arts, and failed. Having no money with which to pay for lessons, he was forced to leave the atelier, but was received—about the only bit of good luck in his whole career—by the great master, Rude. He lodged at this time in the rue du Cherche-Midi, over a cow stable, where he was warmed only by what heat ascended through a hole in the floor.

Finding he could not pay for the models and materials necessary to enter the Salon competitions, he assisted for a year, without entirely neglecting his studies, a noted ornament-worker, and put by enough to enable him to pursue his art studies to 222 good advantage. Working by night in a cold workshop, he contracted a sickness which confined him to his bed for a time, and which swept away all his savings. As soon as he was well again, he went back to work for his first employer (the architect), designing ornaments whose execution was intrusted to others. He thus gained a little pile—about 1,200 francs—with which to compete for the Salon. It was stolen by a roof-worker who, while repairing an adjacent building, had seen him counting it.

This “mischance”—to go on in Mürger’s own language—“was a terrible blow to Joseph. ‘There are some people who have no luck,’ he said, ‘who would lose with all the trumps of the pack in their hands.’ ‘Never mind,’ he resumed, brightening, ‘I will attempt the assault of the Louvre74 with what little I have left. I will enter there with plaster instead of bronze or marble.’”

All his courage had returned. He tried making fanciful statuettes, which he could prepare without the expense of hiring models; but he had little success in selling them.

La Misère returned, and knocked at his door. She entered, terrible and pitiless, like a vanquished foe whose turn has come to triumph, and who uses without mercy the right of reprisal. Joseph’s destitution reached such a point that, when one of his friends invited him to dinner, he answered naïvely, ‘I’m afraid it will put me out: it’s not my day.’ For tobacco he smoked walnut leaves, which he gathered in the forest of Verrières, then dried, and chopped up fine.

“His sole hope was the coming Salon. In a room without a fire,”—the odorous days of the calorific cow stable must have seemed a paradise in retrospect,—“in a Siberian temperature, he worked during three consecutive months on a Saint Antoine, for he had been forced to renounce his group of Galatea, the too costly execution of which he had deferred to better times. Clay, in spite of its moderate cost, was too dear for his empty purse, this 223 same purse which had held almost a fortune; for, by a strange irony, the thief who had taken his money had left him his purse. He dug his clay himself, therefore, in some fields of the banlieue. A rag-picker of the rue Mouffetard whom he had met, I know not where, gave him sittings at five sous an hour; and three-quarters of the time the worthy man invented angelic ruses to avoid being paid.

“The date set for sending to the Salon was near. It was time to think of taking the plaster cast of the statue. Michelli, Fontaine, and the other moulders who worked for the artists, when they saw Joseph’s destitution, were unwilling to venture credit. All he could obtain from one of them was the furnishing of the necessary plaster. Aided by several friends, Joseph took the cast of his statue himself. The operation lasted two days, and turned out well.

“It was the eve of the day on which the jury was to begin its sittings and on which the works to be passed upon must be at the Louvre, by midnight at the very latest. During the night it came on cold, and Joseph, to minimise the action of the frost upon his statue, the still damp plaster of which had not acquired the solidity which dryness gives, wrapped his only blanket about it, and piled up on it, as a cuirass of warmth against the darts of the cold, all his clothing, playing thus, towards Saint Antoine, the rôle of Saint Martin.

“The next forenoon two or three friends came to aid Joseph in transporting his statue to the Louvre. The wagon arrived four hours too late. Nor was this all. At this point, fatality intervened in the person of an absurd concièrge, who declared that he would let nothing leave Joseph’s room before the back rent was paid. The artists explained to the concièrge that a statue was not a piece of furniture, and that the law did not permit him to hold it back. He would not listen to reason, and, stony in his stubbornness, demanded a written permit from the landlord. They hurried to Passy, where the landlord lived, and did not find him. He would not be in before dinner. They returned 224 at the dinner hour. He had just gone out. It was already eight o’clock in the evening. They decided to apply to a justice of the peace. The justice turned them over to the commissary of police, who began by sustaining the concièrge, but who decided, on Joseph’s representations of the injury that would be done him if he were made to miss the Salon, to authorise the removal of the statue. It was then eleven o’clock. They had barely an hour to get to the Louvre. A dangerous coating of thin ice rendered the streets impracticable. Vehicles could only advance at a walk. The artists needed three hours at least, and they had only one. Furthermore, repairs which were being made on the sewers forced them to take the longest route. In crossing the Pont-Neuf, Joseph and his friends heard it strike the half-hour.

“‘It’s half-past eleven,’ said Joseph, who was sweating great drops in spite of the fact that the thermometer marked a north-pole temperature.

“‘It’s half-past twelve,’ volunteered a young man who detached himself from a band of painters who were returning with their pictures because they had arrived at the Louvre too late. They were making the best of it, and were singing gaily, ‘Allons-nous-en, gens de la noce! etc.

“Joseph and his friends retraced their steps.

“A little later Joseph exposed his Saint Antoine and a statuette of Marguerite at the Exposition du Bazar Bonne Nouvelle (corresponding to the modern Salon des Réfusés), and sold the two to the Museum of Compiègne for 150 francs.

“This paltry sum enabled him to drag himself about some time,—a year almost. Then he entered the hospital through the intervention of an interne, for he had no characterised malady. He died there of exhaustion at the end of three months....

“Joseph D—— died at the age of twenty-three, without rancour or recrimination against the art that had killed him, as a brave soldier falls on the field of battle, saluting his flag.”

If I have reproduced here with much fulness this old story of Mürger’s, it is because Joseph D—— stands to the Bohemians 225 of the Quartier as a kind of saint, Saint Joseph de la Dèche,75 patron of poor artists, and because the half-century during which civilisation is supposed to have been advancing with enormous strides has made no appreciable difference in the hardships of the needy artist or in the bravery with which he faces them. Parents are still too often dull-witted, narrow, and unsympathetic where their offspring are concerned. Rents are still hard to pay, and art materials and models, food, clothes, and fuel hard to be had just when they are most needed. Luck is as capricious, the concièrge as officious, winter as brutal, warmth as coy, and death as chary of reprieves as ever. Joseph D—— is as strictly up to date as if he had been born in 1881 and died in 1904. One hesitates to depict the slow starvation of one’s acquaintances and friends, even under assumed names; and the fateful career of Mürger’s Joseph is so perfectly typical of the careers of the poor devils of artists in the Quartier of the present period that there is no necessity of depicting it.

Quite as terrible, though far less romantic than the misère of the Bohemian artist and littérateur, is the “misère en habit noir”—the nomenclature is Balzac’s—of the patientless doctor, the briefless barrister, and the unemployed or underpaid teacher and professor.

Your poet, your painter, or your sculptor, is, as a rule, a careless, jolly dog, who has something of the genuine vagabond or adventurer in him. He cannot tolerate anything that is cut and dried, not even prosperity; and he would be infinitely bored by life if its elements of uncertainty were quite eliminated. He prefers agreeable surprises to disagreeable surprises, of course; but he prefers disagreeable surprises to no surprises at all.

Dissimulation is not an indispensable part of his artistic baggage. He may flaunt and vaunt his poverty, swear at it or make game of it, and be none the less considered, at least in his milieu. He is excused from playing the dismal farce of keeping up appearances. He may live in an attic, clothe himself in tattered and seedy 226 raiment, shirk the bath-tub, ignore the very existence of the laundress and the barber, be noisy and reckless, and defy all the canons of the social code without stultifying himself or dishonouring his calling. Best of all, his life is rarely a lonely one. He suffers, but he has the camaraderie of suffering; and this enables him to laugh or shout his misery away.

On the other hand, your so-called professional man—your physician, for instance—must be more than decently lodged; be arrayed, at no matter what hour of the day,—such is the Old World convention,—in a faultless frock-coat and silk hat; be restrained, not to say dignified, in demeanour; assume to be busy when he is weary unto death with inaction,—and all this though hunger be consuming his very vitals.

He must button his suffering securely under his respectable black waistcoat, and wear his professional complacence when his heart is torn with sobs. If the reputable lodging or the reputable bearing fail him, even for a little, he is lost irrevocably.

Four years ago or thereabouts a young physician, one Dr. Laporte, was arraigned before a Paris court for criminal negligence in the practice of his profession. The court condemned him to prison, in spite of the testimony of an eminent specialist in his favour, but with the palliative of the Loi Bérenger.76

The condemnation was based on these facts: Summoned to an emergency case already compromised by lay treatment, and not possessing the surgical instrument which it called for, Dr. Laporte cast around for a makeshift tool. He used unsuccessfully the only thing in any way adapted to his purpose that he discovered in the patient’s house; and then, finding his efforts futile, and foreseeing the fatal issue, which was not slow to arrive, he withdrew, saying there was nothing more to be done.

The reasons for the attachment of clemency to the sentence were these: the evidence showed conclusively that he had had no patients for days and perhaps weeks; that he had no money to keep in proper repair the instruments he owned, to say nothing of 227 buying the instrument in question; and that he had not eaten a morsel of food for a full day previous to the emergency visit, and was a prey to the giddiness of hunger at the moment he made his deplorable attempt.

“The police investigation,” said the presiding judge to the culprit while the trial was in progress, “shows you as nervous, excitable, unbalanced, passing quickly from a state of exaltation to a state of the most profound depression.” What wonder!



They are logical in their insane heroism, they utter neither cries nor plaints, they endure passively the obscure and rigorous destiny which they allot themselves. They die for the most part, decimated by the malady to which science does not dare to give its true name, ‘la misère.’”

Henry Mürger, Introduction to La Vie de Bohème.


Chapter XIII



This world’s been too many for me.

Mr. Tulliver, in George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss.

Et j’ai grand peur à tout moment De voir mourir d’épuisement L’ami d’enfance, Que pour moins de solennité J’appelle ici le Chat Botté, Mais qu’on nomme aussi l’espérance. André Gill.
Tu veux choisir ta mort; Va sache bien mourir sans crainte niaise: La lâcheté, c’est le travail sans pain, Le suicide lent des ruines et des fournaises. Ne tremble pas, sois fort, de ton dédain, Et fais grève à la vie, enfant sans pain! Francis Vielé-Griffin.

I have an education.
‘Now you are armed for the battle,’ said my professor, in bidding me adieu. ‘Who triumphs at college enters victorious into la carrière’ [career].
What carrière?
A former classmate of my father’s, who was passing through Nantes and stopped off to see him, told him that one of their fellow-classmates, he who had won all the prizes, had been found dead—mangled and bloody—at the bottom of a carrière [quarry] of stone, into which he had cast himself after having been three days without food.
It is not into this ‘carrière’ I must enter, I take it,—at least, not head first.”—Jules Vallès, in Jacques Vingtras—Le Bachelier.

First came the silent gazers; next, A screen of glass we’re thankful for; Last, the sight’s self, the sermon’s text, The three men who did most abhor Their life in Paris yesterday, So killed themselves: and now, enthroned Each on his copper couch, they lay Fronting me, waiting to be owned. I thought, and think, their sin’s atoned. Robert Browning.


A RECENT morning paper contained the following item in its column of “Crimes and Casualties”:—

La Littérature qui Tue.

“Enamoured of art and persuaded that he would quickly win a name in Paris, Louis M——, a young man of twenty-five, left some six months ago the little provincial city where he was born.

“Like Balzac’s hero, Lucien de Rubempré, who entered the Latin Quarter with two hundred and forty francs in money and the manuscripts of L’Archer de Charles IX. and Les Marguerites, this young provincial arrived in Paris with a light purse and the bulky manuscript of a drama in five acts, which he expected to get performed immediately. Unfortunately, the purse was quickly emptied, and the drama was refused by all the theatre managers.

“As his father was not rich, Louis M—— was unwilling to appeal to him, and suffered without complaining.

“One day, however, he confessed his desperate situation to Mme. C——, a friend of his family, who inhabits a comfortable apartment, rue ——. Mme. C—— promised to see what she could do for him. In the midst of a conversation with her yesterday he drew a revolver from his pocket, and before she could catch his arm fired a bullet into his heart.

“Death was instantaneous.”

Emile Goudeau, in his Dix Ans de Bohème, tells of the picturesque suicide of a young Latin Quarter poet of his acquaintance:—

“D——, arrayed in a new suit and with his hands full of bouquets, went up to the cashier’s desk and graciously adorned the counter and corsage of the cashier. Then, turning to a medical student, he said to him nonchalantly, ‘My dear fellow, I have made a bet that the little point of the heart is here between these 232 two ribs’; and he designated a spot on his vest. ‘Not at all,’ corrected the other, ‘it is lower down. There!’ ‘I have lost then,’ D—— replied.

“He called a cab, and ordered the cocher to drive him to the Arc de Triomphe.

“When the cocher arrived at the head of the Champs Elysées, and opened the cab door, there was only a corpse upon the cushions. D—— had shot himself full in the heart.”

The last season I passed on the Left Bank of the Seine, the Quartier was deeply moved by the death of one of its faithful devotees, the poet René Leclerc (nom-de plume, Robert de la Villoyo), who poisoned himself with cyanide of potassium.

Leclerc was thirty-two at the time of his death. He had inhabited the Quartier for more than a decade. He had come thither to study medicine in accordance with the wishes of his bourgeois parents; and he had stayed on after all thought of practising as a physician had left him, in order to pursue the literature which had become his passion.

With the funds which his family provided he lived neither too well nor too ill, working steadily, but gaining little, slowly developing a very real, if not very robust, talent. He completed two romances, contributed more or less regularly to La Plume and the minor reviews and literary weeklies of the Left Bank, which are the easier to enter since contributors are paid nothing at all or very little, and placed an occasional poem and chronique in the daily press. Indeed, everything went well with him up to the moment when his family, disgruntled at his persistency in holding to so unprofitable a calling, deprived him of his income. Then he set out bravely to earn his living with his pen. He besieged editors with copy, but succeeded in placing but few articles; and, when he did place them, he was more often than not kept waiting for his pay, and sometimes defrauded out of it altogether. He tried in vain to find a publisher for either of his two manuscript romances. He did difficult and ill-paid hack-work, collaborating on a translation into French of the Norwegian 233 Strindberg and on an adaptation into French verse of the Mandragore of Machiavelli; and he undertook—oh, the bitter pill!—the task of writing a volume on the Côte d’Ivoire, of A Suicide of the Latin Quarter A Suicide of the Latin Quarter which he was as ignorant as he was of the borders of the supposititious canals of the planet Mars. Even this concession to mercantilism—beyond which it is not surprising he was unwilling to go—did not suffice to procure him a living. He ran behind two quarters on his rent, and was threatened with eviction. If not actually destitute, he was on the verge of destitution. And yet to those who were familiar with René Leclerc’s proud and sensitive spirit it seems more likely that it was disgust with his lot rather than terror before the approach of want which drove him to kill himself. It was because he held his art so high that he was unwilling to survive its debasement. He had made concessions that he regarded as enormous,—compromised his ideal, vulgarised his taste, and prostituted (at least so it seemed to him) his talent. It was too much. His last act-could a dying gesture well be finer?—was to reduce to ashes 234 the hateful manuscript of the Côte d’Ivoire and all his other writings that he held unworthy.

And journalists were found contemptible enough to censure him, to call him coward, because he was too fastidious to stoop to their own corrupt, degrading practices, even to save his life.

Among the works he left, as having his affection and which by one of those ironies so common with the law went to his unappreciative family (who might have saved him), was a collection of sweet and delicate poems, entitled La Guirlande de Marie, dedicated to her who had shared his prosperity and remained the faithful friend of his adversity.

Here are a few stanzas (from a poem of this collection) inscribed to Henry Mürger, in which he sings the praises of the Bohemia by which he died:—

Les gais amoureux et les amoureuses Ont depuis des ans, Mürger, déserté La mansarde étroite où leurs voix rieuses Narguaient le bon sens—et la pauvreté! L’amour, aujourd’hui, s’est fait plus morose; Schaunard est rentier, Colline est bourgeois, Les lauriers coupés, et mortes les roses, Ils ont désappris les chemins du bois. Rodolphe et Mimi, Marcel et Musette, Dans leurs lits bien clos sont endormis; Mais, vivante encor, leur chanson coquette Eveille en nos vers des refrains amis; Nos rèves, vois-tu, sont restés les mêmes: Roses du matin, rires du printemps, Châteaux en Espagne ou parcs en Bohème Irréels ou vrais,—comme de ton temps! Nous marchons leur pas, nous aussi, sans trève. Vers quel but lointain? Nous n’en savons rien; 235 Baste! Il faut toujours que route s’achève. Quand nous y serons, nous le verrons bien. Peu d’argent en poche, et point de bagages, Nul regret d’antan pour nous chagriner, Nous sommes parés pour les longs voyages, Libres: rien à perdre, et tout à gagner!

And here is a portion of a poem, “Le Sabot de Noël,” that is a sort of playful prayer:—

Mets dans mon sabot de Noël Le jeune espoir qui nous fait libre, Mets le désir profond de vivre Et la fleur qui fleurit au ciel. Mets le succès dans les efforts, Le travail sans souci ni doute, Et comme étoile sur ma route L’orgueil simple qui fait les forts.

Poor boy! It was this very “orgueil simple” that was his sad undoing.

“If the artist,” says Balzac in a memorable passage of his Cousine Bette, “does not hurl himself into his work, like Curtius into the gulf, without reflecting, and if, in this crater, he does not dig like a miner buried under a land-slide, ... his work perishes in the atelier, where production becomes impossible; and he assists at the suicide of his talent.”

René Leclerc, though no mere dawdler, as the twelve sizable manuscripts he left behind him prove, was not endowed with either the mental or the physical endurance to perform the Herculean labour which Balzac both preached and practised. No more was Louis M—— nor D——; no more was the brilliant Gérard de Nerval, who was found one winter morning in the rue de la Vieille Lanterne hanging from a window-bar, nor the precocious Escousse and Lebras, who at nineteen and sixteen respectively killed themselves because a first phenomenal success with a drama 236 was followed by failures; no more was Chatterton in England. Few artists are. With most of them ample time for revery is a prerequisite condition of production. And yet the record seems to show that suicides are relatively rare among poets and artists.

Perhaps this is because the record does not occupy itself with the poets and artists, the Louis M——s and the D——s, who are not known as such to the world at large. Or, perhaps, it is because so many die in the hospital, like Gilbert, Malfilâtre, Hégésippe Moreau, and the Joseph D—— of Mürger’s tale; and so many others are claimed by Charenton, like Jules Jouy, Toulouse de Lautrec, and André Gill (for bedlam is another Bohemian resort), that suicide has no need to assert its rights. In any event, two cardinal qualities of the artistic temperament are distinctly hostile to self-destruction; namely, faith in the sure emergence and supremacy of genius, and a Hamlet-like irresolution that prefers pouring out woes on paper to ending them by an energetic trigger-pull.

The despair of the victims of the misère en habit noir, who are less able to sustain themselves by faith and who are more capable of decisive action, is, like their dress, much blacker and more austere; and suicides are far commoner among them.



Chapter XIV



If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for God’s sake pass it round and let us have a pipe before we go.”—Robert Louis Stevenson.

‘Lord, my dear,’ returned he, with the utmost good humour, ‘you seem immensely chagrined; but, hang me, when the world laughs at me, I laugh at all the world, and so we are even.’

Oliver Goldsmith, Beau Tibbs at Home.

Stupeur du badaud, gaîté du trottin, Le masque à Sardou, la gueule à Voltaire, La tignasse en pleurs sur maigres vertèbres Et la requimpette au revers fleuri D’horribles bouquets pris à la poubelle, Ainsi se ballade à travers Paris Du brillant Montmartre au Quartier-Latin Bibi-la-Purée, le pouilleux célèbre, Prince des crasseux et des Purotains. Jehan Rictus.

Much good might be sucked from these beggars.”—Charles Lamb.

“Mieux vaut goujat debout qu’empereur enterré.”—Emile Goudeau.


THE dislike of and contempt for the bourgeois felt by the Bohemian students and the other Bohemians who have elected to reside in the Quartier Latin pale into insignificance before the absolute detestation of the bourgeois displayed by the Quartier’s chevaliers d’industrie, the hangers-on and camp-followers of its littérateurs and artists, who bear about the same relation to their principals that a side-show bears to a circus or the capering monkey to the hand-organ and its grinder.

As the lackey of the nobleman often holds himself above the commoner far more than does the nobleman himself, and as he will rather put up with poor living and poor wages in the service of an indigent aristocrat than demean himself by serving in the households of tradesmen, so these ne’er-do-wells of the Quartier Latin—ragged retainers of the threadbare gentry of arts and letters, pinched flunkeys of the straightened lords of thought, seedy clients of needy Latin patricians, tatterdemalion cup-bearers to tattered Parnassians, supernumeraries to the protagonists in the melodrama of cultured poverty, chorus to the soloists of the Learned Beggars’ Opera—would be humiliated and miserable outside of the atmosphere of letters. They would rather be door-keepers, to paraphrase a familiar text, in the house of the intellectual élite than to dwell in the tents of vulgarity.

If there is more comedy and less tragedy in the existences of these satellites than in the existences of their controlling luminaries, it is not because their physical hardships are fewer,—for, parasites, sycophants, trencher-friends, pick-thanks, and toad-eaters though they be, theirs is but sorry hap,—but because they are mostly ambitionless or feeble-minded and so not as susceptible to the mental torture of disenchantment.

They “carry the half of their mattresses in their hair,” after the fashion of the nephew of Rameau described by Diderot. They don the cast-off garments and retail the worn-out epigrams of 240 their fétiches, who are amused by and therefore endlessly indulgent of them. They strut and smirk and rant like children masquerading in the attic frippery of their elders, make as clever displays of superficial knowledge as the most up-to-date members of the most up-to-date women’s clubs, and revert constantly to a previous connection with the university which is not always imaginary. As individuals, these pseudo-connoisseurs and savants come and go in the Quartier Latin: the class goes on forever.

There are plenty of persons still living in the Latin Quarter who knew the originals of the eccentric Quartier types immortalised by Jules Vallès in his phenomenal Réfractaires.

Fontan-Crusoe, a genuine bachelor of arts, who slept one hundred and eleven consecutive nights under a tree near the fortifications, spent for nourishment from three to five sous a day which he earned by selling in the street his two principal works, Le Spectre Noir: Elégie and Un Galop à travers l’Espace.

Poupelin, called also “Mes Papiers,” he of the enormous yellow felt, “pantalon d’enfant,” and “redingote de centennaire,” who spent his time seeking titled office and recommendations therefor, when he was not occupied in one of the three positions which he accepted with equal alacrity and in which he was equally efficient,—or inefficient,—namely, teacher, school usher, and cook.

And M. Chaque, “Orientaliste,” another genuine bachelier, who had a useful habit of carrying rice pudding in his hat and omelettes and beef à la mode in his pockets,—ex-professor of a colonial school; author of a volume of travels in Greece (published by a reputable firm) with which he beset Greek enthusiasts orally and successfully; a constant reader of the Revue des Deux Mondes, to which he had, once on a time, contributed an article; communicant of all the Christian or pagan sects that had churches or temples in Paris; privileged hanger-on of gaming-houses and soldiers’ barracks; razor-sharpener and professional weeper at the cemetery of Montparnasse.


Two vagrant types (equally grotesque with those of Vallès), who are now dead, but whom one need not have been long associated with the Quartier to remember, were Eugène Cochet and Amédée Cloux.

Cochet was an ex-prefect of the Department of the Eure, a rhymester and the author of an unpublished work of “philosophical reflections,” who depended for his sustenance on the bounty of one or two restaurants and the soupes populaires, and who had a mania for decorations, like Poupelin. The students, who made Cochet the butt of a great deal of good-natured chaffing, which he accepted gratefully as so much tribute to his worth, formally invested him one day with the star of the Legion of Honour (attached to a flaming red cravat) and with the insignia of ten fantastic foreign orders, notably with that of the Garter and that of the Green Elephant, which last consisted of a zinc elephant, painted green, suspended from a bailiff’s chain.

Amédée Cloux, poet, emulated the literary forgeries of Chatterton at closer range. He had a marvellous facility for copying poetic styles, and he got his living for a time by the deaths of his more illustrious brother poets. As soon as a well-known poet died, he produced imitations of his poetry, which he sold as posthumous works. His most successful efforts, “Le Chien Mort,” attributed by him to Baudelaire, and “Plus de Représailles” and “L’Ode à la Colonne Déboulonnée,” purporting to be by Eugène Vermesch, deceived both the public and the experts until the good Cloux, who was more of a joker than a vulgar swindler, acknowledged his ruse.

Of the freaks who now perch in (for they can hardly be said to inhabit) the Quartier Latin, far and away the most famous is Bibi-la-Purée,

Qui porte en son cœur un vaste mépris Pour quiconque n’est Bohème ni poète.

No Parisian of the period, perhaps, has been more written about, and none more photographed, sculptured, etched, and painted; 242 and none has done more to divert his time than Bibi. Bibi is by turns an artist’s model, a sponge, a simple beggar, a shoe-black, a tourist’s guide, a watcher of bicycles at cafe doors, a dealer in photographs of himself and in original poems, a boon companion of poets and artists, and a confidant and counsellor of étudiantes; but he is first, last, and all the time Bibi the fop, the Beau Tibbs of Latium, the Beau Brummel of the Castalian gutter.

The first time I saw Bibi was in 1895, at an anarchist meeting addressed by Louise Michel, in the rue de la Montagne Ste. Geneviève, back of the Panthéon. He was muffled to the eyes, conspirator-like, in the folds of a rusty, tattered Spanish cloak, faced with dirty red velvet, and wore besides a white yachting cap, white skin-tight pantaloons, gaping patent leather shoes fitted with cavalry spurs, and white gaiters.

The last time I saw Bibi he was pulling an unlighted cigar, and tenderly convoying to his lodging a poet, not of the most obscure, who had been imbibing too freely. He was dight in a red fez, a bright green velvet waistcoat under an Inverness cape (with no jacket intervening), a yellow silk neckerchief, cavalry boots, and baggy brown corduroy trousers; and, if I should itemise all the different costumes it has been my privilege to see Bibi wear between these dates, a large octavo volume would scarcely hold the list. Reputed in some quarters to be an ex-student, an ex-journalist, a political refugee, and a disguised nobleman, and in others to be a blackmailer, a swindler, a thief, a police spy, and a pander, the mystery that envelopes Bibi’s present as well as his past—a mystery which his autobiography, published in L’Idée, did appreciably nothing to dispel—gives him a curiosity-piquing charm.

There is no doubt as to Bibi’s untidiness, his inordinate vanity, his assurance, his unscrupulousness, and his genuine kindness of heart; but beyond this all is conjecture.

Jehan Rictus in a recent poem, to the recitation of which (at the Noctambules or the Grille) Bibi often listens with his inscrutable smile, has given Bibi a large symbolic significance:—


“On dit de Bibi: ‘Chut! c’est un mouchard!’ D’autres: ‘Taisez-vous, il est bachelier!’ Et d’autres encor’: ‘Bibi est rentier.’ Mais nul ne peut croire à la vérité: Bibi-la-Purée, c’est le Grand-Déchard. Et quel âge a-t-il? On ne sait pas bien. Son nom symbolique en le largougi Proclame qu’il est assez ancien, Quasi éternel comme la Misère. Et trimballes-tu, tu trimballeras, O Bibi, toujours ta rare effigie. Bibi-la-Purée jamais ne mourra.  ****** C’est le Pèlerin, c’est le Solitaire Qui depuis toujours marche sur la Terre, C’est un sobriquet bon pour l’Etre Humain.”

Bibi was a humble follower and adorer—slave almost—of Verlaine, who playfully honored him with the following verses in his Dédicaces:—

A BIBI-PURÉE Bibi-Purée, Type épatant Et drôle tant! Quel Dieu te crée Ce chic, pourtant, Qui nous agrée Pourtant, aussi, Ta gentillesse Notre liesse, Et ton souci 244 De l’obligeance Notre gaieté, Ta pauvreté, Ton opulence?

A sincere mourner for Verlaine since his death, Bibi regards it as his special mission to cherish the cult of the dead poet’s memory.

The sincerity of Bibi’s mourning, however, has not prevented him from turning an honest penny by selling the inscribed volumes Verlaine had given him, nor from turning many a dishonest penny by selling, as relics, copies of Verlaine’s works supplied with forged inscriptions, and numerous other objects Verlaine never saw.

Thanks to Bibi’s zeal, Verlaine’s last cane and last pipe have been multiplied, like “the only true cross,” and have taken up their abodes in the poetic shrines of two hemispheres.77

It is impossible to think of Bibi without thinking of the Mère Casimir, lately deceased, who was, for some reason, Bibi’s most cordial aversion.

The Mère Casimir was a tiny, twisted, shrivelled old flower-woman, who claimed to be an ex-danseuse of the Opéra and to have had for friends “princes and marquises,” and who was ready at any moment, in consideration of a few sous, to prove it by executing certain grotesque Terpsichorean movements on the sidewalk.

While the Mère Casimir was still alive, there was nothing that delighted the students more than bringing about an encounter between her and Bibi, and hearing the pair blackguard each other. Only once, so far as history records, was there a truce between them,—a certain Mi-carême, when, Bibi having been elected king and the Mère Casimir queen of the fête, they paraded the streets of Paris together in the same car. On that day the antipathetic pair were so impressed with the dignities and responsibilities of their position that they treated each other with royal magnanimity. Bibi even went farther than strict etiquette required. 245 In descending from his throne at the breaking up of the cortège, he gallantly fell to his knees,—sight for gods and men!—and kissed the hand of his queen.

The Marquis de Soudin, a long-haired but relatively neat little man, with the noiseless step of a bird, who makes crayon portraits, at ten sous per head, at the Grille and the Noctambules and in the all-night restaurants of the Halles Centrales, is as much of a mystery in his way as Bibi, though he has lived in the Quartier more than twenty-five years. He is said to have been crossed in love early in life, and his title is believed by many to be genuine. However that may be, the little Soudin has the education and manners of a gentleman, and noblesse oblige inspires his conduct. He does no offence to any, and is a veritable providence to his poorer fellow-Bohemians. M. le Marquis makes poems as well as portraits, but not for money. “At least no merchant traffics in his heart.”

The artist bard of Père Lunette’s,78 who makes crayon portraits at ten sous a head, like the little marquis, and poems for money, unlike the little marquis, is also supposed by many to be of noble origin. He is a dashing, handsome fellow, with the felt and the swagger of a mousquetaire, and is, when he chooses to quit the vulgar rôle his position at Père Lunette’s imposes upon him, a lively and stimulating conversationalist. In summer, with his bosom friend Père Jules, he tramps the country roads of France.

Achille Leroy, philosopher and poet (the anarchist author-editor-publisher-bookseller, referred to in the chapter on the oral propaganda of the anarchists), is another favourite with the students, upon whose quizzical, good-natured patronage he depends mainly for the sale of his wares.

Some years back, at the moment of the anarchist “Terror,” 246 Achille, whose illusions regarding his intellect are on a par with those of Bibi regarding his person, offered himself as a candidate for the Academy. He made the customary “visits” to the Academicians attired in the uniform of a Mexican general, and wherever he was not received left an ominous-looking brass kettle to which, along with his visiting card, this inscription was attached:

Je ne fais sauter que les idées.

Other contemporary freaks who help to swell the picturesqueness and gaiety of the Quartier are: the anarchist cobbler chansonnier Père La Purge (author of the Chanson du Père La Purge, quoted in a previous chapter), whose customers (mainly the poets and artists of the Quartier) visit his shop in the rue de la Parcheminerie to enjoy the piquancy of the contrast between his ruddy, contented face and his anathemas against society; Gaillepand, a big, athletic-looking fellow, who, having failed to earn a living by legitimate sculpture, took to making plaster medallions of the celebrities of Paris, especially those of the Quartier, and selling them up and down the Boulevard St. Michel, while his brother “Môme l’Histoire” (now dead) displayed his phenomenal memory by reciting biographies and poems; the Mère Souris (Mother Mouse), so called from her conical head and her funny little walk, ex-proprietor of an artists’ restaurant and present palmist, fortune-teller, and reputed usurer,—in short, a very useful personage to the étudiantes; Victor Sainbault, author, editor, publisher, and book-seller, like Achille Leroy; and the poet Coulet, who gives author’s readings before the terraces of the cafés, and who between times, if hearsay may be credited, provides petty bourgeois families with wedding, christening, and funeral verses at so much per yard.

It is because these freaks take themselves seriously, because they are unconscious humourists and involuntary farceurs, that they are amusing. But the Quartier has always had among its choicer Bohemians a class of conscious, almost professional humourists and deliberate farceurs, called fumistes,79 who by drolly 247 expressing their very disrespect for life have done much to make life worth the living.



La rue Galande

The most renowned of the Quartier fumistes who practised when those now in middle life were young was unquestionably Sapeck.

“Verily,” says Emile Goudeau, “I owe a taper to Sapeck for having initiated me into this inner folly which manifests itself outwardly by imperturbable buffooneries.... Better to have kept alive, thanks to insouciance, than to have died stoically of misère, wrapped in the cloak of a Byronian hero. If we occasionally exceeded the proper limits of the laugh, at least we did not light the brazier of Escousse nor seek the rope of Gérard de Nerval; and that is something.”

Sapeck is very likely dead now. At any rate, he is dead to the Quarter. But, as he was the successor (according to the archæologists of fumisterie) of Romien and Vivier, so he has his successors, one of whom the rapin Karl, mystifier of Quesnay de Beaurepaire and abductor of the Comtesse Martel (“Gyp”), has almost earned the right to be regarded as his peer. Zo d’Axa, who is less a fumiste than he has it in him to be, because he takes time to be a serious and talented author and to serve sentences in prison for his opinions, perpetrated a fumisterie some five years back that has taken an honourable place among the classics of its kind.

It will be best narrated as he narrated it himself in one of his celebrated Feuilles:—


Good People of the City, Electors,

“Listen to the edifying story of a pretty little white jackass, candidate in the capital. It is not a Mother Goose tale nor a sensation of the Petit Journal. It is a veracious narrative for the grown-up youngsters who still vote:—

“A little jackass, born in the land of La Fontaine and of Rabelais, ... made 248 a campaign for a deputy’s chair. When election day came, this jackass, this typical candidate, answering to the unequivocal name of Nul, executed a last-hour manœuvre. ZO D'AXA'S NOVEL CANDIDATE ZO D'AXA'S NOVEL CANDIDATE ZO D’AXA’S NOVEL CANDIDATE   On a warm Sunday in May, while the people crowded to the urns, the white jackass, the candidate Nul, enthroned on a triumphal car drawn by electors, traversed Paris, his bonne ville.

“Erect on his hind legs, ears to the wind, craning forward, over-topping proudly the parti-colored vehicle,—the vehicle in the form of an urn,—his head planted between the traditional glass of water and the presidential bell, he passed in the midst of hisses and bravos and jests.

“The jackass beheld Paris, and Paris beheld him.

“Paris! The Paris that votes, the rout, the people sovereign every four years,—the people simpleton enough to believe that sovereignty consists in naming its masters....


“Slowly the jackass went through the streets. As he advanced, the walls were covered with placards by members of his committee, while others distributed his proclamation to the crowd:—

“‘Reflect, dear fellow-citizens. You know that your deputies deceive you, have deceived you, will deceive you; and yet you vote. Vote for me then! Vote for the jackass! Elect the jackass! It is impossible to be more stupid than you.’

“This frankness, a trifle brutal, was not to everybody’s taste.

“‘They are insulting us,’ bellowed some. ‘They are ridiculing universal suffrage,’ protested others more justly. Some one shook his fist at the jackass furiously, and said, ‘Sale Juif!’ (Dirty Jew), but a laugh burst out, and spread sonorous. The candidate was acclaimed. Bravely the elector made fun of himself and of his representatives. Hats and canes were waved. Ladies threw flowers. The jackass passed.

“He descended from the heights of Montmartre, going towards the Quartier Latin. He crossed the Grands-Boulevards, the Croissant,80 where is cooked, without salt, the ordinaire served by the gazettes. He saw the halles (markets) where the starving glean in the heaps of garbage, the quays where electors elect lodgings under the bridges.

“Heart and brain! Paris! Democracy!...

“The jackass arrived before the Senate.

“He skirted the palace, whence the guard emerged hurriedly. He followed, on the outside, alas! the too-green gardens. Then came the Boulevard St. Michel. On the terraces of the cafés the youth of the Quartier clapped their hands. The crowd, constantly growing, snatched out of each other’s hands the jackass’s proclamations. The students harnessed themselves to the car, a professor pushed the wheels; but it struck three, and the police appeared.

“Since ten o’clock that morning, from post to commissariat, the telegraph and the telephone had signalled the strange passage of the subversive animal. The order was issued: ‘Arrest the jackass!’ 250 And now the police sergeants barred the route of the candidate.

“Near the Place St. Michel, the faithful committee of Nul was ordered by the armed force to conduct its candidate to the nearest police station. Naturally, the committee paid no attention, and kept on its way. The car crossed the Seine, and soon it halted before the Palais de Justice.

“The police, re-enforced, surrounded the white jackass, the impassive jackass. The candidate was arrested at the gate of this Palais de Justice, whence deputies, defaulters, panamistes, all the big thieves, go out free.

“In the midst of the surging crowd the car swayed as if about to capsize. The police, a brigadier at their head, had seized the shafts and donned the straps. The committee insisted no more: they helped harness the sergents de ville.

“Thus the white jackass was abandoned by his warmest partisans. Like any other vulgar politician, the animal had come to a bad end. The police towed him, authority guided his route. From this moment Nul was only an official candidate. His friends acknowledged him no more. The door of the prefecture opened wide, and the jackass entered quite as if he were entering his own stall.”

What has all this starving and self-killing and freakishness and practical joking of the Quartier Bohemians to do with revolution? Much every way.

Jules Vallès (all his life a Latin Quarter Bohemian), whom Richepin has characterised as “the most curious and the most complete of the déclassés of the pen”; of whom his intimate friend Gill said, “He would be the tenderest, the most spirituel, the most charming, and the most eloquent fellow in the world, were it not for the mania which possesses him to believe himself at ease only in the smoke of battles or the bawlings of the faubourgs”; who presented himself at the elections of 1869 as “le candidat de la misère,” and put at the head of his second volume of Jacques 251 Vingtras (Le Bachelier), “A ceux qui nourris de Grec et de Latin sont morts de faim, je dédie ce livre,”—Jules Vallès (and who should know better than Vallès?) said, not long before the Commune was declared:—

“In this life there is a danger. Misère without a flag conducts to the misère that has a flag, and makes of the scattered réfractaires an army which counts in its ranks less sons of the people than sons of the bourgeoisie. Behold them bearing down upon us, pale, mute, emaciated, beating the charge with the bones of their martyrs upon the drum of the révoltés, and waving as a standard, at the point of a sword, the blood-stained shirt of the last of their suicides!...

“These déclassés must find places, or they will have revenge; and this is why so much absinthe runs down their throats and so much blood upon the paving-stones. They become drunkards or rebels.”

And again, in the introduction to his Réfractaires, he says, “Give me three hundred of these men, any sort of a flag, toss me down there before the regiments in a raking fire, and you shall see what short work I will make of the gunners at the head of my réfractaires!”

Every convulsion Paris has undergone has proved the truth of Vallès’ mordant sentences. What was the Commune, indeed, but the joint self-assertion of the déclassés?

Déclassés,” wrote Richepin of the leaders of the Commune shortly after its suppression, “from the unrecognised general, Cluseret, to the unappreciated caricaturist, Pilotell; from the intelligent deputy, Millière, to the lunatic, Allix; from the great painter, Courbet, to the ex-monk, Panille, and tutti quanti; déclassés of politics, like Delescluze and Pyat, of journalism and of literature, like Vallès, Vermesch, Vermorel, Grousset, Vésinier, Maroleau; of the army, like Rossel, of the workshop, like Assi, of the brasserie, like Rigault, of lower still, like Johamard.”

Not all these starving, suiciding, freakish, jesting Latin Quarter Bohemians are conscious socialists and anarchists, though there 252 is a good proportion of them who are,—a greater proportion probably than among the students proper, by as much as their situations are more precarious; but they nearly all hold vaguely subversive humanitarian views, and they are all, even the Bohemians by choice, réfractaires and révoltés. Like the Thélémites of Rabelais, they all recognise but the one law which is no law,—“Fay ce que vouldras.

Their way of living is a species of the propagande par l’exemple from which it is a quick and easy step to the propagande par le fait. Given a crisis, réfractaire, révolté, and révolutionnaire spell very much the same thing. They are all ripe for disorder.

The victims of the misère en habit noir—the poor doctors, teachers, lawyers, petty functionaries, and clerks—are, in the nature of the case, more submissive to their fate than the free-living freaks, littérateurs, and artists; but there are evidences that they, too, are beginning to think of stepping over the bounds within which patience is a virtue.

M. Paul Webre, one of a group of young men of means and education—evolutionists, not revolutionists—who have pursued the laboratory method of studying the conditions, the psychology, and the relations to society of various employments, has given the following testimony to the expectant, if unaggressive, attitude of the small clerks:—

“My relatively frail health forbidding me work in a factory, I sought a place as a clerk. After twenty ineffectual applications I succeeded in crossing the threshold of an insurance company. I earn there 100 francs a month, on which I manage to live without resorting to my income. I carry with me in the morning a lunch of bread, cheese, and a slice of ham or sausage, and I talk with my comrades of the office. Some are married. These are the most unfortunate; but they reflect that, if they quit their meagre situations, there are innumerable persons in the streets ready to vie with each other to obtain them, and they cling to them for dear life. Nevertheless, their hatred is brooding. While taking cold bites during the hour of respite which the avaricious administration 253 accords us, we pass our chiefs in review, and compare their profits with our own. The director has a salary of 100,000 francs, the president is several times a millionaire; while we, morbleu! Oh, the monotonous days! the repulsive work! the ominous end of the month! and the certainty of plodding along for twenty years in the same fashion, only to be sent away at last without resource! It is poverty in the frayed frock-coat, the worst poverty. I have tried to organise the discontented, but they have a terror of compromising themselves and of making themselves marks for the Company’s blows. So, bending over their documents, they spy the growlings in the street, ready to descend there, in their turn, when the revolution asserts itself. The atmosphere in which these petty clerks stagnate is saturated with bitterness, with rancours, with regrets, with deceived ambitions. Terrible eruptions are being prepared therein. And I cry to the capitalists: ‘Take care! Transform these enemies into friends, these anarchists into conservators! Share your profits with them. Throw them a honey-cake while there is still time.’”




Put a man in the street with a coat that is too large on his back, pantaloons that are too short, without a collar, without a shirt, without stockings, without a sou, had he the genius of Machiavelli, of Talleyrand, he would fall into the gutter.”—Jules Vallès.


Chapter XV



“La Gloire marches before the Vache Enragée. Follow her then, try to catch up with her: there is honour even for those who fall by the way.

Adolphe Willette, in Le Calvaire de la Vache Enragée.

Whatever scorn, whatever disgrace he may bring upon himself, it is none the less true that the poor and obscure artist is often worth more than the conquerors of the world; and there are nobler hearts under the mansards where only three chairs, a bed, a table, and a grisette are to be found, than in the gémonies dorées and the abreuvoirs of domestic ambition.

Alfred de Musset, in Preface of Comédies et Proverbes.

Ils feront de ta corne acérée une épée, Ils feront de ton crâne une coupe sculptée, Où nous boirons ton sang avivé de levains. Ils feront de ton cuir des bottes de sept lieues Pour courir au pays des illusions bleues Ou vers l’âpre idéal des rouges lendemains.” Paul Marrot, in a poem to the Vache Enragée.
A la Vache Enragée, à Montmartre. Mademoiselle:— All those who have not known you are like untempered metals. Accept, I pray, my best wishes. E. Frémiet.
Vive la Vache Enragée! Son ami, Alphonse Daudet.


THE official restoration at the Carnival of 1896 of the historic but long unobserved fête of the Bœuf Gras (Fat Ox) was the signal for the creation of the fête of the Vache Enragée (Famished Cow) for that year’s Mi-carême by the denizens of Montmartre.

“Over against the Bœuf Gras, father of the golden calf, emblem of the wealth and prosperity of the bourgeoisie,” said the committee of organisation in its public manifesto, “the painters, poets, and chansonniers of the Mont des Martyrs have prepared for the pleasure and edification of the Parisians a spectacle which they call the Cavalcade of the Vache Enragée (or the Vachalcade), intended to present the picture, sometimes poignant, of their struggles, their sufferings, their ideals, their chasings after phantoms, their unrealised dreams, their often illusory hopes.”

This brand-new cavalcade consisted of a large number of pedestrians masquerading as ducks, geese, rabbits, frogs, camels, donkeys, cats, pigs, and giraffes (the French words for all of which have well-defined metaphorical meanings), and as chimeras, Pierrots and Pierrettes; and a score or more of fantastic floats (designed by Montmartre artists of repute), the subtle and piquant symbolism of which was all Greek to the foreign tourists who chanced to see them and not too intelligible to many Parisians who fancied they knew their Paris and their French. The floats were entitled (to mention only those whose significance is fairly obvious) Pegasus Seized by the Sheriffs, The Anti-Landlord League, The Wrestlers of Thought, The Temple of the Golden Calf, La Vache Enragée through the Ages, Feeding of la Vache Enragée, Drawing the Teeth of la Vache Enragée, A la Belle Etoile,81 and Ma Tante.82 The design for this last, by M. Grün, is given herewith.


Judges were satirically represented as side-whiskered café garçons; the victims of la misère en habit noir, as street pavers, attired in frayed frock-coats, wind-traversed shoes, and weather-beaten “plug” hats; and Les Jeunes,83 as small boys, in dunce-caps, playing on drums.



The street parade lasted from mid-day to sunset. It was preceded by a theatrical representation for the benefit of destitute artists, which included appropriate skits by the Montmartre playwrights Xanrof and Courtéline, an address by the Montmartre socialist poet-deputy Clovis Hugues, and rapid platform drawing by the Montmartre caricaturists, Pal and Grün; and it was followed by bonfires and open-air dancing, and by a masked ball at the Moulin Rouge, in the course of which a lottery was drawn, whose principal prizes were sketches by Montmartre artists, among them Faverot, Willette, Henri Pille, Roedel, Léandre, and Puvis de Chavannes. The occasion was further signalised by the publication of a magazine, La Vache Enragée, under the editorship of Willette.

The distinctive feature of the second and last84 fête of the Vache 259 Enragée (1897) was a musical poem, entitled “Le Couronnement de la Muse de Montmartre,” by the Montmartre composer Gustave Charpentier, now thrice famous as the author of Louise, in which Labour, figured by one Mlle. Stumpp (a working-girl, who had been elected by ballot the Montmartre Muse), was crowned by Beauty, figured by Cléo de Mérode. Charpentier interpreted his cantata as follows:—

“The Muse is the plebeian virgin, the virtuous young working-girl, the daughter of the people, administering a formidable slap in the face to the pères la pudeur,85 showing these drivellers of another epoch, these dotards whose sentiments are false, unnatural, and bourgeois, that it is possible to achieve the beautiful in taking for a queen an ouvrière, a rosière even, of Montmartre, region of ideals too young for their too old ideas.”

This Montmartre fête of the Vache Enragée is unique among the fêtes of the whole world, I fancy, in that it is at once a bold apotheosis of the racking poverty of the artistic career and a defiant, masterful sneer at the smugness of commercial Philistinism.86 “It is a defence of la misère you are making,” said Zola in a communication to its organisers,—“a defence of la misère; and, to my thinking, you are right in making this defence.” Cyrano, a knight of the vache enragée, who would have found himself delightfully at home in the Montmartre cavalcade, made a similar defence, according to Rostand, some centuries ago:—

Moi, c’est moralement que j’ai mes élégances. Je ne m’attife pas ainsi qu’un freluquet, Mais je suis plus soigné si je suis moins coquet. Je ne sortirais pas avec, par négligence, Un affront pas très-bien lavé, la conscience 260 Jaune encore de sommeil dans le coin de son œil, Un honneur chiffoné, des scrupules en deuil. Mais je marche sans rien sur moi qui ne reluise, Empanaché d’indépendance et de franchise; Ce n’est pas une taille avantageuse, c’est Mon âme que je cambre ainsi qu’en un corset, Et tout couvert d’exploits qu’en rubans je m’attache, Retroussant mon esprit ainsi qu’une moustache, Je fais en traversant les groupes et les ronds, Sonner les vérités comme des éperons.

The device, Vache Enragée, cavalierly adopted as their catchword by the painters, sculptors, poets, and musicians of Montmartre, was taken directly from the title of a Montmartre romance by Emile Goudeau, who was named on that account honorary president of the festival; but the phrase had long been current in French conversation and literature to designate the poverty of the prolétariat artistique et littéraire. Thus, the great Daudet wrote regarding one of the characters of Jack:—

“Then commenced for him this terrible ordeal of the vache enragée, which either breaks you at once or bronzes you forever.

“He became one of the ten thousand poor devils, famished and proud, who rise in Paris every morning giddy with hunger and ambitious dreams, nibble surreptitiously a sou loaf, which they keep hidden away in the bottoms of their pockets, blacken their clothes with penfuls of ink, whiten their shirt collars with billiard chalk, and warm themselves over the registers of the libraries and churches.... Art is such a wizard! It creates a sun which shines for all, like Nature’s sun; and those who approach it, even the poor, even the ill-favoured, even the grotesque, carry away a little of its warmth and its radiance. This celestial flame, imprudently ravished, which the unsuccessful guard in the depths of their eyes, renders them redoubtable sometimes, oftenest ridiculous; but their existence gains from it a grandiose serenity, a contemptuous 261 indifference to misfortune, and a grace in suffering that other kinds of poverty do not know.”

The Montmartre Vache Enragée, you see, is the same old Latin Quarter Misère under another label, the “Bohemian road by which every man who enters the arts without other means of existence than art itself will be forced to travel, ... the training school of the artistic profession, the preface to the Academy, the Hôtel-Dieu, or the Morgue.”87

Over the stony and thorny route of the Vache Enragée a large part of the literary, artistic, and musical celebrities of France have at one time or another passed.

Millet painting signs at Cherbourg and hasty portraits for the soldiers at Havre—Vache Enragée!

Barye forced to go about as a pedler in order to vend his now priceless statuettes—Vache Enragée!

Hector Berlioz, ridiculed for wanting the courage to put a bullet through his brain, accepting newspaper work to live, failing to write a symphony the theme of which came to him in a dream, because he would not have money enough to bring it out if it were written—Vache Enragée!

Audran and Charles Lecocq (who took prizes, the one in composition, the other in fugue, at the Conservatoire and the Niedermeyer School respectively) writing opéra bouffe to keep the wolf from the door—Vache Enragée!

Albert Glatigny, out on a hunt for funds to bury the dead mistress of a friend, swimming the Seine (though he was a poor swimmer and it was late autumn) because he could not pay the small bridge toll which was then exacted—Vache Enragée!

The saturnine De Nerval and the brilliant Gauthier chasing dinners, the first in back alley-ways and the second in the salon of the Princesse Mathilde—Vache Enragée!

Vache Enragée, also, young Balzac living on a few sous a day and writing the inevitable five-act drama in an icy garret, because his father, who had intended the boy for the law, had said to him, 262 “There are people who have a vocation for dying in the hospital,” and his mother, “It seems that monsieur has a taste for misery!”

Vache Enragée—young Daudet arriving in Paris, after an over-long fast, shod only with rubbers (as he has narrated in Trente Ans and Le Petit Chose), and existing there on his share of the seventy-five francs a month his brother Ernest earned!

And Vache Enragée—young Zola stifling in a “room under the roof where one was forced to perform a series of acrobatic feats to sit down—on the bed”; living several days on bread soaked in olive oil sent to him from the Midi, and pitifully imploring the editors of Le Travail (a little Latin Quarter review) to print for him a poem written in the style of De Musset!

Vache Enragée again—Eugène Boudin sighing in his journal: “There are moments hard to bear when on every side you see the impossibility of getting a little money. There is a poor old mother who entreats, there is the rent to pay, there is the necessity of clothes, of brushes, of canvases, which you finally have to get along without. Petty economy and the worry that accompanies it kill you by inches.”

Vache Enragée, in short, the privations of all those for whom liberty is a necessity, and beauty a religion, and with whom a glowing faith in art more than atones for the absence of bread, of fire, and of clothes!

Winter before last a painter, fifty-three years of age, well known in art circles, was detected extracting money out of a church poor-box with the aid of a glue-smeared stick. This revolting sort of infidelity to the hard fare of the Vache Enragée is, it need hardly be said, a rare occurrence; but it is not rare for men to be forced to familiarity with the Vache Enragée after they have become famous.

Glatigny never got entirely free of poverty, and it was of disease produced by hunger and exposure that both he and his wife died.

La rue Mont-Cénis
La rue Mont-Cénis
O Muse de Montmartre, ouvrière
aux doigts fins
Qui saurait broder d’or l’azur des
Et qui daignez sourire aux larmes des
Salut! Salut! pour t’applaudir nos
mains sont prêtes.
Te voici parmi nous, vagues chercheurs
de rien,
L’un sculpteur, l’autre peintre, un tel
Guettant un idéal parmi les âpres cimes, Songeur des formes et des rhythmes et
des rimes.
Te voici parmi nous! Tes levres de
Nous chantent le couplet sublime du
Emile Goudeau.
La rue Mont-Cénis
La rue Mont-Cénis

At the height of his fame the critic Gustave Planche was often without money enough to go to the barber-shop,—if Vallès is to be believed,—and occupied an attic at twenty-five francs a 263 month. He never earned more than four thousand francs a year, and rarely as much as three thousand francs,—a sum which was destitution, nothing more nor less, for a person whose vocation forced him into the world and whose inability to walk necessitated a perpetual outlay for carriage hire.

In a striking passage of his novel, La Faiseuse de Gloire, Paul Brulat writes: “An old man approached the desk timidly, and stammered something in a low voice. The editor, annoyed at being interrupted, repelled him with cruel words. ‘Oh, say now, won’t you ever stop coming here begging?’ The old man moved off with a senile shake of the head. He bore a great name in literature. He was called Villiers de l’Isle-Adam.”

Henry Becque, whose Corbeaux was refused by ten theatres before it was accepted by the Théâtre Français, “lived on a seventh floor, under the roof,” says his friend and admirer, Henri Bauer. “The furnishings of his single room were an iron bed, an unpainted table, and three straw-bottomed chairs.” And this was long after Becque’s masterpieces had been given a hearing, at a time when he was regarded by a large and influential group of his contemporaries as the greatest French dramatist the last half of the nineteenth century had produced.

Berlioz, Millet, Verlaine, and Hégésippe Moreau ate of the Vache Enragée, more or less regularly, all their lives. So have many other artistic natures, not the least worthy and not the least celebrated.

Franz Servais, after having given fifteen years of labour, at untold sacrifice, to the creation and perfection of his opera, L’Apollonide, won the support of the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar only to have his patron die just as the preparations for the production of the opera were complete and to die himself a few days after. In a letter to a friend, Servais has related how on one occasion, when everything looked dark, he missed an almost certain order from a musical publisher for want of presentable shoes: “I was unable to keep the appointment. At the last moment I perceived that my best shoes were all broken open. They gaped at the ends 264 like carps’ noses. You can imagine the face of the good editor, his regret for having offered me a little money, and how he would have torn up the contract! I must wait for better luck.”

Franz Servais took himself too tragically in letting a good thing escape him simply because he had holes in his shoes. But Servais, though identified with Paris, was a Belgian, not a Frenchman, by birth, and was not a Montmartrois.

With a remunerative offer as an incentive, your typical Montmartrois would not have taken more than fifteen minutes to beg, borrow, or steal, hire or buy on the strength of the offer itself or of a supposititious heritage, the necessary shoes, and would have celebrated the happy outcome with his friends the very same night. Resourcefulness is a salient trait of the Bohemian wherever he may be found, and of none more than of the Bohemian of Montmartre. His contrivances for making the pot boil are legion.

In a tight place, he utilises the erudition, of which he is ordinarily more than half ashamed, in teaching foreigners French, working on cyclopedias or dictionaries, and giving lessons in the “three Rs,” for a few sous a day, to the children of his concièrge. He gives lessons just as readily in dancing, fencing, sparring, and savate.

If his talents are literary, he contributes to diet and fashion journals, writes advertisements or puffs for trade organs, sings songs of his own composition in the streets, or prints original poetry on slips and sells it in the cafés. He reads and writes letters at so much a piece for illiterate neighbours, supplies street singers (at a nominal price) with words for their songs, makes almost presentable (by editing) the productions of snobs, and constructs for feuilletonistes romances which said feuilletonistes sign. He writes indifferently theses for students, brochures for pamphleteers, placards and palaver for strolling showmen, prospectuses for charlatans, anniversary rhymes for husbands or wives, god-parents or god-children, toasts for empty-pated banqueters, and funeral speeches or elegies for unimaginative mourners. If his gift is musical, he plays in night orchestras. If his gift is artistic, 265 he poses as a model for his companions of the chisel and brush who chance to be in funds, copies old masters at ten to fifteen francs a picture, designs posters and daubs scenery for the fêtes of the faubourgs, colours crude religious prints for the provincial market, paints workingmen’s children in their first communion regalia, and makes portraits for fond widows and widowers—between demise and burial—of their dear deceased. If his health is particularly robust, he figures the cured patient in quack doctors’ waiting-rooms.

He may, quite regardless of his bent, hawk toys in the street on fête days, play the races (under sealed orders) for a friend too busy to attend, fish tadpoles in the suburbs for the reptiles of menageries, help out a small shopkeeper with his book-keeping, back envelopes for a big bazaar, perform the duties of a valet under the euphuistic title of secretary, and advertise wares by demanding them insistently where they are not kept. He may even make himself a printer’s, house painter’s, mason’s, blacksmith’s, or carpenter’s assistant, a market porter, or a déménageur (mover). In all these contingencies, however, the immediate need having been satisfied, he takes up again his normal autonomous existence. He has not bound himself to lasting servitude. He has not sold his soul, and it is a rare thing that he is seriously demoralised by his half-humorous concessions. On the other hand, he has touched life at new points, deepened his sentiments, broadened his human sympathies, and lifted his horizon without lowering his ideal.

“Implacable sausage!” cries the author of Le Dimanche d’un Jeune Homme Pauvre. “We do not give sufficient credit to the influence of the hog on literature! I know men of letters en route for the Academy who ate kilometres of boudin [blood pudding] during the hard years of their novitiate.” This is merely a highly concrete way of saying that the French Bohemian is much less exercised over the savouriness of food than over its staying power. The problem he has to solve oftenest is not how most to tickle his palate, but how to give his system the maximum of 266 bracing at the minimum of expense. To the solution of this problem, the Montmartrois brings an address that is amazing. So long as he can keep in the good graces of his restaurateur or of his butcher, baker, grocer, and sausage-man by painting handsome portraits of them and of their families or by flooding them with inscribed copies of his poems, the equation is a simple one, and all goes easily enough. But when the inevitable day of reckoning comes for him, when credit is withdrawn, and all relations with these well-nigh indispensable individuals are incontinently snapped; when, furthermore, he has dined with his friend the interne, J——, at the hospital table with his friend the sergeant, K——, in the sub-officers’ mess, and with his former classmates, the Baron Y—— and the leather merchant X——, in their homes, and when he has made the round of the cénacles at which he is welcome for the verses he recites, the stories he tells, or the songs he sings,—then the simple equation becomes an affected quadratic one, and a lugubrious change comes over the spirit of his dreams. Then bread and boudin, bread and cheese, bread and a sou’s worth of the meat kept for dogs, or bread helped down with a glass of vin ordinaire at the corner wine-shop, are the most that he can hope to obtain, unless, like Zola, he takes to snaring sparrows on the house-top, and roasting them, spitted on a curtain rod, by way of a brochette.

If the bread and cheese and the bread and wine also fail, if the boudin has to be put into the category of the unattainable along with beefsteak, and if the sparrows are coy, he may join the cats, dogs, and rag-pickers in exploring the garbage boxes at the break of morning; but he usually prefers—perhaps because he does not easily accommodate himself to early rising—some less direct, more diplomatic proceeding, such as tasting the stock of the market and street venders with the fastidious air of an intending buyer. Thus, walking up to a barrow of strawberries: “Your strawberries look good. How do you sell them?” “Four sous a pound.” “May I taste them?” “Certainly.”

He munches and savours two or three berries attentively, as 267 if almost convinced of their merit, puts his hand into his pocket and draws out his purse as if to order, but, tasting another berry as he does so, makes a wry face, and ejaculates, “No, no, they’ll never do at all: they’re too sour,” and moves on to another barrow.

Berry by berry, slowly, but surely, he amasses a meal, as the miser amasses his hoard; and, if he has the luck to get a sou’s worth of bread with which to punctuate his butter, cheese, and fruit tastings, the result is not half a gastronomic failure. Happy, however, the taster whose crisis of penury coincides with the opening of the “Ham Fair”!

Picking petty quarrels for the sake of the substantial festivity that is likely to accompany the making up and betting on its eating capacity are other favourite ways for penniless hunger to satisfy itself.

Catulle Mendès, who made the acquaintance of the Vache Enragée during the brief period when his family were unsympathetic with his aims, tells of a poet, presumably himself, who after thirty-six hours of abstinence succeeded in breaking his fast by making a gingerbread bet:—

“The poet eyed the sweets wistfully, eyed them long.... He was just going away, I know not where, in the direction of the river perhaps, when he heard his name called. It was some one he scarcely knew, a young man also, not a poet, met somewhere by chance.

“‘How hard you look at that gingerbread!’ he said. The poet replied with gravity, ‘It is because I adore it.’


“‘Yes, to distraction. There are days when I could eat a franc’s worth at a sitting.’

“‘You’re joking. I bet you the franc you can’t eat as many as you say.’

“‘I take you up,’ cried the Parnassien, with starveling enthusiasm; and he precipitated himself upon the stall, and devoured the gingerbreads,—would have eaten of them for still greater, for enormous, sums,—taking pains to choose the pieces without 268 almonds, which were poorer in quality, but which were bigger for the price. It was thus that he did not die of hunger.”

It is said that Ibsen in his early days of poverty before the publication of Brand made it an invariable rule to take a long walk at noon, whether he had the money for a meal or not, in order not to lose caste—and hence credit—with his landlady by revealing that he could not dine as often as every day. Similarly the Montmartre Bohemian displays a fine pathetico-humorous ingenuity in making others believe he has eaten when he has not, and even—supreme prestidigitation!—in making himself believe it: as when he passes the day in bed or puts his watch back to cheat his appetite; when he takes his déjeuner in the middle of the afternoon, not only to get a dinner at the price of a déjeuner, but to afford himself the illusion of having both; or when he makes the Heaven-sent apéritif that should precede or the gratuitous cigar that should follow a dinner, stand him in the stead of the dinner itself.

His so-called affectations and poses—bizarre accoutrement MONTMARTRE TYPES MONTMARTRE TYPES and outlandish speech—are, in the last analysis, so many devices for cheap living, so many expedients for disguising the completeness of his destitution from his fellows and from himself, so many talismans for metamorphosing a hard necessity into an idiosyncrasy of genius, or so many modes of whistling, so to speak, to keep up his courage. Thus Goudeau, under the stress of exceptional ill-hap, consecrated himself solemnly to playing practical jokes in a phalanstère; and the rotund and rippling Raoul Ponchon flaunted a splendid Breton costume at the very time he had nothing better than a wash-house to sleep in.

If the Montmartrois carries his hat in his hand with a distrait, philosophical air, 269 it is certain that the last piece of head-gear Providence has vouchsafed him is either too large or too small for his head. If he speaks feelingly of his old aunt, he is referring indubitably to the pawn-shop, whose quotations are of far more moment to him than are those of the Bourse. If you detect him in a railway station, waiting more than half an hour for a train, it is that the shelter of the café has been, for some reason or other, temporarily denied him. And, if he appears more than half a mile from his lodging in dressing-gown and slippers, with a salad or a bunch of radishes under his arm, it is either because dressing-gown and slippers are, for the nonce, the sum of his wardrobe or because he has put on the dressing-gown to match compulsory slippers or the slippers to match a compulsory dressing-gown. You may be sure he has carried the salad or radishes ever since he set out, and that he will renew them when they have become too withered to serve his deceitful end.



La rue St. Vincent,
known as “the lovers’ walk”

He carries his burdens buoyantly, as the best type of old man carries his years, and, making hard necessity pass for a joke, extracts no end of amusement from his vicissitudes, caps himself with a Merry Andrew’s bonnet, and “drapes himself,” to use a phrase of Maurice Barrès, “with irony in order not to appear stark naked before men.”

A young couple, who had long been habitués of a certain restaurant in the rue Lepic, entered one night equipped with violin and guitar, made profound obeisance to the assembled company, and announced that they had got to earn their dinner on the spot that night, if they had one. With their instruments and voices they proceeded to earn it, amid their own and their whilom comrades’ jests and laughter. After a fortnight of this unenviable, if mirthful, prominence, their fortunes mended; and they dropped contentedly back into their obscurity as ordinary diners, the richer for an invigorating experience. Three handsome, long-haired, bearded fellows of the rue Menessier have taken Paris by storm this very summer with their mandolin and guitar music in the open air.


A Montmartre Bohemian, who is at once a superior musician and a species of Hercules, having made himself provisionally a déménageur, amused himself mightily at his work, confounding the petty bourgeois he served, by playing their pianos. The natural though totally unforeseen result of his somewhat impudent facetiousness was an opportunity to give lessons, which floated him back into the musical current.

Another Montmartrois (Raoul Pouchon, I think), wearied with walking the streets the night after he had been evicted from his lodging, revenged himself by baiting with sugar all the street curs of his district, and introducing them at two o’clock in the morning into the stairway of his evictor’s house.

Sometimes, perhaps, these merry Montmartre shifts come near transgressing the bounds which separate fun from lawlessness. The déménagement à la cloche de bois,88 the nailing of one’s emptied trunk to the floor to impress one’s concièrge with its weight, the paying of one’s rent by abstracting the clothes of one’s landlord and putting them in pawn, and the grateful acceptance of the pâté, chop, or sausage brought in by one’s pilfering dog, as if one were Elijah and one’s Toutou were a raven of the wild, can hardly be defended by any of the recognised bourgeois codes. But even these flagrant escapades proceed less from malice than from mischief, and even these fall strangely in line with equity in nine cases out of ten.

On its Bohemian side, Montmartre is a second and, to the thinking of many, a greater and more brilliant Quartier Latin.

Here abound the literary and artistic restaurants, cafés, bouillons, crèmeries, and cabarets which have always conferred a peculiar charm on Paris. Here, as well as in the Latin Quarter (and more numerous and varied, perhaps, here than there), are the modern counterparts of the Treille d’Or, the Pomme de Pin, the Radis Couronné, the Pressoir d’Or, the Ceinture qui Craque, the Deux Torches, and the Trois Entonnoirs of the time of Cyrano; the Procope, de Valois, de Foy, du Caveau, and Mécanique of the time 271 of Louis XVI.; the Viot, Bléry, Flicoteaux, de Buci, and de la Rotonde of the Restoration and Louis Philippe; the Molière, Voltaire, L’Orient, “Sherry Cobbler,” and Bobino of the last empire. And here they have been long enough to have already developed their legends and esprit de corps.

In the Brasseries des Martyrs and Fontaine, Cabarets de Ramponneau, de la Grande Pinte, du Plus Grand Bock, and de la Place Belhomme, and the Cafés Jean Goujon, Laplace, de la Nouvelle Athénée, and Du Rat Mort,89 poets and painters, now grizzled, chattered and revelled before the grey hairs came. Dinochaux, of the Café Dinochaux (rue Bréda), who nourished several of his patrons gratis for years, and bestowed credit unsolicited on any one who showed himself worthy in literature or art, has taken his place in history alongside of Ragueneau, the keeper of the Rôtisserie des Poètes of Cyrano.

You recall Ragueneau, the quaint saint, it is to be hoped. If not, here is a scrap of dialogue to evoke him:—

Cyrano. Bercés par ta voix. Ne vois-tu pas comme ils s’empiffrent? Ragueneau. Je le vois.... Sans regarder, de peur que cela ne les trouble; Et dire ainsi mes vers me donne un plaisir double, Puisque je satisfais un doux faible que j’ai, Tout en laissant manger ceux qui n’ont pas mangé. Cyrano (lui frappant sur l’épaule). Toi, tu me plais!

The cook at Marguéry’s, being asked once upon a time what he thought of the Vache Enragée, replied: “Mon dieu, de la vache enragée! Je crois qu’on pourrait en faire un plat mangeable avec beaucoup de bonne humeur et des petites femmes autour.

At Montmartre the sagacious chef’s words are daily verified. At Montmartre, if nowhere else in the world, the Vache Enragée is a “plat mangeable.”


The line of boulevards extending from the Place de Clichy to the Place d’Anvers which strikes American tourists, who visit it for Montmartre, as a vulgar hodge-podge of Coney Island, the Bowery, the Broadway of the Tenderloin, and South Fifth Avenue, with a dash of, say, a Boston “Pop” concert on a Harvard night, is no more the real Montmartre than Paris is the real France. The real Montmartre is the abrupt hill known as “The Butte,” just north of said boulevards90 and included between them,—the rue Marcadet, the rue de Clignancourt, and the avenue de St. Ouen, a section of which the gigantic Byzantine cathedral of the Sacré Cœur, the Moulin de la Galette, until recently an unsophisticated popular ball, and the cimetière de Montmartre (the second cemetery of Paris) are the salient features.

This real Montmartre (the Montmartre of the Butte) contains a tiny local cemetery (long disused), a tiny twelfth-century parochial church (St. Pierre), a tiny district theatre, a tiny village plaza (Place du Tertre) with the customary trees, benches, and aged, ruminating idlers, a tiny public park (Square St. Pierre), two gaunt, grey windmills, and several sleepy wine-shops, over which sleepy publicans preside. Here are five, six, and seven story city buildings, to be sure, but here are also (particularly on the northern slope) ancient garden-girdled mansions reminiscent of the epoch when the whole district was open country; sculptured gate-posts, crumbling, but stately, and rusty iron gates opening on symmetrical avenues; small one-and-a-half-story tile-roofed and straw-thatched dwellings, also garden-girdled, clutching with the grip of the Swiss chalet the steep hillsides; narrow streets and winding lanes, and worn stone stairways where the hill’s incline forbids streets and lanes; high, erratic, heavily buttressed stone walls, bulging with age, over which houses also bulging with age (from the windows of which a Paul might be let down in a 273 basket) beetle as if to fall; diminutive fruit orchards and vegetable gardens; and diminutive barnyards, cluttered with chicken-coops, dove-cotes, pig-pens, and rabbit-cages, which advertise cows’ and goats’ milk, compost, and young pigs for sale. Here cats and dogs and hens roam multitudinous and unmolested, birds sing in the shrubbery, and chanticleer proclaims the dawn.

One would believe himself more than
two hundred miles from Paris.

In sum, the Butte, the real Montmartre, seems at first view to be one-half country village and one-half large provincial town. In the rue St. Vincent, the rue Mont-Cénis, the rue des Saules, rue de la Fontaine-du-But, rue de la Borne, rue St. Rustique, rue Norvins, and rue de l’Abreuvoir, where one is scarcely a twenty minutes’ walk from the Grands-Boulevards, one would believe himself more than two hundred miles from the metropolis,—so different are these streets 274 from the average metropolitan ways,—were it not for the constant outlooks on Paris spread out beneath one, for the large proportion of Angoras among the ubiquitous cats, and the phenomenal savoir-vivre, good-nature, and friendliness of the dogs; were it not for an indefinable coquetry, tell-tale of Parisianism, about the little garden-girdled houses and a hundred artistic whimsicalities, such as are represented by a windmill studio and a tram-car dwelling; were it not also that certain vistas are closed by the flippant entrance to the Moulin de la Galette, that sundry glimpses of studio interiors are vouchsafed, and that silhouettes of long-haired, capering artists and of artists’ models loom up fitfully against the sky; and were there not a sort of vagabond humour in the very atmosphere that accords ill with provincial straight-lacedness.

As the Butte wears the general aspect of a provincial community, so it has the provincial community’s spirit of neighbourliness; but, as its provincial aspect is enlivened by coquetry and mirth, so its provincial neighbourliness is happily modified by being shorn of the meddling spirit. The Montmartrois is not indifferent to the welfare of his fellow-Montmartrois; but he minds his own business, which the neighbourly provincial rarely, if ever, does. He is as willing as the most naïve countryman to lend a helping hand upon occasion; but, the occasion passed, he speedily effaces himself. He does not feel entitled to enter into your intimacy, to summer and winter with you, so to say, because he has done you a casual good turn.

When I entered Montmartre, as most fellows enter it, with my lares and penates enthroned on a hand-cart, and experienced the difficulty other fellows, thus encumbered, have experienced in scaling the Butte, a butcher’s boy and an artist who was sketching in the street were prompt to put their shoulders to the wheel (to the tail-board, to be strictly accurate); but they did not by the same token cross-question me regarding my antecedents and intentions, as countrymen, in the same circumstances, would have done. They gracefully accepted my invitation to a social glass at an adjacent 275 wine-shop, then went their ways to their respective tasks; and that was the end of it.

The Butte, then, the real Montmartre, is in Paris, but not of it, and yet, of necessity, perpetually conscious of it,—a community which is and which is not a provincial town, which has an esprit de corps not inconsistent with independence, a unity not destructive of variety, and a sociability admirably accordant with a seemly privacy; while the Montmartrois sees Paris without being blinded by it, touches Paris without being crushed by it, and is stimulated by Paris without losing his identity therein.

J’ vis en philosophe et p’tê’t’ bien Qu’étant presqu’heureux avec rien, J’ai su résoudre un grav’ problème, A mon septième,”

sings a chansonnier of Montmartre. And it is indeed this ability to “be almost happy with nothing,” this fairy-godmother power to transform by a simple flourish a pumpkin into a coach, a dowdy into a fair princess, and a cabbage into a rose, this talent, amounting to genius, for squeezing so very much more out of life than there really is in it, that lifts completely out of the commonplace the life of Montmartre.

For four hundred to five hundred francs a year, monsieur and madame,—as in the Latin Quarter every Jack has his Jill, so on the Butte every Montmartrois has his Montmartroise,—monsieur and madame may have a logement,91 consisting of two or three rooms and a kitchen with peerless views of Paris and the valley of the Seine; and in the shops of the brocanteurs they may procure antique furnishings of real beauty and durability, not, alas! for the proverbial song, but for less than the bourgeois pay for their ugly, up-to-date flimflams.


Prices are dearer at Montmartre than in several other parts of Paris. Nevertheless, there is no district where, day in and day out, there is so much genuine poetry and so much honest zest in living.

Louise France,92 a dramatic artist of vigorous talent, who has been associated with nearly all the important literary movements of Montmartre, is said to have welcomed a party of friends to her modest logement one day with, “Maintenant, en guise d’apéritif, je vais vous offrir une vue splendide sur Paris: c’est tout ce que je possède.”

Good Madame France is a thorough Montmartroise, and the incident is admirably representative of the jocund humour of the Butte. The Montmartrois will not only regale himself with a view from a window in lieu of an apéritif, but he will merrily substitute a chanson for a roast, console himself with a kiss for the absence of the dessert, and warm himself, as my friend L——, who has not had a fire for three winters, expresses it, with sunsets and tobacco smoke,—his own, if possible.

During the periods of moving (namely, the 1st to the 15th of January, April, July, and October) the essential domesticity of the Butte is amply and amusingly revealed, and the complete congruity of domesticity and the arts is graphically demonstrated.

Chiffonniers lord it over model-thrones, paint brushes peep over the rims of soup-kettles or hide their heads in coal-scuttles, manikins fraternise with hat-trees and colour-boxes with stew-pans, stretchers snuggle up to pillows, pastels and aquarelles lie cheek by jowl with dish-towels and table-cloths, brooms pay court to easels, palettes make eyes at feather dusters, and impressionistic landscapes dazzle mirrors. Monsieur, aided by a chum, tugs a precariously loaded hand-cart,93 or, if the distance to be traversed makes the hand-cart unnecessary or a lack of funds makes it impossible, he staggers, sweats, and swears under the weight of trunks, chests, bureaus, and wardrobes; and madame, bareheaded, 277 in wrapper and slippers, proffers highly unwelcome caution and advice while carrying the company coffee-cups or the parlour lamp.

Like most other localities that partake of the idyllic, Montmartre is most idyllic in the spring. Then painters work at their easels in its streets, while their mesdames, who have followed them forth with camp-chairs, sew and chatter in the nearest shade. Then its poplars and limes are the same crisp, inviting green as the salads that pass in the hand-barrows. Then its myriad lilac, horse-chestnut, and acacia clusters are thyrsi awaiting the rhythmic wavings of the bacchanals, and then its circumambient fragrance would inflame a Hippolyta’s blood, trouble a Vestal’s vows, and make a Diana’s senses reel. Then, too, models, posing in court-yards and back gardens for the supernal effects of sunlight on flesh, are like great pink-and-purple-dappled exotic blooms escaped from Shelley’s pages.

The spirit of nature that with soft music is bursting the bonds of winter, and the spirit of the artist, spontaneous, impulsive, capricious, and free, are in absolute accord. One breathes contempt for prudery and custom with the very air. Nature’s upward-rushing sap and the artist’s careering fancy alike defy repression.

Tout être a le droit d’être libre,” the splendid throbbing lyric climax of Charpentier’s Montmartre opera, Louise, had here its origin.

Tout être a le droit d’être libre!”—the careless attire, unconstrained mien, and the sans-gêne of the lovers of Montmartre proclaim it.

“TOUT ÊTRE A LE DROIT D’ÊTRE LIBRE!” the Montmartre winds and birds and rivulets sing.

Et que faudrait-il faire? ***** Calculer, avoir peur, être blême, Préférer faire une visite qu’un poème, 278 Rédiger des placets, se faire-présenter? Non, merci! non, merci! non, merci! mais chanter, Rêver, rire, passer, être seul, être libre, Avoir l’œil qui regarde bien, la voix qui vibre, Mettre, quand il vous plaît, son feutre de travers, Pour un oui, pour un non, se battre—ou faire un vers! Travailler sans souci de gloire ou de fortune, A tel voyage, auquel on pense, dans la lune.94
A Montmartre Carrousel


Chapter XVI



We sang when the English dismembered the kingdom, we sang during the civil war of the Armagnacs, during the ‘Ligue,’ during the Fronde, under the Régence; and it was to the sound of the chansons of Rivarol that the monarchy disappeared at the end of the eighteenth century.”—De Jouy.

The chanson became history: it donned defiantly the Phrygian bonnet, and marched in the forefront.... Men went singing to the guillotine.

Henri Avenel.

It is certain that the chanson is, like wine, a product of our soil, a flower of la patrie.”—Jules Claretie.

And I send these words to Paris with my love, And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them. Walt Whitman.


Cabaret du Lapin Agile
Quartier Latin who do not starve, commit suicide, return to their parents to eat the fatted calf, become rich and famous or alcoholic and insane, have one other resource left them,—a resource beside which the proverbial jump out of the frying-pan into the fire is the quintessence of discretion,—namely, emigration to Montmartre.

Originally given over to windmills and plaster ovens, a suburb at the time of the Great Revolution (when it went for a 282 while by the name of Mont-Marat), Montmartre did not become a part of Paris proper until 1859.

“I knew Montmartre,” says one of its ardent admirers, “thirty-five years ago. It was a quarter like another, less alive, in fact, than most others, except in the immediate vicinity of the balls, le Grand Turc, la Boule Noire, etc.

“All of a sudden the Haussmannising empire bound it to Paris by the Boulevard Magenta, and the picks of the workmen have had no respite since.”

The Eighteenth Arrondissement, which corresponds roughly with Montmartre, has nearly doubled in population since the Franco-Prussian war, and is now a city of more than 225,000 souls.

“Travellers tell us,” wrote Aurélien Scholl in 1898, “that in America cities spring up with incredible rapidity.... I know only two localities in France which have undergone a similar speedy transformation,—Royan95 and Montmartre. It is not so very long ago that we saw from the boulevards looking up the rue Laffitte a verdant butte with a few windmills whose arms enlivened the perspective. There were hovels and tiny, shabby-looking shops along the present boulevards (Clichy and Rochechouart).

“Montmartre is to-day one of the finest cities of France. It has three theatres, five or six cafés-concerts, a circus, restaurants, and brasseries.... La cigale sings there all summer—and all winter.”

In the partial eyes of the loyal Montmartrois, Montmartre, “Ville Libre,” literary and artistic Bohemia par excellence, is as much the capital of Paris96 as Paris is the capital of France. To them all the rest of Paris, the Latin Quarter included, is merely Montmartre’s back yard.

Montmartre, by reason of its surpassing view, has always been favoured as a place of residence by detached writers and artists; 283 and, after the closing of the Théâtre Bobino in the Quartier Latin, a perceptible literary and artistic current thitherward set in. But it was the exodus of the “Hydropathes” and “Hirsutes” of the Quartier to the Chat Noir that marked (marked rather than caused) the real beginning of Montmartre’s supremacy.

The Cercle des Hydropathes97 owed its origin to one Charles Cros, who, tiring of being relegated to an inglorious obscurity while Coquelin Cadet won laurels by the recitation of monologues, which he (Cros) had written, decided to recite his monologues himself.

The first formal meeting of the Hydropathes was held on a Friday of October, 1878, in a small upper room of a Latin Quarter café, corner of the rue Cujas and the Boulevard St. Michel. There were five persons present. At the next meeting there were seventy-five, at the third one hundred, at the fourth one hundred and fifty, and so on, until, driven from café to café by the need of more room, they settled in a vacant store, with an average attendance of three hundred to three hundred and fifty twice a week.

Emile Goudeau presided,—as nearly, that is, as any one can be said to preside in a Latin Quarter assembly. There was liberty to drink, smoke, and woo the grisette. There were folly and tumult, confusion and fun; violin, piano, and guitar music; singing in concert of riotous roof-lifting refrains; recitations of novelties and the classics by Villain, Leloir, Le Bargy, and Coquelin Cadet of the Comédie Française. Paul Mounet, also of the Comédie, arrayed in a blue blouse and red neckerchief, interpreted La Grève des Forgerons week in and week out with telling effect. Maurice Rollinat sang his own songs and those of Pierre Dupont, and recited selections from his Névroses and Brandes. Laurent Tailhade, Jean Moréas, Georges d’Esparbès, Louis Marsolleau, Jean Ajalbert, André Gill, Léon Valade, Charles Monselet, Paul Marrot, Edmond Haraucourt, Félicien Champsaur, Mac-Nab, Auguste Vacquerie, Louis Tiercelin, Alphonse Allais, Jules Jouy, 284 and a full score more of poets and chansonniers rendered their works. Bourget, Coppée, Paul Arène, Luigi Loir, and Bastien-Lepage were frequent, though for the most part passive, spectators. All degrees of talent, all shades of politics, and all of the poetic schools were represented. Bernhardt was proud to be known as a Hydropathe. Francisque Sarcey and Jules Claretie visited the Hydropathes, and praised them in the press. The police threatened to dissolve them, but wisely refrained.

The Hirsutes differed from the Hydropathes only in name and in the fact that the name had an obvious significance.

It was the Grand’ Pinte (a Louis XIII. cabaret of Montmartre, frequented, but without mummery or fracas, by a band of painters and poets) that gave Rodolphe Salis, an ex-Hydropathe, the idea of putting the boisterous Hydropathe performances into a picturesque setting and inviting the paying public to attend. Salis, who was the son of a prosperous man of affairs, was in Bohemia against his father’s wishes. Half-artist and half-littérateur, he supported himself, when the paternal purse-strings were tightened, by writing for the press and painting Viae Dolorosae at fourteen francs apiece. In making himself “gentilhomme-cabaretier,” as he called it, this resourceful Salis had hit upon a device for reconciling theory with practice, filial submission with personal inclination, and Bohemia with business, which, to say the least, was not commonplace.

Salis’ Chat Noir, “Cabaret Moyen-Age fondé en 1114 par un fumiste,” was opened on the Boulevard de Rochechouart in December, 1881; and the first number of its literary organ of the same name, illustrated by Forain, Willette, Rochegrosse, Henri Pille, Rivière, and Steinlen, was published the month following. The cabaret’s bizarre frescos, contributed by the cleverest young artists of Paris, and its fantastic furnishings of curios and antiques, which Salis had zealously collected since his boyhood, have been described too many times to be dwelt upon here. Suffice it to say, the juxtaposition of the beautiful with the grotesque, the serious with the flippant, and the reverent with the blasphemous, 285 was so ingenious and piquant that attempts to imitate it (for the most part unsuccessful) have been made all over the civilised world.



Cabaret du Boulevard Rochechouart

In this suggestive setting nearly the entire personnel of the Hydropathes and a number of poets and dramatists, not Hydropathes, who have since become celebrities, among them Georges Courtéline and Maurice Donnay, held witty carnival.

There was an even greater license of speech and act at the Chat Noir than there had been among the Hydropathes. There were also more all-night revels, more startling antitheses of the lively and severe, and more practical joking. All this in spite of the fact (or, perhaps, because of it) that the performers, almost without exception, affected impassibility, maintaining a supernatural gravity while dispensing the most side-splitting productions.

Salis’ attempt to serve both God and Mammon resulted, as such attempts have usually resulted, advantageously for Mammon. Bohemia was reconciled to business by being completely swallowed up by business. Salis, the gentilhomme-cabaretier, waxed rich, and in waxing rich stooped to methods of holding and dealing with his galaxy that have made his memory the execration of the Butte. Nevertheless, Rodolphe Salis, all unworthy Bohemian as his good fortune revealed him to be, gave Paris, as impresario of the Chat Noir, a new manifestation of art and did more than any one man towards establishing that modern republic of arts and letters which is known as Montmartre.

The phenomenal success of the Chat Noir, whose fame from being Parisian became European, naturally led to the opening of establishments which copied one or more of its features. Montmartre was soon honeycombed with cabarets artistiques et littéraires.

Steinlen, Willette, De Feure, Roedel, Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec, Truchet, Bellanger, Le Petit, Grün, and other artists of the Butte, especially the first three, were kept busy decorating; and the most popular monologists and chansonniers,—Dominique Bonnaud, 286 Hugues Delorme, Jacques Ferny, Jules Jouy, E. Girault, Eugène Lemercier, Camille Marceau, Georges Millandy, Marcel Legay, Gaston Couté, Paul Delmet, Théodore Botrel, Léon Durôcher, Vincent Hyspa, Yann Nibor, Maurice Boukay, Charles Gallilée, Jehan Rictus, Octave Pradels, Victor Meusy, Camille Roy, Gabriel Montoya, Edmond Teulet, Paul Briand, Xavier Privas, Raoul Ponchon, Fragson, Lefèvre, Xanrof, Perducet, Dumestre, Montéhus, Ivanof, Chatillon, Fursy, Canqueteau, and Trimouillat,—most of whom had received a part of their training at the Chat Noir,—performed regularly in two or three places on the same evening.

La Grand’ Pinte (joint inspirer with the Hydropathes of the Chat Noir) became under the direction of another Salis—Gabriel—the cabaret artistique et littéraire, L’Ane Rouge. Its next-door neighbour, Le Clou, fitted itself out with a picturesque second-story supper-room and an eccentric caveau, in which tourneys of poetry were frequently given. Le Café des Décadents (later Café Duclerc, where the singers wore nooses about their necks), with its “Bruxellois Soupers”; Le Carillon, with its “Assizes”; Le Fraternistère, with its “Guignol Social” and its “chansons et recréations sociologiques”; Le Casino des Concièrges, with its “Soupers Panamistes”; La Fourrière (The Pound), La Roulotte (The Gypsy Van), Le Cabaret des Assassins (now Le Lapin Agile), Le Cabaret des Pommes-de-terre Frites, La Purée, La Purée Sociale, and the Cabarets du Ciel, de l’Enfer, and du Néant,—had each its little day of notoriety; and the last three, though by all odds the flattest of the lot, are still run for the benefit of country visitors.

Le Conservatoire (whose specialty is the Théâtre d’Ombres Chinoises—shadow pantomime—with which the subtle artist Henri Rivière helped build up the vogue of Salis), Le Cabaret des Quat’z’ Arts, Le Cabaret des Arts, La Veine, and La Lune Rousse are the five closest existing counterparts of the Chat Noir. Their decorations are highly effective, and they employ most of the Chat Noir celebrities who have not, like Salis, passed over to the 287 great majority.98 But their performances, while of high average merit, are totally lacking in the elements of spontaneity and unexpectedness, which constituted the rare and peculiar charm of the programmes of the Chat Noir in its early and unspoiled days; and their prices, which have increased in direct proportion as intrinsic interest has decreased, are prohibitive for most of the real Bohemians of Montmartre. The truth is, these cabarets have long ceased to attract the Montmartrois, and are kept up as mere show places for provincial and foreign tourists. It is only in their front rooms, where prices are normal and no performances worth mentioning are given—at the hour of the apéritif, that one may find any number of truly representative Montmartrois.

At La Boîte à Fursy (in the building to which the Chat Noir repaired when the complaints of its neighbours and the need of more room forced it to quit its original home on the Boulevard de Rochechouart) and Le Tréteau de Tabarin (also under the management of Fursy) the prices are still more prohibitive, so far as Bohemia is concerned, and the audiences, by just so much the more, unrepresentative.

All these places have been practically abandoned by their former patrons, and by the unprofessional singing, rhyming, reciting Bohemians in general, for tiny, obscure cafés or wine-shops,99 whose tininess and obscurity are defences against sight-seeing invasion, and for private ateliers, from which the uninvited may be readily ejected. Those who, depressed by the professionalism, mercenary spirit, and monotony of the best-known cabarets, declare that the spirit of Bohemianism has abandoned the Butte, do not take into account these multitudinous Bohemian conclaves, of which they are, in all probability, totally ignorant.

One group, to which for two years the writer was privileged to belong, included fifty members, whose ages ranged from twenty to seventy and whose reputations ranged from zero to boulevard 288 celebrity. It dined every Tuesday evening at a really cheap and really Bohemian restaurant of the rue de la Rochefoucauld, adjourned after dinner to the atelier of a musician in the rue Bréda for literary and musical exercises mingled with horse-play, and readjourned at midnight to the supper-room of an adjacent café for unadulterated horse-play, without the slightest literary or musical pretence.

In France the chanson is second only to the press (if, indeed, it really be second to anything) as a moulder of public opinion. It instructs less than the press, perhaps, but it excites more.

“The chanson, like the bayonet,” says Jules Claretie, “is a French weapon.... We are afraid of the chanson. It is a dishevelled personage who tells the truth. We exile it, we pursue it. M. Javert pursued not otherwise Fantine.... We are afraid of it because it is necessarily, fatally, of the opposition. It has no reason for existence, if it is not factious.... From the Mazarinades to the amusing Chansons Rosses of Fursy, the chanson has administered fillips to the powers. It is its lot. I add, it is its right.... Vive la chanson! even the cruel chanson, when it is a sort of Daumier!”

Only a small percentage of the songs heard in the cabarets artistiques et littéraires of Montmartre are frankly revolutionary or even “of the opposition,” in the narrow partisan sense of that phrase; but they nearly all “tell the truth to people,” they are nearly all satirical and captious to the last degree—“of the opposition,” that is, in the broader sense of the phrase. They assail all the existing institutions,—army, state, church, property, and marriage,—not with the direct invective which would put them at the censorship’s mercy, but with the ridicule which in Paris, as in perhaps no other spot on the globe, is more potent than invective, and before which the censorship, though it turn pale and tear its hair with rage, is powerless.

Jules Jouy,100 one of the bright particular stars of the Chat Noir and of several of its successors and imitators, was at once a 289 veritable Gavroche for saucy wit and a fervent pleader for the poor. He was a regular contributor to several socialistic sheets; and his Chansons de BatailleLa Terre, Les Enfants et les Mères, La Veuve, Fille d’Ouvrier, Les Inconnus, La Grève Noire, Pâle Travailleur, Victimes du Travail, Le Sang des Martyrs, La Carmagnole des Meurts-de-Faim, etc.—are superb examples of the chanson of social revolt and reclamation.

The manager of the Casino des Concièrges, Le Cabaret des Pommes-de-terre Frites, and La Purée Sociale, was an ancient revolutionist, Maxime Lisbonne, who had distinguished himself on a barricade of the Place du Panthéon during the Commune.

In the supper-rooms of the Clou the anarchist poet Paul Paillette was wont to recite his anarchist poems, and the Clou is still a favourite meeting-place for revolutionary groups.

At the Quat’z’ Arts Marcel Legay varies his répertoire of sentimental and patriotic ballads with the stirring revolutionary chansons of Maurice Boukay and J. B. Clément; Gaston Couté recites his subversive “Les Conscrits” and “Le Christ en Bois”; Eugène Lemercier with genial malice, Gaston Sécot with waggery, and Yon Lug with Chinese imperturbability ridicule officialism in its every phase; Xavier Privas (Prince of Chansonniers by formal election), in his highly individual and snappy fashion, renders—between two idyls—his fine socialistic song Les Résignés or exalts poverty with his Noël or Testament de Pierrot; and Jehan Rictus intones his heart-breaking Soliloques du Pauvre.

The Quat’z’ Arts has also had courses of Sunday afternoon lectures on the chanson by the socialist deputies Clovis Hugues and Maurice Boukay.

The Boîte à Fursy, though catering palpably to the snobs, is shut up nearly every season by an irate censorship, and this more often for reasons of politics than from any consideration of public morality.

“I have been allowed this merit, and it is the sole one I claim,” says Fursy, in the introduction to his Chansons Rosses, “of never letting pass, or rarely letting pass, a salient happening without 290 singing it immediately, and attempting to draw from it, in a refrain, the morality—or immorality—which the worthy man called Monsieur Tout-le-Monde assigns it in his talk. I do my utmost not to lose time, and to serve actuality piping hot. I am really satisfied only when I manage to sing, in the evening, couplets inspired by that morning’s event; and I have had the luck almost always to succeed.”

Even the Cabarets du Ciel, de l’Enfer, and du Néant—which, being mainly dependent for their effects upon machinery, hardly Buffalo belong at all in the class of cafés artistiques et littéraires—have, lurking under all their vulgar clap-trap, no small fund of pungent satire on religion and the church.101

Finally, there are at Montmartre a round half-dozen resorts, cabarets de la chanson d’argot (also called cabarets brutaux), of which Bruant’s Mirliton, Alexandre’s Cabaret Bruyant, and “Buffalo’s” l’Alouette are the most conspicuous examples. They have had their day so far as spontaneity is concerned, like the cabarets artistiques et littéraires, though, like them, they still attract foreigners and provincials.

Mercenary and meretricious now to the last degree, however genuine they may have been in the beginning, they still have this 291 much, at least, of sincerity,—namely, cordial detestation of the bourgeois; and it is to this very spirit, strangely enough, that their vogue with the bourgeois has been due.

It was of one of these cabarets brutaux (Bruant’s Mirliton, probably) that Zola wrote in Paris: “Pleasure-seeking Paris, the Bourgeoisie, mistress of money and of power, sickened by their possessions in time, but unwilling to let anything go, flocked thither—to receive insults and obscenities full in the face.... Far more than in the words, the burning insult was in the manner with which the singer cast the words in the teeth of the rich, of the favoured, of the fine ladies who elbowed each other to hear him. Under the low ceiling, amid the smoke of pipes, in the blinding heat of the gas, he launched his verses brutally like crachats, a very hail-squall of furious contempt.”

Bruant himself rarely appears nowadays at his Mirliton, which, with the aid of under-studies, he, nevertheless, keeps up. Loaded with notoriety and wealth, he has come to prefer following the hounds or emptying a bottle of good wine, as the Châtelain of Courthenay, to entertaining the bourgeois by affronting them.

Not long back Bruant was an unsuccessful candidate for deputy at Belleville, which adjoins Montmartre. His address to his electors—with which it is customary for candidates to placard the walls of their districts—was in rhyme. The verses, though not of his best, are novel enough to demand quotation:—


de la première conscription du vingtième arrondissement

Programme I Si j’étais votre député, Ohé! Ohé! qu’on se le dise, J’ajouterais “Humanité” 292 Aux trois mots de votre devise ... Au lieu de parler tous les jours Pour la République ou l’Empire Et de faire de longs discours Pour ne rien dire. II Je parlerais des petits fieux, ... Des filles-mères, des pauvres vieux Qui l’hiver gèlent par la ville.... Ils auraient chaud comme en été, Si j’étais nommé député A Belleville. III Je parlerais des tristes gueux, Des purotins batteurs de dèche, Des ventres plats, des ventres creux, Et je parlerais d’une crèche Pour les pauvres filles sans lit, Que l’on repousse et qu’on renvoie Dans la rue! ... avec leur petit!... Mères de joie! IV Je parlerais de leurs mignons, De ces minables chérubins Dont les pauvres petits fignons Ne connaissent pas l’eau des bains, Chérubins dont l’âme et le sang Se pourrissent à l’air des bouges Et qu’on voit passer, le teint blanc Et les yeux rouges. 293 V Je parlerais des vieux perclus Qui voudraient travailler encore, Mais dont l’atelier ne veut plus, ... Et qui traînent jusqu’à l’aurore Sur le dur pavé de Paris, Leur refuge, leurs Invalides, Errants, chassés, honteux, meurtris, Les boyaux vides. VI Je parlerais des petits fieux, ... Des filles-mères, des pauvres vieux, Qui l’hiver gèlent par la ville.... Ils auraient chaud comme en été Si j’étais nommé député A Belleville.

Bruant’s Mirliton, thanks to the forceful talent of its founder, its lugubrious but artistic furnishings, and its cavalier treatment of its patrons, is the most famous, the most picturesque, and the most startling of the cabarets brutaux.

Alexandre owes such success as he has had at the Cabaret Bruyant less to his talent as a writer and singer of chansons, which is not great, than to his having sung in the streets with Mme. Eugénie Buffet for the benefit of the poor102 (his cabaret is also known as Le Cabaret du Chanteur des Cours) and to his having been haled into court by Bruant for plagiarising his costume. The court decided in this cause célèbre (Bruant vs. Alexandre) that the top-boots, velvet jacket, scarlet scarf, and mountaineer’s felt which Bruant wore professionally were his trade-mark, so to speak, and that the professional costume adopted by Alexandre—which, without being an exact copy, was as close a copy 294 as the word “Bruyant,” for example, is of Bruant—constituted a palpable infringement. And it granted Bruant an injunction restraining Alexandre from appearing therein. The judgment was reaffirmed upon appeal.

In his first burst of rage over the result, Alexandre threatened to sing without any costume whatsoever; but he thought better of that. What he did do was to defy the court. Swearing ALEXANDRE ALEXANDRE there was not force enough in France to undress him, he persisted in wearing the prohibited garb.

These strained relations with the law of the land made a hero of Alexandre, in a small way. He became thus a sort of Jules Guérin, and his cabaret a sort of Fort Chabrol. He elucidated the situation to his audiences nightly in a speech that ran somewhat like this:—

“What do you say to a republic where you can’t wear, so that they be decent, any clothes you like? This business has cost me more than ten thousand francs already. Every day—and it’s seventeen months now it’s been going on—the sheriff appears. ‘Still in the costume, Alexandre?’ And that means twenty francs! Twenty francs a day—to say nothing of the costs—counts up. Well, what of it? Let the bill swell! Let them come as often 295 as they please! It’s their right! But I keep on wearing the clothes all the same.

“Not that I don’t recognise in Bruant, for all the harm he’s trying to do me, my cher maître. What should I be without him? Nothing at all. Oh, yes, I’m ready enough to admit that. I am no ingrate. For the man who is ruining me, I have something there, at the heart, which abides, and which nothing can take away.

“When I began to wear the costume, Aristide didn’t object. Not he. He thought me beneath his notice, I suppose. But, when he sees I am succeeding, then he brings me up in court.

“The truth of it is, he dreads my competition. I frighten him. My glory throws him in the shade. He says to Alexandre, ‘Get out of my light!’

“The Law has smitten me in the name of Bruant: the Law does not know me. Since I have sung, I have gleaned upon the public places, in the streets, twenty-two thousand francs for the poor; and I am ordered to strip off my trousers. There’s justice for you!

“Now on with the music! Twenty francs to pay every time I dare to don the forbidden costume, the costume Bruant. It’s cheap at twenty francs. I don the costume, and I pay.”

The law is effective, it would seem, in preventing Alexandre from appearing publicly in the costume outside of his own cabaret.

Out of the medley of monologists and chansonniers (largely, of course, made up of mediocrities) who practise their professions in the cabarets of Montmartre, several of genuine poetical talent have emerged; and, of these, at least three are characterised by a thoroughly lawless or revolutionary spirit. These three are: Aristide Bruant, who exhibits a reality, a virility, a brutality, a grim humour, a picturesqueness of epithet, a boldness of imagery, and a tragic quality in caricature which make him (in a narrow field) a sort of French Kipling, with an honest devil-may-care quality by the side of which Kipling’s bravado 296 seems fustian; Jehan Rictus, less facile, less humorous, and less insolent than Bruant, but his equal in realism and his superior in sentiment; and Maurice Boukay (retired, and now a deputy), who lacks the grip on reality of Bruant and Rictus, but who atones partially for this lack by a wealth of stirring appeal.

Boukay’s point of view is that of the lettré, the social philosopher, the reformer, the enlightened friend of the poor. His words are words of faith, trumpet-calls from the heights instead of gibes or moans from the depths. They ring true of reasoned and righteous revolt. His Chansons Rouges are neither narrative nor descriptive; not chansons vécues,—that is, chansons based on his own experience,—but symbolic poems,—symbolic in both language and thought, what he himself might call “chansons d’humanité multiple et objective.”

“They were all written,” says M. Boukay in his introduction, “in a complete independence of spirit, at a time when, not yet having entered political life, I listened to the great voice of the people, and endeavoured to seize its hidden meaning.... My master Verlaine said: ‘The chanson of love is blue. The chanson of dreams is white. The chanson of sadness is grey.’ The chanson sociale is red.... It is the colour of the glass of wine that your good heart offers the vagrant to comfort him on the high road of life. It is the colour of the rising sun towards which your ardent, hopeful eyes yearn. It is the most intense hue of the tricolor flag, which lies close to the heart of all the miseries, which waves in the wind of all the liberties.

“‘Stop there!’ exclaims some timorous spirit. ‘Do you not fear, singer of fraternity, to deepen the regrets and inflame the anguish of the people under pretext of describing them?’



Cabaret de la rue Pigalle

“But, my good critic, will voicing the plaint of him who travails and suffers, always, then, be to wound the sanctimonious egoisms of him who digests and does nothing else? Would you resemble the iniquitous rich man,—tolerate the stretching forth of the hand, silent and ashamed, to beg, and forbid the quivering lips to groan? If you do not hear the groan, how can you 297 console it? If you do not see the sore of poverty stripped of all its bandages, how will you know how to cure it?... Be brave and be just, good critic! Open thine eyes! Open thy heart!... MAURICE BOUKAY MAURICE BOUKAY The love of woman has for its necessary complement the love of humanity. Is this your belief? If yes, you will sing these Chansons Rouges. If no, you will let the people sing them. In any case, you will understand.”

The titles of the Chansons Rouges bear out the promise of this foreword: Le Soleil Rouge, Le Coq Rouge, Le Noël Rouge, L’Etoile Rouge, La Cité, La Chanson du Pauvre Chanteur, Fille et Souteneur, La Chanson de Nature, Le Mot Passé, La Dernière Bastille, La Madeleine, La Femme Libre, Les Rafles, La Chanson de Misère; and the songs bear out the promise of their titles.

Note the thrilling refrain of Le Soleil Rouge,—

Compagnon, le vieux monde bouge: Marchons droit, la main dans la main! Compagnon, le grand soleil rouge Brillera, brillera demain,”—

and the poignant, threatening Chanson de Misère:—

LA CHANSON DE MISÈRE I J’ai chanté l’amour à vingt ans, Et j’ai perdu l’une après l’une, Blonde ou brune, au clair de la lune, Mes illusions et mon temps. 298 Mon cœur oubliait la Misère, Lire lon laire, Pourtant la Misère était là, Lire lon la! II C’était un matin de rancœur, Que de ma tristesse accrue, Je butai du pied, dans la rue, Un pavé rouge comme un cœur. C’était le cœur de la Misère, Lire lon laire, Entre deux pavés planté là, Lire lon la! III Le pavé, se dressant vers moi: Combien j’ai vu de barricades, Combien j’ai reçu d’estocades De par la lettre de la loi!” Passant, prends garde à la Misère, Lire lon laire. Son cœur n’est pas mort. Halte là! Lire lon la! IV Je saigne à chaque iniquité, Je suis le pavé de souffrance, Je suis rouge du sang de France Répandu pour l’humanité. Fleur de pavé, fleur de Misère, Lire lon laire, L’héroisme a passé par là, Lire lon la! 299 V Egoïsme, arrière! Je veux Te marquer de ma chanson rouge. L’espoir grandit. Le pavé bouge. Debout, clairon! Sonne les vœux! C’est la chanson de la Misère, Lire lon laire. La Justice viendra par la Lire lon la!

There is not a character of the Paris underworld nor a phase of its life about which Bruant has not cast the glamour of his suggestive argot: beggars and vagabonds; semi-vagabond acrobats, rag-pickers, and sandwich-men; thieves, thugs, maquereaux,103 and murderers; foundlings and the lowest grades of prostitutes, a veritable Maxim Gorky galaxy; starving, shivering, loafing, sinning, and suffering men and women; attractive sloth, picturesque horror, piquant degradation and savoury crime,—all in a lurid setting of teeming faubourg streets, public balls, all-night restaurants, bagnios, prisons, and the guillotine!

Le Philosophe,” the opening poem of Bruant’s published volume, Dans la Rue,—

T’es dans la rue, va t’es chez toi,”—

the songs of the different faubourgs,—A Batignolles, A la Villette, A Montpernasse, A Belleville, A Ménilmontant, A Montrouge, A la Glacière, etc.,—Le Guillotine, A la Roquette, Le Rond des Marmites, A Mazas, Casseur de Gueules, Le Grelotteux, Marcheuses, Les Quat’ Pattes, and Pus de Patrons are absolutely convincing as literature and as studies of society, and, to be appreciated, have no need of their author’s dramatic delivery. His most widely known chanson, A St. Lazare, is one of the 300 poems of a generation; and his A Biribi104 has probably done more to MAQUERAUX MAQUERAUX rouse the common people against the army than all the anti-militarist meetings of the socialists and anarchists combined. But propriety, alas! forbids their presence—and the presence of most of the best of Bruant’s work in this volume.

The monologues of Jehan Rictus (Soliloques du Pauvre, Doléances, and Cantilènes du Malheur) are conspicuous among the poems of poverty for their absolute and abject despair. Jehan Rictus is a man who has done many kinds of hard manual labour, if report speaks true, and who knows the wretchedness of extreme penury by long and cruel experience. “A strange and highly typical figure; a pale, emaciated head we seem to have seen somewhere before. Where?—in church paintings, perhaps; sad, lean, narrow-chested, tall, ‘long as a tear,’ and an expression so weary! He does not essay a gesture. He has only his voice, the anguish of his face, and the feverish gleam of his eyes with which to move us. His hands, held always behind him, twitch ineffectually as if trying to burst invisible bonds.”

Jehan Rictus


In portraying the physical discomforts of poverty, the racking coughs, raging thirsts, aching bones, the nights without shelter or sleep, the days without food, the tears that scald and the tearlessness that deadens, Jehan Rictus has only done what has been done a score of times in prose and verse. Surely, an empty heart keeps close company, more often than not, with an empty stomach, and it is in portraying vividly the mental and spiritual aspects of poverty that his work is fresh and unique. The humiliation of poverty’s uniform,—unkempt hair, missing shirt, drafty shoes, outlandish and threadbare garments,—of the pavement bed, of the paroxysms of hunger attributed to intoxication, of the unsuccessful search for work, of debarment from places of public resort, of silent submission to insult and gibe; the disgust with filth, vermin, vulgar noise, endless monotony, enforced celibacy, patronising pity, petty deceits improvised to hide destitution, and hilarity improvised to keep back tears; the hatred of those who practise injustice and hypocrisy; the scorn of those who bestow and those who accept charity; the incipient madness of starvation, at once impelling to a shedding of the blood of the guilty and raising a horrid dread of confounding the innocent with the guilty; the regret for loss of respectability, courage, ambition, energy, talent, faith; the oppressive lonesomeness; the yearning for fresh distractions, innocent joys, cleanly living, for kindly words, sympathetic hand-clasps, kisses, caresses, companionship, friendship, love, precious responsibility; the stolid indifference to death,—all these, the underlying sentiments of poverty, have never before been given in poetry, at least not without the blight of palpable literary effort or factitious emotionalism.

Equally unique and equally powerful with the exhibition of the multiform woes of the destitute is the poet’s satirical exposure of the inconsistencies, insincerities, vanities, and refined cruelties of the various sorts of people who exploit the destitute. With an ironical pretence of rendering deserved homage to poverty, he elaborates the important part it plays in the social scheme. Thanks to it, the employees of the Assistance Publique are able to maintain 302 their families in comfort; magistrates to attain a rotund and tranquil old age; economists (deferring to it as a dignified entity) to win professional chairs and academic honours; politicians to get the public ear; socialistic and anarchistic bawlers to finish out their careers as dawdling, alcoholic deputies; poets, painters, and novelists to swim in glory and good wine, and found luxurious establishments for their offspring.

The arrival of winter, which clots the blood of one class, stimulates the circulation of all the others. Then reputable benevolence drums a réveille on hollow stomachs; burial companies wax radiantly bustling; salons, languishing for want of something to talk about, revive promptly; the tourist in the Midi and the bourgeois, smug and snug by his fireside, daily commiserate suffering—after dinner—in a manner both magnificent and ample; society gambols at charity fêtes and balls; the press “rediscovers distress”; journalists sob, weep, and implore—at three sous a line. In a word, pitying the unfortunate is a profession like another; and, if the day should ever arrive when there were no more poor in the world, “many people”—to render idiom for idiom—“would be badly in the soup.” Such satire stings and routs by virtue of the moral force behind it: it is the whip of small cords plied by the man with a soul.

Satire broadens to rollicking humour in depicting the abject terror of a conscience-stricken bourgeois shopkeeper before the embarrassing spectre of a hungry man:—

Avez-vous vu ce misérable? Cet individu équivoque? Ce pouilleux, ce voleur en loques, Qui nous r’gardait manger à table? Ma parole! on n’est pus (plus) chez soi, On ne peut pus digérer tranquille— Nous payons l’impôt, gn’a (il y en a) des lois! Qu’est-ce qu’y (ils) font donc, les sergents d’ ville?


I laughed almost to tears when I came upon this picture, because I knew that same bourgeois shopkeeper—in Boston—during the historic famine winter of 1893-94, when a great press formed a syndicate for the dissemination of lies, when the authority of a great state was appealed to, and a great governor received congratulatory despatches from the confines of a great country for prompt and decisive action in a great emergency, and all because a few half-starved devils took a notion to show themselves without washing their hands and faces or changing their clothes.

But to return to France. Jehan Rictus loves the white apparitions of the “first communicants,” loves sunshine, lilacs, and watercress, birds and little children. Mrs. Browning’s memorable “Cry of the Children” is feeble and conventional by the side of his “Farandole des Pauv’s ‘tits Fan-Fans.” Charles Lamb was not sweeter, tenderer, daintier, in his tear-compelling reverie, “Dream Children,” than Rictus in dealing with his dream loves,—his “cemetery of innocents” he calls them, his “poor little heap of dead.”

Et la vie les a massacrés, Mes mains les ont ensevelis, Mes yeux les ont beaucoup pleurés.

His “Espoir,” in which he dreams of a sweetheart, is a veritable Eugène Carrière in verse.

Another poem containing much of the same sad, tender beauty, strangely commingled with piquant malice, mischievous esprit, broad humour, and bitter satire; a poem which, in spite of startling liberties of vocabulary, rhythm, and rhyme, is said to have brought honest tears to the eyes of the impeccable De Hérédia, is “Le Revenant.” The “Revenant” is Jesus Christ. The appearance of Christ in nineteenth-century Paris is a much-worn motif in French literature and painting; but the slum poet’s handling of it is so new, bold, and strong that it seems to be altogether fresh.


Le Revenant” is in three parts.

Part I. is a query as to what would happen if Jesus Christ should come back, and introduces a summary of the principal events of his career and a strikingly original appreciation of his personality and character. He is the “man of the beautiful eyes and the beautiful dreams, whose heart was larger than life.” But he is also “the anarchist,” the “Galilean tramp,” the “carpenter on a strike,” the “boon companion of thieves,” the “quack hated by the doctors,” the “duffer who wore another cross than that of the Legion of Honour, who boxed the bourgeois shop-keepers, and who wasn’t over-polite to the muffs of his time,”—phrases through whose vulgar, uncouth, seemingly sacrilegious envelope are plainly visible intense love and admiration, and which accurately represent the religious attitude of the submerged, who, proverbially, applaud the name of Christ while they hiss the barest mention of his professed followers and his church.

In Part II. Jesus Christ suddenly appears on a corner of one of the exterior boulevards. The surprised poet greets him with bluff good-nature, laments drolly his inability to do the proper thing by him in the matter of drinks, and overwhelms him with eager, naïve questions. Then, touched to the heart by his dazed look and apparent helplessness, he assumes a kindly superiority, taking him under his protection, as he might a lost infant, warning him against many things, especially against the police, who will be certain to arrest him as a vagabond if he falls within their view. Finally, he discovers that the figure he has taken to be that of the Christ is his own figure mirrored in the window of the wine-shop before which he has been standing.

Part III. is the after-thought, what the poet would most wish to have said to Jesus Christ if he really had returned and he had been the first to greet him. Necessarily a repetition at many points of Parts I. and II., its excuse is the following declaration of faith:—


Chacun a la Beauté en lui, Chacun a la Justice en lui, Chacun a la Force en lui-même. L’Homme est tout seul dans l’Univers. Oh! oui, ben seul, et c’est sa gloire, Car y n’a qu’ deux yeux pour tout voir. Le Ciel, la Terre, et les Etoiles Sont prisonniers d’ ses cils en pleurs. Y’ n’ peut donc compter qu’ sur lui-même, J’ m’en vas m’ remuer qu’ chacun m’imite, C’est là qu’est la clef du Problème. L’Homme doit êt’ son Maître et son Dieu.

and the following threat:—

Donnez-nous tous les jours l’ brich’ ton (pain) régulier, Autrement nous tâch’rons d’ le prendre.

It was probably this downright and direct threat that led Jules Claretie, writing for Le Temps, to say: “The poetry of the lean Jehan Rictus is the Fronde of to-day. Far better that it mutter in the cabaret than in the street.” The majority of the press critics, ignoring this single unequivocal threat and numerous indirect but slightly veiled anathemas, have pronounced his work “gentle and refined.” Both interpretations are, in a measure, right.

Desiring revolt with his whole soul, and sure of the righteousness of it, he is likewise so sure of its entire uselessness that he deprecates it far oftener than he proclaims it. A better state of things, in even the most distant future, is to him but a dubious “perhaps.” From kings, presidents, councils, parliaments, nobles, bourgeois, popes, priests, economists, reformers, and philanthropists he expects nothing. From his own down-trodden class he expects no more. They are stupid cattle, waiting patiently 306 to be bled. Enfeebled by hardship, cowed into spiritlessness by police and magistrates, ready to share with the dogs the crumbs that drop from rich men’s tables, to cringe and fawn before the faintest prospect of a bone; ready to sell themselves outright for two bars of music, three sous of absinthe, or a couple of rounds of tobacco; blinded by the dazzling fiction of universal suffrage: they are only fit, at the moment a Bastille ought to be taken, to take the tram-car of that name, and generally show more signs of reverting to the type of the ourang-outang than of ushering in that era of universal affection, when all men will be as brothers, and all nations of one speech and one mind.

His prayers are despairing cries to a half-credited God,—a God at best so old, deaf, blind, unconcerned, and far away that his interference is not much to be counted on.

He conjures Jesus Christ into the world only to chaff him for his faith in man, to characterise his teachings as the beautiful soliloquies of an unfortunate, and, finally, to warn him to make good his escape, if he would keep out of the clutches of nineteenth-century Judas Iscariots and Pontius Pilates.

The prophets and teachers who have tried radically to better the world have always been treated as criminals, and always will be. It is vain to struggle to make things over. Man is a muff by nature, and nature will never change. The kilogramme of iron falsely called a heart will never be anything more than a kilogramme of iron. The bank of love “assigned” centuries ago. Modern civilisation is organised distress. These are his sober and reasoned conclusions.

But ever and anon, when pain grows too great to be borne, the blind instinct of self-preservation overtops reason. Then he swears to be his “own good God all alone,” taking “his own skin for a banner, since that is the only thing he has in the world.” Even so his words are less the rallying cry of a reformer who believes in success than the desperate defiance of a Prometheus chained to a rock; and recoil is speedy to his habitual sentiment 307 reiterated so often as to be a veritable refrain, “It’s only life, after all: there’s nothing to do but to weep.”

“Jehan Rictus,” said a writer in the Gil Blas, “has definitely fixed a new poetic sob in the cacophony of eternal human suffering.” Needless to add, a sob was not his choice. Fate chose for him. His is no case of “wilful sadness in literature.” Sweet, tender, affectionate by nature, enamoured of sunlight, he might, under happier conditions, have given a smile, a cheer, a pæan even, to the world. In giving a sob, he gave what life gave him,—his all.

He is the perfect nihilist, who fails to be the perfect anarchist only because he has no faith. His Paris underworld is an Inferno. “All hope abandon ye who enter here,” is the burden of his message from the submerged; and it is this, probably, that led Laurent Tailhade to call him “the Dante of la misère.”

Jehan Rictus is at present preaching his gospel of blended defiance and despair in prose, in a journal called L’Ennemi du Peuple. His journalism, however, rises very little above the commonplace. He is growing fat and fashionable, and it is to be feared that his days of significant poetical productiveness are over.

Montmartre participated actively in the revolution of 1830, and was the seat of the Club de la Montagne in that of 1848. Of the period immediately preceding the Commune one of its old residents writes: “There, insurrection held its drums and its guns always ready. The right to live free was the most precious of all things to the hearts of all.” It seems to have been the order to seize the cannons which the Gardes Nationaux had transported to Montmartre after the capitulation of Paris that precipitated the Commune; and it was at Montmartre that the generals Lecomte and Clément Thomas were executed.

Louise Michel—and who should know better?—in her fascinating Mémoires testifies to the revolutionary prestige of Montmartre. She says, referring to the siege of Paris:—

“The Eighteenth Arrondissement was the terror of the selfish, 308 plundering jobbers, and others of their breed. When it was rumoured, ‘Montmartre is coming down’ (‘Montmartre va descendre’), the reactionaries scampered to their holes like hunted animals, deserting in their panic the secret storehouses in which provisions were rotting while Paris was starving to death.”

Again, apropos of her discharge from custody in the early part of the insurrection, she writes:—

“The four citoyens, Th. Ferré, Avronsart, Burlot, and Christ, came to demand my release in the name of the Eighteenth Arrondissement. At the first word of this phrase,—terror of the reaction,—‘Montmartre is coming down,’ I was given into their hands.”

Still again, in a letter to Rochefort and Pain, on her return from exile:—

“I am writing to Joffrin at the same time as to you on the subject of the meeting of Montmartre, before which I cannot go to any other. It was at Montmartre I marched formerly: it is with Montmartre I march to-day.”

It was to the Montmartre of the indigènes, the Montmartre of the workingmen, the Montmartre then regarded as a twin of Belleville, which was known as le cratère de la révolution, that Louise Michel paid these tributes of affection and esteem. The invasion of the hordes of arts and letters, who hold the Vache Enragée above the Golden Calf, far from weakening the revolutionary fervour of the Butte, has strengthened it. Montmartre is none the less a hot-bed of revolution for having become a shrine of the Muses. On the contrary, its present revolutionary spirit is the spirit of the old Montmartre and of the new Bohemia fused into one; and it makes the “selfish, plundering jobbers, and others of their breed,” quake more than ever.

At every cloud on the municipal horizon no bigger than a man’s hand, at every suggestion of disturbance in the political atmosphere, at every slightest rumble presaging the rising of the masses, the classes peer nervously and timorously in the direction of the beetling Montmartre, regretting from the bottom of 309 their hearts that the offer Rothschild is said to have once made, to raze the Butte at his own expense, was not accepted by the government.

The relations between the aboriginal workingmen and the artistic and literary colonists of Montmartre are of the most cordial sort. There is a genuine solidarity between them (wherein is a profound lesson for the social settler), because they have common sufferings, common hatreds, common apprehensions, and common hopes; because they faint from the same hunger, shiver from the same frost, dread the same rent-bills, are liable to the same evictions and the same police rafles, and are under the same temptation, when houseless, to commit a petty misdemeanour in order to get stowed away for the night.

Artists may help the poor working people about them—without that effort of will, that compulsion of duty, which inevitably involves patronage, and which is the bane of all the attempts of the well-to-do to “elevate” the poor—because, poor themselves, they often accept help from them in return and in kind, and because they are neither mysteries nor objects of envy to any.

Nowhere in Paris, certainly, is the identity of interests and sentiments of the simple proletariat and the prolétariat littéraire so graphically presented and the much-prated alliance between brain and brawn, labour and intellect, so completely realised. Nowhere this side of heaven, probably, is social democracy so real and so devoid of pose.

It is not to be supposed that these poor devils of painters and poets, ardent-eyed and beauty-loving, are inwardly submissive because they rail outwardly at their misfortunes; that they pardon either the individuals who victimise them or the society which allows individuals to victimise them. Revolt is none the less revolt for perpetrating and relishing a joke.

The note of social revolt in the cavalcade of the Vache Enragée and in the mock ceremony of the marriage of the Rosière; in the more than unconventional daily life, with its contemptuous disregard of ordinances of state and sacraments of church; in the political 310 and social satire of the chansonniers, who sing indifferently in the soirées of the socialist and anarchist groups and in the cabarets artistiques et littéraires; and in the coarse derision of the bawlers of the cabarets brutaux,—is not to be ignored on the ground that it bears a semblance of mirth. The child’s play theory is absolutely untenable in this connection. These jolly Bohemian dogs of Montmartre are capable of corroding rancours and terrible wrath. And, if that descent from Montmartre which the conscience-stricken bourgeois feel in their bones will come, ever does come, it will not be the simple proletariat that will inaugurate and lead it, but the rollicking prolétariat littéraire.




Chapter XVII



I have intended to rehabilitate the pariah, whatever form it may take; whether it be a buffoon, like Triboulet, a courtesan, like Marion Delorme, a poisoner, like Lucrezia Borgia, the oppressed, like the people. Those who say that I have practised art for art’s sake say a silly thing. No one, more than I, has practised art for society and humanity. I have always worked for this end, and have known what I wished to do.”—Victor Hugo.

We know what it cost the First Empire to have displeased Châteaubriand, what it cost Louis Philippe to have offended Lamartine, Napoleon III. to have vexed Victor Hugo.”—Gaston Deschamps.

The aptitude for commerce is an inferior aptitude. There are multitudes of banks in which fortunes are perpetuated. Is there an unbroken line of Hugos, of Ampères, of Courbets, which progresses incessantly from father to son? Commerce is an absurd criterion of merit, base in itself and still more degrading when it is regulated by laws like ours.

Hélier, in Rosny’s Le Bilatéral.

This morning I received the visit of the police commissary, my neighbour, accompanied by four alcoholics. They turned everything topsy-turvy in my rooms, mixed up my correspondence, rumpled my collection of prints, and all to seize, at the end, a wood-cut of Maurin and the works of Tolstoy.

Meyrargues, in Victor Barrucand’s Avec le Feu.

I believe it is impossible to-day for a great mind not to be somewhat anarchistic.”—Augustin Filon.

My own art is a negation of society, an affirmation of the individual outside of all rules and of all social necessities.”—Emile Zola.


WHATEVER may be the verdict of posterity regarding the literary and philosophical activity of this restless, problematic period, the verdict of the contemporary world seems to be that Tolstoy, Ibsen, and Zola are the three biggest literary philosophers (or philosophical littérateurs) of their day and generation; and it is a noteworthy fact, to put it mildly, that the attitude towards society of each one of these three intellectual giants is, more or less openly, revolutionary. All three may be claimed by the parties of revolt without any considerable forcing of the note.

Tolstoy, by reason of his adoration of Jesus, his insistence on a literal interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, his advocacy of non-resistance as the most effective form of resistance, and his attempts to incorporate liberty in education and, by education, in life, seems to fall naturally enough into the category of the “Christian anarchist.” But, whether Tolstoy be a “Christian anarchist” or a “Christian socialist,” as certain Christian socialists rather presumptuously claim, is immaterial. He is opposed to the established order, and belongs indisputably with the revolutionists.

Ibsen is a fearless, implacable, self-confessed destroyer of dogma and tradition, whom the anarchists may claim without doing violence either to themselves or to him.

The attitude of Zola towards society and the social problem is not so easy to define.

Zola exposed with a frankness bordering on brutality the rottenness of the wealthy and privileged classes, the oppressions and cruelty of capital, the selfishness and hypocrisy of ministers, magistrates, army officers, and priests; pictured with a friendliness bordering on advocacy the sufferings and struggles of the labourers, and stated with perfect fairness the most revolutionary 314 ideas and ideals. That he had in him little enough of the stuff of which real martyrs are made—in spite of his constitutional inability to “shut himself up in his works, and act only through them,” as he a hundred times announced his intention of doing—was shown clearly enough by his ignominious flight when things turned against him in the Dreyfus affair. Nevertheless, no novelist of his time—at least none in France—has portrayed so masterfully, so sympathetically, one might almost say so devoutly, the character of the extreme, the martyr type of anarchist, the propagandiste par le fait.

Zola is said to have boasted of the progress anarchistic violence made after he “launched his Souvarine into the world.” The charge is probably a libel; but from this cold, calculating, consecrated Souvarine of Germinal to the generous, sentimental Salvat of Paris the sincere propagandiste par le fait was explained, excused, admired, extolled by him.

This is not saying that Zola was consciously (or unconsciously) an advocate of the propagande par le fait. He extended an equal cordiality to all the reformers and innovators who are groping towards a new and better world. The evils of contemporary society are so gigantic, in his view, and the necessity for a change of some sort so imperative, that he could understand and condone any and every honest protest, no matter how imprudent and no matter how fruitless.

Besides, Zola was more of an observer than a philosopher, and more of a poet than either. His later works, and Germinal at least among his earlier ones, are primarily prose epics. He loved the dynamiter for his epic value as Milton loved his magnificent Satan, and may have had no more intention of holding him up to men as an exemplar than Milton had of instituting devil-worship.

Emile Zola


It is not normal for the poet to have a coherent system, and it is extremely doubtful if Zola had one. Still, the poet must have, like other mortals, his personal point of view; and Zola’s personal point of view (which is not for a moment to be confounded with 315 his point of view as a poet) seems to have been that of the scientists of his novels,—anarchistic as to end, but evolutionary as to means: the attitude of Guillaume Froment in Paris, who saw in “unities creating worlds, atoms producing life by attraction, by free and ardent love, the only scientific theory of society,” and who “dreamed of the emancipated individual evolving, expanding without any restraint whatsoever, for his own good and for the good of all.” The attitude of Bertheroy (Paris), “who worked, in the seclusion of his laboratory, for the ruin of the present superannuated and abominable régime, with its God, its dogmas, its laws, but who desired also repose, too disdainful of useless acts to join in the tumults of the street, preferring to live tranquil, rich, recompensed, in peace with the government (whatever it might be), all in foreseeing and preparing the formidable issue of to-morrow,”—the Bertheroy who says: “I have only contempt for the vain agitations of politics, revolutionary or conservative. Does not science suffice? Of what use is it to wish to hurry things when a single step of science does more to advance humanity towards the city of justice and truth than a hundred years of politics and social revolt? Science alone is revolutionary: it alone can make not only truth, but justice prevail, if justice is ever possible here below. Of a certainty, it alone brushes away dogmas, expels the gods, creates light and happiness. It is I, member of the Institute, rich and decorated, who am the only revolutionist.” The attitude of Jordan (Travail), “a completely emancipated spirit, a tranquil and terrible evolutionist, sure that his labour will ravage and renew the world.... According to Jordan, it is science solely that leads humanity to truth, to justice, to final happiness, to the perfect city of the future towards which the peoples are so slowly and painfully advancing.”

All things considered, it would not be unfair, perhaps, to address to Zola himself the words which he made this Jordan speak to the reforming hero of Travail, Luc Froment: “Only, my noble friend, you are nothing more nor less than an anarchist, 316 complete evolutionist as you believe yourself; and you have every reason to say that, while it is with the formula of Fourier that we must begin, it is by l’homme libre dans la commune libre that we must end.” And, if Zola had been thus addressed, it is not unlikely that he would have replied laughingly, as he made his Luc reply, “At any rate, let’s begin; and we shall see in due time whither logic leads us.”

There is no doubt possible regarding Zola’s belief in a good time coming. His later books were fairly saturated with a sublime faith almost childlike. There is also no doubt that he believed that science consecrated to the service of humanity is quite capable of regenerating the world, as he indicated by the communistic experiment of Luc in Travail. But whether he believed that science will be consecrated to the service of humanity or whether he was presenting a method which might be employed, and which he simply hoped, almost against hope, would be so employed, is not so clear. Thus, in the last chapter of Travail, after giving a beautiful picture of the superb results of the peaceable revolution accomplished through the altruistic initiative of Luc in the commune of Beauclair, he added a sort of apocalyptic vision of the happenings in the principal divisions of the big world outside, in which the same superb results have been secured by violence,—by a bloody, socialistic coup d’état, by the multiplication of anarchistic bombs, by a universal war,—quite as if he would say to the classes in power: “I have shown you how society may be renewed. I have shown you the way of your salvation, the only way. If you would but walk in this way, you might save yourselves and the world with you. But you will not. You are too stupid, too selfish, too obstinate, too corrupt. You will not. I have known you only too long, and I know you will not. Well, then, so much the worse for you! Expropriation, massacre, annihilation, await you!”

If you ask intellectual Frenchmen, without distinction of social position or political faith, who is the foremost living French man of letters, five out of six will answer, without an instant’s hesitation, 317 Anatole France. Less pictorial, less colossal, and less epic than Zola, but more penetrating and more profound; æsthetic and erudite (in the good old-fashioned sense of the latter word), subtile, suave, and refined; abundantly endowed with ANATOLE FRANCE ANATOLE FRANCE the humour and the wit in which Zola was deficient; as impeccable in point of language and style as Zola was careless, as measured as Zola was violent, as gentle as Zola was brutal, as finished as Zola was crude; as perfect an embodiment of the Greek spirit as Zola, if he had only had a keener sense of the grotesque, would have been of the Gothic,—Anatole France is none the less a redoubtable iconoclast,—the most redoubtable iconoclast of his generation, perhaps. A playful pessimist, a piquant anarchist, a mischievous nihilist, if you will, but a pessimist, an anarchist, a nihilist, for all that. “Prejudices,” he says, “are unmade and remade without ceasing: they have the eternal mobility of the clouds. It is in their nature to be august before appearing to be odious; and the men are rare who have not the superstition of their time, and who look straight in the eye what the crowd does not dare to look at.” M. France is one of these rare men. He combines the amiable doubt of Montaigne with the mocking irreverence of Voltaire and the subversive grace of Renan. “The end which M. France seems to pursue persistently,” says one of his literary brethren, “is the demolition of the social edifice by the force of a logic tinctured with irony, without anger, and without phrases. By as much as Zola, Tailhade, and Mirbeau are ardent and passionate when they attack society, by so much is M. France calm and feline; but he is not, on that account, the less to be feared.”

As the most eminent living representative of the best classic 318 traditions of French prose, M. France is the idol of the lettered youth of France. From admiration of form to acceptance of the substance underlying the form is but a step. His ideas insinuate themselves consequently into the very penetralia of culture,—that exquisite culture which brooks the presence of nothing common or unclean,—and they act as a disintegrating force in circles where downright revolutionary propaganda cannot enter.

In his writings, Anatole France is the precise intellectual counterpart—at every point but that of Catholicism, and even here his passion for Augustine, Chrysostom, and the other Church Fathers deters him from displaying an uncomely asperity—of his own adorable creation, l’Abbé Coignard,105 the “delicious Catholic révolté, who juggles with principles and human institutions as if they were a Merry Andrew’s painted spheres; the railing anarchist who lashes with jests and whose only bombs are bons mots.” And the best characterisation it is possible to give of M. France, the genial iconoclast, is to repeat certain of his observations on the character of his Abbé and certain of the sayings he puts into his Abbé’s mouth,—which I accordingly do in the following detached paragraphs, making no pretence of preserving in the translation the peculiar savour and charm of the original:—

Of the Character of Jerôme Coignard.

“His free intelligence trampled under foot vulgar beliefs and never accepted without examination the common opinion, except in what had to do with the Catholic faith in which he was immovable.

“The sagest of moralists, a sort of marvellous blend of Epicurus and Saint Francis of Assisi.... He preserved, in his boldest explorations, the attitude of a peaceful promenader.... It is certain that the world, to his eyes, resembled less the deserts of the Thébaïde than the gardens of Epicurus. He sauntered therein with the audacious ingenuousness which is the essential trait of his character and the elemental principle of his teaching.”


“Never did spirit show itself at once so daring and so pacific, nor temper its disdain with more sweetness.... He despised men with tenderness. He endeavoured to teach them that, since they have nothing anywhere near great in themselves except their capacity for suffering, they can cultivate nothing useful or beautiful but compassion.”

“It was his benevolence which impelled him to humiliate his fellows in their sentiments, their knowledge, their philosophy, and their institutions. He had to show them that their imbecile natures have neither imagined nor constructed anything worth being attacked or defended very energetically, and that, if they knew the fragile crudity of their greatest works, such as laws and empires, they would fight over them only in play, for the sheer fun of the thing, like the children who build castles of sand on the rim of the sea.”

“The majesty of the laws did not impose on his clairvoyant soul; and he deplored the fact that the unfortunate are burdened with so many obligations of which, for the most part, it is impossible to discover the origin or the sense.”

“What he had the least of was the sense of veneration. Nature had refused it him, and he did nothing to acquire it. He would have feared, in exalting some, to debase others; and his universal charity embraced equally the humble and the proud.”

Some of Jerôme Coignard’s Sayings.

Of Society and Governments:

“After the destruction of all the false principles, society will subsist, because it is founded upon necessity, the laws of which, older than Saturn, will rule when Prometheus shall have dethroned Jupiter.”

“I conclude that all the laws with which a minister swells his portfolio are vain documents that can neither make us live nor prevent us from living.”

“It is well-nigh a matter of indifference whether we are governed 320 in one fashion or another, and ministers are imposing only by reason of their clothes and their carriages.”

“These assemblies [parliaments] will be founded upon the confused mediocrity of the multitude of which they will be the issue. They will revolve obscure and multiple thoughts. They will impose on the heads of the government the task of executing vague wishes, of which they will not have full consciousness themselves; and the ministers, less fortunate than the Œdipus of the fable, will be devoured, one after the other, by the hundred-headed Sphinx, for not having guessed the riddle of which the Sphinx herself did not know the answer. Their greatest hardship will be to resign themselves to impotence, to words instead of action. They will become rhetoricians, and very bad rhetoricians, since the talent which carried with it ever so little clarity would ruin them. They will be obliged to speak without saying anything, and the least stupid among them will be condemned to deceive more than the others. In this way the most intelligent will become the most contemptible. And, if there shall be some capable of arranging treaties, regulating finance, and supervising affairs, their ability will profit them nothing; for time will be lacking, and time is the stuff of great enterprises.”

Of the Army:

“I have observed that the trade the most natural to man is that of soldiering; it is the one towards which he is the most easily borne by his instincts and by his tastes, which are not all good. And apart from certain rare exceptions, of which I am one, man may be defined as an animal with a musket. Give him a handsome uniform and the hope of going to fight, he will be content.... The military condition has this also in keeping with human nature, that one is never forced to think therein; and it is clear that we were not made to think.”

“Thought is a disease peculiar to certain individuals, and could not be propagated without bringing about promptly the end 321 of the species. Soldiers live in bands, and man is a sociable animal. They wear costumes of blue and white, blue and red, gray and blue, ribbons, plumes, and cockades; and these give them the same prestige with women that the cock has with the hen. They go forth marauding and to war; and man is naturally thieving, libidinous, destructive, and sensible to glory.”

“It is astounding, Tournebroche, my son, that war and the chase, the mere thought of which ought to overwhelm us with shame and remorse in recalling to us the miserable necessities A Pair of Army Officers of our nature and our inveterate wickedness, should, on the contrary, serve as matter for the pride of men; that Christians should continue to honour the trade of butcher and headsman when it is hereditary in the family; and that, in a word, among civilised peoples the illustriousness of the citizens is measured by the quantity of murder and carnage they carry, so to speak, in their veins.”

Of the Academy:

“Happy he who has not put his hope in The Academy! Happy he who lives exempt from fears and desires, and who knows that it is equally vain to be an Academician and not to be an Academician! Such a one leads, without trouble, a life hidden and obscure. Beautiful liberty follows him everywhere. He celebrates in the shade the silent orgies of wisdom, and all the Muses smile on him as on their adept.”

“The immortality which has just been decreed to M. de Séez neither a Bossuet nor a Belzunce desires. It is not graven 322 in the hearts of wondering peoples: it is inscribed in a big register.”

“If there are to be found, among the forty, persons of more polish than genius, what harm is there in this? Mediocrity triumphs in the Academy. Where does it not triumph? Do you find it less powerful in the parliaments and in the councils of the crown, where, surely, it is less in its place? Does one need to be a rare man to work on a dictionary which pretends to control usage and which can only follow it?

“The Académistes or Académiciens were instituted, as you know, to fix the proper usage in what concerns discourse, to purge the language of every venerable and popular impurity, and to prevent the appearance of another Rabelais, another Montaigne, tout puant la canaille, la cuistrerie, et la province.”

“Genius is something unsociable. An extraordinary man is rarely a man of resources. The Academy was very well able to do without Descartes and Pascal. Who can say that it could as easily have done without M. Godeau or M. Conrart?”

Of Justice, Courts, and Judges:

“I hold man free in his acts because my religion teaches it; but, outside the doctrine of the Church (which is unequivocal), there is so little reason to believe in human liberty that I shudder in thinking of the verdicts of a justice that punishes actions of which the motives, the order, and the causes equally elude us, in which the will has often little part, and which are sometimes accomplished unconsciously.”

“Tournebroche, my son, consider that I am speaking of human justice, which is different from the justice of God, and which is generally opposed to it.”

“The cruelest insult that men have been able to offer to our Lord Jesus Christ has been the placing of his image in the halls where the judges absolve the Pharisees who crucified him and condemn the Magdalen whom he lifted up with his divine hands.”106


“What has he, the Just, to do with these men who could not show themselves just, even if they wished it, since their dreary duty is to consider the actions of their fellows not in themselves and in their essence, but from the single point of view of the interests of society; that is to say, in the interests of this mass of egoism, avarice, errors, and abuses which constitute communities, and of which they (the judges) are the blind conservators.”

“Judges do not sound the loins and do not read hearts, and their justest justice is crude and superficial.... They are men; that is to say, feeble and corruptible, gentle to the strong and pitiless to the weak. They consecrate by their sentences the cruelest social iniquities; and it is difficult to distinguish, in this partiality, what comes from their personal baseness and what is imposed on them by the duty of their profession, this duty being, in reality, to support the State in what it has of evil as well as in what it has of good; to watch over the conservation of public morals, whether they are excellent or detestable.... Furthermore, it should be observed that the magistrate is the defender, by virtue of his function, not only of the current prejudices to which we are all more or less subject, but also of the time-worn prejudices which are conserved in the laws after they have been effaced from our souls and our habits. And there is not a spirit ever so little meditative and free that does not feel how much there is of Gothic in the law, while the judge has not the right to feel it.”

“By the very nature of their profession, judges are inclined to see a culprit in every prisoner; and their zeal seems so terrible to certain European peoples that they have them assisted, in important cases, by ten citizens chosen by lot. From which it appears that chance, in its blindness, guarantees the life and liberty of the accused better than the enlightenment of the judges can. It is true that these impromptu bourgeois magistrates, selected by a lottery, are held well outside the affair of which they see only the exterior pomp. It is true further that, being ignorant of the laws, they are called in, not to apply them, but also simply 324 to decide, by a single word, if there is occasion to apply them. We are told that assizes of this sort give absurd results sometimes, but that the peoples who have established them cling to them as to a highly precious protection. I easily believe it. And I comprehend the acceptance of verdicts rendered in this fashion, which may be inept and cruel, but of which the absurdity and barbarity are, so to speak, attributable to nobody. Injustice seems tolerable when it is sufficiently incoherent to appear involuntary.”

“Just now this little bailiff, who has so strong a sentiment of justice, suspected me of belonging to the party of thieves and assassins. On the contrary, I so far disapprove theft and assassination that I cannot endure even the copy of them regularised by the laws; and it is painful for me to see that judges have found no better means of punishing robbers and homicides than by imitating them. For, after all, Tournebroche, my son, in good faith, what are fines and the death penalty, if not robbery and assassination perpetrated with an august exactitude? And do you not see that our justice merely tends, in all its pride, to this shame of avenging an evil by an evil, a suffering by a suffering, and in doubling misdemeanours and crimes in the name of equilibrium and symmetry?

“Customs have more force than laws. Gentleness of demeanour and sweetness of spirit are the only remedies which can reasonably be applied to legal barbarity. For to correct laws by laws is to take a slow and uncertain route.”

But for the historic setting, the turn of the phrase, and the absence of bitterness, one might fancy himself reading the contemporary anarchist organs, Les Temps Nouveaux and Le Libertaire.

Anatole France is as chary of Utopias as Zola is prone to them. He fears nothing so much as intemperance of emotion and speech. He believes in nothing, not even in his own unbelief. “If ever M. Anatole France,” says Gaston Deschamps, “seeks martyrdom, 325 it will be to confess the doctrine of the relativity of knowledge, to affirm the nothingness of human opinions, and to attest, at the price of his blood, that there is no truth”; and yet it was apropos of this same M. France that this same M. Deschamps, in the course of a contention that literature always ends by having its way, sounded the note of warning placed at the beginning of this chapter.

In spite of the dilettante humour or, to be more accurate, the dilettante philosophy that informs his writings, Anatole France did not remain within his tour d’ivoire during that strange Dreyfus affair which transformed nearly every literary Frenchman into an agitator—for one side or the other. Like Zola and like most of his fellow-craftsmen of an anarchistic or socialistic bent, he engaged actively in the anti-militarist campaign, the pretext of which was the wrongs of a Jew whom they believed to be persecuted. In M. France, apostle of the nothingness of things in general and in particular, such a course was very surprising and, it must be admitted, very inconsistent. His most plausible excuse probably is that he could not help himself, his chivalrous instincts proving stronger than his quietism. But he might defend himself, if he thought it worth while, by citing the reply of Jerôme Coignard to his satellite Tournebroche when the latter inquired why he would “reduce to dust the foundations of equity, of justice, of laws, and of all the civil and military magistracies”:—

“My son, I have always observed that the troubles of men come to them from their prejudices, as spiders and scorpions come from the dimness of cellars and from the humidity of vaults. It is good to flourish the broom and the brush a little in all the dark corners. It is good even to give a little blow of the pick here and there in the walls of the cellar and garden to frighten the vermin and prepare the necessary ruins.”

M. France has not yet gone back into the tour d’ivoire from which the irresistible “Affair” drew him. He is a member of the executive committee of the Co-operative Bakery and a leader in the organisation of the Universités Populaires; he presided on the occasion 326 of the Victor Hugo Centennial over a gigantic mass meeting of the latter, in which he gave “a little blow of the pick” to clericalism; OCTAVE MIRBEAU OCTAVE MIRBEAU and in 1903 he contributed an introduction to Premier Combes’ volume Campagne Laïque, in defence of anti-clericalism.

At a recent anniversary of Diderot, whom both anarchists and socialists claim as an ancestor, but who is more particularly an idol of the anarchists, he said:—

Citoyens, master-spirits who are our friends have come here to speak of Diderot, the savant, and Diderot, the philosopher. As for me, I have only a word to say. I desire to show you Diderot, the friend of the people. This son of the cutler of Langres was an excellent man. A contemporary of Voltaire and of Rousseau, he was the best of men in the best of centuries.

“He loved men and the pacific works of men. He conceived the great design of lifting up into esteem the manual trades looked down upon by the military, civil, and religious aristocracies.

Citoyens, at a time when the united enemies of knowledge, of peace, of liberty, arm themselves against the Republic, and threaten to stifle democracy under the weight of all that which does not think, or thinks only against thought, you have had a happy inspiration in singling out for honour the memory of this philosopher who teaches men happiness through work, knowledge, and love; and who, looking far into the future, announced 327 the new era, the coming of the proletariat into a pacified and comforted world.

“His penetrating view discerned our present struggles and our future successes. And it is not too much to say that Diderot, whose memory we celebrate to-day, Diderot, dead for one hundred and twenty years, touches us very closely; that he is ours, a great servitor of the people and a defender of the proletariat.”

Anatole France is the gentlest and subtlest ironist of his time; Octave Mirbeau (to whom M. France’s Jerôme Coignard was dedicated) is the fiercest. M. Mirbeau has not yet obtained the world renown of Zola nor the national renown of M. France, but he may become in time as famous as either. He surpasses every living French writer in portraying the monstrous, the atrocious, and the horrible, and in expressing hatred and disgust; and his irony—too often fulminated, in violation of the commonest courtesy, not to say decency, against individuals antipathetic to him—rives and blasts like the thunderbolt. It is doubtful if the world has seen anything comparable to him for vitriolic vindictiveness since England had Dean Swift. He is bitter, brutal, savage, terrifying to the last degree; “one of those combative natures,” says Eugène Montfort, “who are dreaded because their conviction partakes of the nature of an animate being, ... breathes, feeds, grows, is endowed with the instinct of self-preservation and struggles for life.”

His Calvaire, as he himself puts it, “strips war of all its heroism.” His Journal d’une Femme de Chambre is the most complete and awful arraignment of society it is possible to imagine between the covers of a single volume. Merciless towards the hypocrisy and hollowness of the hour, towards meanness and pretentiousness, towards impotent and misdirected philanthropy, above all, towards the stupidity and ugliness of the smug bourgeois, whom he fairly flays alive as Apollo flayed Marsyas, M. Mirbeau is, on the other hand,—and here his resemblance to Swift ceases,—infinitely humane and uplifting, full of tenderness and chivalry 328 for the outcast and unfortunate, for the goodness which would diffuse happiness everywhere; full of generous ardour, high aspiration, and unfaltering faith in the ultimate triumph of the just.

M. Mirbeau is a declared anarchist; and, as such, he published a wonderful Apology of Ravachol, furnished an introduction for Jean Grave’s most famous volume, and played a leading rôle in the Dreyfus affair.

His chroniques are daring, incisive, brilliant, explosive, virile, insulting. They cut, burn, scald, corrode. His short stories are passionate, dramatic, lyrical even, all in being realistic. His novels, though they deal only indirectly with public issues, are upon all the anarchist library lists.

Emile Zola, Anatole France, and Octave Mirbeau are held, by many persons who do not in the least share their views, to be the three pre-eminent masters of modern French fiction. On a distinctly lower plane than these three, but still far above mediocrity, are two other novelists of a revolutionary cast, Lucien Descaves and Victor Barrucand.

Descaves demonstrated in his first volume—a collection of short stories entitled Le Calvaire d’Héloïse Pajadin—the depressing and degrading influence of the decent poverty of petty clerks and tradesmen; his La Colonne portrayed the contrasts of the Commune; and his Soupes exposed the hypocrisies, cruelties, and absurdities of professional and amateur charity and philanthropy. But M. Descaves’ specialty is the army: it is in his novels of the barracks that he is at his best, and by these works he is best known.

In these books, with a talent which approaches genius, through hundreds of pages he holds the reader’s attention to the flat, stale, and unprofitable barrack life,—to its pettiness, selfishness, monotony, physical and moral untidiness, desolation and disgust,—a life entirely lacking in all that we are accustomed to consider the material for romance. Under his skilful handling the commonplace and the vulgar become alternately tragic and grimly 329 comic; and his Sous-Offs and Emmurés, to which he owes his nomination as a charter member of the Académie Goncourt, are almost classics of their kind. Less exalted and less epic than Zola, of whose big, spectacular qualities he is quite destitute, Descaves is, nevertheless, much closer to Zola than he is to Mirbeau or to France. And he easily surpasses Zola in the latter’s much-heralded but rather superficial realism; that is, in the capacity for heaping up significantly and without boresomeness minute, unromantic details.

Descaves has a square bull-dog head and jaw, if his photographs are to be trusted. He certainly has a bull-dog’s fixity of purpose in the matter of both substance and form. Nothing in the world will induce him to relax his grip on his immediate aim to indulge in fine ideas or fine writing. His style is cold, hard, dry, correct, keen, and sure. He is an out-and-out anarchist, who has played a fairly active part in the events of the last few years. His Sous-Offs, though entirely free from doctrinal discussion, cost him, by reason of its damaging revelations, an encounter with the law. No other novel—indeed, no other work of this generation, unless it be Bruant’s chanson, Biribi—has exerted so profound an anti-militarist influence in France.

In 1895 Victor Barrucand published in the Revue Blanche a series of articles, concluding with a serious proposition for the establishment of “Le Pain Gratuit” (free bread); and on the occasion of the municipal elections of that year he placarded the principal communes of France with the following appeal:—


“The tactics of the ambitious and the usurpers have always been to create division in order to reign.


“Be no more divided over political programmes of which you are the dupes.

“Band yourselves together upon the basis of your interests.


“Let us not expect anything from the good will of anybody, but let us define our own wills. Let us not say to any exterior power, ‘Give us (Donnez-nous) our daily bread’; for manna will not fall from heaven nor from the governmental spheres. But let us say, ‘Give ourselves’ (Donnons-nous)! We can, if we will it, affirm with solidarity true Liberty for All.

“Let us combine our determination and our scattered energies, and let us constitute the great party of men with hearts upon this question of bread, proclaiming THE RIGHT TO LIVE (le droit à la vie) without humiliating conditions.

“Let bread, in all the communes, be the property of all, like the water of the fountains, the lights of the streets, and the streets themselves.

“We have free instruction, which profits only those who can receive instruction. Let us organise, more justly, Le Pain Gratuit for the profit and the liberty of all the workers.

“Let the bread necessary to life be a right, and not an alms. Let it be no more the derisive price with which the labourer, nourisher of the rich, is paid. Let us abrogate the law of death inscribed on the margin of the code against him who has not found a way to sell himself.

The people must speak out loud and firm! They must dictate their terms!

“Let us vote no more for individuals nor for complicated programmes. Let us vote for Le Pain Gratuit! Let there be no political divisions upon this point. Let us be with those who are with us, and be on our guard against the false philanthropists who promise more butter than bread.

“Let us begin at the beginning. Let us lay the corner-stone of a social edifice which shall shelter our children FREE AND RECONCILED IN THE COMMON HAPPINESS.

“Let us silence the ambitious who see in the suffering of the people only a means of attaining their ends. Let us replace the politics of personalities (so remote from the interests of the 331 masses) by a finely human organisation of things. Let us vote for the idea which cannot betray us.


Victor Barrucand.107

In Avec le Feu, a novel whose action is placed in the troubled period of the execution of Vaillant and the overt act of Emile Henry, M. Barrucand has given an exceedingly subtle and suggestive study of the disgust with society of a certain element of the intellectual élite, and of the reasons for their espousal of the anarchist cause.

The principal character, one Robert, is a good type of the cultured, semi-neurasthenic anarchist of a period chiefly characterised by its restlessness and yearning:—

“On certain evenings he descended into the street, and saturated himself with the crowd. On the benches he breathed the mortality of the squares. He suffered for these miserable cattle who bleed no more under the goad of conscience. He roamed entire nights as chance led, hunting the débris of souls, exploring with his emotions, as with a dark lantern, the pavements of the drowsy city. At daybreak he came back shivering, coughing, weary with over-walking, drunk with pity, his stomach steeped in bad drinks. He concluded then that labour had brutalised the species, and he sought the secret of lifting it up. On these mornings he speculated daringly, dreamed of sacrifices, of revolts, of noble disdains, of ferocious protests against philanthropy and respectability. A savour of death blended with his charity and perfumed his heroic sleep.”

The novel ends dramatically, not with bomb-throwing, but with suicide, which this strange anarchist hero, who aspires to bomb-throwing, without having the necessary force of character to achieve it, chooses in its stead.


It would be unfair to class M. Barrucand as an anarchist, or even as a revolutionist, on the strength of this book, in spite of the generally sympathetic tone which pervades it. In fact, M. Barrucand’s philosophy as displayed therein is of so cynical and, at times, of so flippant an order, his temperament so weary and so buoyant, his moral outlook so severe and lackadaisical, his style so lurid and simple, his appreciations so morbid and sane, and his literary method so impressionistic, realistic, and symbolic, by turns, that it would be rash to draw any conclusions from it whatsoever, did not his attitude in his other works—notably in his two historical biographies, La Vie Véritable du Citoyen Rossignol, Vainqueur de la Bastille, and Mémoires et Notes de Choudieu, Représentant du Peuple—and his identification with the movement for Free Bread enroll him definitively in the ranks of revolt.

Maurice Barrès, who is at present an apostle of nationalism, was at one time classed as a “sentimental anarchist,”—an anarchist “with a rebel’s brain and a voluptuary’s nerves, who would wear purple and fine linen.” “I am an enemy of the laws,” he said at that time.

Among other French novelists and short-story writers of a certain reputation who are more or less revolutionary in tone may be mentioned:—

Georges Darien, author of Biribi-Armée d’Afrique, a novel of the convict-legion, which has proved a potent factor in lessening the rigours of the companies of discipline; Dubois-Dessaulle,108 author of Sous la Casaque, who, after being released from the convict-legion to which he had been consigned (because a brochure by Jean Grave and an article by Sévérine were found in his knapsack), had the superhuman courage to soak his left arm in kerosene and set fire to it in order to avoid ever being sent back into this inferno; Jean Ajalbert, author of Sous le Sabre; Marcel Lami, author of La Débandade; 333 Louis Lamarque, author of Un An de Caserne; Paul Brulat, author of La Faiseuse de Gloire, Le Nouveau Candide, La Gangue, and Eldorado, books replete with generous indignation against social abuses; Jean Lombard, one of the makers of the programme of the Congrès Régional of Paris (1880) which declared for class candidates, whose untimely death was a great loss to French literature; Camille Pert, author of En l’Anarchie; Henri Rainaldy, author of Delcros, an exposure of the cowardices and murderousness of society; Adolphe Retté, author of Le Régicide; Marcel Schwob, author of Spicilege; Mme. Sévérine, author of Pages Rouges; Frantz Jourdain, author of L’Atelier Chanterel; Zéphirin Raganasse, author of Fabrique de Pions; Louis Lumet, author of La Fièvre; M. Reepmaker, author of Vengeance; Théodore Chèze, Henri Fèvre, Jules Cazes, Pierre Valdagne, and the feuilletoniste Michel Zevacco.

A number of the revolutionists who are primarily public agitators have made attempts of varying merit to propagate their pet ideas through the medium of fiction. Such are Sébastien Faure with his romans-feuilletons and Jean Grave with his Malfaiteurs, his military romance, La Grande Famille, and his book for boys, Les Aventures de Nono.

The most thorough single-volume study that has as yet appeared of the psychology of the different varieties of contemporary revolutionary types, and of their aims and methods, is unquestionably J.-H. Rosny’s109 romance, Le Bilatéral. But M. Rosny, although he has appeared on a public platform in company with professed révoltés, to protest against “La Cruauté Contemporaine,” is primarily a scientific observer, who cannot reasonably be classed as an agitator.

Like the hero of this romance (Hélier, the “Bilatéral,” who habitually looks at all sides of a subject, and then looks at them again), Rosny is impassive, impartial, tolerant, eclectic. Far from excusing the crimes and errors of the capitalistic state, he is equally 334 far from throwing in his lot with those who would incontinently overturn it.

“To think,” says the Bilatéral to his doctrinaire socialist and anarchist friends, “that there are multitudes of brave souls like you who, like you, see only white and black. Nothing but white and black! Why, citoyens, the complex is grey, all shades of grey.”

Again he says: “You see, my dear” (he is speaking to an ardent socialist girl), “that in the things of the social order we meet rarely a problem simple enough to make it possible to assert;—‘it is this’ or ‘it is that.’ Generally, between this and that there are an endless number of points to elucidate.... There is a high civilisation with plenty of grain, with immense unemployed forces, with a science already so large that it can resolve the problem of giving to all a nest and nourishment; ... and those above are stupid, and those below are stupid, and all so evilly disposed! My God! dear child, if the people were not a brutal instinct, we might indeed hope for a consoling solution.”

Still, again, speaking to a group upon the Bourse: “‘History, science, daily observation, demonstrate to us that nothing durable is elaborated without the aid of the great collaborator, Time. Did this horse-chestnut-tree grow in a day? And you would have the humanity which has evolved so slowly—oh, so slowly!—through myriads of years, humanity bounded by prejudices, by predispositions against progressive ideas, humanity which includes a hundred social sects ready to combat each other,—you would have this humanity change by means of a lousy, bloody, revolution? Granted that once, after centuries of patience, a cataclysm like that of ‘93 occurred. (And, even so, France, properly speaking, has no reason to felicitate itself over Jacobinism.) But you pretend to establish as a normal condition these cataclysms which can be only the exception in the social life; and it is this that I am powerless to conceive.’

“‘Bravo!’ exclaimed the bourgeois.

“‘I have nothing to do with your bravos!’ cried the Bilatéral, 335 with a shade of nervousness. ‘If their ignorance saddens me, your rottenness exasperates me; and it is not of protecting the rich that I think, but of preventing a generous minority of the poor from getting themselves butchered to no purpose or from casting France into the maw of the rival powers. As to the vile and cowardly cormorants, the whole race of big and little parasites, the vermin that swarm in this pseudo-republic alongside of the Orleanist penny-scrapers and the pests of imperialism, if I had only to press a button to annihilate them all, I would not hesitate a second.’”

Other fiction writers who have shown an understanding of the gravity of the revolutionary issue, a familiarity with revolutionary tenets and the workings of the revolutionary mind, but whose points of view are either neutral, like Rosny’s, or frankly hostile, are Rachilde, Jane de la Vaudère, Augustin Léger, Paul Dubost, and Adolphe Chenevière. These have aided the propaganda, in their own despite, by rendering the revolutionary types familiar and comprehensible, and so lifting them out of the category of monsters.

It seems that Emile Henry’s favourite book, his “livre de chevet,” the book which he contrived to secrete in his cell during a part of his imprisonment, and which his jailers, when they pounced upon it, imagined to be of the most incendiary nature, was Cervantes’ Don Quixote. And it is not infrequently the case, in this matter of literature, that the most potent revolutionary agents are those which make the least pretence of being so. The masterpieces of the humourists Meilhac, Halévy, Tristan Bernard, Jules Renard, Pierre Veber, and Georges Courtéline, which hold up to ridicule rather than to reprobation the emptiness and baseness of society; such books of pity and of pardon as Daudet’s Jack, Goncourt’s Fille Elisa, and Loti’s Livre de la Pitié et de la Mort; books of aspiration, like Prévost’s Confessions d’un Amant and Bourget’s Terre Promise; of wrath, like Léon Daudet’s Morticoles; of “revolt against Puritanism,” like Pierre Louys’ Aphrodite; of energy, like Barrès’ Déracinés; of searching, like Huysmanns’ 336 Cathédrale; of regret, like Bazin’s Terre qui Meurt; of unmoral pessimism, like De Maupassant’s Bel-Ami; and the whole range of disquieting feminist fiction,—may turn out to be the most active social ferments and the real forerunners (little as their authors would wish it) of violent change,—of revolt and revolution!

All contemporary fiction, in fact, has in it something of the doubt, the trouble, and the protest of the period; and, once upon this tack, nothing less than a minute examination of every novel and volume of short stories that has appeared since the Franco-Prussian war would be imposed.

Of the essayists, critics, and philosophers110 who are more or less militant iconoclasts and révoltés, the most important are:—

A. Ferdinand Hérold, who expounds his attitude as follows: “From the time I was able to think a little for myself, I have had an anarchist mind. I mean that I have always had a horror of undisputed authority, of dogmatism, and of conventional ideas,—ideas which, the greater part of the time, one does not attempt to justify to himself”; Camille Mauclair, who says: “If anarchy is primarily the reform of ethics, in accordance with the principles of individualism, I can declare squarely that anarchy was born in me, with the study of metaphysics and the awakening of sensibility in the period when I began to know myself.... Furthermore, pity for the disinherited and execration of the spoliators is a point of honour for the few clean and upright people who are still to be found in the world”; Bernard Lazare,111 who says: “Authority, its value, and its raison d’être are things which I have never been able to comprehend. That a man arrogate to himself the right to domineer over his fellows, in any fashion whatsoever, is still inconceivable to me. At first I regarded myself as the only victim of baneful circumstances and vicious wills. Later I came to consider mankind at large; and from my own sentiments I divined the feelings of those who more or less continuously, 337 or at some moment of their existence, are slaves. Then what had appeared to me odious for myself appeared to me odious for all”; Gustave Geffroy, who devoted a decade to his biography of the Communard Blanqui, entitled L’Enfermé; Henry Mazel, who exclaimed in the Mercure de France, “We are all anarchists, thank God!” Alfred Naquet, a convert from nationalism; Urbain Gohier, author of L’Armée contre la Nation; Victor Charbonnel, ex-priest and editor of La Raison, and Henri Bérenger, editor of L’Action, who have acted together in exciting the masses to anti-clerical rioting; the socialist-anthropologist Charles Letourneau; the bacteriologists Melchnikoff, Roux, and Duclaux;[112] Charles Albert and Armand Charpentier, apostles of l’amour libre; Christian Cornélissen, Georges Pioch, Jean Jullien, G. Bachot, Léopold Lacour, Jules Laforgue,[112] B. Guineaudau, Auguste Chirac, Albert Delacour, E. Fournière, Jacques Santarelle, Louis Lumet, Maurice Bigeon, A. Hamon, Camille de St. Croix, Félix Fénéon, Han Ryner, Alex. Cohen, Henri Bauer,112 Charles Vallier, Gabriel de la Salle, Emile Michelet, Laurent Tailhade, Francis de Pressensé, Maurice Le Blond, Saint-Georges de Bouhélier, G. Lhermitte, Paul Robin, Eugène Montfort, and Gustave Kahn.

In the first months of 1891 a weekly publication called L’Endehors113 (The Outsider) was founded by a band of young literary men. They were Zo d’Axa, Roinard, Georges Darien, Félix Fénéon, Lucien Descaves, Victor Barrucand, Arthur Byl, A. Tabarant, Bernard Lazare, Charles Malato, Pierre Quillard, Ghil, Edmond Cousturier, Henri Fèvre, Edouard Dubus, A. F. Hérold, Georges Lecomte, Etienne Decrept, Emile Henry, Saint-Pol-Roux, Jules Méry, Alexandre Cohen, J. LeCoq, Chatel, Cholin, Ludovic Malquin, Camille Mauclair, Octave Mirbeau, Lucien Muhlfeld, Pierre Veber, Victor Melnotte, A. Mercier, Tristan Bernard, Paul Adam, Charles Saunier, Jean Ajalbert, Emile Verhaeren, Henri de Regnier, and Francis Vielé-Griffin.


The journal bore by way of epigraph this phrase of its leading spirit and director, Zo d’Axa: “Celui que rien n’enrôle et qu’une impulsive nature guide seule, ce hors la loi, ce hors d’école, cet isolé chercheur d’au delà, ne se dessine-t-il pas dans ce mot, L’Endehors?

It explained its purpose as follows: “We belong neither to a party nor to a group. We are outsiders. We go on our way, individuals, without the Faith which saves and blinds. Our disgust with society does not engender convictions in us. We fight for the pleasure of fighting without dreaming of a better future. What matter to us the to-morrows which in the centuries shall be! What matter to us the little nephews! It is endehors, outside of all laws, of all rules, of all theories, even anarchistic; it is now, from this moment, that we wish to give ourselves over to our compassions, to our transports, to our gentleness, to our wrath, to our instincts, with the proud consciousness of being ourselves.”

The first number of L’Endehors appeared in May, 1891, immediately after the massacre of Fourmies,—in which old men, women, and children, among them a young girl bearing a hawthorn sprig by way of a flag of truce, were shot down by the troops of the government,—and dealt bravely and scathingly with this horrible incident; and the last number was issued in January, 1893, when the paper was forcibly suppressed.

The staff of L’Endehors defended and even glorified Ravachol. Mirbeau’s “Apologie de Ravachol” (referred to above) is one of the finest bits of impassioned writing he has ever done. Paul Adam’s “Eloge de Ravachol” is also noteworthy. Here is a brief extract:—

“Politics would have been banished completely from our preoccupations, had not the legend of sacrifice, of the gift of a life for the happiness of humanity, suddenly reappeared in our epoch, with the martyrdom of Ravachol.... At the end of all these judicial proceedings, chroniques, and calls to legal murder, Ravachol stands as the unmistakable propagator of the great idea 339 of the ancient religions, which extolled the seeking of death by the individual for the good of the world,—the abnegation of one’s self, of one’s life, and one’s good name by the exaltation of the humble and the poor. Ravachol is plainly the restorer of the essential sacrifice....

“He saw suffering round about him, and he has ennobled the suffering of others by offering his own in a holocaust. His incontestable charity and disinterestedness, the energy of his acts, his courage before inevitable death, lift him into the splendours of legend. In this time of cynicism and of irony A SAINT IS BORN TO US. His blood will be the example from which new courages and new martyrs will spring. The grand idea of universal altruism will bloom in the red pool at the foot of the guillotine. A fruitful death is about to be consummated. An event of human history is about to be inscribed in the annals of the peoples. The legal murder of Ravachol will open a new era.”

L’Endehors prophesied (or rather supposed), in an article entitled “Notre Complot,” Vaillant’s attempt against the Chamber;114 and the ex-members of its staff participated, after its supposition had become a fact, in the phenomenal demonstrations at Vaillant’s tomb. The indignation in literary circles over the execution of Vaillant was so intense that M. Magnard in Le Figaro uttered a vigorous protest against “la Vaillantolâtrie”; and the most orthodox writers in the most orthodox journals suddenly proclaimed the necessity of stemming this tide of anarchistic heresy in high places (to which L’Endehors had, so to speak, first given a habitation and a name) by the accomplishment of a number of necessary but long-delayed legal and social reforms.

The unlettered protagonist of Augustin Léger’s novel Le Journal d’un Anarchiste appreciates the review conducted by one Hector 340 de la Roche-Sableuse, of which L’Endehors may well have been the model, in the following fashion:—

“After all, in spite of their gibberish, these reviews of the jeunes gens lent me by Roche-Sableuse are sometimes interesting. They shed crocodile tears over the lot of the people? It is possible. They do not believe a word of what they write? I do not say no. All this does not prevent them from seeing clearly at times, and from putting their fingers often on the truth. Besides, although these fine little messieurs are not in the least anxious at heart for the triumph of the proletariat, because they know very well that it would remove several cushions from under their elbows, they understand and they expound perfectly the legitimacy of our claims. And I applaud with both hands the eulogiums they pronounce on the noble victims our cause already counts. In short, they have interested me, and I have learned not a little from them.”

L’Endehors was publicly praised by Georges Clemenceau, Henri Bauer, Laurent-Tailhade, and Jean de Mitty. The last-named said of it:—

“This little sheet so modest in appearance and at the same time so fastidious in make-up that it might easily have been taken for a club periodical or for the exclusive organ of a few æsthetes, raised more tempests and provoked more passions than a riot in the street. Violent it certainly was, and violent with a violence which, for wearing always a literary, subtile, and complex form, penetrated no less deeply, and gained no less to its object the scattered energies and wills that were craving definite guidance. Opportune or not, the influence of L’Endehors was exerted effectively.... But, aside from its action on public affairs, the journal of Zo d’Axa realised an incontestable intellectual effort; and it is for the beauty of this effort that it pleases me to invoke it.”

It is to be noted that Emile Henry, in whose pontifical attitude before his judges even his bitterest antagonists found “something atrociously superior and disquieting,” and in whom the 341 sympathetic Albert Delacour discerns, or thinks he discerns (by reason of his solitary meditations, his perpetual ratiocination, his hatred of action up to the moment of supreme action, his disgust with life,115 and his brooding on death), a modern Hamlet, is the only member of the Endehors group who has committed an overt act of violence.

Of the rest, some have since identified themselves closely with socialism, some with Boulangism and nationalism, and some with anarchism; some have given themselves to the creation of the humorous or the beautiful without too obvious a destructive prepossession; and some have held themselves scrupulously “endehors.”

Most have remained révoltés of one sort or another. Only a few have conformed, and a part of these only outwardly. Thus Paul Adam, who has seemed several times, by reason of the enormous range of his interests and the disconcerting agility of his intelligence, to be utterly lost to revolution, has written, nevertheless, a number of novels of revolutionary trend. He published in 1900 a defence of Bresci which might have been written the very same day as his “Eloge” of Ravachol, and he reaffirmed his essential anarchism as late as the spring of 1904.

Of those who have remained strictly “endehors,” Zo d’Axa,116 uncorrected by hard experiences of prison and exile, resumed in 1898 his assault upon the abuses of society in his now famous Feuilles with a fierceness, a versatility, an independence, a finesse, a facility in anathema, and a redundance in disdain that have rarely, if ever, been matched in revolutionary pamphleteering—and privateering. It was as if Mirbeau, with all the withering force of his mighty scorn, had descended into the street, or as if Père Peinard had attained the level of literature.

The Feuilles de Zo d’Axa appeared irregularly in the form 342 of placards, as events invited, during the troubled years of 1898 and 1899, and created an enormous sensation. Nothing was exempt from the sharpshooting of this guerilla of the asphalt,—this handsome, red-bearded “mousquetaire chercheur de justes aventures,” whom all Paris knows by his picturesque brown cape and felt.

“To the argument of the multitude,” he wrote in his salutatory, “to the catechism of the crowds, to all the raisons-d’état of the collectivity, behold the personal reasons of the Individual oppose themselves!... He goes his way, he acts, he takes aim, because a combative instinct makes him prefer the chase to the nostalgic siesta. On the borders of the code he poaches the big game,—officers and judges, bucks or carnivori. He dislodges from the forests of Bondy the herd of politicians. He amuses himself by snaring the ravaging financier. He beats up at all the cross-roads the domesticated gent de lettres, fur and feathers; all the debauchers of ideas, all the monsters of the press and the police.”

Lucien Descaves compares the series of Zo d’Axa’s writings to “a beautiful road bordered with pity and hatred and paved with wrath and revolt.”

He says further of him: “Zo d’Axa’s phrase is rapid. The fuse of his articles is short. When a match is approached to them, something is bound to explode; and D’Axa is quite capable of sacrificing himself, if need be, in the explosion. He has proved it.”

The suppression of L’Endehors (whose complete file is now one of the rarities of the book-mart) and the consequent dispersion of the Endehors band were soon followed by the formation of another revolutionary coterie of young poets, men of letters, and sociologists, called “Le Groupe de l’Idée Nouvelle.” This group (of whom Paul Adam, A. Hamon, Victor Barrucand, and Jean Carrière were the most prominent figures) organised a series of soirées-conférences, which were given at the Hôtel Continental, during the winter of 1893-94, with great success.




L’Idée Nouvelle (somewhat tamed by time, it is true) still 343 exists. The following announcement, which appeared in 1900 in the anarchist journal Les Temps Nouveaux, explains its more recent activities and aims:—

L’Idée Nouvelle informs the public that hereafter it adds to its title La Rénovation Sociale par le Travail, and announces that the first conférence of the year will be given at the Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes, Sunday, November 18, at three o’clock, by the poet and chansonnier Xavier Privas.117 Subject, ‘L’Argent contre l’Humanité.’ The second, to be given early in December by the sculptor Jean Baffier, will treat ‘La Corporation Autonome et l’Entreprise Capitaliste.’”

To the former committee of L’Idée Nouvelle, composed of men of letters, among whom were Paul Adam, Jules Cazes, Lucien Descaves, Louis de Grammont, Georges Lecomte, and Léopold Lacour, the artists Eugène Carrière, Jules Dalou, and Steinlen, and the geographer Elisée Reclus, consented to join themselves at the time of the adoption of its new name.

Here is the text of the declarations by means of which La Rénovation Sociale par le Travail quickly rallied to its support many of those of the intellectual élite who are thinking and acting along the lines of the better aspirations of humanity:—

“Believing that the action of money as a medium of exchange is universally injurious, that it is the source of all the turpitudes and all the infamies of society; that almost all the crimes, the enmities, the divisions, have for their initial cause a question of interest,—namely, money; believing also that money, far from being, as some pretend, a stimulus to production, is rather an obstacle to it; that venality and mercantilism dishonour and paralyse art, kill noble dreams and generous ambitions; that too often, in the actual condition of society, we propose to ourselves as the end of life, not an ideal of beauty, of truth, of justice, but money; believing, further, that there is no other means for counteracting such a situation 344 than by glorifying, rehabilitating, and equitably apportioning labour, and by insisting strenuously on this law of nature, that every consumer should be a producer, the consumption being proportioned to the need, and the production to the faculty and the aptitude,—the members of the committee for La Rénovation Sociale par le Travail pledge themselves to spread these ideas by every means in their power,—by the pen, by word, and by example.”

This group is at present preparing a fête, to be held in the fall of 1904, for the “glorification of all the innovators to whom humanity is indebted for advancement along the line of integral emancipation.”

The Noël Humaine (Human Christmas) is celebrated annually by another group of emancipated men of letters, under the auspices of Victor Charbonnel’s journal, La Raison.

The revolutionary fervour of a considerable portion of the intellectual élite has found further expression during the last ten years in a score or more of reviews (”jeunes revues” or “revues des jeunes”) “which,” says Paul Adam, “have created, promulgated, sustained, and caused to triumph almost two-thirds of the ideas upon which the new century is beginning its life.” “In each,” says the same writer, “a group of disinterested spirits, extraordinarily erudite, indifferent to success and fortune, eager for knowledge and proud in its acquisition, have cultivated the most beautiful garden of mentality which has been seen in France since the Pléïade and Port-Royal. Poets, sociologists, romancers, and critics have disseminated thereby marvellous beauties.”

M. Adam exaggerates, as he is very apt to do. Nevertheless, in spite of a great deal that is immature, amateurish, intemperate, and fantastic about most of them, the revues des jeunes are one of the most significant phenomena of these latter years.

They have been an appreciable disturbing force. The names of most of the writers mentioned in this chapter are repeatedly appearing in their tables of contents; and their prospectuses abound in such tell-tale phrases as these: “art libre,” “beauté 345 sociale,” “vie féconde et humanité forte,” “dévoiler les intrigues, combattre les abus,” “tribune ouverte,” “idées hardies et généreuses,” “l’âme purement désintéressée des futurs Etats-Unis d’Europe,” “l’art existe pour la vie,” “la cité radieuse où l’humanité affranchie vivra enfin dans l’harmonie, dans la justice, et dans la force.”

Furthermore, such publications as Le Mercure de France, La Grande Revue (edited by Fernand Labori, defender of anarchists and of Dreyfus), La Plume (whose soirées littéraires have enjoyed an international renown), La Revue de Paris, La Revue, La Contemporaine, La Vogue, L’Hermitage, and La Grande France, by extending the hospitality of their columns to the exploitation of the most advanced theories and ideas, have—without claiming to be revolutionary or, at any rate, without limiting themselves to propaganda—effectively supplemented the efforts of the propagandist mediums.

The revolutionary sentiments prevalent among the intellectual élite of France have found abundant expression in the French drama, as was to be expected in a country which has a literary stage and in which nearly every man of letters is something of a playwright. Indeed, it would not be surprising if the stage, by reason of its superior capacity for giving vividness to ideas, were quite as efficacious an instrument of revolutionary propaganda as the press, the chanson, or the novel.

Octave Mirbeau is the author of several plays, three of which, Les Mauvais Bergers, L’Epidémie, and L’Acquitté, teem with caustic, uncompromising anarchism.

Les Mauvais Bergers was successfully produced by Bernhardt’s company in 1897. Its hero, Jean Roule, is a young, thoughtful, aspiring workman, who has suffered so much at the hands of the capitalists and the authorities and has seen so much suffering imposed on others from the same sources that he is possessed with a colossal, implacable hatred of everybody and everything that has to do with power. On the other hand, his heart is full to bursting with unselfish love for the unfortunate 346 proletariat. “I want to live,” he cries, “to live in my flesh, in my brain, in the expansion of all my organs, of all my faculties, instead of remaining the beast of burden that is flogged and the unthinking machine that is turned for others. I want to be a man, in short,—a man in my own eyes.... We also need some poetry and some art in our lives; for, poor as he may be, a man does not live by bread alone. He has a right, like the rich, to things of beauty.... These flames, this smoke, these tortures, these accursed machines which every day and every hour devour my brain, my heart, my right to happiness, my right to life,—these—these yawning mouths of ovens, these fiery furnaces, these caldrons which are fed with my muscles, with my will, with my liberty, by the shovelful,—to make out of them the wealth and the social puissance of a single man! Extinguish all that, I entreat you! Blow up all that! Annihilate all that!”

His most complete abhorrence is the politician. The employer is white beside him. “The employer is a man, like you. You have him before you. You speak to him, you move him, you threaten him, you kill him! At least, he has a visage,—a chest in which to sink a knife. But go move this being without a visage called politician! Go kill this thing called politics,—this slimy, slippery thing which you think you hold and which always escapes you, which you believe dead and which always comes to life again,—this abominable thing by which everything has been debased, everything corrupted, everything bought, everything sold,—justice, love, beauty!—which has made venality of conscience a national institution of France; which has done worse still, since with its filthy slaver it has befouled the august face of the poor! worse still, since it has destroyed in you your last ideal,—faith in Revolution!”

Aided and inspirited by a working-girl, Madeleine (Bernhardt’s rôle), this Jean Roule, who would kill as much from excess of love as from hate, leads the workmen in a revolt against their employers. But the latter are sustained by government troops, and the play ends with a massacre and a procession of coffins.


L’Epidémie (1898) is an extravagant one-act comedy,—almost a farce,—caricaturing the culpable indifference of the bourgeois politician to the welfare of the humble and his extreme solicitude for the welfare of the rich. Typhoid fever has made several victims in the military barracks of a provincial city. The municipal council assembles for the purpose of taking measures to arrest it. When the council learns, however, that the disease has attacked no one outside the barracks, and within the barracks only the private soldiers, whose duty, whose glory it is to give their lives for their country, it decides to do nothing, to the accompaniment of enthusiastic cries of “Vive la France!” The decision has scarcely been made when a messenger arrives with the news that a bourgeois has died of the plague. Thereupon the council reconsiders its former action, votes to erect a statue to the dead bourgeois, to name a street in his honour, to demolish the city’s unsanitary quarters, to open up boulevards, and to introduce a water system, and makes an appropriation of 100,000,000 francs therefor. Finally, each councillor rises in turn, and pronounces a panegyric of the bourgeois victim.

L’Acquitté, another one-act comedy, presents the adventure of a vagabond, Jean Guenille, who, having carried to the police station (in an access of honesty) a purse of 10,000 francs which he found in the street, is browbeaten and put under lock and key by the commissaire because he has no legal domicile. M. Mirbeau’s other plays, Vieux Ménages (1900), Le Portefeuille and Scrupules (1902), and Les Affaires sont les Affaires (1903),—the last-named118 an exposition of the power of money to destroy natural sentiments,—are only a shade less subversive in tone.

Lucien Descaves has to his credit a one-act anarchistic play, entitled La Cage. The Havenne family (consisting of father, mother, a son Albert, aged twenty-one, and a daughter Madeleine, aged twenty-six), threatened with eviction and unable to pay their rent or find work, are in black despair. The father and mother, in the temporary absence of Albert and Madeleine, 348 drink a vial of laudanum and light a brazier of charcoal. The children return, find their parents dead, and, desiring to die likewise, submit themselves to the poisonous fumes of the brazier, which is still burning. They bethink themselves in time, however, decide that it is less cowardly to steal than to die, and set out together for a career of outlawry and revolutionary apostleship. “Are we quite sure, Madeleine, that there is nothing better to do than to kill ourselves?” queries Albert. And then he quotes the famous letter of Frederick of Prussia to D’Alembert: “If there should be found a family destitute of all resources and in the frightful condition you depict, I should not hesitate to decide theft legitimate.... The ties of society are based upon reciprocal services; but, if this society is composed of pitiless souls, all engagements are broken.”

La Cage was suppressed by the censorship119 very early in its career. Descaves, who dedicated his work “Aux désespérés pour qu’ils choisissent,” foresaw and publicly predicted its interdiction. “Let me try,” he said, “to put on the stage, instead of adulteries and embarrassing liaisons, the distress of a bourgeois family at the end of its resources, its illusions, and its courage,—the parents reduced to suicide and the children precipitated into revolt. Ah! you’ll hear a fine clatter!”

The severity of the censorship towards La Cage called out numerous protests, notably this from Alexander Hepp (in his Quotidiens), little suspected of doctrinal sympathy with Descaves: “As soon as we show to the gallery the reality of the miseries, the despairs, the injustices of society, a fragment of real life, of the true cross people carry, our delicate sensibilities are shocked; and it is always before that which is truest that we cry out improbability. The innovating tendencies, the harsh accent of retribution, the virile sincerity of Descaves, who puts on the boards a family driven to suicide, have disturbed the digestions of the orchestra.”

The critic Henri Bauer, commenting on Les Mauvais Bergers 349 and La Cage, wrote: “An anti-social dramatic literature is born in France.... It required authors of the power and eloquence of Mirbeau, of the devouring passion and the admirable soul of Descaves, to dare to ring out in dramatic dialogue this conclusion, On n’améliore pas la société, on la supprime.... Society is a lie, social progress a lure, the social pact is broken: nothing is left but the individual,—his temperament, his law, his conscience, and his will.”

Descaves’ Tiers Etat is an eloquent plea for the faithful mistress who is debarred from marriage by legal technicalities. He is also joint author with Georges Darien of Les Chapons (to which this legend was prefixed: “Aux Mânes des Bourgeois de Calais nous sacrifions ce spécimen de leur pitoyable descendance”), and with Maurice Donnay of La Clairière and Oiseaux de Passage. La Clairière, which was one of the notable features of the theatrical season of 1898-99, pictures the life of an anarchist phalanstère, which succeeds admirably until the members send for their compagnes, when it is demoralised and disintegrated by petty intrigues and jealousies.

The moral? Not the obvious and absurd one that men alone will constitute the society of the future; but this, that women have not been enfranchised long enough to have developed the maturity of character necessary to the practice of anarchist precepts. Oiseaux de Passage deals with the experiences of anarchists in exile. “I am proud,” says M. Descaves, apropos of the piece, “to have been able to transfer to the stage the theories of a Bakounine, and to introduce them to the public thus.”

Maurice Donnay is a railing nihilist, subtle, graceful, and gracious, somewhat after the Anatole France pattern,—a smiling révolté, a refined recalcitrant, whose recipe for a play is said to be “a little love, much adultery, an enormous amount of esprit, a pinch of politics, and a gramme of sociology,” and whose psychology is “a sparkling, effervescing affair, the analyses of which explode merrily with the welcome noise of popping champagne corks.”


In Amants, La Douloureuse, La Bascule, Le Retour de Jérusalem, and Georgette Lemonnier, Donnay is prodigal of bons mots and malicious pleasantries, by which he gives the most piquant conceivable flavour to the social and political infamies of the time. Le Torrent, his most ambitious work, has this much of the serious, that death is its dénouement; but its general method and attitude do not differ essentially from the method and attitude of his other plays.

To those who expressed surprise that the flippant Donnay should collaborate with the truculent Descaves, Donnay himself said: “A young man, I produced at the Chat Noir my piece Pension de Famille, which won me the honour of being called ‘joyous anarchist’ by Jules Lemaître. I remained an anarchist in La Douloureuse. And, without doubt, I have always been an anarchist; more, it is true, for sentimental than for sociological reasons, but also from a point of view exclusively philosophical. He who analyses, he who, without ceasing, unravels the meshes of this complicated network of ideas which constitutes the social order, is more or less of an anarchist necessarily, is he not?”

Other works of unequivocal revolt produced within the last fifteen years are:—

Mais Quelqu’un Troubla la Fête,120 a one-act piece by Louis Marsolleau. A financier, a politician, a bishop, a general, a judge, a duchess, and a courtesan (so many types of the powerful and privileged of the world) partake hilariously of a sumptuous banquet. Their revels are interrupted by the apparition first of a peasant, then of a city labourer, and are finally put an end to by a mysterious and terrible unknown, who causes a general explosion.

Sur la Foi des Etoiles, by Gabriel Trarieux,—an esoteric symbolistic effort, a groping towards the society of the future: “I say to myself: The stars up yonder, with their fixed, impassive air, the stars which have mounted guard for centuries, are living worlds.... They die and are born. I compare them to the truths 351 which guide us.... For there are several truths,—... some very ancient, almost extinguished, to which we submit by force of habit, and some—oh! just emerging—which will not be true before to-morrow.”

Le Cuivre, by Paul Adam and André Picard, which exposes and explains the tyranny exercised by money over persons and governments; and L’Automne, by Paul Adam and Gabriel Mourey (forbidden by the censorship).

Le Domaine, by Lucien Besnard, which recounts the progress of socialism in the rural districts, and defines the antagonism between the decadent nobility and the rising fourth estate.

La Pâque Socialiste, by Emile Veyrin, which describes a practical experiment in Christian socialism.

La Sape, by Georges Leneven, the hero of which is an anarchist dreamer of a highly intellectual type, Le Détour by Henry Bernstein, and Le Masque by Henri Bataille.

Le Voile du Bonheur, by Georges Clemenceau, which employs Chinese personages and a Chinese setting to explain the manner in which Frenchmen are fooled and ruled by their “mandarins”; and Les Petits Pieds by Henry de Saussine, which employs a similar device to ridicule French education.

Le Ressort: Etude de Révolution, mystic and ominous, by Urbain Gohier; Barbapoux, savagely anti-clerical, by Charles Malato; En Détresse, with a conclusion akin to that of Descaves’ Cage, by Henri Fèvre; L’Ami de l’Ordre, by Georges Darien; La Grève, by Jean Hugues; Conte de Noël and Des Cloches du Cain, by Auguste Linert; Le Chemineau, by Richepin; Jean Ajalbert’s adaptation of De Goncourt’s La Fille Elisa;121 and the pieces of Hérold, Pierre Valdagne, and Georges Lecomte.

These performances have been supplemented by revivals of De Maupassant’s Boule de Suif, which portrays the sacrifice made by a prostitute for the bourgeois and her ostracism by them when they have no further need of her assistance; of the stage version of Zola’s Germinal in the theatres of the working faubourgs; 352 and of certain precursors, such as Henri Becque’s Les Corbeaux (probably the most terrible arraignment of law and lawyers ever written) and L’Evasion and La Révolte of Villiers de l’Isle-Adam; and by the importation of the principal works of the Russian, Belgian, Scandinavian, German, Italian, and Spanish innovators.

Alfred Capus, the principal rival of Maurice Donnay in his peculiar genre, holds in completest but most amiable detestation whatever has to do with regular living. Less sardonic than M. Donnay, lighter, brighter, and more spirituel, if that is possible, he is equally nihilistic, though not, so far as I am aware, by personal avowal. In Rosine he ventures to depict a union libre receiving a father’s benediction; and in Qui Perd Gagne, Années d’Aventures, Les Petites Folles, Mariage Bourgeois, La Veine, La Bourse ou la Vie, and Beau Jeune Homme he holds up to ridicule, one after another, all the traditional bourgeois ideals.

Reformers being notoriously deficient in the sense of humour, it is a curious and piquant circumstance that not only a majority of the brilliant school of stage humourists, currently known as the “Auteurs Gais,” but the four most admired of the group,—Georges Courtéline, Pierre Veber, Jules Renard, and Tristan Bernard,—are frankly revolutionary, either in their personal opinions or in their writings, or in both.

Pierre Veber and Tristan Bernard were charter members of the revolutionary band L’Endehors, and have been affiliated latterly with that of L’Idée Nouvelle. Jules Renard is the bitterest of social philosophers, under the thin disguise of a charming, impeccable style.

Courtéline, whose comic genius is so strong, so pure, and so fine that he is called, without too gross exaggeration, “le petit-fils de Molière”; Courtéline, who will be read and played, in the opinion of many, long after every other contemporary French dramatist has been forgotten; Courtéline, who makes you laugh till you weep over what you ought to weep over without laughing, who promotes reflection and rouses the conscience while 353 dispelling melancholy,—this prodigious Courtéline, truth-loving joker and humane mountebank as he is, has probably done more than any single individual in any sphere to bring into disrepute the brutality of the army, and to expose the perpetual contradiction between essential justice and the texts of the law.

Eugène Brieux is the most prolific producer of the “pièce à thèse sociale” and the most indefatigable corrector of abuses connected with the Paris stage. He has attacked the race-course and the police station in Le Résultat des Courses, public and private charity in Les Bienfaiteurs, physicians in L’Evasion, current methods of instruction in Blanchette, popular ignorance of and prejudice against venereal diseases in Les Avariés,122 the law and the administrators of the law in La Robe Rouge (”C’est donc la loi qui rend criminel?”), and the Chamber of Deputies in L’Engrenage; and he has defended the rights of children against parents in Le Berceau, the rights of the artistic temperament in Ménages d’Artistes, the rights of the poor against the rich in Les Remplaçantes, and the rights of the fille-mère in Maternité.

M. Brieux is not easy to locate doctrinally or otherwise. He is not an “auteur gai,” far from it, and is not, in the strict sense of the term, perhaps, a revolutionist. But his mania for the correction of abuses has surely beguiled him more than once into an attitude towards society that is, to all intents and purposes, revolutionary.

The rugged, poetic, weird, and philosophical François de Curel is as difficult to locate doctrinally as M. Brieux. There are times when he seems to be as irreverent a nihilist as M. France, M. Donnay, or M. Richepin, and times when he seems to be as reverently ecclesiastical and reactionary as M. Paul Bourget or M. le Comte de Mun. All his plays—Les Fossiles, in which he pictures the pathetic impotence of the exhausted nobility; La Nouvelle Idole, in which he alternately exalts and belittles science; La Fille Sauvage, in which he studies the demoralising effect 354 of civilisation upon the mind of the savage; and Le Repas du Lion, in which he confronts orthodox economy with the socialist’s dream—admit of different and absolutely contradictory interpretations.

But Le Repas du Lion is claimed, with at least a show of reason, by the socialists, because of its dénouement. One of its wealthy characters elucidates the conflict between labour and capital by means of a parable, “The Lion and the Jackal.” The lion hunts for himself. The jackal, too feeble to hunt for himself, follows the lion. The lion gorges himself with his prey. The jackal eats what the lion leaves. If there were no lion to hunt for him, the jackal would starve. Ergo, the lion is the benefactor of the jackal.

A labourer objects: “In that case, Monsieur, there is a lion; and we are the jackals. Since you choose to have the business settled between wild beasts, we will follow you on to your own ground. When the jackals find that the remnants left by the lion do not garnish their paunches sufficiently, they get together in great numbers, surprise the king, and devour him alive.”

The labourer’s objection is given force by the shooting of the capitalist of the piece. “The reply of the jackal to the lion,” comments one of the minor characters.

Jean Jullien considers himself, if rumour speaks true, in no sense a revolutionist. All the same, his robust drama La Poigne, which depicts vividly the moral ravages wrought by authority in and about a humanitarian soul, was received enthusiastically by both the socialistic and the anarchistic press. “Socialists will take notice,” remarked a socialist organ, “that it behooves them to lavish their money and their bravos on this attempt at ‘L’Art Social.’” And the theatrical critic of Le Libertaire said: “The piece of Jean Jullien pleased us by its frankness and its human interest. Rarely has an author so stirred our minds and hearts. It is only just to say that the personages exemplify the sentiments and the ideas which are familiar to the anarchists, and that we find in La Poigne an echo of our passions.”


The same author’s L’Ecolière, which denounces the hypocrisy of petty provincial functionaries and narrates the conflict of a high-minded, warm-hearted woman with the bourgeois system of morals, was accorded a similar welcome in similar quarters. So also was his Oasis, which preaches that Humanity should create for itself, remote from “egoisms, prejudices, mutually hostile religions, and the disgraceful tumults of injustice and war, the basis of peace, of association, and of love.”

As a féministe who flouts and defies the marriage code, Paul Hervieu lays himself liable to be classed as a revolutionist, at least a partial revolutionist, however little such a classification may please him. Whatever else they are, La Loi de l’Homme, L’Armature, Les Tenailles, Les Paroles Restent, L’Enigme, and Le Dédale are works of revolt. The first-named, La Loi de l’Homme, evoked the following sweeping but not unsympathetic judgment from the critic Emile de St. Auban, who, lawyer as well as critic, should know whereof he speaks: “The contemporary theatre occupies itself a great deal with the laws. The code appears often on the boards, and the dramatist-jurists abrogate it in prose or in verse. But never was this abrogation so passionate, so brusque, never was it so radical, so total, as in La Loi de l’Homme. I will add so concise, since three very short acts, two of which make one, suffice to erase not a text, but the text, not a law, but the law, and with the law the cortège of egoisms and hypocrisies which have given it birth, and have assured it its full expansion and the calm and sure perpetration of its outrages; to erase, I say, an entire jurisprudence, written or traditional, promulgated against the weak for the strong.”

To the category of partial, unwilling, or unwitting revolutionists to which Jullien, Brieux, Hervieu, and De Curel belong may be assigned also Jules Case in La Vassale, Gaston Dévore in La Conscience d’un Enfant, Georges Ancey in Ces Messieurs and La Dupe, Emile Fabre in L’Argent, Le Bien d’Autrui, La Vie Publique, and Comme Ils sont Tous, Rostand in La Samaritaine, Abel Hermant in Le Faubourg, La Carrière, and La Meute, 356 Albert Guinon in Décadence,123 Alexandre Bisson in Le Bon Juge, Emile Bourgeois in Mariage d’Argent, and Bruyerre in En Paix. Indeed, it is even permitted to query whether the reputed reactionaries, Jules Lemaître and Henri Lavedan, are not really (at least so far as certain of their pieces are concerned) in the same boat.

Revolutionary and semi-revolutionary plays were for a considerable period well-nigh a monopoly of the Théâtre Libre, where unconditional literary form and unconventional acting were the handmaids of unconventional ideas. Latterly they have invaded every legitimate stage of Paris, not excepting the august and supposedly inhospitable Comédie Française; and they may be said to be the specialty of four houses: the Théâtre Antoine (founded by Antoine after he abandoned the Théâtre Libre); the Grand Guignol, the nearest existing counterpart to the Théâtre Libre; and the Gymnase and the Renaissance, which are now copying the general policy of the Antoine. Maurice Maeterlinck and his company have latterly made their headquarters in Paris. Maeterlinck’s Monna Vanna was applauded by the revolutionary organs.

The various free stages, or théâtres à côté, which give private performances at irregular intervals, also reserve a modicum of space in their répertoires for pieces of social revolt.

The revues of the variety theatres and concert halls, in which the events of the year are criticised and caricatured with a freedom that often calls down the wrath of the censorship, particularly at Montmartre, are also far from a negligible influence in the direction of revolution.

In 1883 the socialist Clovis Hugues wrote, in an introduction to a volume by the refractory Léon Cladel: “The petrification of the republic in the bourgeois spirit does not prevent literature from being socialistic. It is unconsciously so, perhaps; but it is so. And this is the essential thing for the future.... Open a romance, no matter what one, attend a theatrical representation, 357 no matter what one, and, so that you have the slightest aptitude for combining details, for surprising the idea in the fact, for following a philosophical train through an intrigue, you will be amazed at the quantity of socialism which emerges from this romance and that play. Has the author felt himself responsible towards the Revolution in writing his work? Not the least in the world. He has yielded to the mighty pressure of events, he has submitted to the historic fatalities of his time, the permanent influence of humanity in travail.... What signifies this transformation? It signifies that the philosophies soak down into literature; it signifies that the hour is at hand, since the idea incarnates itself involuntarily in the form; it signifies that the fourth estate is mounting, that justice is near.”

A round decade later (1894) A. Hamon, a friend of anarchy, wrote:—

“Read in the sheets which are the most hostile to the anarchists—such as the Figaro, the Journal, the Gil Blas, the Echo de Paris—the short stories, sketches, and chroniques of the Mirbeaus, the Bauers, the Descaves, the Paul Adams, the Bernard Lazares, the Ajalberts, the Sévérines, etc., and you will perceive that anarchist tendencies throng them. Follow the ‘jeunes revues,’ and you will observe that there is not, to speak in the large, a piece of verse, a story, a study of any sort whatsoever, which does not tend towards the destruction of what the anarchists qualify as social prejudice,—la patrie, authority, family, religion, courts of law, militarism, etc.

“All the thinking men of this epoch,—savants, littérateurs, artists, etc.,—one may almost say all, so rare are those who imprison themselves in the ‘tour d’ivoire’ or who profess doctrines commendatory of the existing order,—all the relatively young men, I mean, who have attained their majority since 1870, have libertaire inclinations. The result is a fervent propaganda under the most varied forms and in the most dissimilar milieux.”

Still later (1899) a declared opponent of anarchism, M. Fierens-Gevaert, wrote in his admirable social study, La Tristesse Contemporaine: 358 “There are, to begin with, the militant anarchists,—a handful of wretched starvelings and lunatics, whose doctrine consists solely in listening to the instincts of the brute within them. There are, next, the unwitting or dilettante anarchists. These latter are legion. They are to be found in the highest grades of society. They even compose the intellectual élite of their time. Every philosopher, novelist, poet, dramatist, and artist is to-day a latent anarchist; and very often he boasts of it.”

Just how far this surprising situation is an heirloom of the four revolutions which France traversed during the last century, and just how far it is traceable to forces which have entered from without,—to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, Darwin and Spencer, Leopardi and the pleiades of Russian and Scandinavian innovators,—it is not necessary to determine. The really significant thing is that the intellectual and social conditions which have produced Anatole France, Descaves, and Mirbeau in France have likewise produced Björnson, Brandès, and Strindberg in Scandinavia, Maxim Gorky in Russia, Hermann Heijermanns in the Netherlands, Gerhardt Hauptmann in Germany, Camille Lemonnier in Belgium, Gabriel d’Annunzio in Italy, and José Echegaray in the Biscayan Peninsula; and it is only by keeping well in mind the intensity and the scope of this world-movement of revolt that the dynamic value of French revolt can be properly estimated.




Chapter XVIII



The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality, His insight and power encircle things of the human race, He is the glory and extract thus far of things and of the human race. Walt Whitman.
Venez à moi, claquepatins, Loqueteux, joueurs de musettes, Clampins, loupeurs, voyous, catins, Et marmousets et marmousettes, Tas de traîne-cul-les housettes, Race d’indépendants fougueux! Je suis du pays dont vous êtes: Le poète est le Roi des Gueux. Vous que la bise des matins, Que la pluie aux âpres sagettes, Que les gendarmes, les mâtins, Les coups, les fièvres, les disettes, Prennent toujours pour amusettes, Vous dont l’habit mince et fougueux Paraît fait de vieilles gazettes, Le poète est le Roi des Gueux.” Jean Richepin.
Je voudrais dire à mes amis, Sculpteurs d’idéal et de rimes, Que s’enfermer n’est plus permis, Lorsqu’au dehors grondent les crimes. Chantons la justice et l’amour! Le peuple va nous faire escorte. Poète, descends de la tour! Et puis ferme ta porte.” Maurice Boukay.

Persons of anarchistic mentality are signalised by their love of the new in art and in science, by their feverish search after new forms.”—A. Hamon.

So it is you who are the poet. Well, as for me, I do not like poets nor intellectuels. I do not like them because they are all more or less anarchists, and because the anarchists blow up the bourgeois. I am neither a poet nor an intellectuel, and I am proud of it.

Monsieur Dupont, in La Petite Bohème of Armand Charpentier.


ZOLA, being asked to define an anarchist, said, “Un anarchiste, c’est un poète.” Conversely, the poet is more or less of an anarchist. Job and Isaiah are currently quoted by the libertaires in support of their position. Æschylus, in his immortal “Prometheus,” Euripides in his “Bacchantes,” Schiller, Shelley, Swinburne, Robert Burns, and Walt Whitman, in portions of their works, all promulgated good, sound anarchist doctrine. As to the poets who, without being specifically anarchistic, are revolutionists of one sort or another, their name is legion. A bulky volume would scarcely suffice to name them.

In France, especially, revolutionary singers have never been lacking. “Console-toi, gibet, tu sauveras la France!” cried André Chénier, greatest of the galaxy of poets who illustrated the Revolution. Béranger, before he was dazzled by the épopée of Napoleon, had his moments of revolt. The two Augustes of the Restoration, Barbier and Barthélemy, the first in his Iambes and the second in his Némésis, glorified insurrection.

Hégésippe Moreau, who died in the Hospice de la Charité at twenty-eight, just as his Myosotis was winning him recognition, heaped terrible imprecations upon the heads of the rich and powerful, and played a valiant part in the outbreak of 1830,

Non comme l’orateur du banquet populaire Dont la flamme du punch attise la colère: Comme un bouffon dans ses parades, non! Mais les pieds dans le sang, en face du canon.”
Pour que son vers clément pardonne an genre humain, Que faut-il au poète? Un baiser et du pain,”

sang Moreau in his beautiful “Elégie à la Voulzie,” which is recited in revolutionary meetings more often than any other poem. 362 He was hungry,” remarks Sainte-Beuve, apropos of Moreau’s vindictiveness, “and he composed, in his hunger, songs that betrayed by their fierceness and bitterness the want within.”

Moreau defends the excesses of the mobs of the Revolution:—

Oubliez-vous Que leur âme de feu purifiait leurs œuvres? Oui, d’un pied gigantesque écrasant les couleuvres Par le fer et la flamme ils voulaient aplanir Une route aux français vers un bel avenir. Ils marchaient pleins de foi, pleins d’amour, et l’histoire Absoudra, comme Dieu, qui sut aimer et croire.” ******** Au jour de la vengeance, Si l’opprimé s’égare, il est absous d’avance.

He predicts a general cataclysm, declares his intention of doing all in his power to bring it on,—

J’ameuterai le peuple à mes vérités crues, Je prophétiserai sur le trépied des rues,”—

and exults in the prospect,—

Et moi, j’applaudirai; ma jeunesse engourdie Se réchauffera bien à ce grand incendie.

Pierre Dupont (peer almost of Burns in his simple country songs), who died disgraced by reason of his toadyism towards the government of the Third Napoleon, which had banished and then pardoned him, displayed a fine revolutionary fervour in 1848, before his banishment. His “Chant des Ouvriers” and his poem—

On n’arrête pas le murmure Du peuple quand il dit, j’ai faim, Car c’est le cri de la Nature, Il faut du pain, il faut du pain,”


will be recited and sung by the people of France as long as there is such a thing as hunger within its borders.

At the same epoch, Alfred de Vigny distilled bitterness against society in his Destinées and Journal d’un Poète; and Leconte de Lisle vented his accumulated scorn as follows:—

Hommes, tueurs des Dieux, les temps ne sont pas loin Où, sur un grand tas d’or, vautrés dans quelque coin, Vous mourrez bêtement en emplissant vos poches!”

Victor Hugo’s Châtiments (destined to become the favourite reading of Caserio, the assassin of Carnot) was the supreme cry of revolt of the Second Empire. In such lines as these Hugo proclaimed the anarchist ideal without, however, recognising it as such:—

Les temps heureux luiront, non pour la seule France, Mais pour tous.... Les tyrans s’éteindront comme des météores.... Fêtes dans les cités, fêtes dans les campagnes!... Où donc est l’échafaud? Ce monstre a disparu.... Plus de soldats l’épée au poing, plus de frontières, Plus de fisc, plus de glaive ayant forme de croix.... Le saint labeur de tous se fond en harmonie.... Toute l’humanité dans sa splendide ampleur Sent le don que lui fait le moindre travailleur.... Radieux avenir! Essor universel! Epanouissement de l’homme sous le ciel!”

Eugène Vermesch was the fiercest, though by no means the greatest, poet of the Commune. Laurent Tailhade and Jean Richepin, among the living, have achieved renown as poets of revolt.

Richepin124 is as complete a nihilist of the open, rollicking, devil-go-lucky order as Anatole France is of the subtle, Jehan 364 Rictus of the plaintive, and Zo d’Axa of the fantastic orders. Like them, he commits himself to nothing and credits nothing, not even the faiths and formulas of revolution; and, like them, he is nevertheless a formidable revolutionist.

In the introduction to Les Blasphèmes he proclaims his intention of “scandalising the devout, the Deists, the sceptics, the materialists, the scientists, the worshippers of Reason, the prosperous and the unprosperous, in a word, the rout of fools and hypocrites who fancy it their duty to save Law, Property, the Family, Society, Morals, etc.” “In the defence of these conventions, of which I do not recognise the binding force,” he adds, “I shall hear all the geese of the Capital clack.”

Book X. of Les Blasphèmes is entitled “Dernières Idoles.” The “dernières idoles” are Nature, Reason, Progress. Richepin treats them in the most cavalier fashion:—


Farce amère! Carcasse qui n’a ni cœur, ni sang, ni lait! Toi qui fais des vivants pour amuser la Mort, Ton ensemble n’est rien qu’un mélange sans art.”


Impudente drôlesse dont l’homme se croit le valet! Coureuse de chimères, Faiseuse de vœux clandestins! Reine fanfaronne, Servante du corps qui t’exhale!


Voici qu’un Dieu nouveau nous ronge: le Progrès. Le Progrès! Oui, grand fou, sous ce titre nouveau C’est toujours Dieu qui vient te hanter le cerveau, 365 C’est toujours la stérile et dangereuse idée Dont ton âme d’enfant fut jadis obsédée. Sans le savoir tu crois encor.

In another part of this volume he exalts, beginning with Satan himself, the principal révoltés of mythology and history. The following ringing stanzas are taken from “Les Nomades”:—

Oui, ce sont mes aïeux, à moi. Car j’ai beau vivre En France, je ne suis ni Latin ni Gaulois. J’ai les os fins, la peau jaune, des yeux de cuivre, Un torse d’écuyer, et le mépris des lois. Oui, je suis leur bâtard! Leur sang bout dans mes veines, Leur sang, qui m’a donné cet esprit mécréant, Cet amour du grand air, et des courses lointaines, L’Horreur de l’Idéal et la soif du Néant.

The “Marches Touraniennes” conclude as follows:—

Plus de lois, de droits, plus rien! Plus de vrai, de beau, de bien! Ces Aryas! Par le fer et par le feu, Place au Néant, place au Dieu Des Parias!

For his Chansons des Gueux, Richepin was fined five hundred francs (and costs) and kept in prison thirty days. In this volume he acclaims all the outlaws and outcasts, all the flotsam and jetsam of modern civilisation in both country and town,—thieves, tramps, gypsies, beggars, thugs, drunkards, foundlings, panders, and prostitutes; “the halt, the maimed, the blind,” the reckless, the defiant, and the scoffing, the uncontrolled and the uncontrollable, with a vigour of language, a genuineness of accent, a picturesqueness 366 of phrase, an audacity in imagery and epithet, a poignancy of emotion, a naturalness, a freshness, a breeziness, or rather a tempestuousness, that bespeak the master. He lays bare the thoughts and the passions of his disreputable personages, portrays their starvation and their gluttonies, their enforced abstinences and their debaucheries, and makes them speak in their own weird tongues, sing their own ribald songs, and dance their own maddening dances. For lyric savagery and savage lyrism these Chansons des Gueux have no counterpart, so far as I know, in modern literature.

“I love my heroes, my lamentable vagabonds,” wrote Richepin, in an extraordinary preface.... “I love this something, I know not what it is, which renders them beautiful, noble, this wild-beast instinct which drives them into adventure,—a rash and sinister instinct, granted, but an instinct characterised by a fierce independence. Oh, the marvellous fable of La Fontaine about the wolf and the dog! The errant wolf is mere skin and bones. The dog is fat and sleek. Yes, but the chafed neck, the collar! To be tied! ‘So you can’t run when you wish? No? Good-bye, then, to your free meals. To the wood! To the wood! Everything at the point of the sword!’ And Master Wolf is off: he runs still. He runs still, and will always run, this wolf, this tramp; and I love him for it. And every soul a bit above the common will love likewise this voluntary pariah, who may be repugnant, hideous, odious, abominable, but who has greatness,—a superb greatness, since his whole being voices the heroic war-cry of Tacitus: Malo periculosam libertatem.

Periculosam! my brave vagabonds! Periculosam! do you hear, you coddled worldlings, all of you who have your soup and your kennel—and also your collar? Have I then committed a great crime in revealing the brutal poetry of these adventurers, of these braves, of these stubborn children to whom society is almost always a stepmother, and who, finding no milk in the breast of the unnatural nurse, bite the flesh itself to calm their hunger?”


Laurent Tailhade is a less natural and wholesome poet than Jean Richepin, perhaps, but he is certainly a more distinguished one. As a chiseller of poetic cameos and medallions, he has few, if any, superiors among his contemporaries. His Vitraux and Jardin des Rêves are particularly relished by artists and littérateurs and by his brother-poets.

Tailhade’s prose is as finely chiselled as his poetry. It is almost invariably lyric; and—although he is caustic and cruel therein to the verge of cut-throatism, and although he has at his command the most extensive vocabulary of invective of any person in France, not excepting M. Henri Rochefort—it is always, like his poetry, distinguished. His cult for the classic French and Latin authors and his scrupulous care for art save him from vulgarity and commonplaceness, even in his most questionable literary undertakings and even in the simple diatribes which he contributes to the most insignificant, the least scholarly, and the least artistic propagandist sheets. “He is a lettré,” says M. Ledrain, conservator at the Louvre, “who knows admirably his Latin and his Sixteenth Century, and who has formed thus a particularly savoury style which we all admire.”

Tailhade has unblenchingly defended nearly every anarchist attempt that has occurred in Europe since he came to manhood. He characterised the assassination of Humbert by the Italian Bresci as “un geste qui console et qui revive nos espoirs”; and Sophie Perowskaïa, Hartmann, Rysakoff, Caserio, Angiolillo, Henry, and Ravachol were all eulogised by him. He has been prominently before the public on four occasions during the past decade: at the time of the attempt of Vaillant, by reason of his striking epigram, “Qu’importe le reste, si le geste est beau”; a little later, when he was himself the victim, at the Restaurant Foyot, of an anarchist—or anti-anarchist?—beau geste which nearly cost him his eyesight and permanently disfigured him; in the autumn of 1901, at the time of the second visit of the czar, when he was tried and sentenced to a 1,000-franc fine and a year’s imprisonment for having reaffirmed “the venerable 368 theory of regicide125 which has traversed history” in a remarkable prose poem published by Le Libertaire, and entitled “Le Triomphe de la Domesticité”; and lastly, in 1903, when he was mobbed in Brittany for his diatribes against the local clergy, on which occasion he rendered himself ludicrously guilty of inconsistency by appealing to the protection of the police.

The incriminated passage in “Le Triomphe de la Domesticité,” above referred to, is as follows:—

Quoi, parmi ces soldats illégalement retenus pour veiller sur la route où va passer la couardise impériale, parmi ces gardes-barrières qui gagnent neuf francs tous les mois, parmi les chemineaux, les mendiants, les trimardeurs, les outlaws, ceux qui meurent de froid sous les ponts en hiver, d’insolation en été, de faim toute la vie, il ne s’en trouvera pas un pour prendre son fusil, son tissonnier, pour arracher aux frênes des bois le gourdin préhistorique, et, montant sur le marchepied des carrosses, pour frapper jusqu’à la mort, pour frapper au visage, et pour frapper au cœur la canaille triomphante, tsar, président, ministres, officiers, et les clergés infames, tous les exploiteurs qui rient de sa misère, vivent de sa moelle, courbent son échine, et le payent de vains mots! La rue de la Ferronerie est-elle à jamais barrée? La semence des héros est-elle inféconde pour toujours?

Le sublime Louvel, Caserio, n’ont-ils plus d’héritiers? Les tueurs de rois sont-ils morts à leur tour, ceux qui disaient avec Jerôme Olgiati, l’exécuteur de Galéas Sforza, qu’un trépas douloureux fait la renommée éternelle? Non! La conscience humaine vit encore.126

At the banquet offered him by sympathising littérateurs and artists immediately after his trial, Tailhade proposed a toast which illustrates capitally the scope of his emancipating ardour. It was:—

Laurent Tailhade.


A la Finlande! A la Sibérie! Aux Juifs Roumains! A l’Arménie! A la Catalogne! A la Sicile!

In the course of his trial he expounded his attitude, as follows:—

“I know that I am on trial before you for excitation to murder. As an author, it is my duty to express all my thought; as an historian, it is my duty to discuss historic facts; as a philosopher, I have the right to think and to deduce from these facts the philosophical consequence which they warrant. I have availed myself largely of what I consider my right. I accept the entire responsibility of my acts. I even hold that they do me honour. If to-morrow an occasion presented itself for me to express again, in the interests of beauty, all my thought, I should, before the general baseness, seize with eagerness this fresh occasion.”


The raffiné De Goncourt was wont to dream of an infernal machine “tuant la bêtise chic qui de quatre à six heures fait le tour du Bois de Boulogne.” Similarly it is the Philistinism and vulgar fetichism of the hour, its imbecility and ugliness, that particularly exasperate M. Tailhade, this other raffiné, and set scintillating his scholarly and artistic ire. It was out of the depths of a profound disgust that he drew his scorching volume, Le Pays des Mufles; and it is the æsthetic offences quite as much as the economic misdoings of the bourgeois that he habitually lashes.

Socialism likewise has its poets, of whom Clovis Hugues and Maurice Bouchor (poets considerably inferior to Richepin and Tailhade) may be mentioned among the maturer men.


Clovis Hugues has as avocation, when the fortune of elections favours him, the defence of socialistic principles in the Chamber of Deputies; and M. Bouchor gives a considerable portion of his time to acquainting working people with the masterpieces of literature. “The æsthetic sense, which is the most elevated means of enjoyment, being dependent on the regular action of the other senses,” says Bouchor, “we need, if we would assure to all men a complete development, to demand plenty of material comfort for every individual. We ought to realise for all humanity the idea of the old Latin adage,—Mens sana in corpore sano. Thus socialism, which current prejudice interprets as a negation of art for art’s sake, is, on the contrary, the most direct route to it, and the affirmation of it.... We wish to raise the masses to the noblest artistic conceptions.... The people have a right to beauty, to science, to an unutilitarian culture of the mind, to whatever, in a word, can enlighten and ennoble it.”

In poetry the relation between freedom of expression and freedom of thought is a very intimate one. The search for fresh forms and the thinking of fresh thoughts are very apt to go together. Furthermore, there would seem to be some subtle affinity between the releasing of verse from its fetters and the enfranchisement of humanity from its bondage. It would be puerile to lay any stress on the fact that both Henry and Vaillant wrote verses for the revues des jeunes, since this may well have been a mere coincidence. But it is certain that the agitation for the vers libre in France these latter years has been one of the manifestations of the prevalent revolutionary spirit.

True, Verlaine and Mallarmé, though sufficiently revolutionary as regards form, were quite the reverse of revolutionary in their thinking; and plenty of similar instances might be cited. On the other hand, a large majority of the poets who have fought the battle for the recognition of the rights of the vers libre have been imbued, or at least touched, with revolutionary ideas; and Verlaine, Mallarmé, and the other poets who remained loyal to the old society, all in discarding the old verse, were on terms 371 of closest intimacy with the revolutionists, and were for a long time mainly encouraged (not to say “boomed”) by them.

Adolphe Retté and Gustave Kahn are unblushing anarchists. The former, who has had in his time more than one misunderstanding with the law, says of himself and his opinions: “I fenced, in the revues, against scholastics of every sort, maintaining that the artist (by the very fact of his being an artist) should translate his emotions by an individual rhythm, and not according to fixed forms.... I set myself to interrogate all the unfortunates whom I elbowed in this hell [the hospital], worse than that of Dante.... It was shocking.... And I understood solidarity.

“Before entering the hospital, I was a theoretical anarchist. On leaving it, I was the militant which I hope I have never ceased to be. I deny and I revolt.”

All the members of the revolutionary Endehors group were advocates of untrammelled verse; and a goodly portion—among whom Pierre Quillard, Francis Vielé-Griffin, and Henri de Regnier may be mentioned—were exponents of it.

Quillard is now a militant anarchist at home, and has displayed on several occasions a chivalrous and more than platonic enthusiasm for emancipating movements abroad. Vielé-Griffin is mildly anarchistic. He says:—

“My æsthetic convictions, which are founded on the axiom, Art is individualist and normal (that is to say, an artist worthy of the name carries in his consciousness the necessary rules of the expression for which he was born, and all dogmas are by just so much detrimental to art), led me to consider whether the anarchist doctrines might not have some connection with these convictions. I am far from having elucidated all the points which have occupied me up to this moment; but my philosophy, essentially theistic, welcomes without effort a sort of normal anarchism, which I am about to discover, perhaps, in the divers anarchistic works I am consulting.”

M. de Regnier, recognised in the most reputable quarters, has practically ceased his commerce with revolutionary spirits. 372 But this fact does not in the least impair the significance of the other fact that he found this commerce conducive, necessary even, to his proper development in the earlier stages of his career. Emile Verhaeren, Georges Eekhoud, and several other Belgians whose art is intimately associated with Paris are, or have been, poets of revolt.

The Décadents127 and Néo-Décadents, Symbolistes and Néo-Symbolistes, Instrumentistes, Déliquescents, and Brutalistes,128 most of the sets of poets, in fact, who have made a stir in the French world of letters since the disappearance—as a coterie—of the Parnassiens, have included many revolutionists, mostly of anarchistic bent, protesters as well against the oppressions of politics and the conventions of society as against the obsession of stereotyped poetic forms.129

“The greater part,” writes one of their number, “flaunted proudly their disdain of current prejudices, current morals, and current institutions.... Some attacked property, religion, family; others ridiculed marriage and extolled l’union libre; others vaunted the blessings of cosmopolitanism and of universal association.... With some, it is true, the antagonism was only apparent,—simple love of paradox, inordinate desire to get themselves talked about by uttering eccentric phrases. But this state of mind existed. If all did not detest sincerely our bourgeois society, each one lashed it with violent diatribes, each one had a vague intuition of something better.”

Whatever the reason therefor may be,—emotional temperament, weariness with physical privation, bitterness of unrecognised 373 talent, disgust with the ugliness of modern commercialism and industrialism, the subtle connection between freedom of thought and freedom of form (noted in the discussion of poetry), or all these things combined,—it is safe to venture the assertion that there are, and long have been, in France more revolutionists of various stripes among the artists than among any other class of the community engaged in liberal pursuits.

The great Courbet—to go no farther back—was a disciple of Proudhon. “Il avait,” to use the picturesque phrase of Jules Vallès, “du charbon dans le crâne.” The story of Courbet’s career of revolt—largely mingled with sheer legend, it is true, but even so scarcely more extraordinary than the reality—is world property. Courbet suffered imprisonment for his opinions, and had his pictures and household effects sold by the state.

Cazin, mildest of painters, was so involved in the Commune that he was forced to take refuge in London, where he supported himself by making artistic earthen jars. Eugène Carrière, whose simple, original, eminently human art is slowly conquering two hemispheres, is an outspoken antagonist of society as it is.

It is impossible for me to say whether a majority of the Impressionists hold (apart from their art, which has proved profoundly revolutionary) revolutionary views. It is currently known, however, that Pissarro, Cezanne, and Delattre hold, or did hold, such views; and the more prominent Neo-Impressionists have anarchistic leanings almost to a man. As to the social attitude of Maximilien Luce, Ibels, Paul Signac, Pissarro fils, Félix Vallotton, Francis Jourdain (present managing editor of Le Libertaire), and Van Rysselberghe, for example, there is no possibility of dispute.

Luce is the most typical living instance of the artist who is, as was Courbet, at once a striking figure in the art world and an influential personality in the revolutionary groups. Born and brought up in a working faubourg, which he still inhabits, Luce has an affection as genuine as it is ardent for the common people; and he has rendered, with disagreeable mannerisms and technical 374 lapses, perhaps, but with truth, originality, robustness, and intensity notwithstanding, two classes of subjects which really make one,—the street and working life of Paris and the life of the lurid mining and smelting regions of Belgium and the north of France.

“Landscapist before everything,” says Emile Verhaeren, “Luce remains faithful to the tendency to sink in nature the immense strivings of human beings. The surroundings of men determine their existence and their history. In seeing these monumental and sinister chimneys and scaffoldings under the moon, these smoke-clouds which move towards the horizon like hordes, these fires which tear the night and seem to bleed like flesh, we think of the tortured humanity of which they express the suffering. Tracts of desolation and of tragic pangs, miseries kindled in space, mad vortexes of matter roundabout the voluntary activity which violates it, which subjugates it, and which it opposes,—all anguish and all fear are unveiled.”

Paul Signac, after Luce and Seurat (deceased) the best known of the Néo-Impressionistes, enumerates as follows the influences which have led him to identify himself with anarchism:—

“I. The laws of physiology—the rights of the stomach, of the brain, of the eyes.
“II. Logic.
“III. Uprightness.
“IV. The sufferings of my fellows.
“V. The need of seeing happy people about me.”

It is certain that there are more revolutionary personalities in the seceding “Champ de Mars” than in the old, and so-called Official, Salon; and the various coteries of aggressive and often eccentric innovators, who hold themselves aloof from or are held aloof by these two salons,—coteries which correspond vaguely to the coteries of the jeunes poètes,—display, for the most part, pronounced revolutionary affinities. The Salon des Indépendants, whose motto is, “Neither juries nor awards,” and whose object is “to enable artists to present their works freely to the judgment 375 of the public, without any outside intervention whatsoever,” has been from the beginning an anarchistic salon in every sense of the term,—an exhibition by revolutionary artists as well as an exhibition of revolutionary art. One has only to compare the names of its exhibitors with the names of those who have co-operated in the pictorial propaganda of the anarchist organ Les Temps Nouveaux, to be convinced of it.

It was not necessary that an Edwin Markham should write a “Man with a Hoe” for the world to recognise that the art of Millet—whether Millet so intended it or not—has a social significance. There are many living painters, about whose social attitude the public at large knows little or nothing, who, like Millet (if in less degree), feel and express so well, when they will, the benumbing influence of poverty, the hardness of the toil, or the meagreness of the joys of peasants and town labourers, that this expression is an indirect plea—no less eloquent than the most direct plea—for a redress of social wrongs.

Such, to name only a fraction of those who might be mentioned, are Besson, Buland, Leclerc, Sabatté, Léon L’Hermitte, Cottet, Dauchez, Jean Veber, Zwiller, Geffroy, Boggio, Prunier, Raffaelli, Luigi Loir, Mlle. Delasalle, Aublet, and Lubin de Beauvais.

Jules Adler, more positive, has given pictorial expression to the most violent impulses of the mob and the sweeping demands of labour; and Constantin Meunier130 has painted, like Luce, the black and bristling region of the furnaces and the mines described by Zola in Germinal.

Auguste Rodin, symbolic and synthetic, surely the greatest innovator in sculpture and probably the greatest sculptor of the century just closed, has been subjected throughout his career to a systematic official and academic opposition and persecution, which have not, so far as I know, made a revolutionist of him, but which have made him a very god in the eyes of all the revolutionary elements, and which would have produced the same 376 effect, perhaps, had his art been far less convincing and colossal than it is.

Constantin Meunier,131 also an innovator, and second in merit to Rodin alone according to many, is the sculptor par excellence of the “fourth estate.” The grim and tragic poetry of labour has been interpreted by him as it had never been interpreted before in marble and bronze. The special physique, the attitudes and the gestures, of all the overworked miners, puddlers, fishermen, and peasants,—their dignity and their pain, their capacity for endurance and resentment, their thirst for resistance,—have in him a superbly realistic and a compassionate, loving, high-minded, almost spiritual exponent. Righteous indignation against the present order of things underlies Meunier’s work. Indeed, he makes no secret of his Utopian desires.

Both Meunier and Rodin have elaborated projects for a monument to the glorification of labour, which are enthusiastically praised by the champions of social revolt.

Jules Dalou131 was banished, like Cazin, for his participation in the Commune, and was the sculptor of the monuments to the revolutionists Blanqui and Victor Noir. Baffier is an avowed revolutionist, who affects the name of artisan and the artisan’s garb.

Micheline, the good angel of Emile Veyrin’s drama La Pâque Socialiste, says: “Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, remained nailed to a cross six hours. Humanity is on a cross of suffering. Humanity, the great crucified, will release itself.” When she is asked whence she draws her hope, she replies, lifting her eyes to the cross, “From the gospel.” Furthermore, she distributes the bread of a new covenant to a band of weavers at a symbolic feast, patterned after the Last Supper. It is at the foot of a Calvaire that the anarchist Jean Roule, of Mirbeau’s Mauvais Bergers, harangues the multitude of striking workmen, who are for the moment furious against him because he has refused to accept, in behalf of the strikers, a strike fund offered by certain 377 professional labour leaders, who intend to utilise the strike for their own selfish ends; and it is by pointing to the cross—“this cross where for two thousand years, under the weight of miserable hatreds, He agonises who, the first, dared to speak to men of liberty and love”—that his companion Madeleine, fearing for his life, transforms their fury into enthusiasm.

The Montmartre monologist Jehan Rictus, in “Le Revenant132 and other of his poems, has presented the Christ as a modern city vagrant suffering the buffets of modern society.

This fashion of bringing the Christian story up to date by introducing the Christ into the life of the period has invaded painting as well as poetry and the drama. Practised by Dagnan-Bouveret from motives solely artistic,133 by Léon L’Hermitte, Pierre Lagarde, and a number of others from motives partly artistic and partly humanitarian, by the mondain Jean Béraud (Chemin de la Croix, Descente de la Croix, La Madeleine chez le Pharisien, and Le Christ Lié à la Colonne) out of what seems to be sheer sensationalism, and by the decorators of the cabarets artistiques et littéraires of Montmartre, half out of a bravado which those who cannot distinguish between religion and the church misname blasphemy and half out of class hatred, it has also been practised with unalloyed reverence and conviction by a number of painters as a direct and undisguised form of revolutionary propaganda. These last, perceiving that Christ, in the person of his unfortunate children, is mocked, spit upon, and crucified every day, and that a Magdalen is treated with no more consideration by the scribes and Pharisees of the twentieth century than by the scribes and Pharisees of the first century, have given us Christs watching by the sick-beds of cocottes; Christs in corduroys and sabots, fraternising with peasants; Christs in the garb of the Paris labourer, exhorting in wine-shops and anarchist meetings; tatterdemalion Christs, pleading vainly for alms in city streets and along the country roads; peace-proclaiming Christs, jeered at 378 and pommelled by militarist mobs; and vagabond Christs, “without legal domiciles,” brutalised by the police and hauled into the courts.

It is among the “dessinateurs,”134 however, that the tendency to utilise the Christ for purposes of revolutionary propaganda is the most in evidence. Indeed, it is among the dessinateurs (who are often painters likewise) that the spirit of revolt all along the line is the most pronounced.

An average Parisian, if asked to name the dessinateurs most in the public view, will cite for you Forain, Caran d’Ache, Léandre, Guillaume, Cappiello, Sem, Abel Faivre, Steinlen, Willette, and Hermann-Paul.

Sem portrays relentlessly the rottenness of society, but draws no conclusions therefrom; Cappiello has no social significance, whatever his artistic significance may be; and Guillaume, who produces captivating demi-mondaines by the yard, has little more social significance, although as illustrator he has cleverly seconded Courtéline in poking good-natured fun at the army.

Caran d’Ache gives himself by preference to gleeful satire of the follies, frailties, and foibles of the time; but he can be tragic and redoubtable, when he chooses, in the denunciation of its injustices and crimes.

Abel Faivre, who is very much the sort of a caricaturist one fancies Rubens might have been, had Rubens taken to caricature, is slowly, but surely, justifying his seemingly gratuitous grossness by evidences of an uncommon insight into human nature and of a far-reaching philosophical purpose.

Léandre, charming, canny, and critical, easily first of living portrait-caricaturists, amuses himself and his constituency hugely with the imbecilities, vanities, and idiosyncrasies of public men, particularly of parliamentarians. He was one of the illustrators 379 of the Feuilles de Zo d’Axa, and contributes irregularly to the anti-bourgeois sheets, but does not appear to be an unequivocal social revolutionist.

Forain, a consummate synthesiser, who can express more with a minimum of strokes than any Frenchman living, at the beginning of his career was a fierce exposer of the emptiness and crookedness of politicians, financiers, and swells, and a convincing pleader for justice to the oppressed. His sympathies have gone out to the people more rarely since. With prosperity he has become something of a swell himself, but he still electrifies Paris now and then with a drawing whose poignancy shows plainly that his heart has not shifted its position. Crueler than Léandre,—cruelest, in fact, of all the men of his profession,—he is more dreaded by the politicians than any other artist in Paris. As a partisan of anti-Semitism, Forain has latterly directed most of his political caricatures against those whom he considers, rightly or wrongly, to be the tools of the Jews.

Hermann-Paul, Steinlen, and Willette135 are out-and-out social revolutionists.

Hermann-Paul provides all the illustrations for L’Officiel, which “does not pretend,” says its editor Franc-Nohain, “to be funnier than the Journal Officiel of the French Republic.” He was an illustrator of the Feuilles de Zo d’Axa, and has participated in the pictorial propaganda of Les Temps Nouveaux. He was one of the fiercest attackers of the army during the Dreyfus affair, and his specialty—if a man of such a wide range of antipathies as he may be said to have a specialty—is the exposure of the horrors of war. The military atrocities which have been perpetrated during the last few years, and which are still being perpetrated in various quarters of the globe, have in him an ungullible and indefatigable antagonist.


Willette’s grace is proverbial. In his lighter moods he is, with a large allowance of course, a sort of modern Boucher or Watteau. He is prodigal to the last degree of dainty nymphs and goddesses and all manner of delicate nudities, of playful elves, sprites, and cupids, of swans and doves, of naïve porcelaine-de-Saxe shepherdesses, irresponsible fauns and wily satyrs, of lamb-like gambols, young loves, and spring-time settings; while his pale Pierrots and Pierrettes, disporting by the light of the moon or pensively rhyming and serenading, are strangely insinuating and enticing. His Parisian types—at once real and unreal—are equally captivating. Willette takes a mischievous delight in surrounding them with piquant, pagan genii, by way of symbols; and, even when he leaves them quite alone, they belong less to the Paris of the day and the hour, with all their saucy modernity, than to the realm of fantasy. Nevertheless, he can be bitter, vindictive, terrible. No one of his contemporaries, except Forain, can be so awful; and no one, not even Forain, has so often frightened the bourgeois out of their bourgeois wits. A few of his fiercer cartoons deserve notice here:—

A starving miner holds a bloated employer at the mercy of his pick, in the bottom of a mine-shaft, and claims his vengeance.

A wild-eyed figure, symbolising the proletariat, brandishes a knife tragically, and cries, “Je voudrais que la société n’eût qu’une seule tête pour la lui couper d’un seul coup.”

A nude woman, at once voluptuous and august, enthroned before a guillotine, proclaims,—

Je suis la Sainte Démocratie, J’attends mes amants.

Pour la Prochaine Exposition: A sans-culotte, saucily puffing a cigarette, displays a guillotine of the most approved pattern, with this comment, “Et elle sera à vapeur, mon bourgeois!

Marquis Talons-Rouges: De Gallifet, “the butcher of the Commune,” stands transfixed with terror while the massacred rise up against him from under the paving-stones.


Vendredi Saint: M. Bérenger,136 attired as a Protestant clergyman, glowers at the Magdalen, who is weeping over the Crucified One, and says, “Si j’avais été de ces temps, il n’y aurait pas eu de scandale au pied de la croix.”

On the other hand, Willette is not tenderer with his bewitching dreamland lovers than he is with the abused and the oppressed.

He has contributed to nearly all the illustrated organs of revolt, beginning with the Père Peinard, and at one time made all the illustrations for a most impertinent little sheet, known as Le Pied de Nez, the text for which was furnished by Camille St. Croix. His stained-glass window at the Chat Noir, representing the worship of the golden calf and bearing the inscription “Te Deum Laudamus,” will be remembered as long as the Chat Noir itself.

Steinlen’s137 work is big,—big for its humanity and big for its art; big by reason of its realism and by reason of its idealism; big in extent, intent, and content. His compositions possess all the essential qualities of great pictures; and, if it is ever permitted to class a simple dessinateur with the masters, Steinlen must surely be ranked as one of the few great artists of his time.

In Steinlen we have all the social types that the chansonnier Bruant and the monologist Jehan Rictus have made vivid by their poetry, and a great many more besides; all the social types that the painters of the humble—L’Hermitte, Raffaelli, Sabatté, and Besson—have endeared to us on canvas, and a great many more besides: maquereaux and their white slaves, the filles du trottoir; criminals, child-martyrs, country and city vagabonds, and parasitic squatters on vacant city lots; coster-mongers and street musicians; little dressmakers and milliners tripping jauntily down the slopes of Montmartre and Belleville; laundresses pounding and gossiping in the wash-houses or wearily traversing the streets, with heavy baskets of clothes on their 382 arms; Bohemian poets and artists fighting poverty in their humble ménages or junketing with their mistresses and models; over-dressed filles de joie awaiting, Danaë-like, in cafés and night restaurants, the descent of the golden shower; unsophisticated or hungry working-girls falling into the traps set by the mistresses of the public houses, and country maidens succumbing to the glitter of the soldier’s coat; toiling peasants, stupid, stolid, and patient; labourers and mechanics at their work, at their noon-day luncheons, and, in the wine-shops after their working hours, under the spell of prating politicians; miners grovelling in the murk or marching, pale, starving, and ominous, as strikers, to the assertion of their rights and the redress of their wrongs. The painter Luce and the sculptor Meunier are, perhaps, the only artists who have displayed continuously, during a series of years, an equal comprehension of the suffering, the yearning, and the revolt of the masses; and Meunier’s field of observation is scarcely as broad as Steinlen’s, while Luce’s technical skill is inferior to his. Steinlen has climbed by the ladder of a marvellous intuition into the very soul of the proletariat, and his superb gift of expression enables him to bear completest witness to all that he has therein felt and seen.

A mighty sadness permeates his work.

Steinlen’s best-known drawings have appeared in Le Père Peinard, Le Chambard, Le Mirliton, La Lanterne, the anarchist child’s paper Jean-Pierre, Les Feuilles de Zo d’Axa, Le Canard Sauvage, Le Sifflet, and Le Gil Blas Illustré, to which last he contributed a first page, weekly, for a number of years. He has illustrated two volumes of the Chansons of Bruant (Dans la Rue) and Maurice Boukay’s Chansons Rouges. Several of his posters, notably that of the socialist daily, Le Petit Sou, breathe a fierce revolutionary spirit.

Among the minor dessinateurs—minor not necessarily in talent, but in vogue—are the revolutionists Luce, Francis Jourdain, Vallotton, Pissarro fils, Signac, Rysselberghe, and Ibels, already noticed as painters. Roubille, G. Maurin, Jehannet, Guillaume, 383 Barbottin, Anquetin, Cross, Mab, Mabel, Lebasque, Delannoy, Comin-Ache, Chevalier, Daumont, Alexandre Charpentier, Heidbrinck, Camille Lefèvre, and J. Henault have been identified with the propaganda by art of Les Temps Nouveaux. Couturier138 has an intimate connection with the other anarchist organ, Le Libertaire. Jean Grave’s primer of anarchy, Les Aventures de Nono, was illustrated by Charpentier, Heidbrinck, Hermann-Paul, Camille Lefèvre, Luce, Mab, Rysselberghe, and Pissarro fils. Grandjouan, Léal de Camara, Arthur Michaël, Jossot, Dubuc, Balluriau, Gottlob, Noël Dorville, Jouve, Kupka, Weiluc, Louis Morin, Braun, Borgex, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cadel, Darbour, Roedel, Redon, and Grün are all strongly revolutionary in portions of their work.

Le Rire, Le Sourire, Le Cri de Paris, Le Gil Blas Illustré, and nearly a score of illustrated sheets, whose existence is likely to be so ephemeral that their enumeration would be idle, allow a modicum of space to refractory productions by these dessinateurs; and in the spring of 1901 an illustrated publication was founded, which is devoted exclusively to full-page drawings of an anti-capitalistic, anti-governmental character. This publication, which is called L’Assiette au Beurre,139 is as fierce in its way as was the suppressed Père Peinard. Several of its numbers have been seized; but it has so far escaped complete suppression,—mainly, it is likely, by reason of an entire absence of reading-matter, it being far more difficult for the courts to define the offence contained in an inflammatory drawing than the offence contained in an inflammatory text. The prospectus of L’Assiette au Beurre thus explains its aim: “We have arrived at a turning-point in history, where it becomes necessary for a publication which addresses itself to thinkers and artists to face the social question under its most diverse aspects. Now is it not a duty to combat by art the possessors of the assiette au beurre 384 and all social iniquities? And how can it be done better than by the pictorial presentation which fixes an idea in the brain with an energy to which the effort of the most puissant writer cannot attain?”

Practically all the dessinateurs heretofore mentioned have appeared with greater or less frequency in L’Assiette au Beurre; and it has published many special issues, of twenty-four pages or more, devoted exclusively to a single artist. Thus Braun, Grandjouan, Roubille, Michaël, Dubuc, Jean Veber, Willette, Van Dongen, Gottlob, Noël Dorville, Heidbrinck, Jouve, Lucien Métivet, Ibels, Guillaume, Caran d’Ache, Kupka, Weiluc, Xavier, José, Minartz, Jacques Villon, Vallotton, Sancha, Pezilla, Louis Morin, Doës, and Abel Faivre have had, each, at least one number, and Hermann-Paul, Steinlen, Léal de Camara, Jossot, and Balluriau several numbers, each, consecrated to their works. No other existing journal of caricature has made so comprehensive an artistic effort;140 and it is at least a curious commentary—not to insist farther—on the social attitude of the artistic élite that no other journal of caricature is so unequivocally revolutionary in tone.

Daumier, the father of modern French caricature and the greatest of French caricaturists, was scarcely tenderer in his drawings to the exploiters of the poor, to bourgeois stupidity and sham, and to courts, lawyers, and politicians, than are the Mirbeaus, Tailhades, Jean Graves, and Kropotkines in their writings; and in this respect (ignoring, of course, the question of talent) he is closely resembled by a majority of his successors. To be sure, it is easy to attach too much weight to this fact. The caricaturist, like many another fellow who has to get his living by his wits, does not invariably make it a point to express his own convictions. The caricaturist, furthermore, could not consistently accept a Utopia if he succeeded in ushering one in, since in Utopia he would have no excuse for being. “Caricature is, in the nature of the case, of the opposition.” But it is one 385 thing to be of the opposition—that is, to assail the political element in power—and quite another thing to demolish the state itself and all the institutions of society. And it is this latter thing that the great body of contemporary French caricaturists are attempting to do.

Bernard Shaw in a little book of almost diabolical cleverness, The Perfect Wagnerite, has advanced the rather startling theory that no one can comprehend the Wagner music-dramas who is not something of an anarchist.

Whatever one may think of Bernard Shaw in general, of Bernard Shaw as a musical critic in particular, and, still more in particular, of Bernard Shaw as a Wagner interpreter, one must admit that there is always a half-truth, at least, lurking somewhere about his Sibylline epigrams and paradoxes. There is no questioning the fact that Wagner, the transformer of music, was a professor of revolutionary doctrines, and that he incorporated, deliberately or otherwise, the essence of these revolutionary doctrines into his work. “During three years,” in the early part of his career, “he kept pouring forth pamphlets on social evolution, religion, life, art, and the influence of riches”; and one of these pamphlets, Art and Revolution, is esteemed an anarchist text-book by anarchists in all parts of the world. “What man,” he says, “can, with lightness of heart and calm senses, plunge his regard to the bottom of this world of murder and rapine, organised and legalised by deceit, imposture, and hypocrisy, without being obliged to avert his eyes with a shudder of disgust?” Wagner resigned in 1849 his position as conductor of the opera at Dresden in order to become “a leader of the people in the revolution then under way.” He appealed to the king of Saxony “to espouse the people’s cause, and then threw in his lot with the people.” He was publicly proclaimed “a politically dangerous person along with Bakounine and Roeckel,”—the same Bakounine who is held the father of modern anarchism.

In France, as in Germany, the tendency of music during the last fifty years has been towards a greater and greater liberty 386 of form; and most of the notable contemporary French composers—with the exception of Reyer, Saint-Saëns, and Massenet141 (who represent, with modifications, the classic tradition), and two or three ardent disciples of Gluck—proceed, more or less directly, either from Wagner or from that other innovator, Hector Berlioz (sometimes called the French Wagner), who was not, it is true, a revolutionist in the political sense, but who was bitter to the last degree against the society that stupidly refused to acknowledge his power.

The writer is not enough of a musical connoisseur to trace the transformations wrought in musical forms by French composers since the time of Berlioz,—by César Franck (who in a sense, however, stood apart from the currents), by Pierre Lalo, Isidore de Lara, Emmanuel Chabrier, Vincent d’Indy, Camille Erlanger, DeBussy, Gabriel Fauré, Leroux, Le Borne, Bourgault-Ducoudray, Gustave Charpentier, and Alfred Bruneau; still less to point out where these changes have been co-ordinated, as they were in Wagner, with revolutionary thinking,—a task for which not only musical connoisseurship, but the temperament of a musician, the knowledge of an adept, and the intellect of a philosopher would be required. But in two of the composers just named, Alfred Bruneau and Gustave Charpentier, the co-ordination is so obvious that “he who runs” (he of the average lay intelligence) “may read,” since they are engaged in disseminating the idea of liberty among the people.

Both have been influenced by Wagner, but both depart from Wagner in taking their subjects, not from legends, but from contemporary life, and the most ordinary every-day sort of life at that.

Bruneau claims as large privileges for the composer of opera as are accorded to the author, the painter, and the dramatist; the same openness to passion, movement, and humanity, and the same range of choice as regards characters, language, and setting. “It is the right of the composer”—I quote from Bruneau’s 387 Musique d’Hier et de Demain—“to unite in a piece of his choosing any beings he pleases, to place these beings in the human milieu to which he considers they belong, and to put in their mouths the words which he considers appropriate.... He must insist on liberty of the dialogue, developing itself, without constraint of any sort, upon the woof of the instrumentation, and forming one body with it; liberty of the symphony, never interrupted, trumpeting, rumbling, swelling, subsiding, with the necessities of the drama; liberty of expression, more important still,—justness in the word and precision in the term; liberty unlimited of the melody, tripping, alert, grave, proud, tender, vigorous, joyous, surely, at being able to escape from the imprisonment of the cadence and the rhyme; liberty of the phrase, liberty of inspiration, liberty of art, liberty of form, liberty complete, magnificent, and definitive!”

In Messidor142 and L’Attaque du Moulin (prose librettos by Emile Zola) Bruneau deals with strikes and the labour question so frankly that it is not a little surprising that they were allowed a place on a national stage. These works are appreciated by the critics, but have not been, in spite of their popular subjects, signal popular successes.

On the other hand, Charpentier’s opera of Louise (produced at the Opéra Comique in 1899, and not yet banished from a prominent place in the répertoire) has rapidly made the tour of France and of Europe. Louise, which treats with a bizarre blending of realism and idealism the life of the Bohemians and labourers of Montmartre, may be said to mark an epoch in opera, in that it is the first work of the French school which, having combined innovation of musical form with innovation of subject and language, has achieved a striking and permanent artistic and popular success.

With Louise the modern music-drama becomes, like the simple drama, an appreciable force in direct revolutionary propaganda. It is true that everything savouring of politics is scrupulously excluded from the libretto of Louise, but this scrupulousness (absolutely indispensable in a piece prepared for a subsidised stage) 388 does not prevent the opera from being an unmistakable protest against the social tyranny which is intrenched in the texts of the law. Indeed, Charpentier, whose fine social fervour has been evidenced in a variety of ways which may not be gone into here, has publicly proclaimed his belief “in the efficacy of revolutions well prepared.”

It is more than a coincidence that the revolutionary Zola should have been a zealous defender of the art of Courbet, of Manet, of Monet, Pissarro, and Cezanne, and that a pronounced anarchist like Octave Mirbeau should have been an early admirer of Wagner, the introducer to France of Maeterlinck, the chief champion of Monet, and an apotheosiser of Rodin,—should have been, in short, the foster-father of the irréguliers in every department of art. He would be a surpassingly subtle analyser and a masterful synthesiser who could establish the connection between polyphonic orchestration, impressionism in painting and sculpture and the vers libre, and between each and all of these and the anarchistic philosophy,—between revolt against academicism in the arts and revolt against the state; and yet no one who observes ever so little can doubt that the connection exists.

Paris from Montmartre


Chapter XIX



There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Shakespeare.
Truth’s fountains may be clear, her streams are muddy. Lord Byron.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same door wherein I went.  ******* The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes But Here or There as strikes the Player goes; And He that tossed you down into the Field, He knows about it allHE knowsHE knows! Rubáiyát of Omar Kháyyám.

A man finds he has been wrong at every preceding stage of his career, only to deduce the astonishing conclusion that he is at last entirely right. Mankind, after centuries of failure, are still upon the eve of a thoroughly constitutional millennium. Since we have explored the maze so long, without result, it follows, for poor human reason, that we cannot have to explore much longer; close by must be the centre.... How if there were no centre at all, but just one alley after another, and the whole world a labyrinth without end or issue?”—Robert Louis Stevenson.

Avec tous nos points de repères, Te voyons-nous mieux que nos pères, O fond, fond qui nous désespères, Fond obscur, fond mystérieux? Pour avoir fait glose sur glose, Nous croyons savoir quelque chose; Mais la Cause de tout, la Cause, Qui donc la tient devant ses yeux? Jean Richepin.

I mean to say that if, in the pitiful comedy of life, princes seem to command and peoples to obey, it is only a piece of acting, a vain appearance, and that really they are both conducted by an invisible force.

Anatole France, in Les Opinions de M. Jerôme Coignard.


THE wisest words, probably, that were ever heard in a court-room were uttered by Gamaliel, the Pharisee, at the trial of Peter and John: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”

To a similar purport, Montaigne wrote:—

“‘Tis a very great presumption to slight and condemn all things for false that do not appear to us likely to be true, which is the ordinary vice of such as fancy themselves wiser than their neighbours. I was myself once one of these; and if I heard talk of dead folks walking, of prophecies, enchantments, witchcrafts, or any other story, I had no mind to believe.... I presently pitied the poor people that were abused by these follies, whereas I now find that I myself was to be pitied as much at least as they; not that experience has taught me anything to supersede my former opinions, though my curiosity has endeavoured that way; but reason has instructed me that thus resolutely to condemn anything for false and impossible is to circumscribe and limit the will of God and the power of nature within the bounds of my own capacity, than which no folly can be greater. If we give the names of monster and miracle to everything our reason cannot comprehend, how many such are continually presented before our eyes! Let us but consider through what clouds and, as it were, groping through what darkness, our teachers lead us to the knowledge of most of the things we apply our studies to, and we shall find that it is rather custom than knowledge that takes away the wonder, and renders them easy and familiar to us; ... and that, if those things were now newly presented to us, we should think them as strange and incredible, if not more so, than others.... He that had never seen a river imagined the first he met with to be the sea, and the greatest things that have 392 fallen within our knowledge we conclude to be the extremes that nature makes of the kind.”

To have pondered and appropriated these words of the far-sighted Pharisee and the sage of Périgord is to have stricken the word impossible from one’s vocabulary, to have lost the desire to emit shrieks of anger or dismay before new views of life and society, and, without “mockings or arguments,” to simply “witness and wait.”

The philosophic doubt which no one more than Montaigne has approved—the “Que sçais-je?” which forbids the swearing of unconditional allegiance to unproved theories—is, of course, always in order; but doubt becomes most pernicious dogmatism when it assumes the rôle of denial. It plays its proper part when, and only when, it produces a willingness to “leave great changes,” as Stevenson happily puts it, “to what we call great blind forces, their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the little peering, partial eyesight of men.”

La folie d’hier est la sagesse de demain” has been said so long, and accepted so long, that there is no tracing it to its origin; and yet we go on diligently disregarding it, seizing every fresh occasion to “kick against the pricks,” quite as if the stupidity of the practice had not been demonstrated a thousand times over, quite as if the stones rejected by the builders had never become the heads of the corners, and the first had never been last, and the last first.

Vieux soldats de plomb que nous sommes, Au cordeau nous alignant tous, Si de nos rangs sortent des hommes, Tous nous crions: A bas les fous! On les persécute, on les tue, Sauf, après un long examen, A leur dresser une statue Pour la gloire du genre humain.143


“If we came from a globe where there was some semblance of rule and order,” says Georges Clemenceau, “the spectacle of our planet would appear to us a pure abomination.” In the interests of clearness, M. Clemenceau has exaggerated, perhaps. Nevertheless, there is an element of truth in what he says. Our society is abundantly open to criticism; and that we chance to be inimical to panaceas and suspicious of Utopias is no valid reason for calling the black of our society white, and blandly treating its absurdities, illogicalities, injustices, and cruelties as infallibilities and amenities. Because the reformer commits the folly of dogmatising in one direction does not excuse us for committing the counter-folly of dogmatising in another. Suppose we hold with Omar that

the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read,

and suppose we are prone to take at the letter these lines of Walt Whitman,—

There was never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is now, Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now,”—

is it, therefore, necessary for us to shut our eyes to the most obvious facts of the present and to all possibilities for the future?

When Victor Barrucand, a few years ago, put forward his scheme for free bread (“le pain gratuit”), he was not treated as a visionary in any important quarter. The semi-bourgeois journals showed themselves, in several instances, rather friendly; and the opposition he encountered from the straight bourgeois press was of quite a different sort from that which is evoked by a preposterous proposition. M. Clemenceau, one of the few radicals who has never for a moment lost his balance, supported him warmly.


“It is high time we knew,” said Clemenceau, “whether, at the degree of civilisation to which we have attained, we can continue to tolerate that men, women, and children die of want—in a few months from the exhaustion induced by insufficiently remunerated work or in a few hours from downright hunger. Our republican and monarchical conservatives—all excellent Christians—answer, ‘No,’ but continue to act ‘Yes.’... I just remarked that M. Barrucand did not propose revolution to us. I ask myself now if I did not go a bit too fast. Yes, eighteen hundred years after the Christ, it is a revolution for Christians to prevent the death of their fellows by slow and rapid starvation. Well, then, let us inaugurate this revolution!”

Le pain gratuit c’est le futur,” said Jules Lermina at the same moment. And, really, is it so unreasonable that every one should be given enough to eat, when slaves have been, and domestic animals are, so provided for, and when every one is given the privilege of learning to read and write? Is it not rather surprising that a person should be permitted, nay, forced, to acquire reading and writing, and should be supplied at the public expense (without apparent opposition from any source) with fresh air, lights, pure water, paved streets, and parks, and should not be provided with bread; that he is entitled to food inspection and is not entitled to food itself; that he is assured proper disposition for his waste and is not assured a sufficiency of supply; that he can count on a burial and cannot count—supreme irony!—on a living; has the right to a grave-plot and has not the right to a loaf? Is illiteracy so much more dangerous to society than destitution? Is everything as merry as it might be when death thus lords it over life; when a man asks for bread, and is given a coffin?



A republic with manhood suffrage and generally disseminated book-knowledge would probably have seemed as chimerical to the minds of our not very remote ancestors as the community of the socialist or anarchist dream seems to us. It would not be more remarkable if wage-earners should disappear than it was 395 that serfs and slaves disappeared; if the factory system should disappear than it was that it once appeared; if alms-giving should be replaced by a recognition of the right to work than that charity from being a fine, spontaneous human impulse has become an unwieldy, soulless machine; if private property should be transformed into collective property than that private property was evolved out of the tribal possessions; if the church should cease to be an institution of the state—indeed it has already ceased to be in America—than that it ever became one; if l’union libre should supersede marriage (with the loss of the latter’s chief sanctions, private property and the already much-enfeebled authority of the church) than that monogamy has superseded polygamy; if woman should be emancipated than that man has, up to a certain point, been emancipated. Furthermore, it would be no more extraordinary if the tiers état (the present dominant bourgeoisie) should be evicted by the quatrième état (the proletariat) than it was that the tiers état evicted the nobility and clergy in 1789; if a social republic (under which without knowing or, at least, without admitting it we are already half installed) should follow close upon the heels of a simple republic than that a simple republic followed close upon the heels of a monarchy and a monarchy close upon the heels of a feudal system; if nations should pass as political entities by being merged in an Internationale than that they emerged out of the seeming chaos of the Middle Ages; if there should be one tongue over all the earth144 than that there has come to be one tongue over any entire people; if there should be general peace than that there has been general war.

No, there is nothing inherently incredible or absurd about the ideas and ideals of the contemporary revolutionists; nothing more transcendental or more visionary than there was, for their day and their generation, in the ideas and ideals of the Encyclopedists, and of the innovators and reformers of all the past.


It may have been a mistake for the classes to impose book-learning on the masses, to compel them to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which makes men as gods; but, having given their wards to eat thereof, having deliberately stimulated them to think, the privileged must let them follow out their thinking to the logical—perhaps, also, to the bitter—end. There is no alternative. There is no such thing as staying them midway in their course, since with growing knowledge has come growing desire.

If the classes did not wish the masses to drink deep of the Pierian spring, they should have had the sense to keep them away from it altogether instead of ingenuously leading them up to sip. As it is, the people have become mentally and morally incapable of blind submission. They cannot be hoodwinked by fine phrases as of yore. Their roused and trained intelligence is rapidly penetrating the shams, puncturing the frauds, and stripping off the shows of republicanism. They will not much longer be put off with the mere forms and formulas of liberty and well-being which satisfied them at the start. They are now beginning to demand the things themselves, and they have at last the minds and the manhood necessary to enforce their demand. The illogical, hypocritical, plutocratic republic which they find themselves under disgusts and exasperates them quite as much as would a monarchy. They have resolved to have out-and-out democracy instead of the miserable makeshift for democracy that has been thrown to them as a sop; and have it they will! Gare à vous, naïve, short-sighted bourgeois, who with your reading and writing started them on their quest for the new, if you attempt to place obstructions in their path!

The people have a startling way of getting, in the long run, the specific things they set their hearts on. And one may admit—without the slightest prejudice to his intellectual independence or the slightest abdication of his preferences—that the specific things the revolutionists of Paris and the world at large are striving for may sooner or later be theirs.


A successful social revolution, one day or another, is neither an inconceivable, an impossible, nor even an improbable event. The time may come, at least for all that we can reasonably affirm to the contrary, when there will be no more governments, no more great fortunes, no more private property, no more poverty, no more “marrying and giving in marriage,” no more wars, no more armies, no more patriotism, and no more diversity of tongues.

This is not saying that the individual life will be fuller, richer, and sweeter then than it has been and is, nor that the world will be enormously better and happier than it is and has been. Apples of the most golden seeming have been known to turn to ashes in the plucker’s hand; and, when the time comes—if it does come—that the revolutionists’ present cravings have all been satisfied, the millennium will still, in all likelihood, be as far as ever away.

Change, incessant change, is the law of the universe; but change, though inevitable, and hence never really bad and never really to be regretted, is not synonymous with progress,—not in the sense, at least, in which the latter word is generally understood.

Partout de l’astre à l’étincelle, Partout la vie universelle, Se fond, tourbillonne, et ruisselle, Et tout passe, et rien s’en va.”

It is as big a piece of dogmatism to be cock-sure the world is growing better all the time and all along the line, simply because it is perpetually changing, as it is to be cock-sure it is constantly growing worse, and as big a piece of credulity to look forward confidently to a Golden Age in the future as to revert—unhumorously—to a Golden Age in the past. Every system of society which has existed thus far is now admitted to have had its qualities and its defects,—what is more, the defects of its qualities. Our period of machinery, universal suffrage, and diffused book-knowledge (factors from which our fathers expected miracles to 398 spring) has its blemishes as well as the periods of illiteracy, blooded aristocracy, and hand labour. Our new woman—we are reminded every day—is as antipathetic and inept in some ways as she is charming and useful in other ways; and, while we cannot be sure that every future period will “depress some elements of goodness just as much as it will encourage others,” we have, alas! no adequate guarantee that it will not do so.

It may be that it is again to be the mission of France to redeem (or appear to redeem) the world by a sort of vicarious atonement. The cult of revolution is not dead there, and the impulse that demolished the Bastille has by no means spent itself. Or it may be that for Russia, where the provocation is greatest, or for America, where there is most initiative and the most accelerated rate of change, is reserved this fearsome rôle. But, wherever the Social Revolution begins and wherever it reaches, the well-balanced man, who has won through stress and travail to a sane outlook and to an enthusiasm for life; he who can say with Kipling’s “Tramp Royal,”—

Gawd bless this world! Whatever she ‘ath done Excep’ when awful long—I’ve found it good. So write before I die, ‘’E liked it all!’”—

will await its arrival with complete equanimity.

Think, then, you are To-day what Yesterday You were—To-morrow you shall not be less.

Friendships and loves—the only things really worth while to seasoned natures—have always been. Under all régimes, men have had friends and sweethearts and little ones for the greater glory of their souls; and friends and sweethearts and little ones—the boldest innovators do not assert otherwise—they are likely to have while time is.

These loves and these friendships have found such beautiful expression already that there is little to hope from the future. 399 On the other hand, so far as they are concerned, there is nothing to fear.

What matters, then, in the last analysis the march of public events,—monarchy, republic, social republic, or anarchistic commune,—so that we bear the brunt together, heart to heart, and the great elemental things abide?

The Eternal Realities


Of the possibility of a free communistic society there can really I take it be no doubt. The question that more definitely presses on us now is one of transition—By what steps shall we, or can we pass to that land of freedom?

We have supposed a whole people started on its journey by the lifting off of the burden of Fear and Anxiety; but in the long slow ascent of Evolution no sudden miraculous change can be expected; and for this reason alone it is obvious that we can look for no sudden transformation to the communist form. Peoples that have learnt the lesson of ‘trade’ and competition so thoroughly as the modern nations have—each man fighting for his own hand—must take some time to unlearn it. The Sentiment of the Common Life, so long nipped and blighted, must have leisure to grow and expand again; and we must acknowledge that—in order to foster new ideas and new habits—an intermediate stage of Collectivism will be quite necessary. Formulæ like the ‘nationalisation of the land and all the instruments of production,’ though they be vague and indeed impossible of rigorous application, will serve as centres for the growth of the sentiment. The partial application of these formulæ will put folk through a lot of useful drilling in the effort to work together and for common ends.”—Edward Carpenter.


1 Reclus’ anarchist brochure A mon Ami le Paysan is a veritable literary gem.

2 When they do not render it unproductive by transforming it into hunting grounds or pleasure parks or leave it sterile, either through want of sufficient capital to ameliorate it or simply from indifference and neglect.—Jean Grave.

3 In France. The usage is somewhat different in certain other countries.

4 Normally, all posters must carry revenue stamps.

5 The officers of an assembly are so called in France.

6 Charenton is the Paris insane hospital.

7 The word trimardeur is derived from the dialect word trimard, which means grande route (the great road).

8 Strictly, at 2 sous a four-page folder, each folder containing the words and music of one song and the words of two or three others.

9 Ravachol was convicted of several overt acts, among them the dynamiting of the house of the judges Benoit and Bulot.

10 M. Leroy now has a little book-store in the Montsouris district.

11 Henri Bérenger’s L’Action, for all its violence, cannot be so classed. A pronounced anarchist, Charles Malato, was for a time one of the pillars of the acrimonious daily L’Aurore, and it is frequently recommended by the anarchist press for anarchist reading. But it was never, strictly speaking, an anarchist sheet. It is now under the control of the radical Clemenceau.

12 The general title of the series is La Bibliothèque Documentaire.

13 The office of the Temps Nouveaux has been transferred to the rue Broca, in the same district.

14 A set of anarchist groups, loosely federated, which devote themselves to study with persistence and zeal.

15 Drawn after an image de propagande.

16 Author of the explosion at the Café Terminus.

17 The assassin of Carnot.

18 Inability to pay this fine involving further imprisonment, the real term of the editors condemned for two years became in most cases three years or three years and a half. It should be noted, however, that a considerable proportion of them were condemned for contumacy, they having made good their escape to England or Belgium before their cases were tried.

19 M. Gabriel Girond has written a volume entitled Cempuis on this educational experiment, which no educator or student of education can afford to neglect. Maurice Devaldès, also, in a brochure entitled L’Education et la Liberté, compares the educational experiment of Tolstoy at Yasnaïa-Poliana with M. Robin’s experiment at Cempuis, to the advantage of the latter.

20 Believed by many to have been managed by the police in order to sow dissensions and cause divisions in the ranks of the anarchists.

21 In Russia, where many of the most violent propagandistes par le fait are men of letters or scientists, the situation is quite different.

22 Reclus’ daughters have entered into union libre openly with their father’s entire approval. A man of Elisée Reclus’ standing would not aid and abet such a course without profound conviction.

23 A strike of pick-and-shovel labourers, to supervise which the government hurried 75,000 soldiers into Paris, although there were no signs of violence.

24 Certain anarchists hold that it is proper for an anarchist to penetrate into the unions, so that he does not preside at their formation nor hold office therein,—an attitude which is amusingly analogous to that of the scrupulous Episcopalian dame who drew the line of the permissible in Lent just this side of white kid slippers.

25 Communist-anarchists, in spite of the word Socialistes in their title.

26 Vaillant threw a bomb in the French Chamber.

27 Bresci killed King Humbert of Italy.

28 Estimated in France officially, and hence conservatively, as 40,000.

29 Special laboratories, with walls constructed to minimise the force of a shock were erected at this time at four different points in Paris,—Montrouge, Aubervilliers, Berey, and Le Point du Jour.

30 Salsou, who attempted to assassinate the Shah of Persia, was a trimardeur.

31 Whence the slang verb watriner and the substantive watrinade.

32 Another version is that Pini, having voted twice, was condemned to three months’ imprisonment, and that it was to avoid this that he left the country.

33 Frustrated by a faithful dog.

34 This sentence was commuted to long-term imprisonment by President Grévy.

35 Le terme (rent) in Paris must be paid quarterly and in advance. It is due on the 1st, and must be paid on the 8th or 15th (according to its amount) of January, April, July, and October.

36 There is a distinct class of men and women in Paris ready at any moment to cry à bas or vive, no matter whom or what, for a five-franc piece. Napoléon Hayard, known as the “empereur des camelots,” who died recently at a ripe age, was known to Parisians for many years as an organiser of manifestations.

37 It was Rochefort who declared the mysterious shooting of Labori during the Dreyfus trial at Rennes to be a fictitious manœuvre.

38 The curious filing of the hammer of Salsou’s pistol, which rendered impossible—according to a portion of the expert testimony—its discharge, lent a certain colour of truth to this accusation.

39 As lately as 1902 the anarchist spy service was recruited in this fashion, and so openly that spies might almost be said to have been advertised for.

40 M. Andrieux’s La Révolution Sociale was probably not the last journal of its class.

41 The militant anarchist’s knowledge of the code and of legal procedure is also phenomenal. There is nothing he enjoys better, when in good humour, than to remind his judge of a forgotten or wilfully neglected formality.

42 Baumann shot a priest who was personally unknown to him for the sake of the propaganda.

43 Ravachol was attempting to make a convert an hour and a half after the explosion of the rue de Clichy.

44 Passanante attempted to assassinate King Humbert of Italy.

45 The prosecution of Tailhade was probably a sop to the Russian diplomats, his article having been specially directed against the czar.

46 Ravachol justified these acts to himself on the ground that the living and still more the dead had no right to hold wealth in unproductiveness while human beings were starving. The proceeds of both these deeds were religiously consecrated by him to the propagande.

47 The probable author of the explosion at the Restaurant Véry.

48 Accused of complicity in various overt acts, but not condemned.

49 Ravachol’s masterful sneer at the church on his way to the guillotine was not, it seems, pure perverseness. Ravachol had taken a real liking to the prison priest, whom he admitted to be a good fellow, but he had such a horror of being claimed by the church after his death as an eleventh-hour penitent that he had requested the priest not to assist at his execution. To this request the priest had answered,—could anything well be more maladroit?—“I cannot avoid it. I shall be there by the same right as the headsman.”

50 The Guesdistes and the Jeunesse Blanquiste were the most important exceptions.

51 Hostile, that is, except at the eleventh hour of their congress, when they usually contrive to vote resolutions of harmony.

52 Leader of the Parti Socialiste Révolutionnaire.

53 Leader of the Fédération des Travailleurs Socialistes.

54 There is no socialist daily, however, which is not under capitalistic control.

55 There has long been a shelf in one of the book-stalls of the arcade of the Odéon devoted exclusively to works on Socialism. Whether this device is due to business insight or propagandist fervour, it is equally significant.

56 Leader of the Groupe des Socialistes Independants.

57 Commemorating the Bloody Week of the Commune.

58 Burned at the stake in the sixteenth century.

59 Some coopératives socialistes have been established.

60 Leader of the Parti Ouvrier Français.

61 Leader of the Parti Ouvrier Socialiste Révolutionnaire.

62 The illustration of the Place Maubert shows one of its humble latter-day distinctions. It is the market-place for the Mégotiers of the Quarter, gatherers of cigar and cigarette stubs, who carry canes with which to rake up these tobacco remnants.

63 Michelet.

64 Jules Vallès.

65 Whence the word frondeur (captious), currently applied to the students to this day.

66 La Harpe, the autocrat of the literary world, appeared before his class one day in a red Phrygian cap, and devoted a portion of his lecture-hour to declaiming revolutionary chansons.

67 It would be superfluous to name their present habitués, since they are as yet too young to be famous.

68 The accompanying illustration is a portrait sketch of the son of Felix Gras in his favourite seat at one of these cabarets, above which some artist has scrawled his caricature.

69 The Grille and the Noctambules, the best-known café-concerts of the Quartier, are purely professional affairs. Their performers are not students, and students make up only a small part of their audiences.

70 There were martyrs to conviction on both sides in the Dreyfus case, as there were under the last empire.

71 More than once during the Dreyfus affair the Quartier seemed to be on the verge of an eruption; but the lying, contemptible manœuvres of Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards alike threw cold water on both its military and its anti-military enthusiasm.

72 Haraucourt has recently been elevated to the position of librarian of one of the principal libraries of Paris.

73 Jacques Le Lorrain has just died of consumption. A short time before his death he had the happiness of having his remarkable poetical play Don Quixote performed at the Théâtre Victor Hugo.

74 The Salons were held in the Louvre at this period.

75 Dèche and purée (the latter akin to the Americanism “in the soup”) are Bohemian slang for misère.

76 A law which commutes the penalty, but without expunging the condemnation from the record.

77 Since these lines were written, word has come, alas! that Bibi is dead.

78 The Cabaret du Père Lunette—on the edge of the Latin Quarter—and its near neighbour, the Château Rouge (also called La Guillotine), were notorious criminal resorts in the days, not so very remote, before the piercing of the rue Lagrange and the enlarging of the Place Maubert rendered innocuous one of the most dangerous corners of Paris. The Château Rouge was recently demolished, and the Père Lunette ceased several years back to be anything but an insipid show-place for tourists. Neither has ever been an organic part of the Quartier life.

79 Practical joker seems to be the only possible translation of the word fumiste, but it is a most inadequate one.

80 The rue de Croissant is filled with newspaper offices.

81 Se coucher à la belle étoile is to be without a lodging other than the pavement.

82 Ma tante = the pawn-shop.

83 A name given to the younger poets of the more eccentric schools.

84 Discontinued with the discontinuance of its provocation, the fête of the Bœuf Gras.

85 Père la Pudeur, a name applied originally to the French Anthony Comstock, M. Bérenger.

86 The Bal Gavarni and the Bal Monnier held at Montmartre in 1902 and 1904 respectively—as a tribute to the memory of two great French caricaturists—and the open-air Montmartre festivals, Le Couronnement de la Rosière Montmartroise (1903) and Le Mariage de la Rosière Montmartroise (1904), though similar in conception to the cavalcade of the Vache Enragée, proved less effective from this particular point of view.

87 Henry Mürger.

88 Déménager à la cloche de bois is to move secretly without paying one’s rent.

89 The Rat Mort has completely changed its character of late years. Only at the déjeuner and the dinner hours is any hint of its former self obtainable.

90 The slope from these boulevards to the rue de Lamartine and the rue St. Lazare (between the rue de Clichy and the rue de Rochechouart) is affiliated with Montmartre, and by a stretching of the point may be said to belong to it; but its population is too largely made up of bourgeois and the exploiting cocottes of the Olympia, Moulin Rouge, Casino de Paris, and Folies-Bergères to admit of its being absolutely co-ordinated with the Butte.

91 Called logement to distinguish it from the appartement, which is more pretentious. The kitchen of the logement is provided with running water and gas; and the gas company is required by law to furnish the tenant who does not pay more than 500 francs a year rent a new gas range, gratis. Ateliers are relatively dearer, and the artist does not easily find an atelier in which he can live and work for less than 600 francs.

92 Recently deceased.

93 At Montmartre, as in all parts of Paris, hand-carts may be hired for a few sous an hour.

94 Cyrano de Bergerac.

95 A seaside resort.

96 It is not a rare thing for a Montmartre organ to speak of a trip to the Grands-Boulevards or the Latin Quarter as “un départ vers les pays étrangers désignés sous le nom des Etats-Unis de Paris.”

97 The word hydropathe was absolutely without significance in this connection. It was hit upon by the merest chance, and welcomed because it suggested nothing that could mislead or occasion dispute.

98 Salis died several years ago.

99 One of these just beginning to be known, and hence sure soon to be spoiled, began with improvised tables made by placing boards upon wine-casks, and with other paraphernalia in keeping.

100 Deceased.

101 The French free-stage movement, which involved revolutionary thought as well as revolutionary form, was launched at Montmartre, and was identified with Montmartre through all its polemic period,—up to the moment, in fact, when it became Parisian, having gained its cause.

102 Alexandre is about to leave Montmartre for the Grands-Boulevards.

103 Maquereau is a type name for a criminal loafer who lives by the prostitution of his mistress.

104 Biribi is the name given to the African battalion to which recalcitrant soldiers are assigned.

105 Les Opinions de M. Jerôme Coignard. M. Coignard belongs to the eighteenth century.

106 Since M. France wrote these words, the images of the Christ have been removed from the French courts.

107 As evidence that M. Barrucand’s scheme for free bread deserves to be considered as something more than the Utopian ideal of a littérateur, it should be mentioned that the economist L. Auby advocated the same thing (winter of 1903-04) in as conservative an organ as the Annales Parlementaires.

108 Dubois-Dessaulle, while acting as a newspaper correspondent in Abyssinia in the spring of 1904, was assassinated by natives. He was a martyr to his conscientious belief that it is a crime to carry arms.

109 J.-H. Rosny is the signature of the Rosny brothers, who have to be treated as one person in their relations to thought and literature.

110 Several of the persons here named are also writers of fiction or poetry.

111 Lately deceased.

112 Lately deceased.

113 This title may perhaps be paraphrased by the American colloquialism “Out of It.”

114 Henri Fouquier, an older conservative journalist (recently deceased), of so much distinction that he was considered a possible Academician, published about this time an article in the XIXe Siècle in which he ridiculed the blowing up of the house of the bourgeois as an act devoid of common sense, but declared comprehensible a desire to blow up the Chamber of Deputies, the Prefecture of Police, or the Palace of the President.

115 “I surely have the right,” he said, “to quit the theatre when the piece becomes odious to me, and even to slam the doors behind me in going out, at the risk of troubling the tranquillity of those who are satisfied.”

116 Author of Démolissons and De Mazas à Jérusalem.

117 On the occasion of this lecture Xavier Privas was assisted by an actor and an actress who recited appropriate poems and by the chansonnier Trimouillat. The hall was entirely without light except for a single lamp before the lecturer. In the accompanying illustration the standing figure is Trimouillat.

118 A translation of this play has been successfully produced in America (1904) under the title Business is Business.

119 La Cage is well known, nevertheless, since it is given several private representations every season.

120 Forbidden by the censorship, but a favourite at the amateur theatricals of the anarchistic groups.

121 Under the ban of the censorship from 1891 to 1900.

122 Forbidden by the censorship, but given a representation—by invitation—at which literary and artistic Paris was fully represented.

123 Prohibited by the censorship at the time it was written. The prohibition was removed in the winter of 1904.

124 No notice is taken here of Richepin as a writer of romances.

125 Technically, “d’avoir commis une provocation directe au crime de meurtre, laquelle provocation, non suivie d’effet, avait pour but un acte de propagande anarchiste.”

126 The court in detaching this violent passage from its philosophical and artistic setting made Tailhade’s offence appear much graver than it really was.

127 “What I have had especially in view has been to serve the cause of progress, of knowledge; that is to say, the Revolution,” wrote the editor of Le Décadent.

128 The minor French poets are so little known in England and America that it would be superfluous to mention by name the members of these bizarre coteries.

129 The Magiques, Romanistes, and Magnificistes are possible exceptions. But the Magiques possessed at one time such an unquiet spirit as Paul Adam, and the Magnificistes oppose the tyranny of science and magnify “les êtres.” The Romanistes, it is true, accept relatively regular poetic forms, but they attack the Christian church and admit the destruction of nationality. The union of the Latin peoples, which they advocate, they regard simply as an intermediate step preparatory to the union of the whole human race.

130 Meunier, who is primarily a sculptor, is a Belgian; but his artistic career has been sufficiently identified with Paris to warrant his introduction here.

131 Deceased.

132 See Chapter XVI.

133 Dagnan-Bouveret may have a religious purpose, but scarcely a humanitarian one.

134 The French word dessinateur is currently applied to illustrators, freehand draughtsmen, and lithographic sketch artists; in fact, to all workers in black and white, and even to certain workers in colour for purposes of reproduction. It is used above because there seems to be no single English word equally inclusive. No hard-and-fast distinction is made here between the dessinateurs who are primarily caricaturists and those who are not.

135 Willette, usually classed as a revolutionary socialist, is said by his intimates to have been a Bonapartist always at heart. However this may be, there is no necessary conflict between Bonapartism and the revolutionary ardour which Willette has displayed too often and too unequivocally to admit of any misunderstanding regarding his attitude towards the actual condition of things.

136 M. Bérenger, familiarly known as Père-la-Pudeur, is an uncompromising censor of public morals.

137 Steinlen is also a painter, but his works in this field, with the exception of certain fascinating studies of cats, are little known outside the circle of his friends, and are not equal to his drawings.

138 Recently deceased.

139 L’assiette au beurre = the plate of butter. To have an assiette au beurre is to belong to the wealthy; that is, to be able to eat butter on one’s bread (or as the French more often say) on one’s spinach.

140 The artistic merit of the Assiette au Beurre has sadly fallen off of late.

141 Even these have made important concessions, as did Verdi in Italy.

142 Produced at the Grand Opéra.

143 Béranger.

144 Compare the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel.