Monday, 3 October 2011

Ferdinand who??

A two-volume novel, Geoffroy Rudel, published in 1837, announced the arrival on the French literary scene of Ferdinand Dugué, who became best known as a dramatist (William Shakespeare and Le juif de Venise being his most famous plays).

Well, 'famous' is a relative term. Wikipedia has nothing about Dugué; no survey of 19th-century French literature I've come across even mentions him. And yet, judging by a rather fawning article in La Presse in 1913 (when Dugué had just turned 99!), he could be described as 'the doyen of our playwrights ... and probably of all the playwrights in the world' without, one assumes, prompting guffaws from the reader.

An advert in the same paper, back in 1838, described Geoffroy Rudel as '
a book that everyone can read and everyone can love'. It goes on:
Readers ... will find charming characters and poetry, and a tight plot leading through vivid and moving scenes to a dénouemement of great originality.
How greatly original? Geoffroy pulls through and marries the princess? Maybe I'll translate and upload a few choice passages in due course.

No mistaking the tradition Dugué writes in, though; when asked in 1913 which poets he most admired on the contemporary scene, he replied 'Jean Richepin most of all... then Edmond Rostand'.

Dugué's Geoffroy Rudel is now, inevitably, available online at the Internet Archive: Volume One and Volume Two.

The articles from La Presse (of which there are several more, and a few on La Princesse Lointaine, too) can be found at the Gallica digital library, a Bibliothèque nationale de France joint.

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