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trying to represent the man who wrote the extraordinary books grouped around A Rebours and En Route, I find myself carried back to the decline of the Latin world. I recall those restless Africans who were drawn into the vortex of decadent Rome, who absorbed its corruptions with all the barbaric fervour of their race, and then with a more natural impetus of that youthful fervour threw themselves into the young current of Christianity, yet retaining in their flesh the brand of an exotic culture. Tertullian, Augustine, and the rest gained much of their power, as well as their charm, because they incarnated a fantastic mingling of youth and age, of decayed Latinity, of tumultuously youthful Christianity. Huysmans, too, incarnates the old and the new, but with a curious, a very vital difference. Today the roles are reversed; it is another culture that is now young, with its aspirations after human perfection and social solidarity, while Christianity has exchanged the robust beauty of youth for the subtler beauty of age. "The most perfect analogy to our time which I can find," wrote Renan to his sister amid the tumults of Paris in 1848, a few weeks after Huysmans had been born in the same city, "is the moment when Christianity and paganism stood face to face." Huysmans had wandered from ancestral haunts of mediaeval peace into the forefront of the struggles of our day, bringing the clear, refined perceptions of old culture to the intensest vision of the modern world yet attained, but never at rest, never once grasping except on the purely aesthetic side the significance of the new age, always haunted by the memory of the past and perpetually feeling his way back to what seems to him the home of hb soul. The fervent seeker of those early days, indeed, but a
still retained their acquired Roman and so that fantastic style which could not be shaken off. Where the Meuse approaches the Rhine valley we find the home of the men who. Every man is for Huys- of genius a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. has been the first of the race to use the pen instead of the brush. Yet we can by no means altogether account mans by race and environment. always missing something. On the side of art the Church had found its chief builders in the men of these valleys. perfection of finish. He has ever been seeking the satisfaction he had missed. though there chanced to be a sculptor even along this line. held by a fascination which is more than half repulsion. while the last of them left Breda to take up his domicile in Paris. and even on the spiritual side also. one might be tempted to say that it is strictly the formula of this complex and interesting personality. created painting and the arts that are grouped around painting. sometimes in the refined Thebaid of his own visions. Coming on the maternal side from an ordinary Parisian bourgeois stock. on the paternal side he belongs to an alien aristocFrom father to son his ancestors were racy of art. Huysmans will surely retain to the last the tincture of Parisian modernity. of figures characters of "veracity of imitation. Cornelius Huysmans. seeing everything as it were at a different angle. he scarcely knows what. Yet as those early Africans instincts. for here is the northern home of mysticism. Joris Karl." which their historian finds in the painters of his land from the fourteenth century onwards. almost alone in the north. Here his son. sometimes in the aesthetic vision of common things. Their latest child has fixed his attention on the feverish activities of Paris with the concentrated gaze of a stranger in a strange land. emphasis of character. at length more joyfully in the survivals of mediaeval mysticism. jewel-like richness of colour. and evolved religious music. yet retaining precisely those painters.VI INTRODUCTION This is scarcely a mere impression. unlike other men. still honourably in our public galleries. . whom at least one.
Technically. without any emphasis or gesture. always masterly in individuality. it may be said that the power of A RebouTs lies in the fact that here for the first time Huysmans has succeeded in uniting the two lines of his literary development. The Trocadero is not a beautiful building. He talked in low and even tones. made. In their union the two streams attain a new power and more intimately personal note. And throughout all his books until almost the last "I'eternelle betise de I'humanite" is the ever-recurring refrain. and they express his unmen and things. human imbecility was the burden of nearly all that he said. luminous eyes. never eagerly. Des Esseintes. his disgust for Huysmans' books.INTRODUCTION Vll mirroring the world in his mind as in those concave or convex mirrors which elongate or abbreviate absurdly all who approach them. foretells the progress he was afterward to make. yet patient. reminded one of Baudelaire's portraits. may possibly . the austere analysis in the novels of commonplace things mostly alien to the writer. In 1889 A RebouTS appeared. while a faint twinkle of amused wonderment lit up his eyes. and the freer elaboration in the prose-poems of his own more intimate personal impressions. it must ever remain the central work in which he has most powerfully concentrated his whole It sums up the progress he had already vision of life. not addressing any special person. Not perhaps his greatest achievement. half-amused. with the sensitive. His face. in a style that is always individual. a shuddering disgust. No one ever had a keener sense of the distressing absurdity of human affairs than Huysmans. but to no one else probably has it appeared as an old hag lying on her back and elevating her spindle shanks towards the sky. the face of a resigned and benevolent Mephistopheles who has discovered the absurdity of the Divine order but has no wish to make an improper use of his discovery. the hero of this book. Such images of men's works and ways abound in affected vision of life. I can well recall an evening spent some years ago in Huysmans' company.
as the representative of his author's hyperaesthetic experience of the world and the mouthpiece of his most personal judgments. to soothe his fantasy and to gratify his complex aesthetic sensations. he possesses a row of little barrels of liqueurs so arranged that he can blend in infinite variety the contents of this instrument. but in the main he was cer- tainly created by Huysmans' own brain. his love of reading and contemplation. Des Esseintes retires for a season from Paris to the solitude of his country house at Fontenay. inlaid with precious stones. The finest pictures of Gustave Moreau hang on the walls. and at the urgent bidding of his doctor Des Esseintes returns to the society of his abhorred fellow-beings in Paris. and considers that the pleasures of smell are equal to those of sight or sound." "He who carries his own most intimate emotions to — — . Lord. on the sceptic who desires to believe. art ends with a sudden solemn invocation that is surprisingly tremendous: "Take pity. religion. himself opening the dyke that admitted the "waves of human mediocrity" to engulf his refuge. literature. of neuralgia and dyspepsia. he delights in all those exotic plants which reveal Nature's most unnatural freaks he is a sensitive amateur of perfumes. on the Christian who doubts. fitted up.viii INTRODUCTION at have been a few points suggested by a much less in- teresting real personage in contemporary Paris. his "mouth-organ" he calls it. on the convict of life who embarks alone. The victim of over-wrought nerves. and the strange He has a tortoise curiously visions of Odilon Redon. But the solitary pleasures of this palace of art only increase the nervous strain he is suffering from. and which he has produce harmonies which seem to him comparable to those yielded by a musical orchestra. with the fantastic engravings of Luyken. And this wonderful confession of aesthetic faith with its long series of deliberately searching and decisive aflSrmations on life. in the night beneath a sky no longer lit by the consoling beacons of ancient faith. on almost cloistral methods. the Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac.
men:" The aesthetic is attitude towards art which A Rebours i I I Decadence in art. classic style. a decadent style is only such in relation It is simply a further development of to a classic style. and world-wide as art itself. that called commonly decadent. not only for the light which it casts on that movement. which is the key to all the arts. In architecture. the second is beautiful becausethe whole is subordinated to the parts. to become in its Byzantine developments com- . Huysmans' attitude towards his readers was somewhat like that of Thoreau. but upon every similar period of acute aesthetic perception in the past. ' early prose-writers Sir Thomas Browne represents thetype of decadence in style. Technically. it yet sums up a movement which has scarcely now worked itself out. though a fairly simple phenomenon. audaciously independent. who spoke with lofty disdain of such writers as "would fain have one reader before they die. Intensely personal. more especially as manifested in literature." As he has since remarked.INTRODUCTION their highest point series of ix in file of a long becomes the first Huysmans. Among our own illuminates. Huysmans wrote A Rebours for a dozen persons. a further specialization. having become heterogeneous. is still so ill understood that it may be worth while to discuss briefly its precise nature. Swift's prose is classic. Hume and Gibbon are classic. in Spencerian phraseology.. and was himself more surprised than any one at the wide interest it evoked. Emerson and Carlyle decadent.. the homogeneous. we see the distinction between the classic and the decadent visibly demonstrated. Pater's decadent. Roman architecture is classic. We may read it and re-read. But to be a leader of men one must turn one's back on men. Certain Yet that interest was no accident. The first is beautiful because the parts are subordinated to the whole. that saying is peculiarly true of aesthetic ideals of the latter half of the nineteenth century are more quintessentially expressed in A Rebours than in any other book.
being more be earlier closely related to the ends of utility. the later manner depreciates the importance of — the whole for the benefit of its parts. The word "corruption" used in a precise and technical sense to indicate the breaking up of the whole for the serves also to indicate a period or benefit of its parts manner of decadence in art. for here the moralist feels that surely he is on safe ground. INTRODUCTION and St. while later Gothic. but of saints and martyrs. and decadent Rome produces an Antoninus as well as a Heliogabalus. If we walk down a real hill we do not feel that we com- mit a more wicked act than when we walked up it. and strives after those virtues which the whole may best express. and this ag- grandizement of the individual really produces an even greater amount of energy. The individual has gained more than the community has lost. falling of the slopes of a rhythmic curve between these two classic and decadent extremes. But as Nietzche. is again decadent. This makes confusion worse. and classic manner —for In each case the ear- the classic manner. No doubt . is strictly classic in the highest degree because it shows an absolute subordination of detail to the bold harmonies of structure. An age of social decadence is not only the age of sinners and degenerates. with his usual acuteness in cutting at the roof of vulgar prejudice. has well remarked (in Die Frohliche Wissenschaft) even as regards what is called the period of "corruption" in the evolution of societies. we are apt to overlook the fact that the energy which in more primitive times marked the operations of the community as a whole has now simply been — — . But if it is a figurative hill then we view Hell at the bottom. again. Decadence suggests to us going down. Mark's is the perfected type of decadence in art. transferred to the individuals themselves. pure early Gothic. falling. must always subordinate the parts to the whole. grown weary of the commonplaces of structure and predominantly interested in beauty of lier detail. decay.X pletely decadent. and strives after All art is the rising and the virtues of individuality.
indeed. and other writers in prose and verse of the early Christian Church. So far as I can make out. adding to it a note concerning the late Latin decadence regarded as "the supreme sigh of a vigorous person already transformed and prepared for the spiritual life." But the best early statement of the meaning of decadence in style though doubtless inspired by Baudelaire was furnished by Gautier in 1868 in the course of the essay on Baudelaire which is probably the most interesting piece of criticism he ever achieved. and correct as that style always remains. clear. He himself wrote a lovepoem in rhymed Latin verse. Tertullian. pure. as well as in his literary prefer- He was a good Latinist and his favourite Latin authors were Apuleius. it is to the profound and penetrating genius of Baudelaire that we owe the first clear apprehension of the legitimate part which decadence plays in literature. Whitman are for the most part in the technical sense de- — — cadents. We may trace it. "In this marvellous tongue. own style. "solecism and barbarism seem to me to render the forced negligences of a passion which forgets itself and mocks at rules. an age of individualism is usually regarded sis an age of artistic decadence. The passage is long." and specially apt to express passion as the modern world feels it. Rome supplies the first clear types of classic and decadent literature. and the small group of recent French writers to whom the term has been more specifically applied were for the most part peculiarly attracted by later Latin literature. Hawthorne. but so precise and accurate that it must here in part be quoted: "The poet of the Fleurs du Mai loved what is improperly — — . Saint Augustine.INTRODUCTION social "corruption" xi go and literary "corruption" tend to together. and we may note that the chief literary artists of America Poe. in his ences. one pole of the magnet at the opposite end of which are Catullus and his band." he added. Petronius. Juvenal. Words taken in a new meaning reveal the charming awkwardness of the northern barbarian kneeling before the Roman beauty.
for it expresses new ideas in new forms. constantly pushingjback jlie^boundanes of speech. so to speak. no easything. already marbled with the greenness of decomposition. besides. the last forms of Greek art falling into deliquescence. One may well imagine that the fourteen hundred words of the Racinian vocabulary scarcely suffice the author who imdertakes the laborious task of rendering ideas and things in their infinite complexity and multiple colouration. borrowing from all the technical vocabularies. continued the exposition of the theory of decadence. struggling to render what is most inexpressible in thought. It is.. _gamy. again in an essay on Baudelaire (Essais de Psychologic Comtemporaine) . taking color from all palettes and notes from all key-boards. and developed unknown wants in men. A style ." Some fifteen years later. One may recall in this connection the language of the later Roman Empire. Such indeed is the necessary and inevitable idiom of peoples and civilizations in which factitious life has replaced natural life. Bourget. elaborating the analogy to the social organism which enters the state of decadence as soon as the individual life of the parts is no longer subordinated to the whole. and the strange hallucinations of the obsession which is turning to madness. full of shades and of research. and in words which have not yet been heard.. the dying confessions of passion grown depraved. "A similar law governs the development and decadence of that other organism which we call language. and which is nothing else but art arrived at that point of extreme maturity yielded by the slanting suns of aged civilizations: an ingenious complicated style. summoned to final expression and driven to its last hiding-place. listening to translate the subtle confidence of neurosis. Unlike the classic style it admits shadow. this style disdained of pedants. The style of decadence is the ultimate utterance of the Word. and the complicated refinements of the Byzantine School. and. what is vague and most elusive in the outlines of form.xii INTRODUCTION called the style of decadence.
always retained in his own style much of what is best in the classic manner. has carried both the theory and the practice of decadence in style to the farthest point. Huysmans' vocabulary is vast. down the worm eaten staircase of terrified Syntax." in the words of one critic. Verlaine. putreseencfi. Huysmans." It was at this to time (about 1884) that the term "decadent" seems first have been applied by Barres and others to the group of which Verlaine. and his work was not bound up with any theory. and the phrase to give place to the independence of the word. But Huysmans. neither accepting nor rejecting them." but a heart-felt pulse of emotion is restrained beneath the sombre and extravagant magnificence of this 5tyle. deliberate and relentless. and imparts at the best that modulated surge of life which only the great masters can control. his images. indeed. — — Havelock Ellis. . with the intellectual passion of the pioneer in art. always daring.INTRODUCTION Xlll of decadence is one in which the unity of the book is decomposed to give place to the independence of the page. who. In practice he goes beyond Baudelaire. was for the most part indifferent to labels. Printed through the courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company. and in so far as it signified an ardent and elaborate search for perfection of detail teyond that attained by Parnassian classicality it was tolerated or accepted. "by the hair or by the feet. in which the page is decomposed to give place to the independence of the phrase. Mallarme were the most distinguished members. however enamoured he may have been of what he called the phosphoreacenQe_of. "dragged. whether remote or familiar.
of their There were no descendants and a wide breach existed in the series of the faces of this race. their fierce moustaches and the chests whose deep curves filled the enormous shells of their cuirasses. in- In this representation of one of the most of a sluggish timate friends of the Due d'Epernon and the Marquis d'O. to judge by the various portraits preserved in the Chateau de Lourps. mysterious head with haggard and gaunt features. Only one painting served as a link to connect the past and present a crafty. Closely arrayed. the ravages and . a — painted neck rising stiffly from the fluted ruff. the hair overspread with pearls. had originally been a family of stern stalwart troopers and cavalry men.JHE Floressas Des Esseintes. side by side. These were the portraits ancestors. they starone with the fixed gaze of their eyes. in the old frames which tled their broad shoulders filled. cheekbones punctuated with a comma of paint.
the breakers of adolescence. such strength as remained. eyes. thanks to fresh air and careful He grew stronger. from whom he had inherited the pointed. he yet succeeded in crossing attention. remarkably fair beard and an ambiguous expression. cold. .16 AGAINST THE GRAIN impoverished constitution were already noticeable. By a singular. nervous young man of thirty. Menaced with scrofula and afflicted with re- lentless fevers. There was only one living scion of this family which had once been so numerous that it had occupied all the territories of the Ile-deFrance and La Brie. with hollow cheeks. atavistic reversion. steel-blue thin nose and delicate hands. at once weary and cunning. was obvious that the decadence of this family had followed an unvarying course. His childhood had been an unhappy one. using up. As if to conclude the work of long years. the Des Esseintes had intermarried for two centuries. the last descendant resembled the old grandsire. a straight. The efifemination of the males had continued It with a quickened tempo. The Due Jean was a slender. in such consanguineous unions.
who his usually resided in He recalled mother as she lay motionless in a dim room of the Chateau de Lourps. At first the Fathers pampered the lad whose intelligence astonished them. He retained but a vague memory of his parents and felt neither affection nor gratitude for them. and he remembered those lifeless interviews when his parents sat face to face in front of a round table faintly lit by a lamp with a wide. He . Paris. halting words would be exchanged between them in the gloom and then the indifferent due would depart to meet the first train back to Paris. Jean's life at the Jesuit school. and his father of some uncertain malady. died of anaemia. a tall. lowhanging shade. The husband and wife would meet on rare occasions. He hardly knew his father. His mother. was more pleasant. But despite their efforts. they could not induce him to concen- trate on studies requiring discipline.AGAINST THE GRAIN overcame 17 the languors of chlorosis and reached his full development. for the duchesse could not endure light or sound without being seized with a fit of nervousness. taciturn woman. Des Esseintes was then sev- enteen years of age. where he was sent to study. A few. pale.
.. . study hard. — The moment would again become absorbed in the artificial night with which the heavily curtained windows enshrouded after she the room. Left to himself." —and he was gone. a village planted heap of cottages capped with thatch strewn with tufts of senat the foot of the hills. but his presence could not seduce his mother from her reveries. he nibbled at various books and was precociously brilliant in Latin. "How are you.be good. to master the elements of the little His family gave him his father visited heed. her gaze would rest on him for a moment with a sad smile and that was all. absolutely incapable of words. . It was his supreme delight to wander down the little valley to Jutigny. She scarcely noticed him. showed no aptitude for living lan- guages and promptly proved himself a dunce when obliged sciences. when she did. a tiny . the boy delved into books on rainy days and roamed about the countryside on servants The pleasant afternoons.18 AGAINST THE GRAIN On was construing two Greek the contrary. Sometimes him at school.. were old and dull. tions at the The lad passed the summer vaca- Chateau de Lourps..
and as his family was rich and apparently careless of his future. undeveloped ideas took on form. They knew that this student would never contribute to the glory of their order. Immersed in solitude. as far as the eye could reach. they soon renounced . There. on the other side. his mind grew sharp. blending in the distance with the blue sky. to his masters After each vacation.AGAINST THE GRAIN green and clumps of moss. he would dream or read far into the night. accustomed by their profession to plumb souls to their depths. rose the churches and tower of Provins which seemed to tremble in the golden dust of the air. In the open 19 fields. Jean returned more reflective and headstrong. lay the Seine valley. By protracted con- templation of the same thoughts. Subtle and observant. high up. These changes did not escape them. Sometimes he went as far as the peat-bogs. his vague. under the shadow of high ricks. they were fully aware of his unresponsiveness to their teachings. near the horizon. or climbed wind-swept hillsides affording magnificent views. to the green and black hamlet of Longueville. below to one side. listening to the hollow splashing of the mills and inhaling the fresh breeze from Voulzie. he would lie.
The Comte de Montchevrel.20 AGAINST THE GRAIN him take their school offered. lived in perfect contentment. Thus he scarcely priests. they permitted him to pursue whatever studies pleased him and to neglect the others. his faith since. As a last resort. him for the relig- in spite of their efforts. But soon the time came when he must quit the Jesuit institution. remained languid. feeling He when yoke of the continued his Latin and French the parental studies the whim seized him and. they did the idea of having fessions not even think of training ious orders. in the library bequeathed by his grand-uncle. his cousin and guar- . through prudence and fear of the harm he might effect. being loath to antagonize this bold and independent spirit by the quibblings of the lay school assistants. Dom Prosper. begun at the Chateau de Lourps. He attained his majority and became master of his fortune. the old prior of the regular canons of Saint- Ruf. up any of the proAlthough he willingly discussed with them those theological doctrines which intrigued his fancy by their subtleties and hair-splittings. al- though theology did not figure in his schedule. he finished his apprenticeship in this science.
idleness or politeness. crazy. for there was no possible point of contact between these two men. appeared to Des Esseintes as catarrhal. old as antiquity would gossip of quarterings of the noble arms. placed in his hands the title to his wealth. There was no intimacy between them. After a few visits with such relatives.AGAINST THE GRAIN 21 dian. the other old. Impelled by curiosity. for these tedious triflers whose eyes were forever turned towards a hazy Canaan. A fleur de lis seemed the sole imprint on the soft pap of their brains. these last branches of feudal races. an imaginary Palestine. heraldic moons and anachronistic ceremonies. these descendants of ancient. old men repeating inanities and time-worn phrases. itself. Des Esseintes sometimes visited the Montchevrel family and spent some dull evenings in their Rue de la Chaise mansion where the ladies. proved even more shallow and insignificant than the dowagers. The youth felt an unutterable pity for these mummies buried in their elaborate hypogeums of wainscoting and grotto work. courageous knights. he resolved never again to set foot in their homes. The men. . the one young. gathered around whist tables. regardless of invitations or reproaches.
He gradually forsook them to make the . Gay young men dazzled by operettas and races. neither they played lansquenet and baccarat. were less hypocritical and much more courageous. quented the Catholic circles and concealed as criminal their amorous escapades. fops. They attended religious ser- vices. educated in the state col- leges or in the lycees. educated like himself in religious institutions. they were unintelligent. The other group. pious creatures upon society. preserved the special marks fre- of this training.22 AGAINST THE GRAIN Then he began to seek out the young men of his own age and set. acquiescent who had tried the patience of their professors. Yet these professors were pleased to have bestowed such docile. but they were more interesting nor less bigoted. all the tes felt pleasures enchanting to brainless After a year's experience. One group. stupid bores For the most part. received the sacrament on Easter. Des Esseinan overpowering weariness of this com- pany whose debaucheries seemed to him so unrefined. and culti- vated fools. facile and indiscriminate without any ardent reactions or excitement of nerves and blood. staked large fortunes on horses and cards.
proved disappointtheir rancorous ing. His contempt for humanity deepened. nor anticipate meeting a mind as keen ill as his among the writers and scholars. he was revolted by and in petty judgments. At the same time. Certainly. at ease and offended by the poverty of ideas given and received. He reached the conclusion that the world. could not expect com- panionship with an intelligence exulting in a studious decrepitude. in education. he could not and hope to' discover in others aspirations and aversions similar to his own. their dreary discussions which they judged the value of a book by the number of editions it had passed and by the profits acquired. Irritated. the doctrinaires of the bourgeoisie. in whom he thought he might find more interest and feel more at ease. who claimed every might stifle the opinions of were greedy and shameless puritans whom. for the most part. This. people liberty that they others. their conversation as obvious as a church door. he esteemed inferior to the corner shoemaker. was composed of scoundrels imbeciles. he noticed that the free thinkers. too. he became like those people described by Nicole .AGAINST THE GRAIN 23 acquaintance of literary men.
a motionless ark which to seek refuge from the unending stupidity. he had haunted the green rooms. a comfortable desert. in addition to the natural stupidity he had come to expect of women. loved actresses and singers. woman. might have curbed had palled on him.24 those AGAINST THE GRAIN who are always melancholy. Already. endured. his contempt. Finally. but that. deluge of human A He single passion. tipsy women would unfasten their clothing and strike their heads against the tables. and style. at dessert. satiated and weary of this monotonous extravagance and the sameness of their caresses. hop- . the maddening vanity of female strolling players. Associating with country squires. he had plunged into the foul depths. he had taken part in their lavish suppers where. He would fly into a rage when he read the patriotic and social balderdash retailed daily in the news- would exaggerate the significance of the plaudits which a sovereign public always reserves for works deficient in ideas and papers. had taken to carnal repasts with the eager- ness of a crotchety man affected with a deto praved appetite and given sudden hungers. too. he was dreaming of a refined in soli- tude. whose taste is quickly dulled and surfeited.
but he was lonely. his nervous system collapsed. sobered. tired. but his brain soon became over-excited. imploring an end to his life which the cowardice of his flesh prevented him from physicians The whom consummating. crave coarse and vile foods. his hand. Yet he persisted in his excesses and returned to the perilous embraces of accomplished mistresses. It was high time to check his excesses and renounce those pursuits which were dissipating his reserve of strength! For a while he was at peace. Once more he was toying with the idea of . Like those young girls who. still firm when it seized a heavy object. the back of his neck grew sensitive. in the grip of puberty. he dreamed of and practiced perverse This was the end! As loves and pleasures. as though completely surrendering to fatigue. an unconquerable ennui oppressed him. But his health failed. Whatever he attempted proved vain. he consulted frightened him.AGAINST THE GRAIN his desires 25 ing by the contrast of squalid misery to revive and stimulate his deadened senses. his senses fell into a lethargy and impotence threatened him. trembled when it held a tiny glass. though satisfied with having exhausted everything. He recovered.
which he no longer visited and where he left no memory or regret behind. due to little street an unreliable railroad passing by at the end of the town.26 AGAINST THE GRAIN becoming a recluse. of living in some hushed retreat where the turmoil of life would be muffled It to prevent with straw any sound from reaching invalids. In this His dream was little real- ized! country place so violated by Parisians. spent. He liquidated his other holdings. and to the cars which . Chateau de Lourps. The conas in those streets covered — dition of his finances terrified him. from any neighbors. Exploring the suburbs of the capital. he found a place for sale at the top of Fontenaydecided to sell the He aux-Roses. bought government bonds and in this way drew an annual interest of fifty thousand francs. invested in land. he could be certain of seclusion. in addition. he reserved a sum of money which he meant to use in buying and furnishing the house where he proposed to enjoy a perfect repose. in a secluded section near the far fort. The difficulty of reaching the place. and the re- mainder. the greater part of his patrimony. produced a ridiculously small income. was time to make up his mind. in acts of folly He had and in drinking bouts.
. sufficiently far away to to prevent the Parisian throngs from reaching him. seeing that it is only the impossible. one day. the house he the unachievable that arouses desire. confirm him in not entirely to return to And he felt that in closing the way. dismissed his servants. 27 reas- He could picture himself alone on the bluff. his plans. He put masons to work on had acquired. Then. and yet near enough to the capital his solitude.AGAINST THE GRAIN came and went sured him. there was a chance that he would not be assailed by a wish society. at irregular intervals. informing no one of he quickly disposed of his old furniand left without giving the concierge any address. ture.
Japanese He camphor-wood. what meditations he before turning over surrendered himself his house to the upholsterers! had long been a connoisseur in the sinIn the cerities and evasions of color-tones. as far as the eye could reach. reflecting. whole series of rose boudoirs. days when he had entertained women at his home. to. to comb the city in his search for the things he wanted to buy. had been loved to celebrated among the women who . What care he took. amid daintily carved furniture of pale. under Indian rose-tinted delicately in the a sort of pavillion of satin. he had created a boudoir where. the silent repose of his Fontenay He was obliged to go to Paris again. This room. each of whose sides was lined with mirrors that echoed each other all along the walls.jORE than two months passed before in Des Esseintes could bury himself abode. the flesh would color borrowed lights of the silken hangings.
a need of avenging the sad years he had endured. more personal and perverse pleasures which he enjoyed in these languorous surroundings. repressed youth. a mad wish to sully the . there were other. pleasures which in some way stimulated memories of his past pains and dead ennuis. the wretchedness of his suffering.AGAINST THE GRAIN immerse their nudity in this bath of 29 warm made fragrant with the odor of mint emanating from the exotic wood of the carnation. he had suspended from the ceiling a small silver-wired cage where a captive cricket sang as if in the ashes of the chimneys of the Chateau de Lourps. a tumult arose in his soul. — As a souvenir of the hated days of his child- hood. this painted atmosphere which gave new color to faces grown dull and withered by the use of ceruse and by nights of dissipation. Aside from the sensual delights for which he had designed this chamber. he lived over again the silent evenings spent near his mother. to reality. to the boudoir. And then. furniture. while luptuousness of the caressed. woman he yielded to the vohe mec hanica lly whose words or laughter tore him from his revery and rudely recalled him to the moment. Listening to the sound he had so often heard before.
di- viding his salon into a series of alcoves hung with varied tapestries to relate by a subtle analogy. a lofty high room intended for the reception of his tradesmen. too. set the cage lightly in motion and watched it endlessly reflected in the play of the mirrors. the yellow skies. a furious desire to pant on cushions of flesh. he took refuge in this retreat. delicate or barbaric colors to the character of the Latin or French books he loved. . to drain to their last dregs the most violent of recollections of his family carnal vices. it nec- Des Esseintes had designed marvelously strange furnishings. And he would seclude himself in turn in the particular recess whose decor seemed best to his caprice of the correspond with the very essence of the work moment induced him to read. He had constructed. In the days when he had deemed essary to affect singularity. oppressed him. On rainy autumnal days when melancholy when a hatred of his home. filling the house with a roseit seemed to his colored waltz. by a vague harmony of joyous or sombre. muddy until dazed eyes that the cage no longer stirred. the macadam clouds assailed him. but that the boudoir reeled and turned.30 AGAINST THE GRAIN by shameful action.
. hung in black and opening on the transformed garden with its ash- powdered walks. He acquired the reputation of an eccentric. adorned with baskets of violets and scabiouses. its little pool now bordered with basalt and filled with ink. In the dining room. a Parma bouquet in the opening of his shirt. lit by candelabra from which green flames blazed. and by chandeliers from which wax tapers flared. the dinner had been served on a table draped in black. and gold-embroidered waistcoats. one of which. a revival of the eighteenth century. which he enhanced by wearing costumes of white velvet. while from a pulpit he preached to them a sermon on dandyism. celebrating the most futile of his misadventures. its clumps of cypresses and pines. by inserting. adjuring his bootmakers and tailors implicitly to obey his briefs in the matter of style. by giving famous dinners to men of letters. in place of a cravat. was a funeral repast.AGAINST THE GRAIN Here they were ushered in 31 and seated alongside each other in church pews. threatening them with pecuniary excommunication if they failed to follow to the letter the instructions contained in his monitories and bulls.
But he was done with those extravagances in which he had once gloried. grape preserves. out of dark glasses. he was filled with a contempt for those juvenile displays. wines from Limagnes. puddings. nectarines. caviar. for his own pleasure. The farewell dinner to a temporarily dead ^viri|lity this was what he had writteiti on invitation cards designed like bereavement — notices. Today. chocolate cream. served the guests. game with sauces that were the color of licorice and blacking. Roussillon. the appointments of his bizarre chambers. an interior that should be comfortable although . and after the coffee and walnut brandy had partaken of kvas and porter and stout. mulberries and black-heart cherries. and no longer for the astonishment of others. they had sipped. ripe Turkish olives. Tenedos. slippers nude negresses. smoked Frankfort black pudding. Out of black-edged plates they had drunk turtle soup and eaten Russian rye bread. the singular apparel.32 AGAINST THE GRAIN To the sound of funeral marches played by a concealed orchestra. silver wearing and stockings of cloth with patterns of tears. self He contented him- with planning. Val de Penas and Porto. truffle gravy.
for it was at night that he lived. like cobalt or indigo. When fitted the Fontenay house was to in readiness. up by an all that architect according to his plans. silent. when remained was determine the color scheme. it . the only patch of light amid the shadow-haunted. they perceive that everything about them dead. sleeping houses. extinguished. with building a calm retreat to serve the needs of his future solitude. one by one. feeling more completely alone then. He desired colors whose expressiveness would be displayed in the artificial light of lamps. He also experienced a peculiar pleasure in being in a richly illuminated room. he selected the colors. he again devoted himself to long speculations. Blue inclines to a false green by candle light: if it is dark. This was a form of enjoyment in which perhaps entered an element of vanity. Slowly. drawing is curtains.AGAINST THE GRAIN curious. that peculiar pleasure aside the known to window late workers when. 33 embellished in a rare style. To him it mattered not at all if they were lifeless or crude in daylight. feeling that only under the protective covering of darkness did the mind grow really animated and active.
bright. need to waste thought on the salmon. seemed useless employ this color. There remained. if like turquoise.34 AGAINST THE GRAIN if it is turns black. such white. then. it it turns grey. grows feeble and faded. These colors disposed of. yellow. he could get an effect of violet on his hangings. but the light banishes their blues and brings out their yel- lows in tones that have a false and undecided quality. Besides. for by using a certain amount of santonin. cinnabar or lacquer. the paler greens. There could be no question of making it the dominant note of a room unless it were blended with some other color. only the red in its it ground —and what holds to a red! a viscous red like it the lees of wine. the maize and rose colors whose feminine associations oppose all ideas of isolation No need to consider the violet which is completely 1 No neutralized at night. only three mained: red. orange. it has the same properties as blue and merges into black. as for deep emperor or myrtle. grey loses Iron grey always frowns and is heavy. it is soft. pearl its blue and changes to a muddy is lifeless and cold. such as as peacock. brown green. re- .
he preferred orange. mauve. only to people with sensitive pupils. who are red- and incisive. into pure violets and Those energetic persons. blooded. ignoring the bourgeoisie. on the contrary. whose eyes are insensible to the pomp and splendor of strong. strong males who fling themselves unthinkingly into the affair of the moment.AGAINST THE GRAIN 35 Of these. vibrant tones and devoting himself . the generality of men whose gross retinas are capable of perceiving neither the cadence peculiar to each color nor the mysterious charm of their nuances of light and shade. the plethoric. he was convinced that the eyes of those the ideal and among them who dream of demand illusions are generally its caressed by blue and lilac derivatives. provided always that these colors remain soft and do not overstep the bounds where they lose their personalities by being transformed frank greys. Disregarding entirely. and pearl grey. . refined by literature and art. thus by his own example confirming the truth of a theory which he declared had almost mathematical correctness the theory that a harmony exists — between the sensual nature of a truly artistic individual and the color which most vividly impresses him.
but unquestionable difficulIf red and yellow are heightties still arose. oriental stuffs He and rugs which have become cheapened and ordinary. finally decided to with coarse-grained bind his walls. orange. He books. to a all their nuances by candlelight. the clashing generally delight in the bold gleams of yel- lows and them. These preliminaries completed. like morocco. the eyes of hectic and overexcited creatures have a predilection toward that irritating and morbid color with its fictitious splendors. with . cymbals of ver- milions and chromes that blind and intoxicate But the eyes of enfeebled and nervous persons whose sensual appetites crave highly seasoned foods. there could be no question about Des Esseintes' choice. ened by light. it seemed to him. which often ignite and turns to nasturtium. but would stand every test required of it. discovering a shade which. the same does not always hold true of their seems to flaming red. its acid fevers —orange. he sought to refrain from studied using. would not lose its dominant tone. Thus. compound.36 AGAINST THE GRAIN reds. for his study at least. now that rich merchants can easily pick them up at auctions or shops.
In the center was a wide opening resembling an immense bull's eye encased in orange skin a circle of the firmament worked out on a background of king blue silk on which were woven silver seraphim with outstretched wings. The setting was complete. a the wainscoting was finished. under a powerful When the digo. he had moulding and high plinths painted in inlacquered indigo like that which coachmakers employ for carriage panels. The wainscoting preserved its blue which seemed sustained and warmed by the And the orange remained pure. The ceiling. At night the — room subsided into a restful. was also lined with morocco. slightly rounded. 37 polished by strong steel plates press. Des Esseintes was not deeply concerned about the furniture itself. He limited himself to these things. soothing har- mony. orange.AGAINST THE GRAIN Cape skin. strengthened and fanned as it was by the insistent breath of the blues. intending later on to hang a few drawings or paintings on the panels which remained bare. The only luxuries in the room were books and rare flowers. This material had long before been embroidered by the Cologne guild of weavers for an old cope. to place .
the sonnets . were draped with curtains cut from old stoles of dark and reddish gold neutralized by an almost dead terns the antiphonary and russet woven in the pattern. three works of Baudelaire copied on real vellum. stippled with fragments of gold-edged bottles. The windows whose blue fissured panes. one of those old lec- on which the deacon formerly placed which now supported one of the heavy folios of Du Cange's Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis. originally brought from the old Abbaye-au-Bois de Bievre. stood a marvelous church canon divided into three separate compartments delicately wrought like lace work. to install. It contained.38 AGAINST THE GRAIN book racks of ebony around the spread the pelts of wild beasts and shelves and walls. deep armchairs and an old chapel reading-desk of forged iron. with wonderful missal letters and splendid coloring: to the right and left. near a massive fifteenth century countingtable. under its glass frame. to the skins of blue fox on the floor. intercepted the view of the country and only permitted a faint light to enter. Between two gilded copper monstrances of Byzantine style. The mantel shelf was sumptuously draped with the remnant of a Florentine dalmatica.
Anywhere Out of the World n'importe ou. the prose poem entitled. of des La Mort — .AGAINST THE GRAIN bearing the titles 39 Amants and L'Ennemi. hors du monde. in the center.
He surrendered the second story to them. which had remained deserted and unfilled the of inhabited until its disposal. Des Es- seintes retained the two old domessteward who had tended his mother and offices and house porter at the Chateau de Lourps. having no communication with the outside world. They were accustomed to the regular life of hospital attendants hourly serving the patients their stipulated food silence of cloistral and drink. put sound mufflers along the well-oiled doors and covered their floor with heavy rugs so that he would never hear their footsteps live monks who overhead. forced them to wear heavy felt coverings over their shoes. . The man was assigned the task of keeping the house in order and of procuring provisions. to the rigid behind barred doors and windows. These servants he brought to Fontenay. the woman that of preparing the food.jFTER tics selling his effects.
lowered hood. windows. brought back memories of silent. matters were arranged in such wise that he would not be slept. town. to converse with them very Nevertheless. obliged to see or often. holy villages. The shadow of this headhim. when the day was drawing he break- . In winter. such as is still worn by the nuns of Ghent. in the twilight. black. were short and explicit. since the to woman had occasion walk past the house so as to reach the wood- shed. He pointed out the exact spot on his bureau where they were to place the account book each month while he In short. The His hours of eating were also regulated. would not offend had designed for her a costume of Flemish silk with a white bonnet and large. to a close.AGAINST THE GRAIN He whereby his 41 devised an elaborate signal code of bells wants were made known. for the weakened state of his stomach no longer permitted him to absorb heavy or instructions in this regard varied foods. He gave him the sensation of being in a cloister. he wished to as she passed his make sure that her shadow. dead quarters enclosed and buried in some quiet corner of a bustling dress. at five o'clock in the afternoon.
its bulkheads and floor of pine. placed directly oppo- — site the porthole built in the wainscoting. Like those Japanese boxes which fit into each other. before retiring. hermetically sealed so as to permit neither sound nor odor to filter into either of the two rooms it joined. at five o'clock in the tea and wine. which were planned and ordered the beginning of each season. this room was inserted in a larger apartment the real dining room constructed by the architect. With its vaulted ceiling fitted with beams in a half circle. hidden by a partition which could.42 AGAINST THE GRAIN At During the night he fasted on two boiled eggs. One of them was invisible. and the little window in the wainscoting that looked like a porthole. and morning. and sometimes lightly. be lowered by a spring so as to permit fresh air to circulate around this pinewood box and to penetrate into it. were served him on a table in the middle of a small room separated from his study by a padded corridor. the dining room resembled the cabin of a ship. drank coflfee. It was pierced by two windows. The other was visible. but . he supped again once for all at His meals. eleven o'clock he dined. toast and tea. however.
when the steam rose from the samovar on the table. which passed before the . in a word. opaline or silvery —tones similar to those of rivers which reflect the color of the sky. Sometimes. between decks. he operated the stops of the pipes and conduits which emptied the aquarium. at sunset. When wound like clocks. replacing it with pure water. the water. whose panes had been replaced by a plate lastly. the intensity of the sun. glass. reddened like blazing gleams of embers and lapped restlessly against the lightcolored wood. and. Thus the light. in order to brighten the room. For a long aquarium occupied the entire space between the porthole and the genuine window placed in the outer wall. menace of rain —which reflect. the state of the season and atmos- he did this. Into this. In autumn.AGAINST THE GRAIN it 43 was blocked up. wan and glassy all during the morning. he poured drops of colored liquids that made it green or brackish. when it chanced that Des Esseintes was awake in the afternoon. and curiously he contemplated the marvelous. he imagined himself on a brig. mechanical fish. the phere. traversed the window. the water of the aquarium. the window of the porthole.
" specially printed for him on laid paper. just as in the corridor which con- . black-painted cork anchor all thrown in a heap near the door communicating with the kitchen by a passage furnished with cappadine silk which — reabsorbed. introduced his arrival. the Lopez and the Valery Companies.44 AGAINST THE GRAIN artificial tar. hung on the which represented. bound in sealskin. with a sea-gull If could watermark. he tired of consulting these guides. rolls of russet sail. just as at Lloyd's office and the steamship agencies. the sextants. each sheet carefully selected. he rest his eyes by gazing at the chronometers and sea compasses. steamers bound for Valparaiso and La Platte. the freight and port calls of the Atlantic mail boats. a tiny. The book was "The Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym. he could look at fishing rods. and looked at framed pictures on which were inscribed the itineraries of the Royal Mail Steam Packet. While he inhaled the odor of into the room shortly before walls. field glasses and cards strewn on a table on which stood a single volume. tan-colored nets. Or. porthole or clung to the sea-weed. he examined colored engravings.
after all. It He was felt that imagination could easily be sub- stituted for the vulgar realities of things. a well- arranged. which only exists as a matter of fact in retrospect and seldom it is in the present. well-furnished room where everything betokened a retired. the same color. The pleasure of travel. Thus. seemed futile to him. every odor and sound. orderly existence. at the instant when being experienced. wines of capital taste manufactured from inferior brands treated by For they have the same Pasteur's method. and contrasted so perfectly with his study. to gratify the most extravagant. in his opinion. he could fully relish at his ease. the same bouquet as . Movement. by a slight modification of the object of one's wishes. he enjoyed the rapid motions of a long sea voyage. possible. in restaurants celebrated for the excel- lence of their cellars. aroma. Every epicure nowadays en- joys. absurd desires by a subtle subterfuge. without stirring. without the necessity of fatigue or confusion. here in this cabin whose studied disorder. whose transitory appearance and whose seemingly temporary furnishings corresponded so well with the briefness of the time he spent there on his meals.AGAINST THE GRAIN 45 nected the dining room with his study.
the illusion of the sea is undeniable. hydrochlorate of magnesia and lime.46 AGAINST THE GRAIN which they are an imitation. in long explorations while near one's own fireside. if stimulating the restive or slug- gish mind. are usually unprocurable. was not the shadow of a doubt could be enjoyed. by reading some sug- gestive narrative of travel in distant lands. positive. One could is to visit enjoy the beneficent results of a sea bath. that fan- ciful delights detail. need be. There. The originals. for instance. moreover. sulphate of soda. even in Paris. by mixing. this adroit deceit into the realm of the intellect. carefully closed by means of a screw. according to the Codex formula. It is achieved by salting the water of the bath. the rare wines of and consequently the pleasure experienced in sipping them is identical. far from the shore. Transposing there this insidious deviation. by extracting from a box. a ball of thread or a very small piece of cable which had been specially procured from one of those great rope-making establishments whose vast warehouses and base- . All that is necessary the Vigier baths situated in a boat on the Seine. imperious. resembling the true in every One could revel. too. for love or money.
AGAINST THE GRAIN 47 ments are heavy with odors of the sea and the port. The secret lies in knowing how to proceed. besides. seemed to Des Esseintes he put it. or to the hollow murmur of the omnibuses passing above on the Port Royal. as Nature had had her day. What manners! the man- ners of the tradesman offering one particular ware to the exclusion of all others. Artifice. the final distinctive mark of man's genius. made by the eddy of fly boats lapping against the pontoon of baths. skies. siderate patience of aesthetes. by being rocked on the waves. By the disgusting sameness of her landscapes and she had once for all wearied the conReally. by inhaling these perfumes held by the ball or the cable end. by listening to the plaint of the wind under the arches. how to concentrate deeply enough to produce the hallucination and succeed in substituting the dream reality for the reality itself. two steps away. what dullness! the dullness of the specialist confined to his narrow work. . by consulting an exact photograph of the casino by eagerly reading the Joanne guide describing the beauties of the seashore where one would wish to be. What a monotonous storehouse of fields and trees! What a banal agency of mountains and seas! .
the Crampton. shrill- — voiced blonde. sinewy . a trim. waterfall which hydraulics cannot imitate to perfection. old it: this eternal. no rock which pasteboard cannot be made to resemble no flower which taffetas and delicately painted papers cannot . from the point of view of plastic beauty? Is there a woman. is no longer admired by has true artists. Has not man made. with a large.48 AGAINST THE GRAIN There is not one of her inventions. an animated and artificial being which easily equals woman. which human genius cannot create. and having the long. that creation of ^ \ \ whose beauty is everywhere conceded the most perfect and original woman. no forest. no Fontainbleau no moonlight which a scenic setting flooded with electricity cannot produce. and the moment work come to re- place her by Closely observe that hers of hers which is considered the most exquisite. is an adorable. for his own use. fragile corset body imprisoned in a glittering of copper. simulate. gilded blonde. whose form is more dazzling. no matter how subtle or imposing it may be. woman artifice. There can be no doubt about driveling. more splendid than the two locomotives that pass over the Northern Railroad lines? One.
is a nobly proportioned dusky brunette emitting raucous. she mane slowly and heavily drags the unwieldy not one queue of her merchandise! Unquestionably.AGAINST THE GRAIN lines of a cat. its station. spinning top. which it was perched. between Paris and Sceaux. Her heavy loins are strangled in a frightening. Such were Des when like the breeze brought him the faint whistle of a the toy railroad winding playfully. upwards and her cast-iron breast-plate. she puts in motion the immense rosewindow of her fine wheels and darts forward. causing the earth to tremof black six low. the Engerth. there frail flesh that is among the blondes and majestic brunettes of the can vie with their delicate grace and Esseintes' reflections terrific strength. made it immune to the clatter of the noisy rabble which . rising as. 49 is Her extraordinary grace with the sweat of her hot sides steel muscles stiffening. ble. muffled cries. along rapids and floods. mettlesome. His house was situated from the Fontenay at a twenty minutes' walk but the height on isolation. a disheveled A monstrous beast with smoke and with coupled wheels! What irresistible power she has when. The other.
of the Verrieres woods these to left and right. dominated far off by other batteries and forts whose high embankments seemed. and seemed to divide their trunks. shook their pale leaves. In the warm air that fanned the faded grasses and exhaled a spicy perfume. Where the plain did not fall under the shadow of the hills. he hardly knew it. its he had never ventured along roads in daylight. it seemed powdered with starch and smeared with white cold cream. the trees. its enameled look and its arti- the landscape did not displease Des Esseintes. chalky white under the moon. But since that afternoon spent at Fontenay in search of a house. bathed in silver against the sombre sky. to the foot of a slope. whose shadows formed bars of black on the plaster-like ground where pebbles scintillated like glittering plates. In the darkness. the vicinity of a railway station invariably attracts As for the village itself. The ver- . masses. as it dipped on whose summit the batteries were trained. rose tier on tier. One night he had gazed through his window at the silent landscape which slowly unfolded. Because of ficial air. dim and confused.so AGAINST THE GRAIN on a Sunday. in the moonlight.
the prey of melancholia. afflicted the face human During the last with hypochondria. his detestation of had been augmented. month of his stay in Paris. against him had been an excruciating agony. when his nerves had become so sensitive that the sight of an unpleasant object or person im- pressed pression itself deeply on his brain — so deeply that several days were required before the im- could be effaced —the touch of a in the street human body brushing The very suffer. bewhiskered bourgeois citizens and moustached uniformed men with heads of magistrates and soldiers. And ever since that encounter. insulting. sight of certain faces made him He considered the crabbed expres- sions of some. eyes closed. when he was weary of everything. which they held as stiffly as monstrances in churches. He felt a desire to slap the fellow who walked. for it did not have the delicate and doleful charm of the sickly and pathetic vegetation which forces its way painfully through the rubbish heaps of the mounds which had once served as the ramparts of Paris.AGAINST THE GRAIN 51 dure of this region inspired him with no interest whatever. the one who minced along. in the village. . That day. with such a learned air. he had perceived corpulent.
They were frightful clodhoppers who seemed to find it necessary to talk and laugh boisterously in restaurants and cafes. and accessible only to ideas of politics mediocrities —that he returned enraged —that base distraction of to his home and locked himself in with his books. He hated the iiew generation with all the energy in him. such a hatred for all the /ideas he worshipped. smiling at his image in the and the one who seemed stimulated by a whole world of thought while devouring. the tedious contents of a news- paper. such a scorn for literature and art. Such an inveterate stupidity. without even apologizing. with contracted brow. you on sidewalks without begging pardon. were implanted and anchored in these merchant minds.52 AGAINST THE GRAIN window panes. jostled They . They pushed the wheels of their perambulators against your legs. exclusively preoccupied with the business of swindling and money-making.
to go to the French style of the period of Louis XIV. was confined to the enunciation of the majestic banalities. The fessors Latin written in that era which pro- still persist in calling the Great Age. its stripping of supple syntax. it was necessary. . . the empty commonplaces tiresomely reiterated by the rhetoricians and poets but it betrayed such a lack of curiosity and such a humdrum tediousness. With its carefully premeditated style. feebleness and jaded solemnity that to find its equal. this language. pruned of all the rugged and often rich expressions of the preceding ages. its poverty of color and nuance. hardly stimulated Des Esseintes.PORTION to those of the shelves lined the walls of his which orange and blue study was devoted exclusively Latin works assigned to the generic period of "The Decadence" by those whose minds have absorbed the deplorable teachings of the Sorbonne. its sameness. such a drabness. in linguistic studies.
in their official garb. immaculate and bedizened shepherds. the plain theft. was the workmanship of the hexameters. he considered one of the not most terrible pedants ever produced by anDes Esseintes was exasperated by his tiquity. Theocritus.54 AGAINST THE GRAIN Vergil. his Orpheus whom he compares to a weeping nightingale. his Aeneas. gestures through the Des Esseintes would gladly have accepted the tedious nonsense which those marionettes exchange with each other off-stage. He disliked the texture of those stiff verses. all the unutterable emptiness of this heap of verses. or even the poet's impudent borrowings from Homer. their . copied almost word for word from one of Pisander's poems. irresolute person who walks with wooden length of the poem. perhaps because he was born in that city. beating like empty tin cans and extending their syllabic quantities measured according to the unchanging rule of a pedantic and dull prosody. Ennius and Lucretius. of the second song of the Aeneid. his Aristaeus The gentle the Mantuan whom instructors call who simpers about bees. revealed to us by Macrobius. that weak-willed. The and thing he could not forgive. in fine. their abject reverence for grammar. swan. however. which infuriated him most.
and his attraction for Ovid's lucid outpourings even more circumspect.AGAINST THE GRAIN 55 mechanical division by imperturbable caesuras. with the redundant metaphors. there was no limit to fled. all this impoverished vocabulary of muftones bored him beyond measure. this the perfected forge of Caversification. in the flow of his patriotic non- emphasis of his harangues. if his admiration for Vergil was quite restrained. padded with useless with pegs of identical and anticipated assonances. Borrowed from tullus. lacking pity. in the . this ceaseless wretchedness words and of Homeric epithet which designates nothing whatever and permits nothing to be seen. crude old clown. lacking imagination. in the ponderousness of his style. the ludigressions to beguile dicrous of Cicero. the jests Neither was he pleased. fleshy but ropy and lacking in marrow and bone. lifeless It is his disgust at the elephantine graces of ace. There was nothing him in the boasting of his apostrophes. always plugged at the end in the same way by the impact of a dactyl against a spondee. in the insupportsense. unvarying refuse. no more than just to add that. verbosities. at the prattle of this hopeless lout Hor- who of an smirkingly utters the broad. in prose.
de. . and by Persius. sentimental and pompous Titus Livius. most wiry and muscular of them all. . in his studied conciseness. is the keenest. an incredibly undue constipation. less colorless who than the others. in his wearisome habits of tautology. Status. finally. in the unalterable formula of his adipose periods badly sewed together with the thread of conjunctions and. Quintilian and the Plinies. turgid and lurid Seneca watery and larval Suetonius Tacitus who. Nor was his enthusiasm wakened for Cssar. celebrated for his laconic style. could please him. Martial. was disclosed a surprising aridity. even Terence and Plautus whose jargon full of neologisms. despite some roughshod verses. Here. Des Esseintes only began to be interested in the Latin language with Lucan. In poetry. but whose low comedy and gross humor he loathed.56 AGAINST THE GRAIN which he able dross of his long adverbs with introduces phrases. a sterility of recollection. com- pound words and diminutives. In neglect- ing Tibullus and Propertius. on the contrary. spite his mysterious insinuations. He found pasture neither among them nor those writers among is who are peculiarly the delight of the spuriously literate: Sallust. he was untouched by Juvenal.
while through the rived travellers. Tranquilly. without prejudice or he described Rome's daily chapters of the Satyricon. a marvelhate. the less dull. stating them in form. the turgidity of those blisters skin of the Pharsale. did not entirely conceal from him the emptiness of the thought. captivated him. half-open doors of the rooms couples can be seen in dalliance. but the exclusive preoccupation with form. their passions. definite facts of life. a revel of richness . clangor of metals. the sonorities of tone. One glimpses the inspector of furnished lodgings who has inquired after the newly ar- bawdy houses where men prowl ajound nude women. their bestialities. life. he revealed the petty ex- istence of the people. their happenings. these verses plated with enamel and studded with jewels. who caused him forever ous painter. a delicate analyst. which emboss the Petronius was the author whom to he truly loved and abandon the sonorous ingenuities of Lucan. for he was a keen observer. recount- ing the customs of his epoch in the sprightly little Observing the clear.AGAINST THE GRAIN Here and it 57 was liberated. already more expressive This careful armor. in villas of an insolent luxury. the society of the time.
in the streets. impure sharpers. . beat each other unmercifully as in a And all this recounted in a style of strange and precise color. hunters of heritages offering their sons and daughters to de- bauched testators. the corrupt speech of the African. depraved little girls of sixteen. the vulgar Latin argot of the streets. extending all the limits. or in the poor quarters with their rumpled. the prey of hysterical attacks. Syrian and Greek. rub elbows in the baths. He made each person speak his own idiom: the uneducated freshness dialects. the strangers. bug-ridden folding-beds. their barbarous patois. plump. like the Agamemnon strokes. a rhetoric of artificial words. These people are depicted with swift wallowing around tables. They debate pantomime. drawing from all borrowing expressions from all the languages that were drifting into Rome. removing all the handicaps of the so-called Great Age. curled. freedmen. of the book. women who are . imbecile pedants. All pass across the pages.58 AGAINST THE GRAIN and magnificence. like Ascylte and Eumolpe in search of a rich windfall old incubi with tucked-up dresses and plastered cheeks of white lead and red acacia. exchanging stupid.
with reform and satire. without any preoccupation. this slice of Roman life. depicting splendidly wrought language without sur- rendering himself to any commentary. Dousa . analyzing with a calm these lovers finesse the joys and sorrows of life in a and couples. struck Des method.AGAINST THE GRAIN drunken speech. when he touched with worshipful hands the superb edition of the Satyricon which he possessed. curious analogies with the in the firmness of the lar comparisons. he found singu- Esseintes. those two works by Petronius mentioned by Planciade Fulgence which are forever lost. But the bibliophile in him consoled the student. senile 59 maxims and This realistic novel. this story without intrigue or action. without approving or cursing the acts and thoughts of his characters. or of morality. Certainly. of an empire that cracks. portraying the adventures of evil persons. In the keenness of the observation. few modern French novels he could endure. he bitterly regretted the Eustion and the Albutiae. the octavo bearing the date 1585 and the of Leyden. uttering inept proverbs. the vices of a decrepit civilization. name of J. without the need of any studied end. whatever one may say of it.
— . with . Mannerisms. his Latin collection en- tered into the second century of the Christian era. ferreting . passed over Fronto. almost new color. even Tertullian whom he perhaps preserved for his Aldine edition. The Latin language was at its richest in the Metamorphoses. and the refuse mingled and was confused in a bizarre. new details of Latin society found themselves shaped into neologisms specially created for the needs of conversation. the declaimer. mind. exotic. more than for the work itself. Roman corner He was amused by the southern exuberance and joviality of a doubtlessly corpulent man. This African delighted him. in a of Africa. but a writer entangled in a glutinous vase and halted at Apuleius. gay crony compared with the Christian apologists who lived in the same century the soporific Minu- — cius Felix. pouring forth the still thick emulsions of Cicero into his Octavius. of whose works he owned the first edition printed of Aulus Gellius. at Rome in 1469. it contained ooze and rubbish-strewn water rushing from all the provinces. nay. — clever. a pseudo-classicist. his antiquated terms skipped the Attic Nights his disciple and friend.60 AGAINST THE GRAIN Leaving Petronius. He seemed a salacious.
lived in stormy times. diametrically opposed to his own. because these attempt to correct and improve nature. These ideas. and he tranquilly prepared his sermons. Elagabalus. Then the role played by Tertullian. he read several pages of De culta feminarum. under Macrimus. concise style full of resting ambiguous terms. in fact. dappled with vocables culled from the juridical science and the language of the Fathers of the Greek Church. the disputes of the Montanists against the Catholic Church.AGAINST THE GRAIN Although he was 61 sufficiently versed in the- ology. he now hardly ever opened the Apologetica and the Treatise on Patience. under the astonishing High Priest of Emesia. on participles. had. More even than his works did the man attract him. bristling cious stuffs. clashing with opposiwith puns and witticisms. in his Carthage bishopric. seemed to him suggestive in pleasant reveries. his dogmatic tated He . under Caracalla. At the most. left him cold. agiby frightful disorders. the polemics against the gnostics. made him smile. forbidding them the use of cos- metics. where Tertullian counsels women not to bedeck themselves with jewels and pretions. Despite TertuUian's curious.
But there was no attraction in this dissolution. a tiara on his head. while. There was something lacking. arrived at its supreme maturity under Petronius. Elagabalus worked. Saint Cyprian. the follies of Asia. continued after Tertullian's death by his pupil. his pleadings. it made clumsy returns to Ciceronian magniloquence. whom he preferably chose among barbers. every night. his homelies. bringing new words with new ideas. while writings. abstract words until then rare in the Roman language and whose usage Tertul- had been one of the first to adopt. amid his eunuchs. scullions and circus drivers.62 AGAINST THE GRAIN foundations. frugality in food. while the Roman Empire shook on its anism were sang-froid. sobriety in dress. walking in silver sand. unemployed conwith subtle structions. the This antithesis delighted him. calling himself Empress and changing. he With the utmost recommended carnal abstipowder and golden nence. by Arnobius and by Lactantius. at womanish labor. strange verbs. commenced to decay. his Emperor. but had not yet acquired that special flavor lian . Then the Latin language. while the ordures of pagfull to the brim. the Christian literature replaced it. his garb figured with precious stones. adjectives meanings.
and Macrobius the grammarian and compiler. the odor of Christianity would give the pagan tongue. a collection of instructions. twisted into acrosin popular hexameters. decomposed like old venison.AGAINST THE GRAIN which in the fourth century. sanies succumbed to the thrusts of the barbarians. crumbling at the same time that the old world civilization collapsed. tortuous. composed without regard to quantity or hiatus and often accompanied by such rhymes as the Church Latin would abundance. is represented the third century in his library. claimed and interested him even more than the soft and already green style of the historians. Them he even preferred to the genuinely scanned . The Carmen tics. with caesuras in- troduced according to the heroic verse style. crammed with terms of ordinary speech. written in 259. gamy verses. Ammien Marcellinus and Aurelius Victorus. apologeticum. Symmachus the letter writer. and the Empires. Only one Christian poet. 63 and particularly during the centuries following. putrefied by the of the centuries. with words diverted from their primitive meaning. later supply in such These sombre. Commodianus.
in his verse. Rutilius and Ausonius. into the obscurity his world. was then engulfing Paganism again lives sounding . In the Occidental Empire tottering more and more in the perpetual menace of the Barbarians now pressing in hordes at the Empire's yielding gates. They were filled the then the masters of They dying Empire with their cries. a sort of avatar of Lucan. sings of the abduction of Pros- and passes with that all his torches alight. dominates the fourth century with the terrible clarion of his verses a poet forging a loud and sonorous hexameter. AGAINST THE GRAIN the spotted and superb language of art. lays on his vibrant colors re- vives antiquity. the intervals of landscape reflected in the water. embellished Mosella. and his exuberant. Ru- with his hymns to the glory of Rome. achieving a certain grandeur which fills his work with a powerful breath. his anathemas against the Jews and the monks. Claudian. the Christian Ausonius with his Centon Nuptial. he perine. : a sharp blow amid sheaves of sparks. Claudian. striking the epithet with tilius. the mirage of vapors and the movement of mists that enveloped the mountains.64 lines. his journey from Italy into Gaul and the impressions recorded along the way.
as he has been called. The new Christian with Paulinus. disciple of Auson- ius. and all the saints: Hilaire of Poitiers. considered an oracle and sovereign master by Catholics. with arguments which future ages were to repeat. the wearisome Christian Cicero Damasus. Des Esseintes knew him for he was the Church's most reputed writer. in an eclogue imi- from Vergil. the Athanasius tated of the Occident. and already preaches. who attacks the cult of saints and the abuse of miracles and fastings. who paraphrases the gospels in verse. of the priests.AGAINST THE GRAIN its last 65 fanfare. defender of the Nicean faith. author of the indigestible homelies. makes his shepherds Egon and Buculus lament the maladies of their flock. founder of Christian orthodoxy. Jerome. Finally. He no longer opened the . translator of the Vulgate. in the fifth century bishop of Hippo. Juvencus. Victorinus. and his adversary Vigilantius. Sanctus Burdigalensis who. maker of lapidary epigrams. author of the Maccabees. against the monastic vows and celibacy . lifting its last great poet above which was soon entirely to submerge the language. Am- brosius. came Augustine. and which would forthe Christianity ever be sole master of spirit arose art. only too well.
in the poem which was enigmas. although he had sung his disgust of the earth in the Confessionsj and although his lamenting piety had essayed. fabricated. When Des Esseintes had studied theology. his combats against the schisms. the panegyrics in He willingly re-read which this bishop invokes pagan deities in substantiation of his vain- glorious eulogies. his theories on predestination and grace. and the works of Sidonius Apollinaris whose correspondence interlarded with flashes of wit. to mitigate the frightful distress of the times by sedative promises of a rosier future. in spite of everything. certain pas- . allured him.66 AGAINST THE GRAIN pages of this holy man's works. to be used continually. the panegyrist. author of the rhymed poems and abecedarian hymns. He preferred to thumb the Psychomachia of Prudentius. and. pungencies. by an ingenious mechanician who operates his machine. in the City of God. he was already sick and weary of the old monk's preachings and jeremiads. Sedulius. he confessed a weakness for the affectations of these verses. as it were. After Sidonius. that first type of the allegorical middle ages. oils his wheels and invents intricate and useless parts. archaisms and later. he sought Merobaudes.
corrupt the people. in the turmoil of . the horrible epoch when frightful mo- convulsed the earth. licentiousness in the distichs of his Monitories. poet of the shivering Eucharisticon. thoroughly putrid. Paulinus of Pella. and barely preserving through of its all the corruption body. losing its members and dropping its pus. who. In this general dissolution. the Occident and the writhe in blood and grow more ex- hausted from day to day. whose gloomy treatise on the Perversity of the Times is illumed. those still firm elements which the Christians detached to marinate in the brine of their new language.AGAINST THE GRAIN sages of 67 which the Church has appropriated for its services. felt its extremities. The interest which Des Esseintes felt for the Latin language did not pause at this period which found it drooping. fifth The tions second half of the century had ar- rived. in the successive assassination of the Caesars. Marius Victorius. pillaged by life the Visigoths. Paralyzed Rome. and Orientius. ceived orient. bishop of Auch. inveighs against the of women whose faces. per- sacked Gaul. here and there. its The grow Barbarians feeble. with verses that gleam with phosphorescence. he claims.
silencing all voices. as they heard the fearful tornado which gallopings. For another reason. chins gullied with scars and gashes. stifling all clamors. Darkness fell. the moribund life which it was pursuing to imbecility and foulness. rushed toward Gaul. the end of . foamed like a purple sea. rushed at full speed to envelop the territories of the Lower Empire like a whirlwind.68 AGAINST THE GRAIN carnage from one end of Europe to another. against Italy whose exterminated towns flamed like burning ricks. broke the movement of this avalanche which. overran the plains of Chalons where Aetius pillaged it in an awful charge. clad in rat-skin coats. gorged with blood. the passed with thunder crashes. swerving. flat noses. On men the banks of the Danube. The hordes of Huns razed Europe. Two hundred thousand corpses barred the way. fell with mighty thunderclaps. was extinguished. and the amazed people trembled. monstrous Tartars with enormous heads. astride thousands of on small horses. Everything disappeared in the dust of their in smoke of conflagrations. The Occidental Empire crumbled beneath the shock. The plains. there resounded a terrible shout of triumph. and jaundiced faces bare of hair.
Here and there some poets gleamed. with his liturgical poetry. or like Eugippus.AGAINST THE GRAIN 69 the universe seemed near. like Aurelianus and Ferreolus who compiled the ecclesiastical canons. Claudius Memertius. seemed to sink under the world's ruins. Latin. that mysterious her- mit and humble ascetic who appeared like an angel of grace to the distressed people. Avitus of Vienne. Saint Epiphanius. such cities as had been forgotten by Attila were decimated by famine and plague. famous for a lost history of the Huns. Years hastened on. the biographers like Ennodius. the upright and vigilant pastor. who tells of the life of Saint Severin. The Barbarian idioms began to be modulated. to leave their veinstones and form real languages. was confined in its usage to the convents and monasteries. dully and coldly: the African Dracontius with his Hexameron. writers like Veranius of Gevaudon who prepared a little treatise on continence. The Latin language in its turn. who narrates the prodigies of that perspicacious and venerated diplomat. . Des Esseintes' library did not contain many works of the centuries immediately succeeding. historians like Rotherius. saved in the debacle by the cloisters. mad with suffering and fear. then.
to the legend of Saint Columban. in honor of Saint Comgill. and the poems contained in the Bangor antiphonary which he sometimes read for the alphabetical and monorhymed hymn sung. Gregory of Tours. haunted him on certain days. in his moments of tedium. in addition to the low Latin of the Chroniclers. the one by Defensorius. But the singular works of Latin and AngloSaxon literature allured him still further. the other by the modest and ingenious Baudonivia. written by the Venerable Bede from the notes of an anonymous monk of Lindisfarn. by Boethius. Jonas. he contented himself with glancing over. tury was represented by Fortunatus. the works of these hagiographers and in again reading several extracts from the lives of Saint Rusticula and Saint Radegonda.70 AGAINST THE GRAIN this deficiency. bishop of whose hymns and Vexila regis. the literature limited itself almost exclusively to biographies of saints. written by to that of the blessed the monk. the sixth cen- Notwithstanding Poitiers. the Fredegaires and Paul Diacres. . In the seventh and eighth centuries since. a nun of Poitiers. related. carved out of the old carrion of the Latin language and spiced with the aromatics of the Church. and Jornandez. and Cuthbert.
Freculfe and Reginon. with the De viribus herbarum. with the didactic Hortulus. whose chapter consecrated to the glory of the gourd as a symbol of f ruitfulness. the poem of Macer Floridus. and especially the enigmas composed by Saint Boniface. the Alcuins and the Eginhards. enlivened him . Hardly pleased with the cumbersome mass of Carlovingian Latinists. of the Benedictine Walafrid Strabo. almost forbidding style and in a Latin of iron dipped in monastic waters with straws of sentiment. with the poem in which Ermold the Dark. here and there. in the unpliant metal. as a specimen of the language of the ninth century. His interest diminished with the end of those two centuries. celebrating the exploits of Louis the Debonair.AGAINST THE GRAIN They included 71 the whole series of riddles by Adhelme. he contented himself. Tatwine and Eusebius. who were descendants of Symphosius. in an austere. with the chronicles of Saint Gall. who particularly delighted him because of his poetic recipes and the very strange virtues which he ascribes to certain . a poem written in regular hexameters. tic in acros- strophes whose solution could be found in the initial letters of the verses. with the of the siege of Paris written poem by Abbo le Courbe.
diverts . if placed on a woman's breasts. and the anthology of the minor Latin poets of Wernsdorf apart from Meursius. Apart from several special. mixed with the cow and placed on the lower part of a pregnant woman's abdomen. the curiosity. guests or to the peony whose powdered roots or to the cure epilepsy. the manual of classical erotology of Forberg. his Latin library ended at the beginning of the tenth century. in fact. complicated And. when brewed into an infusion in a dining room. clears her water and stimulates the indolence of her periods. the logomachy of the middle thenceforth held absolute sway.72 AGAINST THE GRAIN flesh of a plants and flowers. to the aristolochia. modern or dateless. which he . dusted at rare intervals. the often exquisite awkwardness of . scholars. fennel which. The balderdash of philosophers and ages. and the diaconals used by confessors. and the stammering grace. insures the birth of a male child. medicine and botany. certain works on the Cabbala. unclassified volumes. certain odd tomes containing undiscoverable Christian poetry. The sooty mass of chronicles and historical books and cartularies accumulated. the naivete of the Christian language had also foundered. for ex- ample. which. or to the borage which.
with the and charming taste of Gothic jewels. The fabricaessences. here ended and with a formidable leap of centuries. tions of verbs of purified of sub- stantives breathing of incense. coarsely carved from gold. were destroyed. The old editions. . the books on his shelves went straight to the French language of the present century. of bizarre adjectives.AGAINST THE GRAIN tiquity in a ragout. beloved by Des Esseintes. 73 the monks. barbarous . placing the poetic remains of an- were dead.
.jHE afternoon was drawing to its close when a carriage halted in front of the Fontenay house. revealing the serpentine head of a tortoise which. It oscillated and wavered. They informed their master. as the bell was rung ing the door. behind an immense gold buckler. "Ask him in. for he recalled hav- ing given his address to a lapidary for the delivery of a purchase. furiously again. the servants hesitated before openThen. Since Des Esseintes received no visitors. fasting. they peered through the peephole cut into the wall. from neck to waist. suddenly terrified." he said. The man bowed and deposited the buckler on the pinewood floor of the dining room. concealed. who was breakparts. and since the postman never even ventured into these uninhabited having no occasion to deliver any papers. and perceived a man. retreated into its shell. magazines or letters.
and following the silver gleams which fell on its web of plum violet and aladdin yellow. the harsh Sienna tone of flections this shell dulled the rug's re- without adding to it. the Ethiopic black. finally discovered that his first inspiration. Then he had sat a long time. studying the effect. one day. There. Royal. he had been strolling when suddenly he found himself gazing at the very object of his wishes. He bit his nails while he studied a method of removing these discords and reconciling He the determined opposition of the tones. tarnished shell. Examining an Oriental rug. which was setting it to animate the oflf weave by against some dark object. Decidedly. in a shop window on the Palais aimlessly along the streets. He had purchased it. with eyes half-shut. was fire of the . lay a huge tortoise in a large basin. in reflected light. The dominant silver gleams in it barely sparkled. it suddenly occurred to him how much it would be improved if he could place on it some object whose deep color might enhance the vividness of its tints. Possessed by this idea.AGAINST THE GRAIN This tortoise 75 was a fancy which had seized Des Esseintes some time before his departure from Paris. crawling with lack-lustre tones of dead zinc against the edges of the hard.
which would eclipse all else and cast a golden light on the pale silver. the problem was easier to solve. At first Des Esseintes was enchanted with this effect. From a Japanese collection he chose a de- sign representing a cluster of flowers emanating spindle-like. and informed the amazed lapidary that every petal and every was to be designed with jewels and mounted on the scales of the tortoise. The . and extinguish them by the contrast of a striking object. glaze the shell of the tortoise with gold. Taking it he sketched a border to enclose this bouquet in an oval frame. dull the tones. Thus stated. to a jeweler. softening the tones of the rug and casting on it a gorgeous reflection which resembled the irradiations from the scales of a barbaric Visigoth shield. this rug petulant and gaudy. that really be complete until it would not had been incrusted with rare stones. Then he reflected that this gigantic it jewel was only in outline. from a slender stalk. too erroneous. He therefore decided to subdued. shone brilliantly.76 AGAINST THE GRAIN was too new. In fact. He The tortoise. just returned by the lapidary. sufficiently The colors were not must reverse the process. leaf The choice of stones made him pause.
has undefiled by any taint of commerlimpid. is abused on the blood-red ears and veined hands of butchers' wives who love to adorn themselves inexpensively with real and heavy jewels. too civilized and familiar. The oriental emeralds and rubies are less vulgarized and cast brilliant. As of for topazes. rutilant flames. this stone. He let . precious only to women the middle class who like to have jewel cases on their dressing-tables. but they remind one of the green and red antennas of certain omnibuses which carry signal lights of these colors. blue retreats and seems to only awakening to shine at daythese satisfied break. its cialism. And then. whether sparkling or dim. although the a sacerdotal Church has preserved for character which the amethyst is at once unctuous and solemn. too. crackling in its cold depths have in some fortunately. all Only kept the sapphire. way protected shy and proud nobility from pollution. Units fresh fire does not sparkle in artificial light: the fall asleep. its fires among these stones. they are cheap stones.AGAINST THE GRAIN since every tradesman has taken to wearing 11 diamond has become notoriously common it on his little finger. None of They were Des Esseintes at all. Its sparks.
used together. sulphurous. are only a fossil ivory impregnated with cop- pery substances whose sea blue is choked. For the flowers. the chrysoberyls of asparagus green. They hung from branches of almandine and ouwarovite of a violet red. serves to delight people of no importance. properly speaking. his flowers This done. But he formally waived that oriental turquoise used for'^brooches and rings which. separated from the stalk and removed from the bottom of the sheaf. he used blue cinder. This is how he composed were set his bouquet of flowers: the leaves with jewels of a pronounced. He chose occidental turquoises exclusively. as though yellowed by bile. opaque. and finally selected a number of real and artificial ones which. like the banal pearl and the odious coral. the chrysolites of leek the olivines of olive green. should produce a fascinating and disconcerting harmony.78 trickle AGAINST THE GRAIN through his fingers still more astonish- ing and bizarre stones. he could now set the petals of with transparent stones which had . darting spangles of a hard brilliance like tartar micas gleaming through . forest depths. green distinct green. stones which.
AGAINST THE GRAIN morbid and vitreous sharp lights. composed them entirely with Ceylon snap-dragons. interesting for their hesitating colors. be inlaid. the frozen depths of their troubled waters. its rays alters according to the humid- the warmth or cold. "And the border of the shell?" he asked Des Essein- At first he had thought of some opals and hydrophanes. The blue chalcedony which kindles with bluish phosphorescent fires against a dead brown. The stir snap-dragon a greenish streaked with concentric veins which seem to and change constantly. The lapidary stones made were a note of the places to where the tes. cymophanes and blue chalce- These three stones darted mysterious perverse scintillations. but these stones. for the evasions of their flames. are too refractory and faithless. 79 sparks. The cymophane. feverish and He dony. as for the hydro- . according to the dispositions of light. painfully torn of and from grey. the play of ity. chocolate background. whose over the milky tint azure waves float swimming in its depths. the opal has a quite rheumatic sensitiveness.
on minerals whose revary. for the Compostelle hyacinth. red. glaucous green. in a cup of tea. so light and diaphanous they are. pale slate. the ruby. shin- ing in the shadow.80 phane. And. the beryl. Moyoutann and Khansky yellow teas which had come from China to Russia by special caravans. he used a service of solid silver. spread with a special butter. He was perfectly happy. AGAINST THE GRAIN it only burns in water and only conits sents to kindle He finally decided flections embers when moistened. Des Esseintes now watched the tortoise squatting in a corner of the dining room. he grew hungry a thing that rarely if ever happened to — him— and dipped his toast. the . ficed to Sudermanian Their feeble sparklings suflight the darkness of the shell and preserved the values of the flowering stones which they encircled with a slender garland of vague fires. vinegar rose. a flawless blend of Siafayoune. the mahogany balas ruby. Then. as an accom- — paniment to these adorable cups. This liquid perfume he drank in those Chinese porcelains called egg-shell. slightly gilded. His eyes gleamed with pleasure at the resplendencies of the flaming corrollas against the gold background.
A deep silence enveloped the cottage drooping in shadow. in turn. By the lamp light. The fire- place piled with logs gave forth a smell of burning slightly. scintilof gold. the sky rose before him. lating in the stumps of bottles spottled with gold. he saw the icy patterns on the bluish windows. like melted sugar. by the specks of darkness tran- dispersed among the flakes. quite exhausted and moribund tint. He sition closed the window. icy wind swept past. and reversed the color The became heraldic tapestry of heaven returned. and the hoar-frost. a true ermine. a white flecked with its black. accelerated the crazy flight of the snow. After he had finished his tea. An order. This abrupt from torrid warmth to cold winter .AGAINST THE GRAIN silver 81 showed faintly under the fatigued layer which gave it an aged. The snow was falling. he returned to his study and had the servant carry in the tortoise which stubbornly refused to budge. black flecked with white. Des Esseintes fell into revery. He opened the window Like a high tapestry of black ermine. wood.
whose sonorous notes mint and anisette to the flute. celestial voice. built one of the panels.82 AGAINST THE GRAIN He occurred to affected him. he had only to press a button concealed in the woodwork to turn on all the taps at the same time and fill the mugs placed underneath. the oboe sourish and velvety. The stops labelled flute. so that once attached. ranged side by side. open. The organ was now out. in He This collection of barrels he called his mouth organ. A stem could connect all the spigots and control them by a single movement. was a closet containing a number of tiny casks. it croached near the fire and him that he needed a cordial to revive his flagging spirits. to the is whose tone to kummel snuffle. to the sound of some instrument. at once . each liquor corresponded. in procuring sensations in his throat to those which music gives to the cording Moreover. clarinet Dry curacoa. for example. enjoying the inner symphonies. succeeded analogous ear. ready to be placed. horn. acto his thinking. went to the dining room where. were pulled Des Esseintes sipped here and there. and resting on small stands of sandal wood.
gin and whiskey burn the palate with their strident crashings of trombones and cornets. Tone relationships existed in the music of liquors. the tenor violin by rum. He also thought that the comparison could be continued. louder and more sonorous. puling and sweet. to cite but one note. with the double-bass. melancholy and caressing. piercing and frail. while the thunder-claps of the cymbals and the furiously beaten drum roll in the mouth by means of the rakis de Chio. brandy storms with the deafening hubbub of tubas. kirschwasser has the furious ring of the trumpet. fullbodied.AGAINST THE GRAIN 83 sugary and peppery. one could even add a fifth instrument with the vibrant taste. the cello by the lacerating and lingering ratafia. while. the silvery detached and shrill note of dry cumin imitating the harp. The comparison was further prolonged. fumous and fine. solid and dark as the old bitters. to complete the orchestra. If one wished to form a quintet. the . benedictine rep- minor key of that major key of alcohols which are designated resents. with the violin simulated by old brandy. that quartets of string instru- ments could play under the palate. so to speak.
in enjoying silent melodies on his tongue. But on this evening Des Esseintes was not inclined to listen to this music. his effects. in his mouth. solos of mint. by approximative and skilled mixtures. He was even able to transfer to his palate real pieces of music. mama. mute funeral marches. At other currant which evoked. in his throat. in hearing. by combinations or contrasts of liquors. tril- with the tender chouva I tell cocoa which sang saccharine songs like "The romance of Estelle" and the "Ah! Shall you.84 in AGAINST THE GRAIN commercial scores. duos of ratafia and rum. under the name of green Chartreuse. his nuances. These principles once admitted. rendering his thought." of past days. he himself composed melodies. he succeeded. after numerous experiments. following the composer step by step. He confined himself to sounding one note on the keyboard of his organ. the lings of nightingales. by swallowing a little glass of genuine Irish whiskey. executed pastorals with mild blacktimes. He sank into his easy chair and slowly inhaled this fermented juice of oats and barley: .
This carbolic tartness forcibly recalled to him the same taste he had had on his tongue in the days when dentists worked on his gums. at first dispersed among all the dentists he had known. middle of the night. his memory. concentrated and converged on one of them who was more firmly engraved in odors. by a fatal exactitude of memories effaced for years. his thought followed the now revived sensitiveness of his palate. a taste 85 in of creosote was his Gradually. re-awakened. he put his hand to his cheek. It had happened three years ago. Only a dentist in the . Holding a hand to his jaw. . stumbled against the furniture. could alleviate the pain. resolved to bear the most atrocious operation provided it would only ease his sufferings. Seized.AGAINST THE GRAIN pronounced mouth. pacing up and down the room like a demented person. fitted its progress to the flavor of the whiskey. He feverishly waited for the day. It was a molar which had already been filled no remedy was possible. as he drank. he asked himThe dentists who self what should be done. with an abominable toothache. Once abandoned on this track. his revery.
He told himself that this would never do. a trembling crept under his skin. recognizable by an immense wooden signboard where the name of "Gatonax" sprawled in enormous pumpkin-colored letters. He perspired profusely. he gasped for breath. the suffering ceased. and by two little glass cases where false teeth were carefully set in rose-colored wax. he rushed through the streets. morning and one is Seven o'clock struck He of hurried out. in to There. if they are to pull ignorant of the useless art of dressing decaying and of filling holes. He decided to patronize the first one he could find. one make an one of those iron-fisted teeth men who. Arrived in front of the house. . and recollecting the a name mechanic who called himself a dentist and dwelt in the corner of a quay. A horrible fear shook him. that he could not endure it.86 treated AGAINST THE GRAIN him were rich merchants whom could not see at any time. one had to appointment. holding his cheek with his hand and repressing the tears. know how an is the stubbornest stump with unequalled required last. to hasten to a popular tooth-extractor. the office opened early not at the wait. rapidity. the tooth stopped paining. suddenly a calm ensued.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
remained, stupefied, on the sidewalk; he stiffened against the anguish,
mounted the dim
steps at a time to the fourth story.
found front of a door where an enamel
plate repeated, inscribed in sky-blue lettering,
name on the signboard. He rang the bell and then, terrified by the great red spittles which he noticed on the steps, he faced about, resolved to endure his toothache all his life.
excruciating cry pierced
doorway and glued him to the spot with horror, at the same time that a door was opened and an old
the partitions, filled the cage of the
to His feeling He was ushered into a dining room. Another door creaked and in entered a terrible grenadier dressed in a frock-coat and black trousers. Des Esseintes followed him to
him to enter. of shame quickly changed
were conremembered having sunk He vaguely chair opposite a window, having murthis instant, his sensations
he put a finger to his tooth "It has filled and I am afraid nothing
more can be done with
The man immediately
suppressed these ex-
AGAINST THE GRAIN
Muttering beneath he took an
planations by introducing an enormous index
finger into his mouth.
strument from the
the play began.
of his seat,
and began to suffer unheard agonies. Then he beheld stars. He stamped his feet frantically and bleated like a sheep about to be slaughtered. snapping sound was heard, the molar had broken while being extracted. It seemed that his head was being shattered, that his skull was being smashed he lost his senses, howled as loudly as he could, furiously defending himcheek,
from the man who rushed at him anew if he wished to implant his whole arm in
the depths of his bowels, brusquely recoiled
a step and, lifting the tooth attached to the
jaw, brutally let
back into the chair. Breathing heavily, his form filling the window, he brandished at the end of his forceps, a blue tooth with blood at one end. Faint and prostrate, Des Esseintes spat blood
into a basin, refused, with a gesture, the tooth
which the old woman was about
a piece of
paper and fled, after paying two Expectorating blood, in his turn,
AGAINST THE GRAIN
the steps, he at length found himself in
the street, joyous, feeling ten years younger,
interested in every little occurrence.
"Phew I" he
exclaimed, saddened by the
assault of these memories.
rose to dissi-
pate the horrible spell of this vision and, re-
turning to reality, began to be concerned with
budge at all and he tapped it. The animal was dead. Doubtless accustomed to a sedentary existence, to a humble life spent underneath its poor shell, it had been unable to support the dazzling luxury imposed on it, the rutilant cope with which it had been covered, the jewels with which its back had
It did not
been paved, like a pyx.
the sharpening of his desire to
a hated age,
despotic urge to
representing humanity striving in
holes or running to and fro in
quest of money.
growing indifiference to contemhad resolved not to introduce he porary into his cell any of the ghosts of distastes or regrets, but had desired to procure subtle and exquisite paintings, steeped in ancient dreams
or antique corruptions, far removed from the
manner of our present day. For the delight of his spirit and the joy of his eyes, he had desired a few suggestive creations that cast him into an unknown world, revealing to him the contours of new conjectures, agitating the
nervous system by the vio-
lent deliriums, complicated nightmares, non-
chalant or atrocious chimerae they induced.
were some executed by an
whose genius allured and entranced him Gustave Moreau.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
Des Esseintes had acquired
before one of them
pieces and, at night, used to sink into revery
representation of Sa-
lome, conceived in this fashion:
throne, resembling the high altar of a
cathedral, reared itself beneath innumerable
from heavy Romanesque
studded w^ith polychromatic bricks,
with mosaics, incrusted with lapis lazuli and
sardonyx, in a palace that, like a basilica, was
Byzantine in de-
In the center of the tabernacle, surmounting an altar approached by semi-circular steps, sat Herod the Tetrach, a tiara upon his head,
his legs pressed closely together, his
upon his knees. His face was the color of yellow parchment; it was furrowed with wrinkles, ravaged with age. His long beard floated like a white cloud upon the star-like clusters of jewels constelresting
lating the orphrey robe fitting tightly over his
form, frozen into the immobile,
hieratic pose of a
burned perfumes wafting aloft clouds of incense which were perforated, like phosphorescent eyes of beasts, by the fiery rays of the
AGAINST THE GRAIN
smoke mingled with the gold where powder of the long sunbeams falling from the
In the perverse odor of the perfumes, in the overheated atmosphere of the temple, Salome
outstretched in a gesture of com-
mand, her right arm drawn back and holding a large lotus on a level with her face, slowly advances on her toes, to the rhythm of a stringed instrument played by a woman seated on the ground.
meditative, solemn, almost au-
gust, as she
commences the lascivious dance awaken the slumbering senses of old Diamonds scintillate against her
bracelets, her girdles,
her triumphal robe, seamed with pearls, flowered with silver and laminated with gold, the breastplate of jewels, each link of which is a precious stone, flashes
serpents of fire against the pallid flesh, delicate as a tea-rose: its jewels like splendid inelytra, veined with carmine, dotted with yellow gold, diapered with blue steel, speckled with peacock green.
a tense concentration,
with the fixed
so haunting to artists and poets. and pleased Herod. nor the hermaphrodite. being before instructed of her mother. had obsessed Des Esseintes for years. translated by the theological doctors of the University of Louvain. sword in hand. And the king was sorry: nevertheless. And she. . recounts the beheading of the Baptist! How often had he fallen into revery. in brief and ingenuous phrases. This conception of Salome. for the oath's sake. nor her mother. and them which sat with him at meat. at the foot of the throne ure. the fierce Herodias who watches her. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. veiled to his eyes.AGAINST THE GRAIN 93 gaze of a somnambulist. said Give me here John : Baptist's head in a charger. as he read these lines: But when Herod's birthday was kept. like — a terrible fig- whose breasts droop gourds under his orange-checkered tunic. nor the eunuch who sits. he commanded it to be given her. she beholds neither the trembling Tetrarch. the Gospel of Saint Matthew who. the daughter of Herodias danced before them. How often had he read in the old Bible of Pierre Variquet.
who destroys the energy and breaks the will of a king by trembling breasts and quivering belly. In Gustave Moreau's work. not to be grasped by vulgar and materialistic minds. Des saw realized the superhuman and exotic Salome of his dreams. and beheaded John in the prison. mysterious and swooning in the far-off mist of the centuries. a mystery to all the'writers who had never succeeded in his : And portraying the disquieting exaltation of this dancer. She was no longer the mere performer who wrests a cry of desire and of passion from an old man by a perverted twisting of her loins. conceived independently of the Testament themes. the refined grandeur of this murderess. nor the other Evangelists had emphasized the maddening charms and depravities of the dancer. But neither Saint Matthew. accessible only to disordered and volcanic intellects made visionaries by their neuroticism. rebellious to painters of the flesh. Esseintes at last . She remained vague and hidden. nor Saint Luke.94 AGAINST THE GRAIN And he sent. to Rubens who disguised her as a butcher's wife of Flanders. head was brought in a charger. and given to the damsel and she brought it to her mother. nor Saint Mark.
by a supreme force. seems to have wished to affirm his desire of remaining outhis Saits side the centuries. into the alluring vileness of debauchery. for she was not She no longer traditions. and painted like her. nation and epoch. 95 in a sense. distinguished from her all others by the catalepsy which indifferent. like the fatal to all Helen of her. of accursed Beauty. garbed like her in jewels and purple. associated with Thus understood. scorning to designate the origin. such as Salammbo bore. all antiquity. she was the theogonies of the Far sprang from biblical longer even be assimilated with the living image of Babylon. sensible. hurled by a fatidical power.AGAINST THE GRAIN She became. the monirresponsible. stiffens flesh and hardens her muscles. in crowning her with a fantastic mitre shaped like a Phoenician tower. the symbolic deity of indestructible lust. and placing in her hand the sceptre of . the goddess of immortal Hysteria. could no East. all whom she touches. by placing style. who approach who behold her. the royal Prostitute of the Apocalypse. The painter. in- strous Beast. in lome with in this extraordinary palace with confused and imposing clothing her sumptuous and chimerical robes. baneful. moreover.
96 Isis. the chemists and the priests. seduced by a convulsion of the flesh? Perhaps. extracting the brain with curved needles through the chambers of the nose. before gilding the nails and teeth and coating the body with bitumens and essences. Perhaps he had recalled the rites of ancient Egypt. from whom spring all sins and crimes. the mortal woman with the polluted Vase. sacred flower of Egypt and emwhich Did it India. after stretching the corpse on a bench of casper. AGAINST THE GRAIN the tall lotus. the Hindoo myth of life. an exchange of blood. offered under the express stipulation of a monstrous sin? Or did it represent the allegory of fecundity. Des Esseintes sought the blem. inserted the chaste petals of the divine . distorted and trampled by the palpitant hands of man whom a fit of madness seizes. an existence held between the hands of woman. the sepulchral ceremonies of the embalming when. sense of this Had it that phallic significance the primitive cults of India gave it? enunciate an oblation of virginity to the senile Herod. an impure and voluntary wound. too. in arming his enigmatic god- dess with the venerated lotus. the painter had dreamed of the dancer.
to 97 purify them. iridescent columns with moorish tile. Salome thrusts from her the horrible vision which transfixes a gesture of terror. the neck crimson. Arabesques proceeded from lozenges of lapis lazuli. but the water-color entitled The Apparition was per- haps even more disturbing. brightening the glassy orbs of the contracted eyes which were fixed with a ghastly stare upon the dancer.AGAINST THE GRAIN flower in the sexual parts. The face was encircled by an aureole worked in mosaic. blood-stained sword. which shot rays of light under the porticos and illum- inated the horrible ascension of the head. motionless. crept rainbow gleams and prismatic flames. The severed head of the saint stared lividly . The murder was accomplished. on the charger resting on the slabs the mouth was discolored and open. The execu- tioner stood impassive. joined with silver beton and gold cement. her. his hands on the hilt of his long. With Her eyes di- . an irresistible nation emanated from this painting. to the ground. fasci- However this may be. on nacreous marquetry. wove their patterns on the cupolas where. and tears fell from the eyes. the palace of Herod arose like an Alhambra on slender. There.
The stones grow warm. She is almost nude. nor the Tetrarch who. All the facets of the jewels kindle under A the ardent shafts of light escaping from the head of the Baptist. her veils had become loosened. a neck-piece clasps her as a corselet does the body and. like a superb buckle. musing on her finally consummated revenge. —vermilions like coals. outlining the woman's body with incandescent rays. a marvelous jewel sparkles on the hollow begirdle encircles her hips. bleeding con- sombre purple on the ends of the beard and hair. and whites like star light. The horrible head blazes. tween her breasts. attract Herodias. She garbed only in gold-wrought stuffs and lim- pid stones. maddened by the nudity of the woman saturated stantly. AGAINST THE GRAIN her hands clasp her neck in a convulsive is clutch. it does not. with its fixed gaze. feet and arms with tongues of fire.98 late. striking her neck. clots of . bent slightly forward. against which beats a gigantic pendant streaming with carbuncles and emeralds. violets like jets of gas. his hands on his knees. concealing the upper part of her thighs. Visible for Salome alone. still pants. In the ardor of the dance. blues like flames of alcohol.
with the charm of a tall energetically flower. In this insensate and pitiless image. It was here that she was indeed Woman. dizzied by the whirlwind of the dance. more execrable and exquisite. a frightful nightmare now stifled the woman. Des Esseintes thought that never before had a water color attained such magnificent color- ing. in the presence of this dancer who was less majestic. She more his of man.AGAINST THE GRAIN 99 with animal odors. more refined and savage. the eroticism and terror of lotus mankind were depicted. venereal cultivated in sacrilegious beds. exuding incense and myrrh. the goddess had van- ished. hypnotized and petrified by terror. Des Esseintes remained dumbfounded. never before had the poverty of colors been able paper. She was living. in impious hothouses. Like the old king. overwhelmed and seized with giddiness. to force jeweled corruscations from stained glass gleams like windows . awakened the dulled senses more surely bewitched and subdued power of will. less haughty but more disquieting than the Salome of the oil painting. for here she gave rein to her ardent and cruel temperament. The tall had disappeared. in this innocent and dangerous idol. steeped in balms.
and the enchanting sublimation of past Des Esseintes could not trace the genesis of this artist. and he compared and elucidated their intricate enigmas.IGO AGAINST THE GRAIN touched by rays of sunlight. The fact was art. he sought to discover the origins of this great artist and mystic pagan. the splendor of these cruel visions ages. here in Paris. to the origins of myths. Lost in contemplation. But the influences of such masters remained negligible. thus justifying his architectonic fusions. his hiera- and sinister allegories sharpened by the restless perceptions of a pruriently modern . the myths which had been altered by the superstitions of other peo. his luxurious tic and outlandish fabrics. He reunited the legends of the Far East ples into a whole. splendors of tissue and flesh so fabulous and dazzling. contemporary remained unique without ancestors and He without possible descendants. Here and there w^ere vague suggestions of Mantegna and of Jacope de Barbarj. this visionary who succeeded in removing himself from the w^orld sufficiently to behold. that Gustave Moreau derived from no one in else. He went to ethnographic sources. here and there were confused hints of Vinci and of the feverish colors of Delacroix.
101 And he remained saddened. It a number of pictures to the was thus arranged . Although he had surrendered himself never used at all. which he fit the ground floor had required walls. of divine stuprations brought to end without abandonment and without hope. its most marvelous strokes from the art of Limosin. caused one to pause disconcerted. to his serv- ants the second story of his house.AGAINST THE GRAIN neurosis. its most exquisite refinements from the art of the lapidary and the engraver. just as do certain poems of Baudelaire. These two pictures of Salome. he had hung on the fines of painting. haunted by the symbols of perversities and superhuman loves. eflects walls of his study on special panels between the bookshelves. amazed. for which Des Esseintes' admiration was boundless. might live under But these were not the only pictures he had acquired to divert his solitude. so that they his eyes. brooding on the spell of an art which leaped beyond the con- borrowing its most subtle from the art of writing. an incantation that stirred one to the depths. His depressing and erudite productions possessed a strange enchantment.
which formed the other corner. the kitchen formed an angle. and the footsteps of his servants in ascending or de- scending thus reached Des Esseintes tinctly. against one of the sides of the house. whose windows looked out on the Aunay Valley. with the library. sing room. and from the library into the dining room. it was built outside. As for the staircase. in ebony frames. composed one of the sides of the dwelling. a long corridor. less dis- The red. One passed from the bedroom to the library. with the bedroom. communicating with the A bedroom. These rooms received the light from the side opposite the Aunay Valley and faced the Towers of Croy and Chatillon. an old Dutch engraver almost unknown in France. and corresponded with the dining room. hung the prints of Jan Luyken. with the dressing room. Thus. .102 AGAINST THE GRAIN dressing room. a small drestoilet. The other side of the house had four rooms arranged in the same order. These rooms. dressing room was tapestried in deep On the walls. occupied one of the corners of the house. which served as the entrance. and the forming a second angle.
the creeping sensations of goose-flesh. but mobs of which re- which had a strength never possessed by that amusing dauber curious — . which animates his characters. eyes gouged. limbs dislocated and deliberately broken. swarming throngs —among among his aston- his people delineated with a dexterity called Callot. in addition to the tremblings they occa- beyond the terrible skill of this life the extraordinary man. who was held fascinated in this red room. horrible prints depicting the agonies in- vented by the madness of religions: prints showing bodies roasting on fires. But sioned. trepaned with nails and gashed with saws. one discovered. These works filled with abominable imagin- ings. offensive with their odors of burning. ishing. and bones bared of flesh and agonizingly scraped by pregnant with sufferings. human sheets of metal. the series of his Religious Persecutions. vehement and all wild. who fantastic and melancholy. finger nails slowly extracted with pincers. skulls slit open with swords.AGAINST THE GRAIN He was possessed of the 103 work of this artist. intestines separated from the abdomen and twisted on spools. gave Des Esseintes. oozing with blood and clamorous with cries of horror and maledictions.
fascinated him.104 AGAINST THE GRAIN The architec- reconstructions of bygone ages. Profoundly suggestive in reflections. lost himself in reading of the Bible from which he emerged haggard and frenzied. of Rome under the Christian persecutions. a stubborn sectarian. One could gaze at them for hours without experiencing any sense of weariness. unbal- anced by prayers and hymns. with And . by explaining the hallucination of his work. too. These prints were veritable treasures of learning. he wrote ligious re- poetry which he illustrated. A fertion. at the time of Saint Bartholomew and the Dragonnades. his mouth the twisted by the maledictions of the tion Reforma- and by its songs of terror and hate. ture. surrendering his wealth to the poor and subsisting on a slice of bread. of vent Calvinist. He ended his life in travelling. he scorned the world. his brain haunted by monstrous subjects. they assisted Des Esseintes in passing many a day when his books failed to charm him. of Spain under the Inquisi- France during the Middle Ages. costumes and customs during the time of the Maccabeans. were studied with a meticulous care and noted with scientific accuracy. Luyken's life. para- phrased the psalms in verse.
his mounted by agitated A legs outstretched in front of a pond. both of in the larger. demon forms. peo- . exhausted by long privation and enfeebled with hunger. preaching the Gospel far and wide. a hermit in the depths of a cave meditates. and sur- skeletons whose arms while beat the air they intone a song of victory. There was Bresdin's Comedy of Death trees. sorbs and oaks grown together. heedless of seasons and climates. Christ speeds across a clouded sky. and eventually becoming almost demented and violent. one wretch dies. as well as in the cor- which had woodwork of red in cedar. a large engraving on stone an incongruous medley of palms. Other bizarre sketches were hung ridor. adjoining room. lying on his back. The Good Samaritan. skulls cracked willows and bones. holding his head in his hands. rear their gnarled trunks. teeming with rat-headed. 105 going where chance led his boat. endeavoring to forego nourishment. pod-tailed birds. which. in the fantastic landscape bristling with brushwood and tufts of grass resembling phantom. on earth covered with ribs. by is the : same artist.AGAINST THE GRAIN an equally fanatical servant.
a frightful spider revealing charcoal drawwent even farther into dream terrors. They were signed Odilon Redon. covered with old stumps as misshapen as the roots of the mandrake. behind a camel and the Samaritan group then an elfin town appear. cut in the center near a glade through which a stream can be seen far away. a bearded man. ing on the horizon of an exotic sky dotted with birds and covered with masses of fleecy clouds. But although he liked the Des Esseintes had : finesse of the detail and the imposing appearance of this print. It tain. could be called the design of an uncerprimitive Durer with an opium-steeped brain. plains. volcanic upheavals . They enclosed inconceivable apparitions their rough. The ings . an enormous die in which a sad eye winked there. gold-striped pear-tree in wood. touching the ball of a gigantic cannon with his fingers. shifting ground. dry and arid landscapes. Here. resting against a bowl. A head of a Merovingian style. a special weak- ness for the other frames adorning the room. then a magical forest. at once resembling a Buddhist priest and an orator at a public reunion. dusty a its human face in body.106 AGAINST THE GRAIN pled with monkeys and owls.
for the most part. first recalled the ances- heads of the quartenary periods. the fantasy of a diseased and delirious mind. or by the reading of Edgar . indeed. certain of these faces. deformed bodies resembled carafes. Des Esseintes recollections of typhoid. figures whose simian shapes. These designs were beyond anything imaginable. the rhinoceros and the big bear. beyond the limits of painting and introduced a fantasy that was unique. everywhere. memories of feverish nights and of the shocking visions of his infancy which persisted and would not be suppressed. when devoured fruits and seeds. they leaped. Sometimes the subjects even seemed to have borrowed from the cacodemons of science. And. jaws. monstrous reverting to prehistoric times. the same sensation caused by certain Proverbs of Goya which they recalled. queer blocks A glacial mud. stagnant and livid skies.AGAINST THE GRAIN 107 catching rebellious clouds. and was still contemporaneous with the mammoth. eyebrows. induced in Seized with an indefinable uneasiness in the presence of these sketches. with still man their monstrous. retreating heavy tral beetling foreheads and inarticulate flat skulls. certain of these swollen. insane eyes. plant on the rocks.
painting. arose serene and calm a figure of Melancholy Allen Foe's — seated near the disk of a sun. dashes of paint flecking the thick crayon. spread a brilliance of sea-green and of pale gold among the protracted darkness of the charcoal prints.108 AGAINST THE GRAIN tales. He with meditated long before its this work which. whose mirages of hallucination and effects of fear Odilon Redon seemed to have transposed to a different art. possessing a wild color and a disordered energy: a picture executed in the painter's second man- ner when he had been tormented by sinister the nec- essity of avoiding imitation of Titian. with its This wax and sickly green tones. he had hung a disturbing sketch by El Greco in his bedroom. In addition to this series of the works of Redon which adorned nearly every panel of the passage. amid these tormenting sketches. It was a Christ done in strange tints. in a strained design. in a dejected and gloomy posture. dispersed as though by sadness. on the rocks. bore an affinity to certain . he rubbed his eyes and turned to contemplate a radiant figure which. A charming guid and desolate feeling flowed through him. a lan- The shadows were an enchantment.
XV style was century had inevitable for the fastidious. For the first instance.AGAINST THE GRAIN ideas 109 to fur- Des Esseintes had with regard nishing a room. there were but two ways of fitting a bedroom. this expedient — was the only possible he was compelled to design a room . for the cerebrally Only the eighteenth succeeded in enveloping atmosphere. imitating woman with a vicious in her contours the undulations and twistings of wood and copper. a source of depravity to old roues. attenuating pungency of the brunette with its tapes- tries of aqueous. —and now that he put behind him the irritating mem- ories of his past life. accentuating the sugary languor of the blond with the its clear and lively decors. at modesty of Greuze's tender the deceptive candor of a bed evocative of babes and chaste maidens. According to him. with a lacquered bed which one stimu- lant the more. a sort of oratory. the Louis morbid. white. One could either make it a sense-stimulating alcove. in Paris. For the second wished to instance. or a cell for solitude and repose. sweet. almost insipid tones. is He had once had such a room lofty. leering at the false chastity critical and hypovirgins. a place for noc- turnal delights. a retreat for thought.
or rather to give a tone of elegance and distinction to the room thus treated. but . in imitation of plaster. while recalling to Des Esseineffect tes the repellant rigidity of the model he had followed and yet transformed. To imitate the stonecolor of ochre and clerical yellow. was hung with white. unbleached without its cloth. By dint of studying the problem in all its phases. But difficulties faced him here. he used pieces of violet wood deepened with amarinth. The effect was bewitching. have the cell of a Carthusian monk which should possess the appearance of reality without in fact being so. to reverse the practice of the whose vile tinsel imitates to sumptuous and to costly textures. Thus he proceeded. in The ceiling. meanwhile preserving its char: acter of ugliness theatre. for he refused to acits cept in entirety the austere ugliness of those asylums of penitence and prayer. . obtain the contrary by use of splendid fabrics. he concluded that the end to be attained could thus be stated to devise a sombre effect by means of cheerful objects. turn. in a word. to simulate the chocolate hue of the dadoes common to this type of room.no that AGAINST THE GRAIN would be like a monastic cell. he had his walls covered with saffron silk.
the kind used by monks. with his head on his El Greco whose barbaric the pillows. for Des Esseintes professed a to cere repugnance gas. he placed a church pew surmounted by a tall dais with little benches carved out of solid wood. forged and polished iron. Against the wall. Once this had been part of a balustrade of an old hostel's superb staircase. procured from a spehis table. oil and ordinary candles.AGAINST THE GRAIN discordant brightness. with whitish spots in the weave to imitate the wear of sandals and the friction of boots. he was able to copy it. of illumination. Into this chamber he introduced a small iron bed. gaudy and Before going to sleep in the morning. yellow material and recalled . fashioned of antique. he installed an antique praying-desk the inside of which could contain an urn and the outside a prayer book. he would gaze. at color rebuked it the smiling. opposite it. to all so modern forms brutal. His church tapers were made of real wax. the head and foot adorned with thick filigrees of blossoming tulips enlaced with vine branches and leaves. cial For house which catered exclusively to houses sin- of worship. by means of a bit of rug designed in red squares. HI As for the cold pavement of the cell.
its dirt. surrounded by comforts. in clois- And. Paris. seized with the need of self-communion and with a desire to have nothing in common with the profane who were. Although he experienced no inclination for the state of grace. Then he could a easily imagine himself living moved from tral security. perse- cuted by a vengeful society which can forgive neither the merited scorn with which it inspires them. he was depressed and in the grip of an obsessing lassitude. for him. hundred leagues refar from society.112 to a AGAINST THE GRAIN more serious tone. approached the Thus he had the advantages the illusion its of monasticism without the inconveniences of its vigorous discipline. so had he made his free. since life harassed him and he no longer desired anything of it. normal. was not difficult. nor the desire to expiate. Again like a monk. the utilitarian and the imbecile. to atone . since he led an existence that life of a monk. he felt a genuine sympathy for those souls immured in monasteries. lack of service. occupied and Like a hermit he was ripe for isolation. Just as he had transformed his cell into a comfortable life chamber. its promiscuity and its monotonous idle- ness. pleasant. all in all.
AGAINST THE GRAIN by long silences. . for the ever its 113 growing sham- lessness of ridiculous or trifling gossipings.
found himself unable to understand a He could single word of the books he read. After having strained and enervated it. Solitude had reacted upon his brain like a narcotic. refused to absorb any more. broke his will invoked a cortege of he passively submitted.|VER since the night when he had evoked. not even receive It seemed to him that his mind. for no apparent reason. train of melancholy memoEsseintes pictures of his past life reto turned Des and gave him no peace. nourished by his own substance. as a dam to bar the current of old The confused medley . like some torpid creature which hibernates in caves. his mind had fallen victim to a sluggishness He hilated his plans. He lived within himself. which annipower and vague reveries to which of meditations on art and literature in which he had indulged since his isolation. impressions through his eyes. a whole ries. saturated with literature and art.
submerging everything beneath the blanket of the past. vain words which obsessed him with the stubbornness of popular melodies which one cannot help humming. but which suddenly and inexplicably end by boring one. the horse races. This phase had not lasted long. The book he held in his hands fell to his knees. his But almost instantly the rushing force of memories swept him into a second phase. . in his rose-colored boudoir! He recalled faces. on whose surface floated. He abandoned himself to the mood which dominated him. so as to efface the im- pressions of such recollections. love society. filling his mind with an immensity of sorrow. watching the dead trifles years of his life filled with so many a life disgusts and fears. move past. expressions. like futile wreckage. irresistible 115 memories. fairs ordered in advance and served at the stroke of midnight. and wave crashed into the present and future. absurd and dull episodes of his life. had been rudely swept away. His memory gave him respite and he plunged again into his Latin studies. What he had af- lived! He thought of the evenings spent in card parties.AGAINST THE GRAIN the onrushing.
or perhaps chatted under the trees with the youngsters. He recalled the easy yoke of the monks who inflict- declined to administer punishment by ing the committment of five hundred or a thousand lines while the others were at play. the flower beds. consenting to whatever expeditions they on Tuesdays. and most often simply having recourse to a gentle admonition. cries of the students. Although more remote. They surrounded the children with an active but gentle watch. they were more positive and more indelibly stamped on his brain. especially of the years spent at the school of the Fathers. as though they were companions of the same filled The gardens age. without any posturing or hauteur. with their cassocks tucked up between their knees. being satisfied with making those delinquents prepare the lesson that had not been mastered. The leafy park. here in his room. and he heard the ringing mingling with the laughter of the professors as they played tennis. the long walks. seeking to please them. taking the occasion of every minor holiday not to take wished . the benches — all the actual details of the monastery rose before him.116 AGAINST THE GRAIN that of his childhood.
In this manner. and by sending them affectionate letters like those which the Dominican Lacordaire so skillfully wrote to his former pupils of Sorreze. Des Esseintes took note of this system which had been so fruitlessly expended on him. treating them as men while showering them with the attentions paid a spoiled child. that they gossiped with them. had prevented him from being modelled by their discipline or subdued by their lessons. taking pains not to lose sight of them in their later life. to some extent. in molding. in instilling special ideas. and to entertain them with picnics. It was a paternal discipline whose success lay in the fact that they did not seek to domineer over the pupils. in assuring the growth of their thoughts by insinuating. disposed to controversies. in directing them. His scepticism had increased after he left the precincts of the . captious and inquisitive character. in a sense. His stubborn. the monks succeeded in as- suming a real influence over the youngsters. wheedling methods with which they continued to flatter them throughout their careers. the minds which they were cultivating.AGAINST THE GRAIN formally observed by the Church to 117 add cakes and wine to the ordinary fare.
had still more fortified his spirit of independence and increased his scorn for any faith whatever. AGAINST THE GRAIN His association with a legitimist. his soul had been strangely perturbed. intolerant and shallow society. without which no converpersed. free of all bonds Unlike most graduates of and constraints. He knew without a doubt that he would never experience that moment of grace mentioned by Lacordaire. as he considered these matters. Analyzing himself. And now. He had deemed himself "when soul the last shaft of light penetrates the and unites the truths there lying disHe never felt the need of mortification and of prayer." . at the slightest approach of reason. lycees or private schools. his faith would dissolve. whose blunders tore away the veil so subtly woven by the Jesuits. in fact. he was well aware that he would never possess a truly Christian spirit of humility and penitence. he asked himself if the seeds sown until now on barren soil were not beginning to take root. For several days.118 college. At moments. he felt himself veering towards religion. Then. his conversations with unintelligent church wardens and abbots. Yet he remained deeply troubled. he had preserved a vivid memory of his college and of his masters.
And by an association of ideas. if one is to believe the ma- jority of priests. those God whose ardent voices of men of indubitably superior intelligence returned to him and led him to Amid doubt his own mind and strength." Des Esseintes he reasoned the matter and followed . without that exchange of sensations common to society. without fresh experi- new nourishment. in a heady perfume of incense. almost all of them written by bishops and monks. Those inimitable accents of convica tion.AGAINST THE GRAIN sion is 119 possible. his nervous brain had grown excitable. the solitude in which he lived. The reading of his beloved Latin works. revealing in full light the years spent with the Fathers. without any renovation of thought. without any ences. all the questionings forgotten during his stay in Paris were revived as active irritants. had doubtless contributed to this crisis. forgiveness seemed most improbYet the sympathy he felt for his old teachers lent him an interest in their works and doctrines. these books had driven back the memories of his life as a young man. as is no doubt about it. Enveloped in a convent-like at- mosphere. in this unnatural confinement in which he persisted. He had no desire to implore able. "There mused.
my childhood. even in aluminum and imitation enamels and colored glasses. disturbed at no longer being his own master. Even in its wretched modern reproductions. He searched for motives it had required a struggle for him to abandon things sacerdotal. bringing to our own days those marvelous fabrics and jewelries which the makers of sacred ob.120 AGAINST THE GRAIN "Since it. — . and the charm of pyxes with their chaste sides. And just as the Church had preserved philosophy and history and letters from barbarism in the Middle Ages. since the Church alone had treasured objects of art the lost forms of past ages. most of the precious objects now to be found in the Cluny museum. she had preserved the contours of the gold and silver ornaments. come from the ancient French abbeys. The weakness I have always borne for religious subjects is perhaps a positive proof of it." But he sought to persuade himself to the contrary. which have miraculously escaped the crude barbarism of the philistines. so had she saved the plastic arts. she had preserved the grace of vanished modes. the charm of chalices curving like petunias. In short. this leaven although unaware of I have had w^hich has never fermented. the progress of this introduction of the Jesuitic spirit into Fontenay.
to Yet. Moreover. his scepticism began be shattered. in his having. had slowly and obscurely developed in his soul. together with a num- ber of other collectors. But these reasons he evoked in vain. that there was noth- ing surprising in his having bought these old trinkets. when he had been directly under the in: fluence of the Jesuits. He persisted in considering religion as a su- perb legend. 121 without being able form. to destroy the originally exquisite It followed. This was the singular fact he was obliged to face he was less confident now than in childhood. when their instruction when he was in their hands and belonged to them body and soul. purchased such relics from the antique shops of Paris and the second-hand dealers of the provinces. until today it was blossom- . a magnificent imposture. they had inculcated in him a certowards the marvelous which. could not be shunned. He did not wholly succeed in convincing himself.AGAINST THE GRAIN jects spoil to the best of their ability. interned and exercised in the close quarters of his fixed ideas. with no outside influence powerful enough tain tendency to counteract their precepts. then. without family ties. despite his convictions.
the last analysis. Here am I arguing with myself like a very casuist!" He was left pensive. if Lacordaire's theory were fear. the ground must be constantly and assiduously mined. ing in his solitude. aspirations towards an ideal.122 AGAINST THE GRAIN spirit. for eccentricity. vexed. ecstacies. since the magic touch of conversion is not to be consummated in a moment. threads and to discover its By examining the process of his reasoning. unknown universe as de- promised us by the Holy Scrip- He curbed his thoughts sharply and broke the thread of his reflections. his education he had received. agitated by a vague Certainly. They were. he concluded that his pre- mode of living was derived from the Thus. "Well!" he thought. To bring about the explosion. by seeking to unite vious its sources and causes. affecting his less of regard- arguments. towards an sirable as that tures. he had nothing to be afraid of. "I am even more had imagined. so do theoaffected than I . But just as the romancers speak of the thunderclap of love. spiritual refinements and in quasi-theological speculations. sound. were no ten- dencies towards artificiality and his craving more than the results of specious studies.
only to be replaced by other thoughts. recorded in the works on the Decrees. void. He was entirely dominated by morbid abstractions. 123 logians also speak of the thunderclap of con- No one was safe. There was no longer to any need of self-analysis. of the lost apostasies of Father Labbe. of taking preventive measures. so because they were and that am really Des Esseintes. of paying heed presentiments. of the contradictory interpretations of the dog- mas. Fragments of these schisms. becoming stupid." thought "The very fear of this malady it will end by bringing on.AGAINST THE GRAIN version. in the mystery it was not God but rather human being she had nourished in her womb. The psychology Things were was all. returned to him. Nestarius denied the title of "Mother of God" to the Virgin because." He Jesuits partially succeeded in shaking off this The memories of his life with the waned. he thought influence. Eutyches declared that Christ's of the Incarnation. scraps of these heresies which for centuries had divided the Churches of the Orient and the Occident. should one admit the truth of this doctrine. Here. Despite himself. "I of mysticism was so. there. if this continues. a .
124 AGAINST THE GRAIN image could not resemble that of other men. its The ab- and under the influence of the Gustave Moreau paintings on stract side vanished. like a lesson long ago learned. or was it the Trinity which had suffered as one in its triple hypostasis. since divinity had chosen to dwell in his body and had consequently entirely altered the form Other quibblers maintained of everything. in turn. yielded to a concrete succession of pictures. Before him he saw marching a procession . indulged in puns and ended in a most tenuous and singular celestial jurisprudence. a skein of rules as complicated as the articles of his famous. he proposed the questions to himself and answered them." Finally. while Tertullian put forth axiom: "Only that which is not. the wall. on the cross at Calvary? And mechanically. that the Redeemer had had no body at all and that this expression of the holy books must be taken figuratively. For several days his brain was a swarm of paradoxes. subtleties and hair-splittings. debated for years. this ancient question. everything which is. semi-materialistic the codes that involved the sense of everything. demanded an answer: was Christ hanged on the cross. has no body. has a body fitting it.
These age to age. at a theo- paused breathless as he viewed the onrush of penitents and the churchly apparitions which detached themselves expression. in a sudden reversion. this plane. He saw silent files of penitents marching into dim crypts. havuttered the entire pages opium and word "Consul Romanus. mournful infinity of music. there no reasonings were neceswere no further contests to be endured. and beheld the solemn advance of consuls of the and the magnificent. bathing his soul in a tender. so he. Then. His artistic sense was conquered by the skillfully calculated CathoHis nerves quivered at these memlic rituals. They moved from culminating in the modern relig- ious ceremonies. pompous march logical Roman armies. their 125 The archimandrites and patri- white beards waving during the reading of the prayers. Just as ing taken a dose of De Quincey. He had an indescribable impression of respect and fear. ories. Before him rose vast cathedrals where white monks intoned from pulpits." evoked the of Livius.AGAINST THE GRAIN of prelates. him enchanted. lifted golden arms to bless kneeling throngs. from the glowing depths scenes held of the basilica. archs. in sudden rebellion. sary. monstrous ideas were born in him. On .
covering them with outrages and saturating them in opprobrium. reached the point where he wondered if he were not committing a sacrilege in possessing objects which had once been consecrated: the Church canons. A frightful grandeur seemed to Des Esseintes to emanate from a crime committed in Church by a believer bent. of terrors of possessions He hardly serious.126 fancies AGAINST THE GRAIN concerning those sacrileges warned manual of the father confessors. and revels. impure desecration of holy water and sacred oil. And this idea of a state of sin imparted to him a mixed sensation of pride and relief. in any case. of the scandalous. chasubles and pyx covers. now stood against an omnipotent God. over such revered objects. of the witches' and of exorcisms. The pleasures of sacrilege were unravelled from the skein of this idea. the caution of his soul for- bidding obvious crimes and depriving him of . but these were debatable sacrileges. of the black mass. Before him were conjured up the madnesses against by the of magic. with blasphemously horrible glee and sadistic joy. since he really loved these objects and did not pollute them by misuse. a powerful rival. In this wise he lulled himself with prudent and cowardly thoughts. The Demon.
He imagined it as imposing and suffering. its trials and offenses. the infelicity of man's destiny. of the Imitation of Christ. but he revolted against hope of remedy in the beyond. In his mind's eye he saw the panorama of the Church with its hereditary influence on humanity through the centuries. preaching patience. penitence seeking to and the spirit of sacrifice. Here. emphasizing to man the horror of life. bespeaking divine privileges. exhorting suffer sion of social ordure. too. while it displayed the bleeding wounds of Christ. like the author the vague . Thus the Church grew truly eloquent. like a holocaust. He was thoroughly satisfied with this admisdise to the afflicted. promising the richest part of para- humanity to and to render to God. heal wounds. the eternal menace of oppressors and despots. Des Esseintes was on firm ground. too. vileness of the world he. based his system on the premises. Schopenhauer was more true. His doctrine and that of the church started from common He. its vicissitudes and pains. Little 127 consummation of to ineffectual by little this tendency quibbling disappeared. the beneficent mother of the oppressed.AGAINST THE GRAIN the courage necessary to the frightful and deliberate sins. uttered that griev- .
as Far from seeking does the Church. He did not affirm the revolting conception a beneficent of original sin." Ah! Schopenhauer pared with these of alone was right. torments and he cried. did not entice one with false hopes. unjust and senseless abomination. physical suffering. Com- treatises of spiritual hygiene. and warned humanity that no matter rection it what turn." life. to justify. so as to minimize the inevitable evils of life. incomprehensible. the poor by reason of the sufferings entailed by want. what avail were the evangelical pharmaco- . He. I world's The my heart. in his outthis raged pity: "If a God has made should not wish to be that God. it it may does. the necessity of afflictions. stultifies the aged and afflicts the He did not exalt the virtues of a Providence which has invented that useless. nor did he feel inclined to ar- gue that it is God who protects the worthless and wicked. innocent. in whatever dimust remain wretched. rains misfortunes on children. also. but this philosophy promised no universal remedies. the rich by reason of the unconquerable weariness engendered by abundance.128 AGAINST THE GRAIN life ous outcry: "Truly on earth is wretched. preached the nothingness of the advantages of solitude. wretchedness would rend world.
AGAINST THE GRAIN poeias? 129 He did not claim to cure anything. but without go- ing astray in mysterious labyrinths and remote roads. These reflections relieved Des Esseintes of a heavy burden. indicated the saf- preserved you from disillusionment to restrain by warning you to hopes as much as possible. this theory. if they did not come toppling about your ears at some unexpected moment. to the spiritually rich. and he offered no alleviation to the sick. He revealed society as it is. But pessimism was. the great consoler of choice intellects and lofty his theory of souls. too. ended in similar highways of resignation and indiflference. to refuse to yield to their allurement. it was open more difficult of approach to the poor whose passions and cravings were more easily satisfied by the was all the benefits of religion. which was obviously the only outcome of the deplorable condition of things and their irremediability. and the points of contact in these two doctrines helped . in the end. But if this resignation. The aphorisms of the great German calmed his excited thoughts. Traversing the same path as the Imitation. asserted woman's inherent est course. deem yourself fortunate. finally. stupidity.
frightful pains. and whose essence he had long ago absorbed. by shudderings which He had and made him grit his teeth.130 AGAINST THE GRAIN to correlate him them. these intimations of faith tormented him particularly since the changes that had lately taken place in his health. drummed maddeningly against his temples. and had thinned the already impoverished blood of his race. he had been compelled to subhydrotherapic treatments for his trem- bling fingers. These reactions had long perchilled his spine sisted. the exag- gerated tension of his mind had strangely ag- gravated his earliest nervous disorder. been tortured since his youth by inexplicable aversions. and he could never forget that poignant and poetic Catholicism in which he had bathed. or a touching a bit of moire. The excesses of his youthful life. for example. These reversions to religion. as. neuralgic strokes which cut his face in two. mit to In Paris. pricked his eyelids agonizingly and induced a nausea which could . when he saw a girl wringing wet linen. Their progress coincided with that of his recent nervous disorders. the rubbing of a finger against a piece of chalk. Even now he suffered poignantly when hand he heard the tearing of cloth.
AGAINST THE GRAIN be dispelled only by lying the dark. A nervous cough racked him vals. He obliged himself to a last resort. after each attempt at eating. at regular inter- awakening and almost strangling him in Then his appetite forsook him. gaseous. He the country it when As the rainy days came to make desolate and still. thanks to a more regulated and sane mode of They now returned in another form. corroded with ennui. The pains left his head. . was choked for breath. flat 131 on his back in These living. and strolled about tea. determined to make his listless life toler- take exercise. abandoned his able by realizing a project he had long deferred through laziness and a dislike of change. afflictions had gradually disappeared. shunned alcoholic beverages. He even felt a desire to go out. but affected his inflated stomach. attacking his whole body. entrails His seemed pierced by hot bars of iron. He grew swollen. And he took recourse to baths of cold water and dosed himself with assafoetida. valerian and quinine. hot acids and dry heats coursed through his stomach. coffee and and drank only milk. since his installment at Fontenay. and could not endure his clothes his bed. he temporarily books and.
calm his nerves and rest his brain.132 AGAINST THE GRAIN Being no longer able to intoxicate himself with the felicities of style. . He would procure precious hot-house flowers and thus permit himself a material occupation which might distract him. while remaining precise. yet opens to the imagination of the initiate infinite and distant vistas. He also hoped that the sight of their strange and splendid nuances would in some degree atone for the fanciful and genuine colors of style which he was for the time to lose from his literary diet. with the delicious witchery of the rare epithet which. he determined to give the finishing touches to the decorations of his home.
he had never cultivated distinctions and discriminations in regard to them.|E had always been passionately fond of flowers. under green awnings or under the red parasols of Parisian markets. Simultaneous with the refinement of his literary taste and his preoccupations with art. that love had been lav- ished upon flowers of all sorts. For a long time he had scorned the popular plants which grow in flat baskets. distilled by subtly troubled brains. which permitted him to be content only in the presence of choice creations. had become clarified. Now his taste in this direction had grown refined and self-conscious. his love for flowers grown purged of all impurities and lees. He compared a florist's shop to a microcosm wherein all the categories of society are rep- had and . and simultaneous with the weariness he began to feel in the presence of popular ideas. but during his residence at Jutigny. in watered pots.
In re- venge he detested the bouquets harmonizing with the cream and gold rooms of pretentious houses. very choice. their roots thrust into milk bottles and old pans. He permitted himself to feel a certain interest and pity only for the popular flowers enfeebled by their nearness to the odors of sinks and drains in the poor quarters. at once cold and palpitating. For the joy of his eyes he reserved those distinguished. having absolutely nothing in common with the street plants and other bourgeois flora. rare blooms which had under been brought from distant lands and whose lives were sustained by this artful devices artificial equators. Then. like the gilly-flower for example. Here are poor common flowers.134 AGAINST THE GRAIN resented. exotic flowers exiled in the heated glass palaces of Paris. the kind found in hovels. there are flowers of noble lineage like the orchid. which are truly at home only when resting on ledges of garret windows. so delicate and charming. princesses of the vegetable kingdom living in solitude. And one also finds stupid and pretentious flowers like the rose which belongs in the porcelain flowerpots painted by young girls. this predilection for the conservatory plants had itself changed But .
leading step. paper and silk. taking the flower as to its full development. reaching such a point of perfection as to convey every nuance —the most fugitive expressions of the flower when it opens at dawn and closes at evening. the result of the labors of skilful artists who knew how by it to follow nature and re- create her step a bud. applying dew drops of gum on its matutinal corollas. He wished to go one step beyond. or showing the dried stem and shrivelled cupules. when the branches bend under the burden of their sap. during his Parisian days. Instead . even imitating its decline. Formerly. when calyxes are thrown off and leaves fall to the ground.AGAINST THE GRAIN 135 under the influence of his mode of thought. observing the appearance of the petals curled by the wind or rumpled by the rain. He was the possessor of a marvelous collection of tropical plants. calico and taffeta. his love for artificiality had led him to abandon real flowers and to use in their place replicas faithfully executed by means of the miracles performed with India rubber and wire. shaping it in full bloom. art had held him entranced for a long while. but now he was dreaming This wonderul of another experiment.
natural flowers should He in the directed his ideas to this end and had not to seek long or go far. thinking of nothing but the species he had acquired and continually haunted by memories of magnificent and fantastic plants. He visited the conservatories of the Avenue de Chatillon and of the his Aunay purse valley. astonished at the strange forms of vegetation he had seen. a list Des Esseintes holding in his hands. like the Albano. The gar- deners from their wagons brought a collection of caladiums which sustained on enorleaves turgid hairy stalks.136 AGAINST THE GRAIN mimic the artificial ones. The roses like the Virginale seemed cut out of varnished cloth or oil-silks. the white ones. The flowers came several days later. since his house lay very heart of a famous horticultural region. and returned exhausted. particularly the . no one leaf repeated the same pattern. appeared to have been cut out of anox's transparent pleura. Others were equally extraordinary. Some. or the diaphanous bladder of a pig. mous heartshaped while preserving an air of relationship with its neighbor. verified each one of his purchases. empty. of artificial flowers imitating real flowers.
The gardeners brought still other varieties which had the appearance of artificial skin ridged with false veins. displayed leaves having the color of raw meat. Others were marked with matter raised by scaldings. streaked fibrils. like the Aurora Borealis. gave the illusion of a starched calico in crimson and myrtle green. empaint and others. Some had the deep red hue of scars that have just closed or the dark tint of incipient scabs. stained by drops of oil by spots of white and red lead others like the Bosphorous. still . for they exhibited livid surfaces of flesh veined with scarlet rash and damasked with eruptions. pieces of stamped metal having a hue of 137 imitated zinc and parodied peror green. the apoplexy and chlorosis of this plant. The Albano and the Aurora sounded the two extreme notes of temperament. and most of them looked as though consumed by syphillis and leprosy. violet tumefied from which oozed blue wine and blood. And a few appeared embossed with wounds. with leaves purple sides.AGAINST THE GRAIN Madame Mame. with green unguents of belladonna smeared with grains of . covered with black mercurial hog lard. There were forms which exhibited shaggy skins hollowed by ulcers and relieved by cankers.
was coated with a layer of bronze It green on which glanced silver reflections. the A lo casta It Metallica. excited him even more. The men next brought clusters of leaves. "Sapristi!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. A new plant. It was the masterpiece of artificiality. Collected in his home. cut by a chim- ney-maker into the form of a pike head. a Cochin China plant with leaves shaped like fish-knives. a fleshy stalk climbed through the heart of this intense vermilion ace a stalk that in some specimens was straight. In the center rose a rod at whose end a varnished ace of hearts swayed. in others showed ring- — lets like a pig's tail. an aroid recently imported into France from Columbia. modelled like the Caladiums. As though meaning to defy all conceivable forms of plants.138 dust AGAINST THE GRAIN and the yellow micas of iodoforme. confused with others among the glass rooms of the conservatory. with long dark It . these flowers seemed to Des Esseintes more monstrous than when he had beheld them. a variety of that family to which also belonged an Amorphophallus. could be called a piece of stove pipe. lozenge-like in shape and bottle-green in color. was the Anthurium.
the color of wine must. of a red jujube color. a They brought new batch of monstrosities from the wagon: Echinopses. He could not remove his eyes from this unnatural orchid which had been brought from illustrated pages of . Then the gardeners. such as one sees designed on the works treating of the diseases of the throat and mouth two little sidepieces. Gypripedia. impatient at his procrastinations. a crazy piece of work seemingly designed by a crazy inventor. with jagged scrapers. They looked like sabots or like a lady's worktable on which lies a human tongue with taut filaments. like lambs flecked Des Esseintes exulted.AGAINST THE GRAIN with black. Lindeni. themselves began to read the labels fastened to the pots they in. with complicated contours. which appeared to have been borrowed from a child's toy mill completed this singular collection of a tongue's underside with the color of slate and wine lees. and of a glossy pocket from whose lining oozed a viscous glue. issuing from padded compresses with rose-colored flowers that looked like pitiful stumps gaping Nidu. 139 stems seamed with gashes. laria revealing skinless foundations in steel Tillandsia plates. India. were carrying .
the Sarracena and the Cephalothus. secreting a digestive liquid. But he gave little heed. a hairy dark tail whose end was twisted into the shape of a bishop's cross. opening greedy horns capable of digesting and ab- . ing the others by the craziness of the ture. the vegetable ghouls. the Antilles Fly-Trap. armed with crooked prickles coiling around each other. a wondrous soil. a sort of notched and slender palm surrounded by tall leaves resembling paddles and oars. its Chester arrows. the Gocos Micania. provided with glandular hair. the Xamia Lehmanni. the Drosera of the peatbogs. an enormous orang-outang tail. for he was impatiently awaiting the series of plants which most bewitched him. the carnivorous plants. through the palmated foliage. an immense leaf.140 AGAINST THE GRAIN to Bewildered. forming a grating about the imprisoned insect. Des Esseintes looked on and listened the cacophonous sounds of the names: the Encephalartos horridus. a gigantic iron rust-colored artichoke. with its shaggy border. planted in sweet-heather top bristling with barbed javelins and jagged Cibotium Spectabile. like those put on portals of chateaux to foil wall climbers. hurling a defiance to revery. pineapple. as surpassits it struc- darted.
He the never wearied of turning in his hands pot in which this floral extravagance stirred. It exhaled an odor of toy boxes of painted pine. Then he perceived mained on his that one It name still re- New Granada. was the Cattleya of was designed a little faded lilac. the tuberous Begonias and black Crotons stained like sheet iron with Saturn list. hung from the end of an umbilic cord supporting a greenish urn. whose capricious appearance transcends all limits of eccentric forms. "This really something worth while. a sort of German porcelain pipe. lastly.AGAINST THE GRAIN sorbing real 141 meat. leaf of it It imitated the gum-tree whose long dark mettalic green it possessed. bell of a On winged mauve. were empty- ing the wagons of their contents and depositing. a strange bird's nest which tranquilly swung about. placed his nose above the plant and quickly recoiled. Esseintes He murmured. without any semblance of order. the Nepenthes. red. but differed in that a green string its leaf. He ." Des tear himself away. revealing is an interior covered with hair. was forced to for the gardeners. streaked with jasper. an almost dead it approached. anxious to leave.
to mistrust felt that recalled the horrors of a He it he would do well and he almost regretted having admitted. this orchid among which in evoked the most disagreeable memories. a air of the room grew rarefied. porcelain and metal seemed to have been loaned by man to the nature to enable her to create her monstrosities. Then he drew back to let his eye encompass whole collection at a glance. "These plants are amazing. the scentless plants. like barbaric pen- nons. shadowy dimness of a corner. near the He white soft light crept. When unable to imitate man's handi- work.142 it AGAINST THE GRAIN New Year's Day." he reflected. they crossed their swords. His purpose was achieved. taking on a resemblance to a green pile of arms. Then. Intermingled with other. paper. the cloth. approached and perceived that the phenomenon came from the Rhizomorphes which threw out these night-lamp gleams while respiring. floated flowers with hard dazzling colors. above which. The in the floor. As soon as he was alone his gaze took this vegetable tide which foamed each in the vesti- bule. Not one single specimen seemed real. nature had been reduced to copying the . their krisses and stanchions.
stamping the mark of money on their skins to aggravate their unhappiness. their magni- ficent corruptions. Since the world's beginnings." thought Des Esseintes. transmitted the from sire imperishable heritage. . his eye riveted upon the horrible streaked stainings of the Caladium plants caressed by a ray And he beheld a sudden vision of humanity consumed through the centuries by of light. And it here on the colored leaves of the plants in its was resurgent original splendor. ironically decorating the faces of poor wretches. the eternal ancestors and in malady which has ravaged man's whose effects are visible even the bones of old fossils that have been exhumed. It crept to the surface from time to time. The day. every single creature had. hysterics and gout. to borrowing the tints of their rotting flesh. It even raged to- concealed in obscure sufferings. preferably attacking the ill-nourished and the poverty stricken. "All is syphilis. spotting faces with gold pieces. the virus of this disease. disease had swept on through the cen- turies gaining momentum.AGAINST THE GRAIN inner vivid 143 membranes of animals. to son. dissi- mulated under symptoms of headaches and bronchitis.
crosssuch perverse and sickly specimens. places his stamp on them. the nourishing womb and the elements of the plant which man then sets up. Decid- . "that is man in several years able to effect a selection which slothful na- ture can produce only after centuries. in using combinations which had been long matured. and species. fertilization processes long prepared. and sculpts as he wills. through chemical reaction. the earth's substances. paints. the germ and the earth. left alone. resuming his reflections.144 "It is AGAINST THE GRAIN true. "it is true that is most often nature. models." "It cannot be gainsaid. stubborn and formless though she be. puts an end to the period of botch work. incapable of begetting She furnishes the original substance. modifies to his will the long-standing form of her plants. nature has at last been subjected and her master has succeeded in changing. invests man now forces differently colored flowers in the new tones for her. polishes the rough clods." pursued Des Esseintes. Limited. in maksame ing use of slips and graftings. return- ing to the course of reasoning he had tarily momen- abandoned." he thought. imposes on them the mark of his own unique art.
He bed left the vestibule to rest." artists 145 now- He was this a little tired and he felt stifled in atmosphere of crowded plants. He was strolling by the side of a woman whom he had never seen before. She wore a nurse's white apron. There was a foreign look about her. He asked himself who the woman could . but. his mind. crooked teeth projecting under a flat nose. half-shoes like those worn by Prussian soldiers and a black bonnet adorned with frillings and trimmed with a rosette. even in his sleep.AGAINST THE GRAIN edly the horticulturists are the real adays. . The prom- few days had exhausted him. The transition had been too sudden from the tepid atmosphere of his room to the out-of-doors. and stretched out on his absorbed by this new fancy of his. a bulldog face. a long neckerchief. like that of a mountebank at a fair. She was emaciated and had flaxen hair. in the center of a walk. from the placid last enades he had taken during the tranquillity of a reclusive life to an active one. torn in strips on her bosom. could not lessen its tension and he was soon wandering among the gloomy insanities of a nightmare. freckles on her cheeks. He found himself in the heart of the wood twilight had fallen.
146 AGAINST THE GRAIN he felt that be . sexless figure was green. wilder than ever. Des Esseintes' heart almost stopped beating and he stood riveted to the spot with horror. through her violet eyelids the eyes were terrible in their cold blue. her reason for being. Suddenly he understood the meaning of the frightful vision. Before him was the image . which was in- explicable and yet positive. He was searching his past for a clue. she had long been an intimate part of his life. trotting about for a moment and then turning around in its saddle. pimples surrounded her mouth horribly emaciated. her head hanging on her rigid neck. her profession. rewarded him. . He nearly fainted. No recollection of this liaison. The ghastly eyes were fixed on Des Esseintes. freezing his very marrow. of Syphilis. and the skinny legs shivered in shoes that were several sizes too large. vainly he sought her origin. skeleton arms bared to the elbows issued from ragged tattered sleeves and trembled feverishly. This enigmatic. her name. the bulldog woman threw herself at him and commenced to howl like a dog at the killing. penetrating him. when a strange figure suddenly appeared on horse- back before them.
The bulldog woman was in front of him and. him that she had lost her teeth As she spoke she drew clay pipes from the pocket of her nurse's apron. "But she And. entreating her to be silent." a matter of fact." Des Esseintes "These stems will never stick. while eyes. when he was beginning to recover his breath. grotesque and woeful. At this moment were heard Des Esseintes. breaking them and shoving pieces of the stems into the hollows of her gums. he sped down a pathway at top speed and gained a pavillion standing among the labur- nums to the left. the sound of sobbing made him lift his head. where he fell into a chair. After a few moments. as told himself. the galloping sounds of an approaching horse. not to give notice of their presence by the sound of her shoes. The galloping grew louder. they dropped out one is after another. in the passage way. She writhed and struggled . Despair brought him sharply to his senses.AGAINST THE GRAIN 147 Pursued by fear and quite beside himself. really absurd. He threw himself upon the woman who was stamping on the pipe bowls. she told warm tears fell from her in her flight. terror pierced A fearful His limbs gave way.
in his grip he led her to the end of the corri- dor. unlocked. behind a round skylight. Before. with green Venetian shutters. Then the hoof beats paused. Tears of discouragement welled never. in the center of a vast glade. nostrils from which breathed two phenol. He was in the passage. from crying Suddenly he noticed the door of a coffee It was house. More dead than alive. their somersaults tire now covered now on the en- horizon. him. Des Esseintes turned about and through the round window beheld projecting erect ears. the whole sky on which they landed now on their heads. he and then paused. yellow teeth. huge white pierrots were leaping rabbit-like under the rays of the moon. their feet. jets of vapor smelling of all He sank to the ground. so as not to ilis He closed his eyes behold the horrible gaze of Syphwhich penetrated through the wall. in crossing "I as shall be crushed. to his eyes. strangling her to prevent her out. which . renouncing ideas of flight or of resistance. And though to justify his fears. headlong rushed in pushed it. no never would he succeed the threshold.148 AGAINST THE GRAIN . the ranks of tall pierrots swarmed and multi- plied." he thought.
Her passed and repassed in her eyes. and she called to He him in low tones. to answer. were covered with green contemplated her with curiosity. her hair curled. As though frizzed by overheated irons. a wan. dead. Her eyes were desirous. Shuddering. Without any transition. on the ground benude woman whose feet silk stockings. were stained with a furious Anthurium . a frightful mineral landscape receded into the distance. a peaceful white light that recalled gleams of phosphorus dissolved in oil. Flamboyant colors red.AGAINST THE GRAIN even pierced his closed lids. becoming straight again at the end. Everything had vanished. A moment which seemed to last a century passed. for He had no time already the lips woman was changing. Something that stirred came a deathly pale. over his body whose hair bristled in pools of cold sweat. A light illumined this desolate site. 149 felt which he gliding over his moist spine. gullied landscape. waste. as though by some stage device. He waited for the worst and even hoped for the coup de grace to end everything. her distended nostrils were the color of roast veal. he opened his eyes.
letting himself fall. He beheld the wild Nidularium effort to free himself human which yawned. Then he observed bister the frightful irritation of the breasts and mouth. painted The like two pods of red pepper. had become a clear. woman. and yet lifting himself to reach her. experiencing a recoiled bewildered. the hor- cold and terrible blue. And his reasoning mania persisted in his nightmare. Just as he touched her. and But the woman's eyes fascinated him and he advanced slowly. rible eyes of the A terrible anguish made his heart beat furiously.ISO AGAINST THE GRAIN nipples of her breasts flashed. for the eyes. He had broken all the plants. firm stems stirring in his hands. He made a super- from her emheld brace. bleeding. but she him with an irresistible movement." he said. "It is the Flower. discovered spots of and copper on the skin of her body. . A sudden intuition came to him. detested plants Suddenly the had disappeared and two arms sought to enlace him. attempting to thrust his heels into the earth so as not to move. in steel plates. the dark Amorphophalli leaped up from all sides and thrust their leaves into his abdomen which rose and fell like a sea. limitless disgust in seeing these warm.
a dream!" . He felt himself dying. mad it with fear and sighing: "Ahl thank God. suflfocating. frozen.AGAINST THE GRAIN 151 With his body he touched the hideous wound of this plant. awoke with was but a start.
powerless. These symptoms were augmented by a dull pain in his jaws and a throbbing in his temples which seemed to be gripped in a vise. He had unsuccessfully sought to install a hydropathic apparatus in his dressing room. He under the sheets. stifled The bed covers tormented him. He For was afraid hours to fall stretched on his remained bed.|HESE asleep. which had abated for several days. into abysmal depths. But the impossibility of forcing water to the height on which his house . now a prey to he feverish and agitated wakefulness. His alarm increased. nightmares attacked him re- peatedly. became acute. his body smarted and tingled as though stung by swarms of insects. His nervous attacks. now dreams in which he tumbled down flights of stairs and felt himself sinking. unearthing new tortures. more violent and in the grip of oppressive obstinate than ever. but unfortunately the means of subduing the inexorable malady were not at hand.
for his eyes were pained by the void. while away the interminable hours. but in his state of extreme excitability. But these measures failed to stem the march of his nervous disorder. and the water even difficulty of in the village 153 procuring where the fountains renounce the pro- functioned sparingly and only at certain hours of the day.AGAINST THE GRAIN was perched. he had recourse to his portfolios of prints. Their textures and nuances palled His ennui passed all bounds. caused ject. He had them removed from his rooms. him to Since he could not have floods of water playing on him from the nozzle of a hose. dearly paid for by the return of the attacks in an even more virulent form. despite the care he lavished on them. and To . means of overcoming his insomnia and calming his nerves through its action on his spinal column) he was reduced to brief sprays or to mere cold baths. His pleasure in the possession of his wonderful flowers was exhausted. most of his plants drooped. followed by energetic massages applied by his servant (the only efficacious with the aid of a horse-hair glove. Besides. on him. their very absence exasperated him. At best they afforded him a few hours' relief.
his war subjects with their wild rage.154 AGAINST THE GRAIN The first arranged his Goyas. which he had bought at auction at a high price. distracted by his vertiginous scenes. his witches astride on cats. finally his plate of the Garot. comforted him. his women striving to pluck out the teeth of a hanged man. recognizable as proofs by their reddish hues. but the universal admiration his works had won nevertheless estranged him slightly. impressions of certain plates of the Caprices. his demons and dwarfs. The same applied to his Rembrandts which he examined from time to time. his succubi. and if it be true that the loveliest tune imagin- . his Proverbs with their macabre horror. his bandits. and he lost himself in them. printed on heavy water-marked paper. unmounted. following the painter's fantasies. Goya's savage verve and keenly fanciful talent delighted him. of which he cherished a marvelous trial proof. half secretly. And for years he had refused to frame them for fear that the first blundering fool who caught sight of them might deem it necessary to fly into banal and facile raptures before them. Then he examined his other series of etchings and aquatints.
if wondering meanwhile not growing blunted. was one of the greatest sources of regret Incomprehensible successses had forever spoiled for him many pictures and books once cherished and dear. furthermore. by this very fact becomes profaned. which is not contested by fools. Approved by the mob. almost repulsive to the initiate. This promiscuity in admiration. and he rejected them. his brain. again plunged into melancholy. they began to reveal impercepin his life. tible defects to him. the work of art remain which does not indifferent to the spu- gurdies make it rious artists. divert the current of his thoughts and cool he sought books that would soothe him and turned to the romances of Dickens. trite. and which is not satisfied with awakening the enthusiasm of the few. completely disconcerted. But they produced an effect contrary to his . those to invalids charming novels which are so satisfying and convalescents who might grow fatigued by works of a more profound and vigorous nature. his perceptions were He To closed his portfolios and.AGAINST THE GRAIN as the public begins to 155 able becomes vulgar and insupportable as soon hum it and the hurdy- their own.
by the subject of all side. then brought to a crisis by the English cant. these pro- heroines garbed to the neck. stirred . let his imagination dwell — on vibrant scenes between human mused on embraces. The impotence of his mind and body which he had supposed final. His stimulated senses carried him back to the past and he wallowed in memories of his old sin. came to the surface. He grew excited. and and passionate His mind wandered off from his book to worlds far removed from the English prude: to wanton peccadilloes and salacious practices condemned by the Church. expectations. testing lovers. By the law of contrast. but by the acts and sins it forbids.156 AGAINST THE GRAIN These chaste stars. w^ept tears of joy and clasped hands an exaggeration of purity w^hich threw him into an opposite excess. he was once more obsessed. which had been by the enervation of his pious readings. not by religion itself. The carnal atrophied for months. he leaped from one extreme to the other. Solitude again acted on his disordered nerves. vanished. its obsecrations and threats. their sensual kisses lovers. the loved to among confined themselves lowered eyes and blushes.
frosted sweetmeat. Today they were not merely suggestive.AGAINST THE GRAIN He rose 157 and pensively opened a little box of vermeil with a lid of aventurine. thinking of the strange properties of this sugary. They were become powerful. languishing memories. he had only to put one in his mouth. thrusting aside the veils. let it melt. He took It was filled with violet bonbons. When his virility had been impaired. they no longer served as a delicate hint of his distant riotous past. At the head of the procession of mistresses . exposing before his eyes the importunate. Usually he smiled as he inhaled aroma. and almost at once it induced misty. a drop of feminine essence crystallized in a morsel of sugar. These bonbons invented by Siraudin and bearing the ridiculous name of "Perles des Pyrenees" were each a drop of sarcanthus perfume. recalling the very savor of voluptuous kisses. They penetrated the papillae of the tongue. one up and pressed it between his fingers. when the thought of woman had roused in him no sharp regret or desire. corporeal and brutal reality. infinitely tender. this this love shadow of a caress which for a moment restored the delights of women he had once adored.
effeminate creature. displaying long white teeth. a snub nose. and close-cropped blond place in bold hair. as he watched her. Des Esseintes seemed to himself a frail. importuned by a sentiment difficult to define. a strong and beautiful woman. allured by he knew not what. muscles of steel and arms of iron. Her graceful antics and to the background of his mind. She had been one of the most celebrated acrobats of the Circus. an American. Gradually. mouse-colored eyes. but the desire to know her never troubled him. At first. a fantastic idea seized him. sinewy limbs. she had seemed to him what she really was. whom one paused. and yet he returned to the Circus. with a vigorous body. Compared with her. Des Esseintes had watched her attentively through many long evenings.158 AGAINST THE GRAIN the fragrance of the bonbons helped to relief. This was Miss Urania. a satiny rose skin. She possessed nothing to recommend her in the eyes of a blase man. and he began to desire her as ardently as an anaemic young girl might desire some arch feminine ways receded . replaced by her power and strength which had for him all the charm of masculinity.
Her manner and speech were girl. she was withdrawn and puritanical in her embraces. Miss Urania this . deemed it necessary not to yield before a preliminary courtship but she showed herself was common gossip that Des Esseintes was rich and that his name was insf rumen tal in estabishing women. as it played an animal voracity at table. But as soon as his wishes were granted. . Certainly. had neither good sense nor wit. and disamenable. Furthermore. He had persuaded himself that the American woman would be as bestial and stupid as a wrestler at a county fair. One evening he nicate with her commu- attendants on and dispatched one of the errand. those of a silly. scandal-loving young There was absolutely nothing masculine about her.AGAINST THE GRAIN loutish Hercules in a strong 159 whose arms could crush her finally decided to embrace. coquettish and affected. his disappointment surpassed any he had yet experienced. and instead her stupidity was of an altogether feminine nature. but she possessed all the childish traits of a woman. she lacked education and tact. displaying none of the brute force he had dreaded yet longed for.
160 AGAINST THE GRAIN to and she was subject tions of his sex. disappeared. he lost no time in terminating this liaison. The illusion was no longer possible! Miss at Urania was an ordinary first mistress. need of protection. to her exuberance which contrasted so strikingly with the perfumed ansmia of the others. for his impotence was prematurely hastened by the frozen and prudish caresses of this woman. weakness. a faint suggestion of which he found in the delicate Siraudin bonbon. Although the charm of her firm skin and magnificent beauty had at first astonished and captivated Des Esseintes. of fear even. none of the perturba- Des Esseintes inevitably returned to the masculine role he had momentarily abandoned. had loved. to she was more strongly imthan a host of others memory whose allurements had been less spurious and more seductive. the reason must be ascribed to her healthy animalism. now But printed on his flitting if through his revery. His impression of femininity. in no wise justifying the cerebral curiosity she had awakened in him. . of all the women he And yet she was the first stand out.
but almost instantly. surprised to find itself seated and instinctively recoiling when they heard the rumbling of imaginary carriages. They pressed upon him all in a for throng. slender brunette. buzzed around the rustling Then one heard of the tense audience. with black eyes and burnished hair parted on one side and sleeked down over her head. she caused her tiny cardboard figures. Before the amazed patrons. placed near each other on chairs. to talk. He lost no time in winning over the ventriloquist.AGAINST THE GRAIN 161 Miss Urania haunted him by reason of her very difference. She delighted him by the very contrast she exhibited to the American woman. but above them rose a woman him whose startling talents had satisfied months. crude aroma. She was a little. He had known her in a cafe where she gave ventriloqual performances. she conversed with the aniflies mated mannikins while the chandeliers. tempting her with large sums of money. the antithesis of the scented confection. Esseintes returned to tions Des more civilized exhala- and his thoughts reverted to his other mistresses. This brunette . Des Esseintes had been fascinated. offended by the intrusion of this natural.
He also purchased a chimera of polychrome clay. and he decided to bring them to fruition. permitting the glowing embers to throw a dim light around the room and to magnify the objects which were almost immersed in gloom. With strange intonations that he had long and patiently taught her. One evening he ordered a tiny sphinx brought in a sphinx carved from black marble and resting in the classic pose with outstretched paws and erect head. But this did not prevent him from letting himself be fleeced. Then he extinguished the lamps. Des Esseintes wearied of her in a few short hours. for the oquist attracted phenomenon of the ventrilhim more than did the charms of the mistress. .162 AGAINST THE GRAIN used strong perfumes and burned like a crater. Despite all her blandishments. it brandished its mane of hair. and waited. — . and its sides resembled a pair of bellows. she animated the two monsters she did not even move her lips. These two images he placed in a corner of the room. Then he stretched out on a couch beside the woman whose motionless figure was touched by the ember gleams. Certain plans he had long pondered upon ripened.
her imperative need to escape from the horrible reality of existence. mysterious . to leap beyond the confines of thought. far from the spotlight. when the Chimera uttered the magical and solemn phrase: "New perfumes I seek.AGAINST THE GRAIN And was in the silence followed the 163 she did not even glance in their direction. The past failures rent his heart." Ah ! it was to him that this voice. he panted and shivering sensations raced through his frame. he listened. unattainable the silent art. pause!" "Never!" Lulled by the admirable prose of Flaubert. "Here. Chimera. which were then turned shrill and un- earthly. stranger flowers I seek. pleasures not yet discovered. to grope towards the mists of elusive. her insatiable ideals. in her sure moments. he was blind to the sulkiness of the comelei- dienne obliged to perform off-scene. spoke it was to him that this voice recounted her feverish agitation for the unknown. poignant tragedy of his Gently he clasped woman at his side. he sought refuge in her nearness. as an incantation. . like a child who is inconsol- able . recited in deep guttural tones at first raucous. marvelous it dialogue of the Chimera and the Sphinx.
and with whom. He had regretted her defection. he recovered his strength and hurled himself madly upon the ventriloquist whose voice continued to bluster outside the room. His brain no his longer sufficed body. and now. he resorted to fear — efficacious of excitants. most tress. woman. wait!" In- stantly. Terrified by the approach of a disastrous weakness in the presence of his misthat oldest. unfortunately. know you're in there. the other their childish graces women seemed and monotonous coquetry disgusting him. this state.164 AGAINST THE GRAIN liaison continued. like a libertine stirred by fear of dis- covery in the open. but his spells of Their exhaustion soon became acute. the exigent and less ventriloquist parted to offer herself to some- one less complex. But long. . insipid. Just wait. did not last and despite the sums he paid her. while he held the woman I in his arms "Open the door. re- calling her. A hoarse voice from behind the door would exclaim. In this wise he experienced the pleasures of a panic-stricken person. to stimulate benumbed No longer did his nerves obey his will and now the crazy whims of dotards dominated him.
fatigued and all but lifeless. of the Busembaums and the Dianas. of the Liguoris and the Sanchezes. forbidden enjoyment Licentious and mystical obses- haunted his brain. he delighted in mingling with these recollections of his past. With the physcial visions he mingled spiritual ardors brought into play and motivated by his old readings of the casuists. this In awakening an almost divine ideal in soul steeped in her precepts — a soul possibly predisposed to the teachings of the church through hereditary influences dating from the reign of Henry of the senses. religion back had also stirred the illegitimate. other more gloomy pleasures.AGAINST THE GRAIN 165 In the ferment of his disordered brain. as past. . dis- theology qualifies the evocation of graceful acts. in either case. He would light fusedly. He would arise prostrate from such reveries. proved too exhausting and enervating. into convulsions and raptures which were holy or infernal and which. they mingled conand he would often be troubled by an unappeasable desire to shun the vulgarities of the world and to plunge. sions III. treating of transgressions against the sixth and ninth com- mandments of the Decalogue. far from the customs and modes held in such reverence.
166 the AGAINST THE GRAIN lamps and candles so as to flood the room with light. for he hoped that by so doing he might possibly diminish the intolerably persistent and dull throbbing of his arteries which beat under his neck with redoubled strokes. .
sudden calms succeed an attack.[URING which the course of this malady attacks impoverished races. Strangely enough. Then hallucinations of odor suddenly appeared. turning from a turbid. Instead. opaque. Still the odor persisted. he tried to ascertain if a bottle were not uncorked no! not a bottle was to be found in the room. and he passed into his study and thence to the kitchen. His room was aromatic with the fragrance of frangipane. Des Esseintes rang for his servant and asked if he smelled anything. he had an ineffable sensation of contentment. This lasted several days. no longer was he tormented by the throbbing of his neck or by his racking cough. a lightness of mind in which thought was sparklingly clear. Des Esseintes awoke one morning recovered. green color to a liquid iridescence magical with tender rainbow tints. The domestic sniffed the air and declared he could not detect any — .
the other of compound perfumes. to his dressing There. hoping that this homeopathic treat- ment would cure him or would the persistent odor. He as a betook himself basin. coordinate and compose into that unity which constitutes .168 AGAINST THE GRAIN perfume. He set them on the table and divided them into two series: one of the simple perfumes. pure extracts or spirits. He believed that this sense could give one delights equal to those of hearing and sight. each sense being susceptible. if naturally keen and if properly cultivated. were bottles of every conceivable size and form. He He sank into an easy chair and meditated. he resolved to steep himself in real perfumes. designated under the generic term of bouquets. confined the green dull surface of the mirror. had long been skilled in the science of smell. under the appearance of a new illusion of the senses. which. at least drown room. There was no doubt about it: his nervous attacks had returned again. like the edge of a well silvered by the moon. Fatigued by the tenacity of this imaginary aroma. to new impressions. near an old baptistery which he used wash under a long mirror of forged iron. which it could intensify. placed on ivory shelves.
with the exception of the inimitable jasmine which it is impossible to counterfeit. the branch devoted to achieving certain effects by artificial methods partic- ularly delighted him. rarely come from the whose names they bear. flowers relation to the odor of the living flower. a melody of Beethoven from one by Clapisson. without preliminary initiation. The artist who dared to borrow nature's elements would only produce a bastard work which would have neither authenticity nor style. In this art. waftair. a painting by a master from a daub. in fact. help confusing a bouquet invented by a sincere artist with a pot pourri made by some manufacturer to be sold in groceries and bazaars. .AGAINST THE GRAIN a creative work. 169 And it was not more ab- normal and unnatural that an art should be called into existence by disengaging odors than that another art should be evoked by detaching sound waves or by striking the eye with diversely colored rays. no more could any one at first. But if no person could discern. without intuition developed by study. inasmuch as the essence obtained by the distillation of flowers would bear but a distant and vulgar Perfumes. ing its fragrance into the Thus.
once familiar- ized with the dialect. To achieve this end he had pelled to master the been com- grammar and understand the syntax of odors. the Legrands and Piesses . that heady touch which entitled a thing scent. learning the secret of the rules that regulate them. experience . then he separated the construction of their phrases. was revealed to Des Esseinread this language. he compared the works of the masters. this its unexpected concision under its first vague flowing appearance. by little. in this idiom of fluids. his subject like a jeweler refin- working over Little ing the lustre of a gem and making it precious. weighed the value of their words and the arrangement of their periods. and to adding that be called a nuance the more. as diver- who could now with sified style and insinuating as that of literature. To artist resume. Later on. blend of aromatic stealing the very it personality of the model. that rare to work of art. and. art.170 all AGAINST THE GRAIN flowers are perfectly represented by the spirits. the Chardins and Violets. in the science of perfumery. of the Atkinsons and Lubins. the arcana of this most neglected of tes all. the develops the natural odor of the flowers.
austere and powerful. more bored graces of French society easily found their in- terpretation in the almond which in a manner . with myrrh and olibanum. Still later. making it more supple and malleissuing able. rather XV. the redundant artifices of oratorial art. the pompous gesture of the great period. language. chive and myrtle water already designated under the name of "water of the angels. sustained style of harmonious Bossuet and the masters of the pulpit possible. musk. composed of elements highly prized at that time. 171 theories too often incom- Classic perfumery. rejuvenating it. Later. the rather crude tones of the period which certain sonnets of Saint-Amand have preserved for us. in fact." was hardly sufficient to express the cavalier graces. Step by step. when the romantic period was born and had modified the old style. of iris powder. its history followed that of our The perfumed Louis XIII style.AGAINST THE GRAIN was able to support plete and banal. It was in its dotage. confined to its old alambics. the full. the mystic odors. the sophist- were almost under Louis icated. diversified. was scarcely almost colorless and uniformly from the mold cast by the ancient chemists.
clove and neroli. vivid Eastern nosegays. the peculiar aroma of Chinese ink from the marriage of patchouli and camphor. perfumery rushed. too. It had continued to evolve and. the Andrieuxes and the Baour-Lormians. obtaining the odor of Rondeletia from the blend of lavender and clove. after the ennui and j^dedness of the first empire. wretched distillers of their own poems. then. which misused Eau de Cologne and rosemary. . the emanation of Japanese Hovenia by compounds of citron. selected and made use of antique nuances which it compliIt resolutely recated. But this language had not remained stationery since the period of 1830. with the other its arts. antitheses which had been unattempted. jected that voluntary decrepitude to which it had been reduced by the Malesherbes. had advanced parallel It. receiving inspiration from the Chinese and Japanese. refined and assorted. discovered until then new intonations. had yielded to the desires of amateurs and artists. in the wake of Victor Hugo and Gautier. It created ori- ental combinations. patterning itself on the pro- gress of the century. towards the Levant. imitating the conceiving fragrant Takeoka bouquets of flowers. albums. the Boileaus.172 AGAINST THE GRAIN summed up this epoch.
in separating the pieces forming the structure of a pound exhalation. adding to it an unexpected touch and introducing into its dryish flavor a hint of distant fresh flowers. experimenting to corrob- He took pleasure in playre-assem- ing the role of a psychologist for his personal satisfaction. instantly explain its mixture and the psychology of its blend. as a Chinese trader can immediately tell the origin of the teas he smells. as a hop dealer determines the exact value of hops by sniffing a bag. in taking apart and bling the machinery of a work. and could almost give the name of the artist who had composed and given it Esseintes.AGAINST THE GRAIN Des Esseintes studied and analyzed the orate their texts. 173 es- sences of these fluids. and perfect. the effect upon it of its proximity to the plum-tree and other flowers. the state and the degree of torrefaction. to all those perfumes which change its essence. knowing in what farms of what mountains. . the very time when its leaves were gathered. his sense of smell comhad but thereby attained a sureness that was all Just as a wine merchant has only to smell a drop of wine to recognize the grape. in what Buddhistic convents it was cultivated. just so could Des by inhaling a dash of perfume.
His hesitation disappeared. after months of inaction. Desiring to create heliotrope. for orange is domprepare for a inant in the fragrance of this flower. and he was overcome by that mo- ment of wavering confidence familiar to writers when. He groped for a long time. He felt alert . seated in his dressing room in front real Mecca balm. Naturally he had a collection of all the products used by perfumers. unable to effect the proper combinations. the whole united by a drop of vanilla. Like Balzac who was wont to scribble on many sheets of paper so as to put himself in a mood for work. then changed his idea and decided to experiment with sweet peas. He at- tempted several combinations and ended in achieving the exact blend by joining tuberose and rose to orange. Des Esseintes felt the necessity of steadying his hand by several initial and unimportant experiments. He even had the balm cultivated only in certain parts of Arabia Petraea and under the monopoly of the ruler. he took down bottles of vanilla and almond. Now.174 the AGAINST THE GRAIN personal mark of his individual style. that rare of his table. he thought of creating a new bouquet. they new work.
He worked with amber and with Tonkin musk. century obsessed him. then. he rose and to rid himself of the obsession. had of old loved to lull himself with . As though pounded by hammer strokes. the most poignant of vegetable perfumes whose flower. Try what he would.AGAINST THE GRAIN . He was stunned by the violence of the shock. as he formerly had done. of the exquisite Rosette pursued him. he profited by the period of respite to escape the dead centuries. mem- Venus haunted him recolThemidor's romance. sure of his technique. in its habitat. ories of Boucher's lections of . 175 and ready for work now he made some tea by blending cassie with iris. and to enter. less limited or He more recent works. he decided to proceed with a fulminating phrase whose thunderous roar would annihilate the insidious odor of almond still hovering over his room. Furious. the panier robes and furbelows appeared before his eyes. marvelously powerful with patchouli. the antiquated fumes. wafts an odor of mildew. the filigranes of the delicate odor disappeared. with all his strength he inhaled that pure essence of spikenard. the eighteenth . so dear to Orientals and so repulsive to Europeans because of its pronounced odor of valerian.
orange flower and almond. ample phrase that suddenly opened a long vista of fields for him. to the motive of his medita- by the return of the theme. : linden-trees rustled. to steep the soul in infinite melancholy and languor. he injected an essence formed of ambrosia. when distilled by an artist. while the astonishing. reap- pearing. where the last echo of the first composing the strophe is the verse and returns. perfumes. their thin emanations. such as Irreparable and of the five lines Balcon. and he began with a sonorous.176 AGAINST THE GRAIN He used effects analogous to those the poets. . lavender and sweet peas into this room. in the fragrant orchestration of the poem. at stated intervals. He strayed into reveries evoked by those stanzas. and forthwith artificial lilacs sprang into being. He actually w^ished to saunter through an diversified landscape. suddenly brought initial to his point of departure. this formed an essence which. aromatic tion. deserves the name by which it is known "extract of wild grass" into this he introduced an exact blend of tuberose. of and employed the admirable le order of certain pieces of Baudelaire. like a redepths of frain. With his vaporizers.
the plain had grown solitary. Des Esseintes warmed a pellet of storax.AGAINST THE GRAIN imitated by extract of 177 London tilia. sarcanthus and cypress wine. on the enchanted horizon. ayapana. nature exhaled its Now sweet effluvia amid this putrescence. in order to give to the artificial life of paints which they exhaled. The odor of factories and of chemical products now passed with the breeze which was simulated by means of fans. The women had gradually disappeared. Suddenly. and a singular odor. natural in the dewy laughter and pleasures enjoyed open air. under he introduced a light rain of human and aroma dered. arranged with a few broad his closed lids. at once repugnant and exqui- . through a ventilator. champala. possessing the of petticoats. to which he added a dash of a suggestion of syringa. breathing of the pow- painted woman. Then. he permitted these fragrant waves to escape. factories appeared whose tall chimneys flared like bowls of punch. the stephanotis. earthward. half feline essences. opopanax. only preserving the field which he renewed. receding as far as the eye could reach. This decor. compelling it to return in his strophes like a ritornello. drooping lines.
of diverse essences into conflicting and flowers with colors. threw in his concentrated poured stifling his balms. Then. he threw several drops of new mown hay. Regardless of seasons and climates he forced trees life. among the revived vapors of the lindens and meadow grass. and. It partook of the delicious fragrance of jonquil and of the oil. At last. reuniting the tropical spices and the peppery breath of Chinese sandal wood of jasmine. stench of gutta percha and coal He dis- infected his hands. nonfragrances and . a para- doxical nature which was neither genuine nor charming. and the factories disappeared. and. he suddenly scattered the exotic perspirits. inserted his resin in a her- metically sealed box. amid this magic site for the moment despoiled of its lilacs. AGAINST THE GRAIN pervaded the room. in the exasperated and heat of the room there rose a crazy sublimated nature. emptied his vaporizers. fumes. when he had sufficiently enjoyed this sight.178 site. introducing a new season and scattering their fine effluence into these summer odors. sheaves of hay were piled up. and Jamaica hediosmia with the French odors hawthorn and verbena. By the clash of these tones he created a general.
In this swam a rose petal. His dizziness ended. he leaned against the window. Opening his eyes he found himself felt as in his dressing room. the odor meadows fanned by the lilacs and lin- Suddenly a poignant pain seized him. he though wimbles were drilling into his temples.AGAINST THE GRAIN descript. reappeared. ilar A sim- decor covered the plinths and bordered the partitions which were covered with Japanese sea-green crepe. slightly wrinkled. He ceased to pace about the short space between the baptistery and the bath. around which school of tiny fish painted with two strokes of the brush. imitating a river rippled light current circled a by the wind. To exercise his limbs. unexpected. remained heavy. seated in front of his table. wind dispelled the stifling atmosphere which was enveloping him. Stupefied. he walked up and down gazing at the ceiling where crabs and sea-wrack stood the room A puff of out in relief against a background as light in color as the sands of the seashore. of the dens. like an obstinate the decorative phrase of the beginning. he painfully walked across to the window which he half opened. He carefully But his eyelids . strange 179 perfume in which refrain.
stopped up the to and used the occasion Since his arrival at . there were jars filled with filbert paste. under the action of the air to — such a true flesh-color that it procures the very illusion of a skin touched with blood. emulsions of lilies. arrange his cosmetics. . He handled this collection. turns to a tender rose color. unbalanced woman who loved to — steep the nipples of her breasts in perfumes. when applied on the cheeks. lotions of strawberry water and elders for the complexion. formerly bought to please a mistress who swooned under the influence of certain aromatics and balms. There were tweezers. gold and green which change to deep purple when wetted. nervous. the color of the cantharis wing. lacquer objects incrustd with mother of pearl enclosed Japanese gold and Athenian green. a porcelain box against each other. rouge and powder-puffs. scissors. contained a marvelous white cream which. the serkis of the harem. Fontenay he had not touched them and now was quite astonished to behold once more this collection formerly visited by so many women. files and beauty patches. there.180 AGAINST THE GRAIN vials. The flasks and jars were lying heaped up Here. and tiny bottles filled with solutions of Chinese ink and rose water for the eyes.
or the plaster of unfinished houses on rainy days. or of dust splashed by huge drops of rain during summer storms. he had drawn near the window and had seen. the mirror Beside brought back in thoughts to it had once been instrumental evoking. and one afternoon spent at Pantin through idleness and curiosity. He mused over these memories. strangely and vividly. sad and comforting . through the dusty panes. This scene. he repeated himself this ingenious. the muddy street sprawling before him. while the two women prattled and displayed their gowns. and plunged in revery. A hallucination transported him far from Fontenay. the odor of perspiration. came to him suddenly. Pantin was there before him. and had heard the repeated sounds of galoches over the puddles of the pavement.AGAINST THE GRAIN but 181 who never really experienced a delicious and overwhelming ecstacy save when her head was scraped with a comb or when she could inhale. stirring in him a forgotten world of old ideas and perfumes. returned to him. animated and throbbing in this greenish and dull mirror into which his unseeing eyes plunged. already far removed. amid caresses. reflecting the street. in company with this woman at the home of one of her sisters.
sprout. base desires The craving for vile debaucheries seizes austere people and grow rampant in the brains of respectable men. escape on every steamer to Cannes and to other winter resorts. the season of downpours is come. the loathsomeness of existence increases and melancholy overwhelms one. here before a a basket of blossoming flowers comes the aroma of balsamic benzoin. It . In the very month of November. the walls of houses have black perspiration and their air-holes are fetid . at Pantin.182 AGAINST THE GRAIN re- composition he had formerly written upon turning to Paris: "Yes. warm From myself. Here in my solitude I to laugh at the fears of families which. "Under a lowering sky. springtime persists. in the damp air. "And cheerful yet I fire. "Inclement nature does nothing to contri- bute to this extraordinary phenomenon. and rubbish marinates in puddles that the holes scooped out of the macadam . the seeds of vileness which each person harbors in his soul. Now behold water-spouts vomiting as they fill rush over the pavements. in the rue de Paris. shun the approaching cold weather. geranium and the whorl-flowered bent-grass which permeates the room.
AGAINST THE GRAIN must be said that tin is the result of 183 this artificial season at Pan- man's ingenuity. possible. the doctor can thus platonically substitute for his patient the atmosphere of the Parisian of boudoirs. women and is Most often. the illusion of a little is healthy air facturers. under an artificial climate. "For the workmen exhausted by the hard labors of the plants. exhaled from the neighboring factories. for the young employes who too often are fathers. libertine mem- ories will reappear. all that necessary to effect the cure is for the sub- ject to have a somewhat fertile imagination. The springtime odor filters through the window joints. thanks to these manu- "So. these flowers are made of 'taffeta and are mounted on wire. from the perfumeries of Pinaud and Saint James. the languishing feminine emanations evaporated by the factories. Instead of the deadly ennui of provincial life. . "In fact. The consumptive to the South men about town who die. their are sent end due to the change in their habits and to the nostalgia for the Parisian excesses which destroyed them. Here. from this fabulous subterfuge of a country can an intelligent cure arise.
But it suddenly seemed to him that the breeze brought in a vague tide of bergamot with which jasmine and rose water were blent. forced by weakness from his meditations.184 AGAINST THE GRAIN wine one drinks and the liberty "Since. nothing genuine exists. it seems to me. glad to be able to breath the air. "that I must be careful to mistrust these delicious and abominable practices which may ruin my constitution." And more fumes. "But all this does not prevent me from seeing." concluded Des Esseintes. nowadays. he passed into his study. since the one boldly proclaims are laughable and a sham. he asked He . "to be neither ridiculous nor senseless." he said. "Well. more pleasures to to mode- more precautions be taken. so as what they spend daily be able to is convince themselves that the town Menton. rate. well. hoping the easily to escape the spell of these per- opened the window wide. the lower classes are worthy of being assisted or pitied." He of Pantin an artificial Nice or a sighed. since it really needs a healthy dose of good will to believe that the governing classes are respectable and that. to ask of my fellow men to to a quantity of illusion barely equivalent in idiotic ends. Agitated.
The odor changed and was transformed. those scattered elements were blent. A faint scent balm of Peru and of by several drams of amber and musk. and once more the frangipane spread from the valley of Fontenay as far as the fort. but saffron. the metamorphosis was effected. united it persisted.AGAINST THE GRAIN 185 himself whether he was not really under the yoke of one of those possessions exercised in the Middle Ages. assailing his of tincture of tolu. now issued from the sleeping village and suddenly. once more shattering his helpless nerves and throwing him into such a prostration that he fell unconscious on the window sill. . of exhausted nostrils.
HE servants were seized with alarm and lost no time in calling the Fontenay physician who was completely at sea about Des Esseintes' condition. To the great astonishment of the domestics. invalid's tongue. at the negative made by Des Esseintes who recovered enough strength to chide the zeal of his servants and to bid farewell to this intruder. He mumbled a few medical terms. felt his pulse. window and they surprised him drumming against the panes. examined the sought to rest. he departed and was soon retailing through the village the eccentricities of this house whose decorations had positively amazed him and held him rooted to the spot. One afternoon the bells were peremptorily . who no longer dared stir from the servants' quarters. unsucessfully make him promised speak. gazing at the sky with a troubled look. prescribed sedatives and to return sign on the morrow and. their master recovered in a few days.
The rivers of ink had evaporated and vanished.AGAINST THE GRAIN 187 rung and Des Esseintes commanded his trunks to be packed for a long voyage. The livid sky threw a wan leaden light on the . fine. sharp and penetrating. it inundated the walks. the weather had been atrocious. At intervals. this film seemed to drop. walked through his study where he continued to gaze at the clouds with an air at once impatient and satisfied. he feverishly paced up and down the cabin of the dining room. covered the roads with its innumerable threads which joined heaven and earth. the necessary equipment. it fell incessantly. showers swept downward. The sky was uniformly flat and covered with a brackish film. engulfing the valley with torrents of rain. Streams of soot raced unceasing across the grey fields of the sky-masses of clouds like rocks torn from the earth. the appearance of the heavens had changed. The rain no longer fell in cataracts as on the preceding evening. and the harsh contours of the clouds had softened. consulted the timetables of the steamers. Today. For a whole week. While the man and the woman were choosing. instead. Little by little. under his guidance. and a watery haze covered the country side.
He informed his serv- . placed a small hunting cap on his head and threw a blue raincoat over him. followed by the servant who almost bent under the weight of a trunk. He chose a pair the color of feuillemort. "What weather!" ter sighed the aged domestic. He examined the socks which had been placed nearby for his inspection. For a moment he hesitated on the color. quickly slipped them on. Des Esseintes' sole response was to hands and to sit down in front of a book-case with glass doors.188 village AGAINST THE GRAIN which was now transformed into a lake of mud pricked by needles of water that dotted the puddles with drops of bright silver. He reached the railway station. donned the mouse grey suit which was checqured with a lava gray and dotted with black. put on a pair of buttoned shoes. everything was gray. placing on a chair the clothes which his mas- had requested of him —an outfit formerly rub his ordered from London. In this desolation of nature. a carpet bag. a valise. then he quickly studied the melancholy day and earnestly bethought himself of the effect he desired. and only the housetops gleamed against the dead tones of the walls. a hat box and a traveling rug containing umbrellas and canes.
this so ardently desired and had ended in a fearThis silence which formerly would have appeared as a compensation for the stupidities heard for years. ful distress. mouth gaping. 189 ant that the date of his return was problemthat he in a might return in a year. leav- ing the old man astounded. Des Esseintes closed his eyes. and enjoined him to change nothing in the house. receded rapidly behind the train which was lashed by the rain. such as one sees through an aquarium of troubled water. He gave a sum of money which he thought would be necessary for the upkeep of the house during his absence. Plunged in his meditations. while the train He was alone in his compartment. Once more. his lips had sought to articulate sounds. suffocating like a person who had sobbed for . and climbed into the coach.AGAINST THE GRAIN atical. One morning he had awakened. it impossible to breathe. tears had welled to his eyes and he had found hours. arms waving and the rail. a vague and dirty country side. as uneasy as a finally attained solitude prisoner in his cell. behind got under way. or even sooner. week. in a month. now weighed on him with an unendurable burden.
Besides life. but a new phenomthe enon now to occurred. the distance at which Des Esseintes had always kept them was hardly conducive to inducing them to open their mouths now. began slowly to act in an unmanner. and thus escape . in these fictive contemexpected plations. ideas insinuated themselves. little by little. of verified dreams on which was imposed the desire to experience new impressions. It was impossible. to human with figure. therefore. to speak someone. the fact that these old people. were almost dumb. but conversation with them was impossible. bowed down by years of silence and the customs of attendants. bringing on visions of English existence on which he mused for hours. which he had lately un- dertaken nerves and which had only produced effects the opposite of those hoped for. they possessed dull brains and were incapable of answering his questions other than by monosyllables.190 AGAINST THE GRAIN to to Seized with a desire walk. employing a specious pretext. ideas of the voyage brought to an end. Too. to find any solace in their society. to behold a mingle he had proceeded to call his domestics. soothe The his reading of novels of Dickens.
With its mist and rain. he hailed a coachman. stop in front of . "And when you reach the rue de Rivoli. by placing under his eyes the unfading image of a land of "fog and mud. this abominable weather aided his thoughts still more. by reinforcing the memories of his readings. wished to find himself jostled and shouldered in the hubbub of crowded streets and railway stations.AGAINST THE GRAIN the exhausting cerebral debauches intent 191 upon beating in the void. it no longer. Once in the boulevard d'Enfer. he even took flight before the designated time. and by refusing to let his ideas wander idly. panting while formed its last pirouettes. he had Such was his haste that One day. "At once!" he commanded. By prom- ising a substantial tip. able to endure instantly decided. so In some strange manner he ex- tracted a pleasure from the fact that he was hampered with trunks and rugs. for he wished to shun the present moment. he reached an under- standing with the man of the brown trousers and red waistcoat. "I breathe!" he exclaimed when its the train moderated its waltz and stopped in the Sceaux wheels per- station rotunda.
their skirts tucked up to the knees. rais- Galignani's Messenger." Before departing. the carriage Des Esseintes was obliged to windows down which the water ran. spouts oveflowed. To the monotonous sound of sacks of peas shaking against his head through the action of the showers pattering against the trunks and on the carriage rug. The lift rain entered diagonally through the carriage doors. The carriage got under way ing rings of mud around its ing through marsh-like ground.192 AGAINST THE GRAIN Murray guide heavily. and women. . he desired to buy a Baedeker or of London. bent under umbrellas. wheels and movBeneath the gray sky which seemed suspended over the house tops. while drops of mud furrowed their way like fireworks on each side of the fiacre. enjoyed in Paris through the means of this frightful of his voyage. water gushed down the thick sides of the high walls. flattened themselves against the shops to avoid being splashed. Thickset men paused on sidewalks bespattered by passing omnibuses. and the streets were coated with a slimy dirt in which passersby slipped. Des Esseintes dreamed This already was a partial realization of his England.
and while. was transpiring in vast warehouses along the river banks which were bathed by the muddy and dull water of an imaginary Thames. in a forest of masts and girders piercAll this ing the wan clouds of the firmament. sails. swarming with men perched on masts or astride yard while myriads of other men on the quays pushed hogsheads into cellars. ceaselessly steaming and smoking in the fog now spread out before his eyes. and strings of carriages passed between rows of preoccupied and taciturn people whose eyes stared ahead and whose elbows pressed closely against their bodies.AGAINST THE GRAIN : 193 weather a rainy. in this insulating mist. hand winches and bales. colossal London smelling of molten metal and of soot. through every street. in this incessant activity. docks full of cranes. then rows of docks sprawled ahead. as far as the eye could reach. monstrous and gaudy and infa- rumbled and vom- mous advertisements flared through the eter- nal twilight. while trains rushed past at full speed or underground uttering horrible cries iting waves of smoke. in this pitiless gearing which ground millions of the disinherited. urged by . Des Esseintes shivered deliciously to feel himself mingling in this terrible world of merchants.
Separated by a door whose unpolished glass was covered with inscriptions and with strips of passe-partout framing newspaper clippings and telegrams. his thought reverted to a very trivial incident. perceived the Carrousel and suddenly. sisted until the driver. Then. He was in the rue de Rivoli. were two vast shop windows crammed with . dows. broke the chain of his reminiscences and regrets. amid a yellowish halo. ribbons of fire swam in puddles of water and seemed to revolve around wheels of carriages moving through liquid and dirty flame. He . but the annoyance of having omitted this brush per. perhaps through the simple effect of the high fall from fanciful spaces.194 AGAINST THE GRAIN the comfort-distilling philanthropists to recite Biblical verses and to sing psalms. endeavored to get his bearings. Night had fallen gas burners blinked through the fog. pulling up. Then the vision faded suddenly with a jolt of the fiacre which made him rebound in his He gazed through the carriage winseat. he passed in review the list of objects packed up everything had been placed in his valise. He remembered that his domestic had neglected to put a tooth brush in his belongings. in front of Galignani's Messenger. unreasoningly.
or the delirious cavalcades of Caldecott. reproducing humorous scenes from Du Maurier and John Leech. in the midst of the opened albums. He recalled certain works he had seen at international expositions. attracted by the sight of these books bound in parrotblue and cabbage-green paper. He. He glanced through them and paused at a page of the Baedeker describing the London museums. but his attention wandered away from the old English paintings to the moderns which attracted him much more. here and there. a mercantile appearance. embossed with silver and golden letterings. away from . Seated strangers unfolded maps and jabbered in strange languages. He tore himself opened the door and entered a large library which was full of people. and imagined that he his contemplation. He drew near. more brutal and yet less wretched that those worthless bindings of French books. sat down to examine the books with their flexible covers. He became interested in the laconic and exact details of the guide books. All this had an anti-Parisian touch. some French novels appeared. A clerk brought him a complete collection of guides. in turns.AGAINST THE GRAIN 195 albums and books. blending placid and satisfied vulgarities to these rich verjuice hues.
he recalled a Denunication of Cain.196 AGAINST THE GRAIN might possibly behold them one more at London: pictures by Millais the Eve of Saint Agnes with its lunar clear green. checquered with gamboge and sick Gustave indigo. painted by an anaemic Michael Angelo and retouched by a Raphael submerged in blue. of a learned and dreamy Englishman tormented by the bewitchment of cruel tones. These canvasses thronged through his memory. some Eves where. rose the personality. the wind blew from the side. in the strange and mysterious mixture of these three masters. with whitish panes of glass illumed from within. asked the guides he would take. astonished by this client who was so lost to the world. an Ida. strange in color. him which of Des Esseintes re- mained dumbfounded. Among other canvasses. bought a Baedeker and departed." he said to the driver. pictures sketched by a Moreau. lashing the arcades with whips of rain. resembled a vast night lamp burning its . then excused himself. pictures by — Watts. The dampness froze him to the spot. at once refined and crude. pointing with his finger to the a passage where a store end of formed the angle of the rue de Rivoli and the rue Castiglione and. "Proceed to that place. The clerk.
on each side of its walls. Des Esseintes strayed into a large room sustained by iron pillars and lined. resting on their sides and salty cakes. succeeded each other between a row of seats and as far as the end of this cellar which was lined with still more. tables covered with baskets of Palmers biscuits. The lower sides an ugly iron-gray chandelier. and the prices on colored labels and stated that they were to be purchased by the cask. mustardy concoctions under their unsavory covers. It was the Bodega. hogsheads carrying tiny barrels on their tops. In the passage between these rows of casks. These hogsheads painted with a royal coat of arms displayed the names of their drinks. hard and with mince pies and sandwiches concealing strong. hooped with iron. under the gas jets which flared at one end of glasses. plates piled . their paunches with wooden loopholes imitating a rack of pipes and from whose notches hung tulip-shaped were bored and hafted with stone cocks. with tall barrels placed on their ends upon gantries. the contents. in the misery of this crazy weather. by the bottle or by the glass. upside down.AGAINST THE GRAIN 197 through the wretchedness of this mist.
Des Esseintes sat waiting for his glass of port or- dered of a gentleman who was opening ex- plosive sodas contained in oval bottles gelatine and gluten used which to recalled. Englishmen were everywhere. pasto. to foot. An were placed in a straight line. upon taking the tuns odor of alcohol assailed Des Esseintes a seat in this room heavy with strong wines. Cockburn's very fine. the sweet or sour wines the color of mahogany or amaranth. There. Leaning on his elbows on a corner of the table. Here.198 AGAINST THE GRAIN bearing their names stamped with hot metal into the oak. magnificent old Regina. and distingushed by such laudatory epithets as old port) light delicate. the capsules of by pharmacies conceal the tase of certain medicines. while exaggerating. huge casks contained the martial Spanish wines. exhibiting the whole series of ports. He looked about him. The cellar was filled with people. — awkward very long pale clergymen garbed in black from head with soft hats. . pale dry. protruding formidable abdomens pressed closely against each other. oloroso and amontilla. laced shoes. sherry and tives. its deriva- the san lucar. coats dotted in the front with tiny buttons.
Opposite were frames hanging on the wall en. he fell into a revery. whiskers that looked like those of some big monkeys farther away. seeing here. the trade marks of Perrier and Roederer. imaginatively peopling sieck the cellar with new personages. . Heid- and Mumm. a sort of American commodore. vinous cheeks. through a microscope. written in Gothic characters. ears like tomatoes. the creatures of Dickens that love this drink so very much. blood-shot crazy eyes. a long row of tow-headed individuals. . with smoked skin and bulbous nose. with the name of Dom Perignon. greasy hair. at the end of the wine store. round spectacles. stunned by the prattle of the Englishmen conversing among themselves.AGAINST THE GRAIN flat 199 clean-shaved chins. faces of tripe dealers and mastiflf snouts with apoplectic necks. their chins covered with white hair like the end of an artichoke. the tiny roman type of an English newspaper opposite him. was sleeping. before the purple port which filled the glasses. Rheims. a cigar planted in the hairy aperture of his mouth. dumpy and thick-set. A certain enervation enveloped Des Esseintes in this guard house atmosphere. reading. and a hooded head of a monk. evoking. closing advertisements of Champagne.
there. to be replaced by the pitiless revulsives and the grievous irritants of Edgar . Despite the heavy fumes in this rienced a cold shiver the reality of the caused by the cigars and pipes. appeared to him sailing like an ark in a deluge of mire and soot. bottles tended and isolated. he expewhen he returned to damp and fetid weather. happy to be sheltered. He called for a glass of amontillado. Idly he wandered through this imaginary London. all of them broke away from his memory and installed themselves in the Bodega. memories. Wickfield. the little poured slowly by Dorrit and Dora Copperfield and Tom Pinch's sister. and suddenly. The city of the romancer. Positively. the melancholy in Bleak House. attained a startling precision. cellar. the lenitive. as he listened to the sinister shrieks of tugs plying up and down the Thames. crafty face and the vengeful eye of Mr. His glass was empty. brought to life by his recent read- Tulkinghorn. beside this pale.200 AGAINST THE GRAIN com- the white head of hair and the ruddy plexion of Mr. with their peculiar charHis acteristics and their betraying gestures. the phleg- matic. the house illumined and so perfectly warmed. sweetish stories of the English author were routed. solicitor ings. dry wine.
Twitchinstinctive. The street lamps moved their tiny fans of flame which failed to illuminate the sky had dropped to the very houses. and looked at his watch seven : o'clock. that he ings of his stomach recalled him to reality. He regained his carriage. the train nine. Then he perceived was left alone here and that the dinner hour was near. He had just time to eat dinner. and it seemed to him that he was in the gloomy tunnel under the Thames. of the man immured in a vault. the ordinary placid faces of American and English drinkers who occupied the room. appeared to him to reflect inassailed voluntary frightful thoughts. him. : saying to himself "If the figures of the time- . to be harboring odious plots. He payed his bill. would not leave until ten minutes of the hours of travel and he counted on his fingers. He received a wet slap in the face upon leaving the place. 201 Allen Poe the cold nightmares of The Cask of Amontillado. Des Esseintes viewed the arcades of the rue de Rivoli. tore himself from his seat and dizzily gained the door.AGAINST THE GRAIN . reckoning from Dieppe to Newhaven. drowned in the gloom and submerged by water. gave the driver the address of the tavern in the rue d'Amsterdam near the station.
a series of compartments resembling stalls. muttering something in a jargon he could not understand. bunches of laurel and thym. While the cloth was being laid. He took it and called a young black-suited man who bent forward. red lobsters. Des Esseintes viewed his neighbors. thoughtful or haughty were reading foreign newspapers." fiacre stopped in front of the tavern. a rumpsteak pie. I shall be at row twelve thirty. like . many beer pumps stood on a counter. with cold faience eyes. Des tions as Esseintes alighted and entered dark plain room. with boyish faces. juniper berries and long peppers swimming in thick sauce. divided into partihigh as a man's waist. sauce and covered with a crust. In this room. One of these boxes was unoccupied. large teeth. with onions and carrots. wider towards the door. with genuine ardor. long hands and legs. They attacked. They were islanders. ones eating were unescorted robust English airs. crimson — complexions. near hams having the color of old violins. just as at the Bodega. a warm meat dish cooked in women mushroom a pie. They only The women in pairs. ruddy apple cheeks. marinated mackerel. The a long Once more. slices of lemon.202 AGAINST THE GRAIN London tomorat table are correct.
* He leaned back in his chair. He ordered oxtail soup and enjoyed it heartily. that dark beer which smells of Spanish does not have its licorice but which sugary taste. had he This change of habit. He lingered over a piece of blue Stilton chese. he remained amazed in the presence of these hearty eaters whose voracity whetted his hunger. it fell in cascades down the spouts. ordered a haddock and. No one was stirring in the room. lit a cigarrette and prepared to sip his coffee into which gin had been poured. His hunger persisted. quenched his thirst with porter. seized with a sudden pang of hunger at the sight of so many people relishing their food.AGAINST THE GRAIN 203 After having lacked appetite for such a long time. breathed deeply. stimulated by the flavor of a cow-shed which this fine. for years He Not eaten and drunk so much. He heard it patter on the panes which formed a ceiling at the end of the room. he ate some roast beef and drank two pints of ale. . and to vary his drinking. this choice of unexpected and solid food had awakened his stomach from its long sleep. pale beer exhaled. The rain continued to fall. Then he glanced at the menu for the fish. made quick work of a rhubarb tart.
Then "And what about the In his sedentary life. Des Esseintes con- cluded that they were talking of the bad weather. was indulging himself in front of his wine glass. and cut did not perceivably differ from that of and he experienced a sense of content- ment in not ment.204 AGAINST THE GRAIN Everybody. in ficially. he began to muse upon the plan he had conceived. one by one. Tongues were now wagging freely. As almost all the English men and women raised their eyes as they spoke. not one of them laughed. Unleft able to keep away. of being. utterly weary. one fine day he had Paris and visited the towns of the Low Lands. train?" he asked himself. "I still have nearly a half-hour to remain here. though super- a naturalized he suddenly started. being out of tune in this environsome way. He had satisfied the first of his desires. London citizen. He threw a delighted glance on their suits whose color others. In short. He glanced at his watch: ten minutes to eight. nothing but cruel disillusions had resulted from this trip. He had fancied a Hol- land after the works of Teniers and Steen. ." Once more. only two countries had ever attracted him: Holland and England.
continual debauches in the country sides. embossed with huge breasts and enormous bellies. anything of that real and magical country which he had hoped to behold. intent for a view of that patriarchal simplicity. of the dances of petticoated and stockinged peasants crying for very joy. unable to dis- But of the unrestrained joys. with their un- couth children and their old fat women. had thought of amazing kermesses. Haarlem and Amsterdam had enraptured him. really resembled those types painted by Van Ostade. in his usual way imagining rich. seeing nothing at all. their country farms. . He had rushed forward on a false track and had wandered into capricious visions.AGAINST THE GRAIN of 205 Rembrandt and Ostade. unique and incomparable Ghettos. drunken famhad to admit that the Dutch paintings at the Louvre had misled him. not a whit. the ily carousals. Decidedly nothing of all this was visible. that jovial lusty spirit celebrated by the old masters. The unwashed people. stamping their feet out of sheer happiness and laughing loudly. on the plots of ground strewn with barrels. They had simply served as a springing board for his dreams. seen in Certainly. He cover in the land itself.
near a chandelier. "There you are!' he said.206 AGAINST THE GRAIN any other a country in no simple." He filled a glass of brandy. "let us drink and screw up our courage. "It is about time to ask for the bill and leave. wise primitive. suit An individual in black of and with a napkin under one arm. not at testant all its religion with and solemn rigidness held sway here. "Come!" he addressed himself. wrote while counting. . a sort a bald and sharp head. He felt an extreme heaviness in his stomach and through his body. and without glancing at his paper. A pencil rested behind his ear and he assumed an attitude like a singer. one foot in front of the other." he told himself. a greying beard without moustaches. while asking for the reckoning. for the Proformal hypocricies like Holland was a country just country. his eyes fixed on the ceiling. he drew a note book from his pocket. What a surprising John Bull. and what was more. Once more he glanced at his watch: ten minutes still separated him from the train's departure. tearing the sheet from his note book and giving it to Des Esseintes who looked at him with curiosity. The memory of that disenchantment re- turned to him. came forward. as though he were a majordomo with rare animal.
let us get up. whose food and utensils surrounded him? For what could he hope." Immediate objections thwarted his orders. the appearance of a wheelsman of an Amer- ican ship. moment. Des Esseintes was incapable of moving a limb. and he said to himself. He told himself "Come now. Pensively. Several persons entered bringing with them an odor of wet dog to which was blent the smell of coal wafted by the wind through the opened door. as had happened to him in Holland? He had but sufficient time to race to the station. because of his shaved mouth.AGAINST THE GRAIN he thought. contemplating person this 207 phlegmatic who had. thus cutting off all retreat. an imperious need of remaining tranquil. this : At What vel is the use of moving. A soft warm languor prevented him from even stretching out his hand to light a cigar. we must take ourselves off. if not new disillusionments. An overwhelming aversion for the trip. he let the minutes pass. the tavern door opened. whose aromas and atmosphere and inhabitants. "Now it would be necessary . when one can traon a chair so magnificently? Was he not even now in London. seized him with a more and more obvious and stubborn strength.
stupid of to How me of the curiosity." This time. have experienced and seen all I wished to experience and see. have sought to disown my old ideas. I would be mad indeed to go and. rugs. umbrellas and canes. by an awk- Then he "In fine. "it is now time to return home.208 to AGAINST THE GRAIN What I rush to the gate and crowd into the baggage room! be!" ennui! What a bore that would repeated to himself once more. I have been filled with English life since my departure. ward trip. of the interest of an excursion!" "Well!" he exclaimed. to have doubted the efficacy of the docile phantasmagories of my brain. and returned with his trunks. lose those imperishable sensations. he arose and left. packages. consulting his watch. feeling the physical stimulation and the moral fatigue of a man coming back to his home after a long and dangerous voyage. like a very fool to have thought of the necessity. ordered the driver to bring him back to the Sceaux station. . to Fontenay. valises.
Under the touch of this sentiment. and he per- ceived in them beauties forgotten since the time he had purchased them. a Des Esseintes contemplated and experienced. his life thought of the loud loquacity of hotel The methodical organization of made him feel that it was especially to be envied since the possibility of traveling had become imminent. bric-a-bric and had an individual charm for him. exhausted he was attendants. there. . books. His bed seemed the softer by comparison with the hard bed he would have occupied in London. The silent. these objects possessed renewed novelty to his mind. He steeped himself in this bath of habitude.jURING turn. discreet ministrations of his as servants at the charmed him. at the thought that he might have been separated from them for a long satisfaction as complete as that which his books comes a after a protracted absence. the days following his re- period. Everything furniture.
then he arranged in a new order the special works of Archelaus. He examined them. LuUy and Arnaud de Villanova treating of cabbala and the occult sciences. re-arranged them on the shelves. he applied to Perrin of Lyons. began by moving all his Latin books. in his library. He At other times he dispatched orders to England or to America for the execution of modern litera- ture and the works of the present century. He would not suffer. Formerly in Paris he had ordered made. finally he examined his modern books. the books he loved to resemble other similar volumes. certain volumes which specially engaged mechanics printed from hand presses. Albert le Grand. and was happy to perceive that all had remained intact. anxious to learn if the hot weather and the rains had damaged the bindings and injured the rare paper. . one by one. printed on cotton paper with the watermarks of Auvergne. Sometimes. whose graceful. clear type was suitable for archaic reprints of old books. for himself alone. This collection had cost him a considerable sum of money. But his books chiefly preoccupied him.210 to AGAINST THE GRAIN artificial regrets insinuated a tonic which quality.
To intro- duce a certain variety into his collection. clear and somewhat brittle. he applied to a house in Lille. Finally growing weary of the snowy Chinese and the nacreous and gilded Japanese papers. Under these circumstances he had succeeded in procuring unique books. he had a Lubeck merchant prepare for him an as a improved candle paper of bottle-blue tint. a complete which for centuries had possessed set of requisitions to the old Gothic characters.AGAINST THE GRAIN Still 211 again. he also would send Enschede printing house of Haarlem whose foundry still has the stamps and dies of certain antique letters. the white Whatmans. in the pulp of which the straw was replaced by golden spangles resembling those which dot Danzig brandy. adopting obsolete . He had followed the same method in selecting his papers. and mark of his disdain for bibliophiles. the buff-colored Turkeys and Seychal Mills. and equally disgusted with all mechanically manufactured sheets. from the old plants of Vire which still employ the pestles once in use to grind hemp. he had repeatedly brought from London prepared stuffs. he had ordered special laid paper in the mould. paper interwoven with hairs. the brown Hollands.
limited to one copy. Cape goat skin. on a very light and spongy Japan paper. he had Baudelaire's works printed in a large format recalling that of ancient missals. with the marvelous episcopical lettering used in the old house of Le Clere. in full bindings with compartments and in mosaic designs. had been covered outside and then recovered within with a wonderful genuine sow skin. Des Esseintes took this incomparable book from his shelves and handled it devotedly. chosen among a thouof old silk. by Bauzonnet or ChamboUe. ecclesiastically ornamented with clasps and corners. by the successors of Cape. That day. soft as elder pith and imperceptibly tinted with a light rose hue through its milky white. Thus. its surface spotted where the hairs had been and adorned with black silk stamped in cold iron in miraculous designs by a great artist. in irreproachable covers stamped cow hide. the color of flesh. protected by tabby or moire watered silk. This edition. and sometimes even enamelled by Gruel Engelmann with silver oxide and clear enamels. by Trautz. once more reading certain pieces . sand.212 AGAINST THE GRAIN formats which he had bound by Lortic. printed with a velvety black Chinese ink.
the sessed tranquil functioning of commonplace brains. . by avarice. Balzac for example. In short. was the simple investigation. studying their veins. According to him. the discoverines of those analysts tions of It had stopped evil classified at the specula- good or by the Church. writers had limited themselves to exploring the surfaces of the soul or and illuminated caverns. restoring here and there the to penetrating into the accessible layers of capital their growths. by ambition. or by senile love.AGAINST THE GRAIN which seemed trating. to 213 in- him. by paternal stupidity. the layers of strata in the soul pos- by the monomania of a passion. the conven- tional examination of a botanist minutely ob- serving the anticipated development of nor- mal efflorescence abounding in the natural earth. sins. and the practical reality of contemporary ideas. What had been treated heretofore was the abundant health of virtues and of vices. in this simple but estimable frame. more than ordinarily pene- His admiration for this writer was unqualified. until Baudelaire's advent in literature. like and noting. without any ideal of sickly depravation or of any beyond.
compelling his thoughts to cheat each other so as to suffer the more keenly. of the mystic lock- jaw. near those confines. the and the typhoids and vomits of crime. recounted the symptoms of souls summoned by grief and licensed by spleen. he had found. He had deto the very bowels of the inexhaust- ible mine. He had revealed the morbid psychology of the mind which has attained the October of its sensations. fever of lust. There. the terrifying spectre of the age of sentiments and ideas. brooding under the gloomy clock of Ennui. ingenious in deceiving himself. and f rus- I trating in advance all possible joy by his fac- ulty of analysis and observation. studying the human creature. . had involved his mind in abandoned and unfamiliar levels. and come to those districts of the soul where monstrous vegetations of thought extend their branches. the haunt of aberrations and of sickness. He had pursued all the phases of that lamentable autumn. and shown the increasing decay of impressions while the enthusiasms and beliefs of youth are enfeebled and the only thing remaining is the arid memory of miseries borne.214 AGAINST THE GRAIN scended Baudelaire had gone farther. intolerances endured and affronts suffered by intelligences oppressed by a ridiculous destiny. warm quick to exasperation.
and the maternal candors whose gentleness and comfort impart. restless 215 in this vexed sensibility of the soul. those where one person yields while the other is still suspicious. And the more Des Esseintes read Baudeto aid in . the haz- ardous deceits of narcotics and poisons invoked calming suffering and conquering ennui. the incest. youthfulness seems new. he gradually saw arising the horror of those senile passions. more keen and deep. in a sense. At an epoch when literature attributed unhappiness of life almost exclusively to the mischances of unrequited love or to the jealousies that attend adulterous love. he disregarded such puerile maladies and probed into those wounds which are more fatal. where lassitude denies such couples the filial caresses whose apparent ripe loves. which arise from satiety. in this ferocity of reflection that repels the ardor of devotions and the well-mean- ing outrages of charity. the past fills with loathing and the future frightens and menaces with despair. disillusion and scorn in ruined souls whom the present tortures.AGAINST THE GRAIN Then. engaging remorse of a vague In magnificent pages he exposed his hybrid loves in who were exasperated by the impotence which they were overwhelmed.
sessed a marvelous power to define with a inexpressible in a muscular and . In prose. the charm of this writer an age when verse served only to portray the external semblance of beings and things. and was unmoved even by Diderot. he read hardly anything melancholy ballads touched him. to the capers of circus clowns.216 AGAINST THE GRAIN more he who. As for old poetry. robustness of expression. except Villon. in felt the ineffable laire. the number of French books given place in his shelves was He was completely indifferstrictly limited. whose . and the antipathy he felt against these farces was so great that he to did not hesitate to liken them. had succeeded in expressing the brawny lanany other writer posmore than guage who. here and there. ent to those works which it is fashionable praise. in the point of art." and "the deep comedy of Moliere. certain fragments from d'Aubigne." did not succeed in diverting him. "The broad laugh of Rabelais. the most and tentative morbidities of exhausted minds and sad souls. which stimulated his blood with the incredible vehemence of their apostrophes and curses. and. strange / fugitive After Baudelaire's works. he cared little for Voltaire and Rousseau.
Apart from such books as these.AGAINST THE GRAIN whose and so 217 greatly praised Salons he found this strangely saturated with moralizing twaddle futility. more. and the other the Catholic literature. French literature began in his library with the nineteenth century. just as in the secular art he had discovered. but. and especially Pascal. secular literature. This section was divided into two groups. he limited himself almost exclusively to the reading of Christian eloquence. a special but little known literature published by large publishing houses and circulated to the four corners of the earth. under an enormous mass of insipid writings. whose austere pessimism and attrition deeply touched him. The distinctive character of this literature was the constant immutability of its ideas and . he relished suggestive reflec- ideas condensed into severe and strong phrases. a few books written by true masters. such as those created by Nicole in his tions. one of which included the ordinary. in his hatred toward all balderdash. to the books of Bourdaloue and Bossuet whose still sonorously embellished periods were imposing. He had had the hardihood to explore such crypts as these.
unqualified to explain the complicated wiles of intellects indifferent to the benefits of salva- . Incapable of grappling with contemoprary life. piously frame that encloses them. As one of the Church's own writers. the oratorical language of the celebrated century. more indulgent. in Bossuet. closed eyes to certain expres- borrowed from the secular language of the same century. the its Church. all In spite of sions. the primitive form of holy objects.218 AGAINST THE GRAIN Just as the Church perpetuated language. Ozanam. as the daloue and by Bossuet to the exclusion of else. especertain turns of style cially cleaning itself. of lixity its pro- and the painful rallying of its pronouns. of rendering the most simple aspects of things and persons visible and palpable. the Christian style needed only to make use of the dialect employed by Bourretaining. and the Catholic idiom had slightly purified itself of Its heavy and massive phrases. and others would doubtless have been purposeless for the prose sufficed without this ballast for the limited range of subjects to which the Church confined itself. but here ended the concessions. this statement. so she has preserved the relics of her dogmas. has put it.
AGAINST THE GRAIN tion. here as everywhere. the Russian. without any discussion. in the demonstration of a theory. Her writings had filled horrible boredom. Des Esseintes had had the curiosity to read those of chine. resembling the echoes of a tiny chapel where the solemn worshippers mumble their prayers. asking news of one another in low voices. Unfortunately. Among such works. profane it. women had such women. commentary and. and stupid sacristans and foolish salons had acclaimed as works of genius the wretched prattle of interfered. the sanctuary had been invaded by a numerous army of pedants who smirched by Further to their ignor- ance and lack of talent the Church's noble and austere devout attire. Madame Swet- whose house in Paris was the rendezvous of the most fervent Catholics. this 219 when it treated of abstract subjects. they were : him with insufferably more than mere- ly wretched they were wretched in every way. language was nevertheless excellent It proved valuable in the argument of a controversy. more than any other had the necessary authority to affirm. in the obscurity of a style. while they repeat with a deeply mys- . the intent of a doctrine.
the blue-stocking pucelle of the group. whose soul was completely jaded and whose nature was not inclined to sentimentality. and were written in such a disgusting style. to the Journal and the which Eugenie de Guerin celewithout discretion. Madame Augustus Craven. that by these tokens they became almost remarkable and rare. with a diligence that no im- patience could overcome. Yet he strove. author of Recit d'une soeur. no. Never. but his efforts miscarried. to enjoy the works of a certain girl of genius. But there was even worse a female laureate licensed by the Institute. He Lettres in brates.220 terious AGAINST THE GRAIN air the common gossip of politics. In the point of conception. of Eliane and Fleurangcj puffed into reputation by the whole apostolic press. never. had Des Esseintes imagined that any person could write such ridiculous nonsense. with such cleverand grace that one must go to the works . could come upon a literary : retreat suited to his taste. these books were so absurd. weather forecasts and the state of the weather. It was not at all among the works of women that Des Esseintes. the amazing talent did not take of a brother ness who rhymed.
an amulet against Or poetry of this sort: O And. lift his hat and make the sign of the Cross. the lovely I moonbeam which fell on the Bible finally. comwhich Or: Mimi and Loquiers a bell I are invited by Monsieur dis- to attend the consecration of tomorrow.AGAINST THE GRAIN of de 221 Jouy and Ecouchard Lebrun also unavailingly to find any- thing so novel and daring. I say to myself. This does not please me at all. He had attempted to prehend the delights of those works in one may find such things as these: This morning I hung on papa's bed a cross which a little girl had given him yesterday. as brought cholera. Or wherein we as these find such important events On my of the neck I have hung a medal Holy Virgin which Louise had me. 'There goes a Christian.' . was reading! such fine and penetrating ob- servations as these: When I see a man pass before a cru- cifix.
Maurice de Guerin had his sister bewailed died. but was not at all particular its proteges and not at all all Without exception. at such dis- entirely forsook this literature. . These latter were one-sided divines or impeccably correct controversialists. Des Esseintes discovered that all the ecclesiastics wrote in the same manner.222 AGAINST THE GRAIN she continued in this fashion. was hardly worth mentioning. without until after And pause. But neither did he find atonement for his appointments among the modern masters of the clergy. in a flowing movement of phrase which no astringent could counterbalance. horror-stricken insipidities. in fact. So Des Esseintes. but the Christian language in their orations and books had ended by becoming impersonal and congealing into a rhetoric whose every move- ment and pause was And. after which him in other pages. bits of Ah! it the Catholic party in the choice of artistic. anticipated. these writers wrote in the pallid white prose of pensioners of a monastery. written in a watery prose strewn poems whose humiliating poverty ended by moving Des here and there with Esseintes to pity. in a sequence of periods constructed after a single model.
a supremely profound originality.AGAINST THE GRAIN with a little 223 more or a little less abandon or emphasis. by Didon or Chocarne. by clothing them in a more . and there was seldom any variations between the bodiless patterns traded by Dupanloup or Landriot. by Dom Gueranger or Ratisbonne. notably Lacordaire. a well-anchored conviction. in the narrow circle of orthodox speculations. who was one of the few really great writers the Church had produced for many years. by Olivan or Dosithee. he succeeded in inbuing them with novelty and in rejuvenating. like his colleagues. there were several writers whose burning eloquence fused and shaped this language. Immured. despite all this. by Freppel or Perraud. almost in modifying them. Des Esseintes had often pondered upon this matter. he thought. Yes. likewise obliged to dissipate his energies in the exclusive consideration of those theories which had been expressed and consecrated by the Fathers of the Church and developed by the masters of the pulpit. was needed to animate this formal style which was too frail to support any thought that was unforseen or any thesis that was audacious. by Ravignan or Gratry. A really authentic talent. La Bouillerie or Gaume.
this sentiment of paternity. accents of love. he fierce love derness. a few pages of his . cries of joy and distracted effusions. Some of these Des Esseintes found charming. Here and Notre-Dame. to his and gentle monk whose ingenuity and labors had been exhausted in the impossible task of conciliating the liberal doctrines of society with the authoritarian dogmas ment of of the Church. which gave his pen a delicately prose a character- feminine quality. In his added a temperaand suave diplomatic tenletters to young men may be found the caressing inflections of a father exhorting his sons with smiling reprimands. At the very most. words. rapid movements. position as a brilliant Then. lent to his istically individual accent discernible all the clerical literature. the well-meaning advice and the indulgent forgiveness. eccelsiastics and monks possessing any individuality were extremely rare.224 personal AGAINST THE GRAIN and stimulating form. In fine. while others were even imposing when they sought to sustain courage and dissipate doubts by the inimitable certainties of Faith. among Aftr Lacordaire. were audacious usages of there in his Conferences de ''treasures of expression. confessing as they did the monk's yearning for affection.
flashed interesting effects of large and solid phrasing or touches of nobility that were al- most venerable. With the Comte de Falloux. the 225 Abbe Peyreyve. printed in the . were mordant and discerning under the exaggerated politearticles. the episcopal style. He left sympathetic tises in wrote a few loveable composed trea- the sonorous language of formal dis- course. The ment discourse in which he delivered to Parlia1848 was diffuse and abject. one was obliged to seek those who had not submitted to Ordination. and delivered panegyrics in which the declamatory tone was too broadly stressed. this academician exuded gall. letters. biographies of his master. manner reUnder his guise a of moderation. He was too much a priest and too little a man. merited reading. Yet. to the secular writers whom the interests of Catholicism engaged and devoted to its cause.AGAINST THE GRAIN pupil. Certainly the Abbe Peyreyve had neither the emotion nor the ardor of Lacordaire. here and there in the rhetoric of his sermons. But to find writers of prose whose works justify close study. but his first Correspondant and since collected into books. so stupidly handled by the prelates. re- cruited new its strength and in covered masculine vigor.
you whose name was but you shall lately an outrage. eman- woman. and hurled against the infidels. contrary to his custom. fomentors of atheism. the implacable legit- imist this time fought openly. such fulminating invec- tives as these: "And you. executing flanking movements and attacking unexpectedly. and your . whose tracts he had collected and whom he revered as a saint. a penetrating pages on the death of Madame Swetchine. the latter entitled I'TJnite nationale. the Comte de Falloux had also written striking.226 AGAINST THE GRAIN Conceived as ness of their form. destroyers of the family. systematic Utopians. fed on chimerae and hatreds. they contained a certain strong muscular energy and were astonishing in the intolerance of their convictions. in the form of a peroration. Moved by a cold rage. But the true temperament of the writer was betrayed in the two brochures which appeared in 1848 and 1880. genealogists of the simian race. who make an abstraction of cipators of human nature. A dangerous polemist because of his ambusshrewd logician. harangues. cades. be satisfied: have been the prophets.
Lacordaire and De Broglie. unhesitatingly admitted the tyranny of the ultramontaine doctrines and conwith a certain compunction. De Falloux. Here the sinuous attacks were resumed. For the conduct of this verbal warfare. franker and more open. Veuillot had cial style. a review the imperious thea varnish of toler- which attempted to cover ories of the Church with ance. and was directed against the potism of the Univers and against Veuillot whose name he refused to mention. made himself master of a spepartly borrowed from La Bruyere . the two factions whose differences were resolved into virulent hatreds. the more haughty and cunning. scorned such masks. ties These contestants represented the two parof the Church. the pitiless yoke of the Church's dogma. venom filtered beneath each line. clad in blue answered the sharp physical blows of the fighter with scornful sarcasms. fessed. Veuillot. when the gentleman.AGAINST THE GRAIN disciples will be the high-priests of an 227 abomParti des- inable future!" The other brochure bore the title le catholique. belonged to the liberal camp which already claimed Montalembert and Cochin. the He subscribed to the principles of Correspondant.
he had overwhelmed both free thinkers and bishops with this terrible weapon. More formal. to Unfortunately. Veuillot . Ozanam. existed in pugilism. which would tolerate neither his contraband style nor his fortified theories. the inquisitor of the ChrisAlthough he was very diffitian language. In repose. more constrained and more serious was the beloved apologist of the Church. His language was vapid. regardless of the party to which they belonged. At peace. he had nevertheless overawed everybody by his powerful slang style. uttering banal litanies and mumbling childish hymns.228 AGAINST THE GRAIN Du Gros-Caillou. freeing himself with a kick of the foot of the at- wretched hack-writers who presumed tack him. half- had the force of a tomahawk in the hands of this vehement personality. incurring the attack of the entire press effectively thrashed in his which he Odeurs all de Paris. and This half-solemn. he changed. coping with every assault. when it was not engaged in a striking controversy. Strangely headstrong and brave. talent. charging at his enemies like a bull. Distrusted by the Church. His poetry and novels were pitiful. this undisputed talent only was no more than a mediocre writer.
and judged causes and opinions according to their harmony or discord with those that he advanced. on Saint Francis. he deformed events. and treated Buddhism and the esteem other religions with such contempt that he apologized for even soiling his Catholic prose by onslaught on their doctrines. the known facts of history. to 229 Des Esseintes never failed be astonished by the insouciance of this writer. under which seethed a violent current.AGAINST THE GRAIN cult to understand. At times. with establish proof of the greater impudence even than the panegyrists of other parties. spoke confidently of God's impenetrable designs. man This manner of viewing questions from a single viewpoint was also the method of that . on the Franciscan poets. on socialism. averred that the Church had never concealed it had for science. although he felt obliged to who improbable assertions he advanced. religious passion breathed a cer- tain ardor into his oratorical language. in numerous writings on Dante. on commercial law and every imaginable subject. this the ice of his pleaded for the defense of the Vatican which he held indefectible. called heresies impure miasmas. With the utmost self-confidence. on the author of Stabat Mater. contradicted.
and which Ozanam had imprisoned had read secular works so as to This province he be able to judge of them.230 AGAINST THE GRAIN whom some peo- literary scamp. In this a few paces before gloom. fully finished style" of Hugo who sought the noisome and unclean and to whom he dared compare De Laprade. perceiving in this gloom only the gleam of the candle which illumed the place him. of Paul Delaroche and of the poet Reboul. affected tentions. Nettement. whom he praised because of their apparent faith. of Paul Delacroix who scorned the rules. ple latter less would have made the was less bigoted than other's rival. the works of Poujaulat . Des Esseintes could not restrain a shrug of the shoulders before these stupid opinions. stumbled speaking of Murger who had "the care of a chiselled and care. uncertain of his bearings. he at every turn. like a child in a vault. In a different way. The the master. entered gropingly. see- ing nothing but shadow around him. arrogance and admitted more worldly preHe repeatedly left the literary in cloister himself. covered by a borrowed prose whose already worn texture clung or became torn at each phrase.
to his servants. nor the taking of the veil at the Sacre-Coeur. Nicolas and Carne failed to inspire him with any definite interest. Montalembert. for a certam vulgar usage. who revealed his true self in a letter where he gave a stirring account of Broglie.AGAINST THE GRAIN 231 and Genoude. The mass of books which he had once studied he had thrown into dim corners of his library shelves when he left the Fathers' school. In no way did Des Esseintes derive even a fugitive distraction from his boredom from this literature. even fidelity when treated with the scholarly and harmonious style of the Due de was his penchant for the social and religious questions. and the period was already remote when he had thrown with his waste paper the puerile lucubrations of the gloomy Pontmartin and the pitiful Feval and long since he had given . which are recorded wretched hagiographies of miracles effected by Dupont of Tours and by the Virgin. as turned out some books which were particularly insufferable: . even when broached by Henry Cochin. "I should have left them in Paris. He had not touched these books for a long time. His taste for history was not pronounced. the in short stories of Aubineau and Lasserre." he told himself.
A of the journey and the noisy mob of those pilgrims of letters who for centuries followed the one after the other upon same highway. the Comte Joseph de Maistre. recalled to . marching in each other's steps. stopping at the same places to exchange the same commonon the Church Fathers.232 AGAINST THE GRAIN Abbe Lamennais and that imper- those of the vious sectarian so magisterially. withIt was the Homme of Ernest Hello. Ernest Hello had ended by abandoning the open road that led from earth to heaven. on their similar beliefs. by the piercing cunning of his Des Esseintes the sharp. Almost isolated among the pious group terrified by his conduct. Tortuous and precious. so pompously dull and empty. he had departed through the byways to wander in the gloomy glade of Pascal. volume remained on a shelf. Hello. where he tarried long to recover his breath before continuing on his way and going place remarks on religion. human thought whom he derided. Probably disgusted by the dullness single in reach of his hand. even farther in the regions of than the Jansenist. analysis. on their common masters. This writer was the absolute opposite of his religious confederates. doctoral and complex.
) Thus." and "the passion of unhappiness. he dissected with a singular perspicacity. a sophisticated engineer of the soul. but which almost constantly remained ingenious and sparkling.AGAINST THE GRAIN 233 probing investigations of some of the infidel psychologists of the preceding and present century. delighting skillful to of a passion and by the details of the wheel work. stolen from the enemies of the Church. despite the awkwardness of his structure." revealing meanwhile interesting comparisons which could be constructed between the operations of photography and of memory. "the ordinary man. fin this oddly formed mind existed unsurmised relationships of thoughts. watchmaker of the examine the mechanism it elucidate . furthermore. represented only one of the temperamental phases of this man. he affected a wholly novel manner of action which used the etymology of words as a spring-board for ideas whose associations sometimes became tenuous. an experienced manipulation of the magnifying glass. the Avare. In him was a sort of Catholic Duranty. harmonies and oppositions. but more dogmatic and penetrating. But such skill in handling this perfected instrument of analyisis. a brain.
the reservoir of learning. He pontificated and vaticaned from his retreat in the rue Saint-Sulpice. prideful and tormented with spleen. written in a biblical style. he paraphrased the Holy Scriptures. Ernest Hello had delighted in imitating Saint John of Patmos. besides the writer. Like Hugo. haranguing the reader with an apocalyptic language partaking of an Isiah. he sought to appear like a vengeful apostle. in This mind divided two parts and revealed. the Perhaps he was a well. endeavoring to encyclopedic giant of the age. in spots of the bitterness He affected inordinate pretentions of pro- fundity. but showed himself a deacon touched with a mystic epilepsy. rugged and obscure. In his volume Paroles de Dieu. There were some fawning and com- placent people a great who pretended to consider him man. but one at whose bottom one often could not find a drop of water.234 Still AGAINST THE GRAIN another existed. the religious fanatic and Biblical proitself phet. and in his brochure le Jour du Seigneur. whom he now and again re- called in distortions of phrases and words. complicate their ordinarily obvious sense. In his other book Homme. or like a .
this sickly shamelessness often obstructed the inventive sallies of the casuist. a surly and bitter sectarian. and ever5rwhere were interspersed more than perilous aphorisms and raging curses cast at the art of the last century. The proposition on each page was of the unique truth and the superhuman knowledge of the Church. proclaimed the most disconcerting axioms. caressing effusions. he resolutely denied that pertained to his clan. With more intolerance all than even Ozanam. verifies the scientific truth of the Bible. had leaped from a preface written for this book. chemistry and every contemporary science. thought Des Esseintes. To this strange mixture was added the love of sanctimonious delights." and that natural history. a mystic of the thirteenth century whose prose offered an incomprehensible but alluring combination of dusky exaltations. The whole attitude of this presumptuous pontiff. with selected works of Jean Rusbrock I'Admirable. such as a translation of the Visions by Angele de Foligno. a book of an unparalleled fluid stupidity. Hello.AGAINST THE GRAIN But. and poignant transports. maintained with a dis- concerting authority that "geology like is return- ing toward Moses. 235 talented Maistre. He himself remarked .
soldiers What who do the Church really desires is not reason." However this might be. were more properly regular army. the savage Leon Bloy. files of such blind as combatants and such mediocrities describes with the rage of one ted to their yoke. With him was recruited the little group of writers who fought on the front battle line They did not belong of the clerical camp. No fusion had been effected between the skilful psychologist and the piouLi pedant. and for such as him the far horizons would be a too narrow garment. an enraged pamphleteer who wrote lost in a style at once rare and exasperated. because they did not seem sufficiently submissive and shallow. is his ocean." and he stammered in good truth. his prey.236 AGAINST THE GRAIN that "extraordinary things can only be stam- mered. and the very jolts and incoherencies constituted the personality of the man. declaring that "the holy gloom where Rusbrook extends his eagle wings his glory. and caused to be cast from . Des Esseintes felt himself intrigued toward this ill-balanced but subtile mind. but the to the scouts of a religion which distrusted men of such talent as Veuillot and Hello. Hello who has submit- Thus it was that Catholic- ism had no time in driving away one of its partisans.
broke the window panes of the chapel. the Pretre marie and the Diaboliques. juggled with the holy pyxes and executed eccentric dances around the tabernacle. even that vast disdain was invoked. were certainly more cohprehensive and more finely balanced. Two works of Barbey d'Aurevilly specially attracted Des Esseintes. the Chevalier des touches and Une Vieille Maitresse. and was unrecognized by the party. as hoarse it would or a filthy vagrant. such as the Ensorcele. under pretext of honoring his masters. . but they left Des Esseintes untouched.AGAINST THE GRAIN the doors of its 237 a plague bookshops. with which Catholicism enshrouds talent to prevent excommunication from putting beyond the pale of the law a perplexing servant who. Others bent their heads under rebukes and returned but he was the enfant terrible. Others. for he was really interested only in unhealthy works which were consumed and irritated by fever. Barbey d'Aurevilly. another writer who had its made It is himself with celebrating praises. he pursued women whom he dragged into the sanctuary. Nay. In a literary way. sufficiently docile. true that the latter was too prone to compromise and not to the ranks.
among those disordered creatures that were like galvanized Coppelias of Hoffman. whom Conceived . these scenes were unfolded in the uneven style of a tortured soul. Barbey hesitated constantly between which the Catholic religion succeeds in reconciling: mysticism and sadism.238 AGAINST THE GRAIN all In these d'Aurevilly but healthy volumes. where they were as comical and ridiculous as a tiny zinc figure playing on a horn on a timepiece. the Pretre marie. by a fasting monk in the grip of delirium. In these two books which Des Esseintes was thumbling. Unfortunately. more pitiless and savage than the Devil himself. and galloped at full those two pits speed over roads to their farthest limits. seemed to have been imagined in moments of exhaustion following convulsions. some. Barbey hal lost all prudence. His reprobate. the God of Original Sin incessantly tortured the inno- cent Calixte. All the mysterious horror of the Middle Ages hovered over that improbable book. black magic with prayer and. given full rein to his steed. like Neel de Nehou. and were discordant notes in this harmony of sombre madness. as once He had caused one of his angels unbelievers to mark the houses of he wished to slay. magic blended with religion.
Barbey d'Aurevilly sang the praises of Christ. This condition. Then a terrible relapse followed. this conviction that human life is only an uncertain combat waged between hell and heaven. in the Diaboliques. this faith in two opposite beings. to the Devil. excited at once by promises and menaces. exalted by incessant struggle. whom he cele- brated. who had prevailed against temptations. believer. Buridanesque donkey. excited by . a being balanced between two forces of equal attraction which successively remain victorious and vanquished. the author succumbed of Catholicism. then appeared sadism. that bastard which through the centuries pursued with its religion has relentlessly ex- orcisms and stakes. was fatally certain to engender such inner discords of the soul. can not arise in the soul of an unIt does not merely consist in sinking oneself in the excesses of the flesh.AGAINST THE GRAIN 239 After these mystic divagations. Satan and Christ. at once fascinating and ambigious. the writer had experienced a period of calm. and ending by abandoning itself to whichever of the two forces persisted in the pursuit the is This belief that man a more relentlessly. In the Pretre marie.
elements. for in such a case would be no more than a case of satyriasis Before all. Besides. The power of sadism and the attraction it enjoyment of transferring to Satan the praises and prayers due to God. it that had reached its climax. if it did not admit of sacrilege. a joy analogous to the satisfaction of children who disobey their parents and play with forbidden things. for no reason other than that they had been forbidden to do so.240 AGAINST THE GRAIN it outrageous blasphemies. it lies in the nonobservance of Catholic precepts which one really follows unwillingly. can only be intentionally for no one and pertinently performed by a believer. moral rebellion. sadism would have no reason for existence. those which the Church has tion of especially cursed. in a wholly ideal aberration. would take pleasure in profaning a faith that was indifferent or unknown to him. lies entirely then in the prohibited by committing sins in deeper scorn of Christ. in spiritual debauchery. in existence of a religion. In fact. It also is founded upon a joy tempered by fear. this In its phenomenon to which . such as pollu- worship and carnal orgy. presents. and in this it is exemplarily Christian. the sacrilege proceeding from the very consists in sacrilegious practice.
the in the eighteenth century. the nights successively and lawfully consecrated to excessive sensual orgies and devoted to the bestialities of passion. by a simple phenomenon of atavism the impious practices of the Sabbath. while amid cursing of the wine and the bread. Church wholesale burnings Des Esseintes all recognized in the witches' Sabbath. the black mass was being celebrated on the back of a woman on all fours. to witches' revels of the Middle Ages. This profusion of impure mockeries and foul shames were marked in the career of the .AGAINST THE GRAIN the is 241 Marquis de Sade has bequeathed his name as old as the Church. whose stained bare thighs served as the altar from which the congregation received the communion from a black goblet stamped with an image of a goat. that terrible code of Jacob Sprenger of necromancers and sorcerers. the insults and eternal threats levelled at God and the devotion bestowed upon His rival. In addition to the unclean scenes beloved by Malin. recalling. scene practices and all the ob- the blasphemies of sadism. he once more discovered the parody of the processions. It had reared its head go back no farther. male- By having which permits consulted the Malleus the ficorum.
that He did not exist. the Savior. invoked Lucifer. calling Him rogue and imbecile. he claimed ever to honor the Church. more prudent or more timid.242 AGAINST THE GRAIN his terrible Marquis de Sade. fell into demoniac nymphomania. . even borrowing from bedroom philosophy a certain episode which he seasoned with new condiments when he wrote the story le Diner d'un athee. with characters whose quaint quavers and flourishes tes. spat upon the communion. who garnished pleasures with outrageous sacrileges. on a genuine parchment which the judges of the Rota had blessed. the while he declared. He cried out to the sky. too. he none the less addressed his suit to the Devil as was done in medieval times and he. shouted his contempt of God. If he did not presume as far as De Sade in uttering atrocious curses against if. in violet ink and in a frame of cardinal purple. to defy Him the more. inventing sensual monstrosities. a copy of the Diaboliques. This extravagant book pleased Des EsseinHe had caused to be printed. in order to brave God. endeavored to contaminate with vile ordures a Divinity who he prayed might damn him. Barbey D'Aurevilly approached this psychic state.
like the bells. clangor of noisy along the text. full of involved expressions. In short. that. Des Esseintes the reflected in this wise while re-reading. His language was the language of disheveled romanticism. here and there. in imitation of the clamorous songs of nocturnal celebrated infernal litanies. and in truth. at once impious and devout. he thought of the evolution . delighted with extravagant strokes comparisons and with whip and phrases which exploded.AGAINST THE GRAIN turned up form. in tails 243 and claws afifected a satanic After certain pieces of Baudelaire revels. from every point of view. this volall ume alone of the works of contemporary apostolic literature testified to this state of mind. toward thrust which Catholicism often Des Esseinthe line With Barbey d'Aurevilly ended of religious writers. comparing its nervous and changing style with the fixed manner of other Church writers. that pariah belonged more. to secular literature than to the other with which he demanded a place that was denied him. unfamiliar turns of speech. tes. the geld- d'Aurevilly was like a stallion among ings of the ultramontaine stables. several passages of book and.
244 AGAINST THE GRAIN which Darwin has to live in a secular of language so truly re- vealed. confined within specific limitations. despite the fact that they are enveloped upon every side by English-speaking peoples. without change of phrasing or words. The ecclesiastical writers. constantly being in the current of modern lit- erature and accustomed to reading contem- porary publications. having succeeded in preserving their original idiom by isolation in certain metropolitan centres. restricted to ancient Church if literature. had nevertheless renewed itself in his works. of the literary progress of the centuries knowing nothing and determined need be to blind their eyes the more surely not to see. Meanwhile the silvery sound of a clock that tolled the angelus announced breakfast . necessarily were con- strained to the use of an inflexible language. like that of the eighteenth century scendants of the French still who settled which dein Canada speak and write today. raised in the heart of the romantic school. Barbey d'Aurevilly had acquired a dialect which although it had sustained numerous and profound changes since the Great Age. Compelled atmosphere. on the contrary.
the works of Barbey d'Aurevilly were the only ones whose ideas and style offered the gaminess he so loved to savor in the Latin and decadent.AGAINST THE GRAIN time to Des Esseintes. . books. pressed his the volumes he 245 abandoned his brow and went to the dinthat. monastic writers of past ages. He ing room. saying to himself among all had just arranged.
to which he fled. like plates of sheet iron. from improving. burning one's face. he opened a window and re- ceived the air like a furnace blast in his face. without transition.S the season advanced. A hot dust rose from the roads. scorching the dry trees. grew worse. After the squalls and mists. Half naked. The dining room. and the yellowed lawns became a deep brown. was fiery. succeeded the damp cold of foggy days and the streaming of the rains. darting a light almost white-hot. As though stirred by furious pokers. the sun showed like a kiln-hole. Everything seemed to go wrong that year. A temperature like that of a foundry hung over the dwelling of Des Esseintes. Utterly dishe sat down. for the stimulation that . a torrid heat. an atmosphere of frightful heaviness. the weather. In two days. and the rarefied air simmered. tressed. the sky was covered with a white far expanse of heat.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
had seized him had ended
since the close of
people tormented by nervousness,
checked by cold weather, again became pronounced, weakening his body which had been debilheat distracted him.
by copious perspiration. of his shirt was saturated, his perinaeum was damp, his feet and arms moist,
brow overflowing with sweat that ran down his cheeks. Des Esseintes reclined, annihilated,
on a chair.
meat placed on the table that moment caused his stomach to rise.
sight of the
ordered the food removed,
boiled eggs, and tried to swallow some bread
soaked in eggs, but his stomach would have none of it. fit of nausea overcame him. He
drank a few drops of wine that pricked his stomach like points of fire. He wet his face; the perspiration, alternately warm and cold, coursed along his temples. He began to suck some pieces of ice to overcome his troubled
So weak was he
that he leaned against the
rose, feeling the
bread had slowly risen in his gullet and remained there. Never had he felt so distressed.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
so shattered, so
to his dis-
comfort, his eyes distressed
objects in double.
him and he saw
Soon he lost his sense of seemed to be a league away. He told himself that he was the plaything of sensorial illusions and that he was incapable of reacting. He stretched out on a couch, but instantly he was cradled as by the tossing of a moving ship, and the affection of
his heart increased.
rose to his feet, de-
by means of a digestive, of the food which was choking him. He again reached the dining room and sadtermined
to rid himself,
in this cabin, to passen-
gers seized with sea-sickness. Stumbling, he
mouth organ without opening any of the stops, but instead took from a high shelf a bottle of Benedictine which he kept because of its form and which to him seemed suggestive of thoughts that were at once gently wanton and
But at this moment he remained indifferent, gazing with lack-lustre, staring eyes at this
squat, dark-green bottle which, at other times,
had brought before him images of the medieval priories by its old-fashioned monkish paunch, its head and neck covered with a
AGAINST THE GRAIN
parchment hood, its red wax stamp quartered with three silver mitres against a field of azure and fastened at the neck, like a papal bull, with bands of lead, its label inscribed in sonorous Latin, on paper that seemed to have yellowed with age Liquor Monachorum Bene:
dictinorum Abbatiae Fiscannensis.
thoroughly abbatial robe, signed
with a cross and the ecclesiastic initials 'P. O. M.', pressed in between its parchments and
ligatures, slept an exquisitely fine saffron-col-
ored liquid. It breathed an aroma that seemed
blended with sea-weeds and of iodines and bromes hidden in sweet essences, and it stimulated the palate with a spiritous ardor concealed
and charmed the sense of smell by a pungency enveloped in a caress innocent and devout. This deceit which resulted from the extraordinary disharmony between contents and container, between the liturgic form of the flask and its so feminine and modern soul, had formerly stimulated Des Esseintes to revery and, facing the bottle, he was inclined to think
at great length of the
Benedictines of the
monks who sold it, the Abbey of Fecamp who,
brotherhood of Saint-Maur
AGAINST THE GRAIN
which had been celebrated versial works under the rule
of Saint Benoit,
followed neither the observances of the white monks of Citeaux nor of the black monks of
could not but think of them as being like their brethren of the Middle Ages, cultivating simples, heating retorts and disCluny.
panaceas and prescriptions.
He tasted a drop of this liquor and, for a few moments, had relief. But soon the fire, which the dash of wine had lit in his bowels, He threw down his napkin, rerevived. turned to his study, and paced the floor. He felt as if he were under a pneumatic clock, and a numbing weakness stole from his brain through his limbs. Unable to endure it
longer, he betook himself to the garden.
time he had done this since his
There he found shelter beneath a tree which radiated a circle of shadow. Seated on the lawn, he looked around
arrival at Fontenay.
with a besotted air at the square beds of vegetables planted by the servants. He gazed, but it was only at the end of an hour that he really saw them, for a greenish film floated before his eyes, permitting him only to see, as in the
depths of water, flickering images of shifting
AGAINST THE GRAIN
But when he recovered
ly distinguished the onions
and cabbages, a
garden bed of lettuce further off, and, in the distance along the hedge, a row of white lillies recumbent in the heavy air. smile played on his lips, for he suddenly recalled the strange comparison of old Nic-
likened, in the point of form, the
of lillies to the genital organs of a
donkey; and he recalled also a passage from Albert Le Grand, in which that thaumaturgist describes a strange way of discovering whether a girl is still virgin, by means of a lettuce. These remembrances distracted him somewhat. He examined the garden, interesting himself in the plants withered by the heat, and in the hot ground whose vapors rose into the dusty air. Then, above the hedge which separated the garden below from the embankment leading to the fort, he watched the urchins struggling and tumbling on the ground.
them when another younger, sorry little specimen appeared. He had hair like seaweed
covered with sand, two green bubbles beneath his nose, and disgusting lips surrounded by a
dirty white frame
a slice of bread
AGAINST TKE GRAIN
smeared with cheese and
Esseintes inhaled the air.
This dirty slice made It seemed to him that his his mouth water. stomach, refusing all other nourishment, could
appetite seized him.
digest this shocking food, and that his palate
leaped up, ran
kitchen and or-
dered a loaf, white cheese and green onions be brought from the village, emphasizing his desire for a slice exactly like the one being
eaten by the child.
Then he returned
chaps were fighting with one another. They struggled for bits of bread which
shoved into their cheeks, meanwhile sucking their fingers. Kicks and blows rained freely, and the weakest, trampled upon, cried
Des Esseintes recovered
in this fight
distracted his thoughts
templating the blind fury of these urchins, he thought of the cruel and abominable law of
the struggle of existence
and, although these
children were mean, he could not help being
interested in their futures, yet could not but
yet were so inconsistent as to canonize Saint Vincent to de Paul. fever.AGAINST THE GRAIN believe that their it 253 had been better for them had mothers never given them birth. and none in his good senses could envy his neighbor. In fact. the same mediocre enjoyments. colic. it. because he brought vain tortures . sicknesses and infidelity during manhood and. and it making difficult for the unresisting. was the same for every one. toward the last. There was even a vague compensation in evils. and measles in their earliest years. the same anxieties. silly and mad it is to beget brats! And Des Esseintes thought of those ecclesiastics who had taken vows of sterility. permitting the poor to bear physical suffering more easily. The rich had the same passions. infirmities and geries agonies in a poorhouse or asylum. deceptions by women. weaker bodies of the rich to withstand How vain. literary or carnal. whether alcoholic. the same pains and the same illnesses. but in a different environment. all they could expect of life was rash. a sort of justice which re-established the balance of misforthe future And tune between the classes. slaps in the face and degrading drud- up to thirteen years.
Society had discovered another means of increasing man's miseries by tearing him from his home. by brutalizing that him in a slavery in every respect like from which he had compassionately freed the negro. and all to enable his him to slaughter ordinary neighbor without risking the scaffold like murderers who operate single- . lives daily Abandoned children were sheltered instead of being killed and yet their became increasingly rigorous and barren! Then. under pretext of liberty and progress. they ligent were able to anticipate the future. some of them going as far to and sentient invoke it. By means of his hateful precautions. to await and fear that death of whose very name they had of late been ignorant.254 AGAINST THE GRAIN HhriTrr~freTH4iiiJiome^oxciiigJiiin. his ideas had prevailed. in such a way that when they later became almost intelto grief.4x^ innocent creatures. And since this old man's death. Vin- cent de Paul had deferred for years the death of unintelligent and insensate beings. in hatred of that sentence of life which the monk inflicted upon them by an absurd theological code. forcing him to don a ri- diculous uniform and carry weapons.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
that are less swift and deafening.
handed, without uniforms and with weapons
been such a time as ours. Our age invokes the causes of humanity, endeavors to perfect anaesthesia to suppress physical suffering.
prepares these very stim-
ulants to increase moral wretchedness.
ever this useless procreation should
the laws enacted by
strange and cruel. In the matter of generation, Justice finds the agencies for deception to be quite natural. It is a recognized and acknowledged fact.
of any station that
does not confide
freely sold, and
children to the drain pipes,
or that does not employ contrivances that are
would enter no
yet, if these sub-
terfuges proved insufficient,
the attempt mis-
there were not prisons enough, not municipal
enough to confine those who, in good were condemned by other individuals who had that very evening, on the conjugal
AGAINST THE GRAIN
bed, done their utmost to avoid giving birth
The deceit itself w^as not a crime, it seemed. The crime lay in the justification of the deceit.
Society considered a crime was the
act of killing a being
in expelling a foetus, one destroyed an
animal that was
formed and living and intelligent and more ugly than a
strangle these creatures as soon as they are
only right to add, for the sake of fairit is
thought Des Esseintes, that
awkward man, who
generally loses no time in
disappearing, but rather the
tim of his stupidity,
expiates the crime
of having saved an innocent
world should be filled with such prejudice as to wish to repress manoeuvres so natural that primitive man, the
right that the
Polynesian savage, for instance, instinctively
servant interrupted the charitable re-
bread on a plate of vermeil. Pains shot through his heart. He did not have the
to eat this bread, for the
AGAINST THE GRAIN
excitement of his stomach had ceased.
tion of frightful decay swept
was compelled to rise. The sun turned, and slowly fell upon the place that he had lately occupied. The heat became more heavy and
"Throw this slice of bread to those children who are murdering each other on the road,"
he ordered his servant. "Let the weakest be crippled, be denied share in the prize, and be soundly thrashed into the bargain, as they will be when they return to their homes with torn trousers and bruised eyes. This will give them an idea of the life that awaits them!" And he entered the house and sank into his
I must try to eat something," he said. he attempted to soak a biscuit in old
Constantia wine, several bottles of which
mained in his cellar. That wine, the color of
partaking of Malaga and Port, but with
and an after-taste of grapes dried by fiery suns, had often comforted him, given a new energy to his stomach weakened by the fasts which he was forced to undergo. But this cordial, usually so efficaThen he thought that an cious, now failed.
a specially luscious flavor,
AGAINST THE GRAIN
emollient might perhaps counteract the fiery
pains which were consuming him, and he took
out the Nalifka, a Russian liqueur, contained
in a bottle frosted
unctuous raspberry-flavored syrup also failed.
Alas the time was far
off when, enjoying good had ridden to his house the hot summer days in a sleigh, and there,
covered with furs wrapped about his chest,
forced himself to shiver, saying, as he listened
attentively to the chattering of his teeth
he had almost succeeded
self that it
Unfortunately, such remedies as these had
failed of their purpose ever since his sickness
he was unable
of allaying the pain, this
him even to the degree of depriving him of rest. At one time he had endeavored to procure visions through opium and hashish, but these two substances had led
vomitings and intense nervous disturbances. He had instantly been forced to give up the
idea of taking them, and without the aid of these coarse stimulants, demand of his brain
AGAINST THE GRAIN
alone to transport
into the land of dreams,
a day!" he said to himself, sponging
his neck, feeling every
dissolve in perspiration; a feverish agitation
prevented him from remaining in one
once more he walked up and down,
ing every chair in the
of the struggle, at last he fell against his bureau
and leaning mechanically against the table, without thinking of anything, he touched an astrolabe which rested on a mass of books and notes and served as a paper weight. He had purchased this engraved and gilded copper instrument (it had come from Germany and dated from the seventeenth century) of a second-hand Paris dealer, after a visit to the Cluny Museum, where he had stood for a long while in ecstatic admiration before a marvelous astrolabe made of chiseled ivory, whose cabalistic appearance enchanted him. This paper weight evoked many reminiscences within him. Aroused and actuated by the appearance of this trinket, his thoughts rushed from Fontenay to Paris, to the curio shop where he had purchased it, then returned to the Museum, and he mentally beheld the
ivory astrolabe, while his unseeing eyes con-
AGAINST THE GRAIN
tinued to gaze upon the copper astrolabe on
quitting the town, strolled
wandered through the rue du Sommerard and
into the neighboring streets,
Boulevard Saint-Michel, branched off and paused be-
fore certain shops
appearance and profusion had often attracted him. Beginning with an astrolabe, this sp ritual jaunt ended in the cafes of the Latin Quarter.
He remembered how these places were crowded in the rue Monsieur-le-Prince and
end of the rue de Vaugirard, touching
Odeon; sometimes they followed one
other like the old riddecks of the Canal-aux-
Antwerp, each of which revealed
a front, the counterpart of
Through the half-opened doors and the windows dimmed with colored panes or curtains, he had often seen women who walked about
like geese; others,
on benches, rested their elbows on the marble tables, humming, their temples resting between their hands; still
others strutted and posed in front of mirrors,
playing with their false hair pomaded by hairdressers; others, again, took money from their
features. and as soon as one of them closed a cafe began to operate. utilitarian tendencies trans- Although the . these haunts an ideal. and from it he discovered the synthesis of the period. whose reveries came an end. Monstrous satisfied may appear. flabby necks and painted eyes and all them.AGAINST THE GRAIN denominations in little 261 purses and methodically sorted the different heaps. now that he recalled this collection of coffee-houses and streets. in fact. the symptoms were certain and obvious. Most of of them had heavy like voices. automatons. the same tions odd inflec- and the same smile. He cafes understood the significance of those which reflected the state of soul of an entire generation. The houses of prostitution disappeared. And. hoarse . flung the same enticements with the same tone and uttered the identical queer words. of Certain ideas associated themselves in the mind to Des Esseintes. evidently arose from the incomprehensible illusions of men in the matter of carnal as it life. This restriction of prostitution which proved profitable to clandestine loves. moved simulta- neously upon the same impulse.
an colleges old ideal of a vague. vanity fled unsatisfied from these houses where there was no semblance of resistance. paying and leaving. an old blue flower. the action of a dog attacking a bitch without much ado. Yet this domesticity was as stupid. all the refinements One disputed with the others for such a girl. and those to whom she granted a rendezvous. too. when the blood clamored. the susceptibilities of love. Its . as selfish. in the back of their heads. sour affection. the all courting of a girl of the cafes stimulated of sentiment.262 AGAINST THE GRAIN mitted by heredity and developed by the precocious rudeness and constant brutalities of the had made the youth of the day strangely crude and as strangely positive and cold. Today. ending. youths could not bring themselves to go through the formality of entering. Then. as vile as that of houses of ill-fame. were sincere in imagining that they had won her from a rival. this was bestiality. On the contrary. and in so thinking they were the objects of honorary distinction and favor. in consideration of much money. there was no victory. no hoped for preference. nor even largess obtained from the tradeswoman who measured her caresses according to the price. it had none the less preserved. in their eyes.
famdevoured one another on the pretext of . were charmed by the caresses of a slut. quarrelled and fought for no reason whatever. combined with a ferociously practical sense. graceful attitudes and necessary in the attire. and they are unaware of the sums of money given for affairs priced in advance by the mistress. delays which are repeated provide more tips for the waiters. they forget the danger of degraded. "what ninnies are these fellows who flutter around the cafes. suspicious allurements. laughed without reason. Fathers devoted their lives to their businesses ilies and labors. represented the sons dominant motive of the age." its to This imbecile sentimentality. quite infe- rior to the women bawdy houses! "My God.AGAINST THE GRAIN 263 creatures drank without being thirsty. despite everything. over and above their silly illusions. of the time lost in waiting for an assignation deferred so as to increase value and cost. The Parisian youth had not been able to see that these girls were." Des Esseintes exclaimed. lost all presence of mind and and discrimination before suspicious looking girls in restaurants who pitilessly harassed relentlessly fleeced them. These very perwho would have gouged their neighbors' eyes to gain ten sous. for. from the point of plastic beauty.
. only to be in turn.264 AGAINST THE GRAIN robbed by their sons who. At bottom. these women were skilled in the subterfuges of delays. women who their obtain money. allowed themselves to be fleeced by posed as sweethearts to trade. one might say that human wis- dom consisted in the protraction of all things. all In Paris. there existed an theft. that had roved far off. "no" before saying "yes. to if "Ah! the Fontenay." sighed Des Esseintes. same were but true of the stomach. racked by a cramp which instantly and sharply brought back his mind. west and from unbroken chain of female tricksters. a system of organized and all because." for one could manage people only by trifling with in saying them. from east to north to south. instead of satisfying men at once.
A of light relieved his distress. and he asked himself anxiously whether his already serious weakness would not grow worse and force him to take to bed. with a slice of leek and and screw on the cover to let it boil for four hours. he himself instructed to cut the roast beef into bits.[EVERAL days to slowly passed thanks certain measures which suc- ceeded in tricking the stomach. and following the directions contained in the prospectus which the manufacturer the cook it had enclosed. how put into the carrot. He dispatched his servant Paris for this precious utensil. but one morning Des Esseintes could endure food no longer. that one of his friends. At the end of this time the meat fibres were strained. little had made use of a Papin's digester to over- come his anaemia and preserve what to strength he had. He drank a spoonful of the thick salty . quite sudden gleam he remembered ill at one time. pewter pot.
He . descend upon him. the disorder of his library. he had constantly in sight the books set shelves awry on the propped against each other or lying flat on their sides. carefully placed on parade along the walls. his neurosis to was arrested and is Des Esseintes said so himself: much gained." listless In the torpor and ennui in which he was sunk. and even strengthened his stomach which did not refuse to accept these few drops of soup. He tried ten to clear up the confusion. it to this digester. the sky will throw some ashes upon this abominable sun which exhausts me. effort perspiration covered stretched him. perhaps the temperature will change. and I shall hold out without acci- dent till the first fogs and frosts of winter. like a juice deposited at the bottom of the pot. the weakened him. This nourishment relieved his pain and nausea. whose arrangement had never been completed. This disorder offended him the more contrasted it when he with the perfect order of his religious works. like a tumbled pack of cards. he felt a smooth caress.266 AGAINST THE GRAIN Then warmth. Thanks "Well. irritated him. but after minutes of work. Helpless in his armchair.
For him schools did not exist. He had now reached such that he could no longer discover any writings to content his secret longings. drawn through his enjoyment. and he had ended by possessing only those books which could submit to such treatment and which were so solidly tempered as to withstand the rollingmill of each new reading.AGAINST THE GRAIN 267 himself on a couch and rang for his servant. In art. he had restrained and almost sterilized a steel-plate issue thin. ever accentuating the irremedi- able conflict existing between his ideas and those of the world in to which he had happened a pass be born. This task did not last long. bringing each book in turn to Des Esseintes who examined it and directed where it was to be placed. light. making it so suspicious and subtle. . Following his directions. the old man continued the task. for Des Esseintes' library contained but a very limited numbands ber of contemporary. his ideas had sprung from a simple point of view. secular works. In his desire to refine. And his admi- ration even weaned itself from those volumes which had certainly contributed to sharpen his mind. They were drawn through of metal are his brain as which they from and reduced to almost imperceptible wires.
Des Esseintes had reached a point where he no longer opened Balzac's books. his tastes Very soon. his modified and his admirations changed. for the simple reason even while desiring be free of pre- judices and passion. Yet when he probed himself he understood that to attract. Unfortunately. a work must have that character of strangeness demanded by Edgar Allen Poe. He . not long ago he had adored the great Balzac. their healthy spirit jarred on him. worthy of to was scarcely applicable. and ends by to the relegating all others to the rear. This work of selection had slowly acted within him. but he ventured even further on this path and called for Byzantine flora of brain and complicated deliquescences of language. only the working of his brain interested him.268 AGAINST THE GRAIN and only the temperament of the writer mattered. Other aspirations now stirred in him. this verity of appreciation. regardless of the subject. somehow becoming undefinable. and despite the fact that he was aware of his injustice to the amazing author of the Comedie humaine. that. Palisse. but as his body weakened and nerves became troublesome. each person naturally goes works which most intimately corres'pond with his own temperament.
AGAINST THE GRAIN 269 desired a troubled indecision on which he might brood until he could shape it at will to a more vague or determinate form. losing the faculty of admiring beauty indiscriminately under whatever form it was presented. In short. he desired a work of art both for what it was in itself and for what it permitted him He wished to pass by means of to endow it. he preferred Flaubert's Tentation de saint Antoine to his Education sentimentale. since leaving Paris. short. Thus. Des Esseintes was removing himself further and further from reality. accordIn ing to the momentary state of his soul. it into a sphere of sublimated sensation which would arouse in him new commotions whose cause he might long and vainly seek to analyze. Goncourt's Faustin to his Germinie Lacerteux. and he would have as little as possible to do with paintings and books whose limited subjects dealt with modern life. Zola's Faute de I'abbe Mouret to his Assommoir. especially from the contemporary world which he held in an ever growing detestation. This point of view seemed logical to him . This hatred had inevitably reacted on his literary and artistic tastes.
Finding himself unable to harmonize. Confused desires for other lands awake and are clarified by reflection and study. is haunted by a nostalgia of some past century. in the ment and its dawning of strange ideas. sensations and thoughts bequeathed by heredity. grow fixed.270 these AGAINST THE GRAIN works less immediate. though unconsciously. when the period in which a man of talent is obliged to live is dull and stupid. analysis. assert examination of the environpeople. with the environment in which he lives and not discovering sufficient distraction in the pleasures of observation and sincere . save at rare intervals. enabled him to penetrate farther into the depths of the temperaments of these masters who revealed in them the most mysterious transports of their being with a more abandon and they lifted him far above this trivial life which wearied him so. he feels in himself the themselves with an imperious asrecalls surance. awake. In fact. but just as vibrant and human. He things he has never really memories of beings and known and a time . Instincts. In them he entered into perfect communion of ideas with their authors who had written them when their state of soul was analogous to his own. the artist.
With others. in whose gorgeous. to it is dead epochs. is a reproduction of some past age. in full liberty. he evokes the splendors of old Asia. to a some. to extinct civilizations. through a last illusion. of languorous passions . the age of fervent prayer and mystic depression. about atavism of which he In Flaubert this nostalgia is expressed in solemn and majestic pictures of magnificent splendors.AGAINST THE GRAIN 271 comes when he escapes from the penitentiary of his age and roves. far from our sorry life. by an effect of is unaware. barbaric frames move palpitating and delicate creatures. into another epoch with which. less intense vision of a more or to period dawn. in the perfection of their beauty. grieved as they were by the haunting premoni- — tion of the dissillusionments their follies held in store. mysterious and haughty ^women gifted. mad aspirations. with souls capable of suffering and in whose depths he discerned frightful derangements. it is a return to vanished ages. The temperament of this great artist is fully revealed in the incomparable pages of the Tentation de saint Antoine and Saldmmbo where. whose image. he seems more in harmony. with an urge towards a fantastic future.
it was the nostalgia of the preceding century. This book of Edmond de Goncourt was one . was a creature of the past century whose cerebral lassitude and sensual excesses she possessed. a return of a society forever lost. near an aulic park. after the experience. which from immemorial times has always ended in satiety. Faustin. In de Goncourt. by her ancestral in- fluences. The soul with which he animated his characters was not that breathed by Flaubert into his creatures. to the elegances set- The stupendous ting of seas beating against jetties. and partook of the our time. of deserts stretching under torrid skies to distant horizons. pensive eyes. no longer the soul early thrown in revolt by the inexorable certainty that no new happiness is woman possible. it was a soul that had too late re- volted. scented with the voluptuous fragrance of a with a tired smile. a perverse little pout and unresigned.272 AGAINST THE GRAIN and excesses induced by the unbearable ennui resulting from opulence and prayer. against all the useless attempts to invent new spiritual liaisons and to heighten the enjoyment of lovers. Although she lived life of in. did not exist in his nostalgic work which confined itself to a boudoir.
by a reticence permitting one to divine subtle states of soul which no idiom could express. with Claudian and Rutilius whose attentive. it was the epithet indispensable to decrepit civilizations. nervous and twisted. a fact unique in literary history had been consummated. no matter how old they be. In short. hints . And it was no longer Flaubert's language in its inimitable magnificence. another line was etched. At Rome. under each written line. keen to note the impalpable impression that strikes the senses. visible to the spirit alone. the dying paganism had modified its prosody and transmuted its language with Ausonius. That moribund society cially. At Paris. but a morbid. which must have words with new meanings and forms. a style expert in modulating the complicated nuances of an epoch which in itself was singularly complex. perspicacious style. scrupulous.AGAINST THE GRAIN of the 273 volumes which Des Esseintes loved best. innovations in phrases and words for their complex needs. in its descriptive parts espe- and nuances bearing an affinity with the style of de Goncourt. and the suggestion of revery which he demanded lived in this work where. indicated by a hint which revealed passion. reflections. sonorous and powerful style presented.
had become obsessed by this . diverted him from the artificial graces and painted chloroses of the past century. not only in his historical works. When he. too. but even in Faiistin. no aspiring toward worlds lost in the night of time. musicians its tastes produce a writer who could truly depict its dying elegances. had not been able to of the eighteenth century. In him was no longing for van- ished ages. With was Zola. the brutal ferocity and misty. as well as from the hierarchic solemnity. the quintessence of its joys so cruelly expiated. effeminate dreams of the old orient. the more very soul of that period. incarnating its nervous refinements in this actress who tortured her mind and her senses so as to savor to exhaustion the grievous revulsives of love and of art. dazzled with the luxuriance of life. It had been necessary to await the arrival of de Goncourt (whose temperament was formed of memories and regrets made more poignant by the sad spectacle of the intellectual poverty and the pitiful aspirations of his own time) to resuscitate. its sanguine forces and moral health.274 AGAINST THE GRAIN which possessed and architects imbued with and doctrines. His strong and solid tempe- rament. the nostalgia of the far-away different. painters.
Even now when the servant was arranging them for him. by its passion for reproduction the forbidden fruits of love. with this Edenesque environment in which he placed his Adam and Eve. of ani- mated living matter revealing. 275 less by this need. unwittingly perhaps. the song of the flesh. of long raptures of earth. He had in a gigantic pantheism. its and natural With Baudelaire. French. attitudes. singing. he had rushed into an ideal and fruitful country. secular literature. itself. in a style whose broad. he did not care to open them. which is nothing than poetry of shunning the contem- porary world he was studying. that in order to absorb them he had been compelled to lay them aside and let them remain unread on his shelves. had created. crude strokes had something of the bizarre brilliance of an ended Indian painting. a marvelous Hindoo poem. these three masters had most affected Des Esseintes in modern. instinctive caresses its suffocations. But he had read them so often.AGAINST THE GRAIN nostalgia. and contented himself merely with indicat- . to the human creature. had dreamed of fantastic passions of skies. had saturated himself in them so completely. and of fecund rains of pollen falling into panting organs of flowers.
Des Esseintes had reached the point where he sought. provided they were neither parasitic nor servile. Their imperfections pleased him. too. they transmitted their fluid through a medium which at first sight seemed refrac- tory. among these troubled pages. These oppressed him more. him a new series of books. Here. . who is more subjective.276 AGAINST THE GRAIN were properly classified ing the place they were to occupy and seeing that they and put away. books which diverted him by their very faults from the perfection of more vigorous writers.in their turbulent sketches that one perceived the exaltations of the most excitable sensibilities. distills a more irritating aperient and acid balm than the artist of the same period who is truly great. though unfinished. it was. the caprices of the most morbid psychological depravities its states. the most extravagant of language with the charged. In his opinion. in spite of rebelliousness. and perhaps there was a grain of truth in his theory that the inferior and decadent writer. only phrases which discharged a sort of electricity that made him The servant brought tremble. They were books toward which his taste had gradually veered.
Bonne Chanson. filtered the real personality of the poet in such poems as the sonnet Reve In searching for his antecedents. whose accentuated later on.AGAINST THE GRAIN difficult 277 task of containing the effervescent salts of sensations and ideas. a rather ineffectual book where imitations of Leconte de Lisle jostled with exercises in romantic rhetoric. . Fetes Galantes. after the masters. One of them was Paul Verlaine who had begun with a volume of verse. a talent already deeply affected by Baudelaire. Sagesse. but the imitation And his last in some of his books. flagrant. but through which already Fatnilier. Romances sans paroles. With rhymes obtained from verb tenses. and volume. influence had been was never acquiesced in by the peerless master. the Poemes Saturniens. he betook himself to a few writers who attracted him all the more because of the disdain in which they were held by a public incapable of understanding them. were poems where he himself was revealed as an original and outstanding figure. under the hesitant strokes of the sketches. Des Esseintes discovered. Thus.
like those Japanese fish of polychrome which on stands. Sometimes he corrupted it by using only masculine rhymes to which he seemed partial. in the twilight. their heads straight down. often became strangely obscure with their audacious ellipses and strange inaccuracies which none the less did not lack grace. He had employed other rhymes whose dim echoes are repeated in remote stanzas. their tails on top. to rejuvenate the fixed poetic tail he had sought He turned the rest of the sonnet into air.278 AGAINST THE GRAIN sometimes even from long adverbs preceded by a monosyllable from which they fell as from a rock into a heavy cascade of water. He had often employed a bizarre form a stanza of three lines whose middle verse was unrhymed. his verses. like faint reverberations of a clay — bell. With forms. an echoing refrain like "Dansons la Gigue" in Streets. low whisperings . folowed by a single line. But all his personality expressed itself most of in vague and delicious confidences breathed in hushed accents. He alone had been able to reveal the troubled Ultima Thules of the soul . and a tiercet with but one rhyme. the his unrivalled ability to handle metre. divided by improbable caesuras.
passing on gestion to the soul lan- guors quickened by the mystery of this sug- which is divined rather than felt. no longer the immense horizon opened by the unforgettable portals of Baudelaire. . Les belles bras. se pendant reveuses a nos si Dirent alors des mots bas. un soir equivoque d'automne. avowals so haltingly and 279 murmurthem ingly confessed that the ear which hears remains hesitant. opening on It was which was more intimate and more restrained. Et tout le reste est litterature. it was a crevice in the moonlight. rien nuance encore. Everything characteristic of Verlaine was expressed in these adorable verses of the Fetes Galantes : Le soir tombait. que la nuance. peculiar to Verlaine who had formulated his poetic system in those lines of which Des Esseintes was so fond a field Car nous voulons Pas la la couleur.AGAINST THE GRAIN of thoughts. specieux tout ce Que notre ame depuis temps tremble et s'etonne.
who induced him to confide himself to them Tristan Corbiere who.280 AGAINST THE GRAIN Des Esseintes had followed him with demost diversified works. too." Des Esseintes often re-read Sagesse whose poems provoked him to secret reveries. After his which had appeared in a journal. "removed from our days of carnal thought and weary flesh. hauntingly suggestive of the gentle and light in his Romances sans paroles cold accents of Villon. Verlaine had preserved a long silence. in 1873. a fanciful love for a Byzantine so myster- Madonna who. There were other poets. in the midst of the general apathy had issued a most eccentric volume entitled: Les Amours jaunes. singing of the Virgin. would gladly have accepted the most aflfected folly and the most singular ex: . in his hatred of the banal and commonplace. Des Esseintes who. or whether she moved in an immaculate dream where the adoration of the soul floated around her ever unavowed and ever pure. reappearing later in those charming verses. changed into a distracted modern Cydalise and troubling that one could not know whether she aspired toward depravities so monstrous that they became irresistible. ious at a certain moment.
AGAINST THE GRAIN travagance. in his hard rugged style. and where disconcerting lines blazed out of poems so absolutely obscure as the litanies of Sommeil. bristling with obsolescent words and unexpected neoligisms. affected a teasing phraseology. over and above his Poemes Parisiens. that they qualified their author for the name of Obscene confesseur des devotes mort-nees. And with all this. and suddenly a cry of keen anguish rang out. Finally. laughable conceits and sly affectations emerged. spent this 281 many enjoyable hours with work where drollery mingled with a dis- ordered energy. suppressed verbs. The style was hardly French. The author wrote in the negro dialect. revelled in the impossible puns of a travelling salesman. then out of this jumble. where Des Esseintes had discovered this profound ities. flashed perfect original- nomadic of expression and superbly amputated of rhyme. like the snapping string of a violoncello. treasures lines definition of woman Eternel feminin de I'eternel jocrisse Tristan Corbiere had celebrated in a power- . was telegraphic in form.
" The raciness of which he was so fond. his beauties which ever remained a trifle suspect. especially on the psychological side. apropos of the Conlie camp. a disciple of Baudelaire and Gautier. Unlike Verlaine whose work was directly influenced by Baudelaire. moved by a very unusual sense of the exquisite and the artificial. His charming corruption fatally corresponded to the tendencies of Des Esseintes who. at the individuals whom he designated under the name of "foreigners of the Fourth of September. the Sea of Brittany. in his insidious nuances and skilful quintessence of sentiment. Des Esseintes found again in another poet. Theodore Hannon especially descended from the master on the plastic side. enclosed himself in the retreat fancied by the poet and intoxicated of thought his eyes with the rustlings of his fabrics. on misty or rainy days. Theodore Hannon. by the external vision of persons and things. with his exclusively material sumptuousness which min- .282 AGAINST THE GRAIN fully concise style. with the incandescence of his stones. which Corbiere offered him in his sharp epithets. mermaids and the Pardon of Saint Anne. And he had even risen to an eloquence of hate in the insults he hurled.
AGAINST THE GRAIN istered to cerebral reactions. most often. which lacked depth and which. Nothing palpitated in his verses. Objects impressed . Des Esseintes reached the point where he no longer cared for him. Des Esseintes was but slightly attracted towards the poets. Notwithstanding the majestic form and the imposing quality of his verse which struck such a brilliant note that even the hexameters of Hugo seemed pale in comparison. Nothing moved in those gloomy. after having long delighted Gautier. The admiration he felt for this man's incomparable painting had gradually dissolved now he was more astonished than ravished by his descriptions. contained no idea. 283 and rose like a cantharides powder in a cloud of fragrant incense toward a Brussel idol with painted face and belly stained by the perfumes. waste poems whose impassive mythologies ended by finally leaving him in cold. Leconte de Lisle could no longer satisfy him. . The antiquity so marvelously restored by Flaubert remained cold and immobile in his hands. which his servant was told to place to one side so that he might classify them separately. With the exception of the works of these poets and of Stephane Mallarme. Too.
In passing from one extreme to the other. they never penetrated deeper into his brain and flesh. after all. neither being evocative of revery. Like a giant mirror. contained a healing and nutritive substance. . These two books left him unsatisfied. but none of the variations of these perfect instrumentalists could hold him longer. as he loved rare stones and precious objects. sonal clearness.284 AGAINST THE GRAIN themselves upon Gautier's perceptive eyes but they went no further. for he. was almost the only one whose verses. He had to go to the Chansons des rues et des bois to enjoy the perfect acro- But how gladly. exasperated him. And his manners. at least. Des Esseintes still loved the works of these two poets. broad roads of escape to beguile the tedium of dragging hours. at once childish and that of a grandfather. neither opening for him. the oriental and patriarchal side was too conventional and barren to detain him. this writer constantly limited himself to reflecting surrounding objects with imperCertainly. would he not have exchanged all this tour de force for a new work by Baudelaire which might equal the others. from form deprived of ideas to batics of his metrics. And it was the same with Hugo. under their splendid form. decidedly.
fit but their administrative. repelled him. Then their interesting works and their astute analyses applied to brains agitated by passions in which he was no longer interested. labyrinths of The the psychological Stendhal. style according to with penetrating and had to go to the master of induction. feline analysis. Des Essein- meditative cast of mind. colorless and arid language. the profound and strange Edgar Allen Poe. in the hieroglyphics of the soul. with associations of common ideas. by his intimate affinity. More tes' than any other. He was not at all concerned with general affections or points of view. at best for the wretched industry of the theatre. had deciphered the return of the age of . If Baudelaire. their static prose. now that the reserve of his mind was more keenly developed and that he no longer admitted aught but superfine sensations and catholic or sensual torments. he ap- proached. analytical detours of Duranty seduced him. since the time when he his preference had never re-read him. perhaps. To enjoy a work his which wishes. he wavered. for whom. should incisive combine.AGAINST THE GRAIN ideas 285 re- deprived of form. Des Esseintes less mained no circumspect and cold.
Poe. the troubles commencing with anxiety. haunted at the death bed by monstrous hallucinations engendered by grief and fat- . though sorely disturbed. He had also been if the first to divulge. title. continuing through anguish.286 AGAINST THE GRAIN sentiment and ideas. it was less the real agony of the dying person which he described and more the moral agony of the survivor. he had in some manner changed and made more poignant. Death. in the field of morbid psychology had more especially investigated the domain of the soul. but in truth. he had been the first in literature unconscious impulses pry into the irresistible. that Poe had centered his studies. by introducing an algebraic and superhuman element. not to signal the impres- sive influence of fear like an anaesthetic. stupefying the nerves. indicating the symptoms of its progress. on the will paralyzing sensibility and acts It which like the curare. analyzing the effects of this moral poison. was on the problem of the lethargy of the will. Under to the emblematic The Demon of Perversity. ending finally in the terror which deadens the will without intelligence succumbing. which the dramatists had so much abused. of the will plains more which mental pathology now exscientifically.
aerial loves. and all had the boyish and inert breasts of angels. these two often been compared because of men who had their common poetic strain and predilection for the examination of mental maladies. he dwelt on acts of terror. Baudelaire and Poe. Convulsed by hereditary neurosis. remained forever frozen and virgin. suffocated and pantcoldly reasoning about them. all were sexless. Poe with his chaste. where only the mind functioned without corresponding to organs which.AGAINST THE GRAIN igue. if they existed. Vitus dance. maddened by a moral St. 287 With a frightful fascination. on the snapping of the will. possessed an immense erudition. ing before these feverish mechanically contrived nightmares. Baudelaire with his iniquitous and debased loves cruel loves which made one think of the reprisals of an inquisition. They were steeped in the mists of German philosophy and the cabalistic mysteries of the old Orient. differed radically in the affective conceptions which held such a large place in their works. his women. in which the senses played no part. the Morellas and Ligeias. little by little making the reader gasp. Poe's creatures lived only through their nerves. This — .
all literature seemed to him dull after these terrible American imported philtres. body alert. when he felt inclined to read. opened a . like delicious miasmas. as soon as his attention flagged. like the desolate Usher he was haunted by an unreasoning fear and a secret broke his spirit terror. in the to moderate his and he rarely touched these fearful same way that he could no longer with impunity visit his red corridor and grow ecstatic at the sight of the gloomy Odilon Redon prints and the Jan Luyken horrors. elixirs. But now that his nervous disorders were augmented. with the exception of his Claire Lenoir. Thus he was compelled desires. Then he betook himself to Villiers de Lisle-Adam in whose scattered works he noted seditious observations and spasmodic vibrations. but which no longer gave one. This Claire Lenoir which appeared in 1867 in the Revue des lettres et des arts. such troubling horror.288 AGAINST THE GRAIN cerebral clinic where. a prey ination to an imag- which evoked. vivisecting in a stifling atmosphere. And yet. was to Des Esseintes a source of unwearying conjecture. days came when his readings and when. hands trembling. somnambulistic and angelic apparitions. that spiritual surgeon became.
like a Kanaka. dislocated creatures ulat stirred. solemn and childish. as she lies in her death bed. opening Claire's eyelids. like photographic plates. This also applied to the Intersigne. while shouting a war less just song. a collection of indisputable talent in which was . distinctly perceives the reflection of the husband brandishing the lover's decapitated head. and penetrating them with monstrous plummets. this story evidently derived from Poe. a Claire Lenoir.AGAINST THE GRAIN series of tales 289 title comprised under the of Histoires Moroses where against a background of obscure speculations borrowed from old Dr. Trib- Hegel. round and large as franc pieces. cows for instance. This story centered about a simple adultery and ended with an inexpressible terror when Bonhomet. which covered her almost dead eyes. with blue spectacles. which had later been joined to the Contes cruels. Based on this more or observation that the eyes of certain animals. from whom he appropriated the terri- fying and elaborate technique. the image of the beings and things their eyes behold at the moment they expire. preserve even to decomposition. Bonhomet. farcical and sinister.
servations. the reverse of the Beatrices ^ and Legeias. the hallucination was marked with an exquisite tenderness. seemed to him curious in other respects. those gloomy and dark phantoms engendered by the inexorable nightmare of opium. — . no longer was it the dark mirages of the American author. it was in an identical genre. but the fluid.290 AGAINST THE GRAIN found Vera. The philosophic medley of Claire Lenoir was evident in this work which offered an unbelievable jumble of verbal and troubled obsouvenirs of old melodramas. which Des Esseintes considered a little masterpiece. almost celestial vision . poniards and rope ladders all the romanticism which Villiers de L'Isle Adam could never rejuvenate in his Elen and Morgane. it studied the exaltations of the will under the impulse of a fixed idea. Here. This story also put in play the operations of the will. Another book by Villiers de L'Isle Adam. Isis. warm. but it no longer treated of its defeats and helplessness under the effects of fear on the contrary. it demonstrated its power which often succeeded in saturating the atmosphere and in imposing its qualities on surrounding objects.
la Machine a gloire. and the diplomatic sagacities of Stendhal. These insoluble mixtures developed a fuliginous vapor across which philosophic and litFabriana.AGAINST THE GRAIN Sieur Francisque Guyon. it No longer was the paradoxical mystifications of Poe. It was piercing and acute in an altogether different sense — a side of forbidding pleasantry and fierce raillery. A a scoffing that series of sketches. les Idtre. betrayed a singularly inventive and keenly bantering mind. Demoiselles de Bienfi- I'Affichage celeste. erary influences jostled. had the enigmatic countenance of Bradamante abused by an antique Circe. 291 forgotten pieces published by an obscure man. without being able to be regulated in the author's brain when he wrote the prolegomenae of this work which culd not have embraced less than seven vol- umes. Marquise Tullia reputed to have assimilated the Chaldean science of the women of Edgar Allen Poe. Plus beau diner du monde. but had in it the lugubrious and savage comedy which Swift possessed. the whole commercialized and le . The whole order of contemporary and utilitarian ideas. The heroine of this book. But there was another side to Villiers' temperament.
was . The firm. printed long ago in the Revue du MondeNouveau. At the most. and turned over the leaves of a volume bound in onager skin press which had been glazed by and speckled with a hydraulic It silver clouds. to permit Des Esseintes to survey his books with a single glance. Des Esseintes nodded sigh." sighed Des Esseintes.292 AGAINST THE GRAIN baseness of the age were glorified in stories whose poignant irony transported Des Esseintes. No other French book had been written in this serious and bitter style. gazing at the servant who left the stool on which he had been perched. But two small books remained on the table. could astonish by reason of its chemical whims. "Heavens! heavens! how few books are really worth re-reading. colored and often original style of Villiers had disappeared to give way to a mixture scraped on the literary bench of the first-comer. But the pleasure to be extracted from the story was merely relative. his head. by its affected humor and by its coldly facetious observations. With a he dismissed the old man. La science de I'amour. a tale by Charles Cros. since its execution was a dismal failure.
illuminated and relieved with gold. threw a low light on the silent chamber. hid the temple's farther drowned the supernumeraries of the crime enshrouded in their dead colors. in the work of Gustave Moreau. Among in these fenetres. revealed the woman's jewels and heightened her nudity. several them all. These pages. a fragment of the Herodiade. numbering nine.AGAINST THE GRAIN whose faint patterns held that 293 held together by fly-leaves of old silk damask things celebrated by charm of faded Mallarme in an exquisite poem. . had he not felt himself haunted by this Herodiade who. the re- flections and the golds. poems brought together invited him: Les I'epilogue and Azur. and. beneath the How lamp that The sides. often. darkness concealed the blood. designed in a surprising calligraphy in uncial letters. as in old manuscripts. but one among the eleven covers. was now plunged in gloom revealing but a dim white statue in a brazier extinguished by stones. held him at certain hours in a spell. it was printed on parchment paper and preceded by this title: Quelques vers de Mallarme. had been extracted from copies of the two first Parnassian books. only sparing the aquerelle whites.
Mais.294 AGAINST THE GRAIN times he was forced to gaze At such upon her unforgotten outlines. of this poet who. as he loved the works democracy devoted to lucre. in cerebral refining on subtle ideas. in an age of in the surprises of the intellect. and she lived for him. grafting . desolee Des songes qui sont et cherchant mes souvenirs Comme des feuilles sous ta glace au trou profond. far from society. delighting. Je m'apparus en lointaine! toi comme une ombre soirs. J'ai de dans ta mon reve epars connu la nudite! These lines he loved. lived his solitary and literary life sheltered by his disdain from the encompassing stupidity. her lips articulating those bizarre and delicate lines which Mallarme makes her utter O Eau f roide miroir! par I'ennui dans ton cadre et gelee Que de fois. pendant les heures. horreur! des severe fontaine.
a sublimate of art. Concentrating upon a single word. a unique and complete aspect. with a single term which by an effect of similitude at once gave the form. ellipses and bold tropes.AGAINST THE GRAIN 295 Byzantine delicacies upon them. Neither was the attention of the reader diverted by the enumeration of the qualities which the juxtaposition of adjectives would have induced. had he simply contented himself with indicating the technical name. the ensemble. These twisted and precious ideas were bound together with an adhesive and secret language full of phrase contractions. It became a concentrated literature. as for a picture. Perceiving the remotest analogies. an essential unity. he described the object or being to which otherwise he would have been compelled to place numerous and different epithets so as to disengage all their facets and nuances. the color and the quality. perpetuating them in suggestions lightly connected by an almost imperceptible thread. Thus he succeeded in dispensing with the comparison. This style was at first employed with restraint in his . which formed in the reader's mind by analogy as soon as the symbol was understood. he produced. the perfume.
296 AGAINST THE GRAIN Mallarme had boldly pro- earlier works. end of when the poet described the elations and regrets of the faun contemplating. et I'un de vous tous pour I'ingenuite. evoked the image of something rigid. rending faun cry: la Alors m'eveillerai-je a premiere. the form made by the naiades who had occupied it. the tufts of reeds still preserving. an eclogue where the subtleties of sensual joys are de- scribed in mysterious and caressing verses sud- denly pierced by this wild. but claimed it in a verse on Theophile Gautier and in I'Apres-midi du faune. extraordinary poem. by a single term. ferveur Droit Lys! et seul sous un flot antique de lumiere. the passion. surprising and at the In this unthought of images leaped up each line. it rhymed with the sub- stantive ingenuite. That sprig. . at the edge of a fen. in its transitory mould. allegorically expressing. the fugitive distracted mood of a virgin faun amorously by the sight of nymphs. the effervescence. line with the monosyllable lys like a slender and white.
an anthology of prose poems. the black band which rested like a touch of like a lascivious modern Japanese paint or candid carnation it. and enlaced into a light rosette. This anthology comprised a selection of Gaspard de la nuit of that fantastic Aloysius Bertrand who had transferred the behavior of Leonard in prose and. adjutant against the antique white. the other of black. against the tint of the book.AGAINST THE GRAIN Then. were held together by two silk bands. a vague menace of that sadness which succeeds the ended transports and the calmed excitements of the senses. placed under the invocation of Baudelaire and opening on the parvise of his united its poems. a tiny chapel. one of Chinese rose. Des Esseintes placed I'Apres-midi du faune on the table and examined another little book he had printed. with his metallic oxydes. sombre color with the light color It insinuated a faint warning of that regret. Hidden behind rejoined the rose the cover. painted little pictures whose vivid colors sparkle like those of clear enamels. as white as curdled milk. To . Des Esseintes also experienced 297 in- sidious delights in touching this diminutive book whose cover of Japan vellum.
golden style after the manner of Leconte de Lisle and of Flaubert. Of prose all the forms of literature. le Spectacle interrotnpus.298 this. and some selections from that delicate livre de Jade whose exotic perfume of ginseng and of tea blends with the odorous freshness of water babbling along the book. for they united such a magnificently delicate language that they cradled. a superb piece of work in a hammered. Phenomene futur. AGAINST THE GRAIN Des Esseintes had joined le Vox populi of Villiers. under moonlight. But certain in this collection had been gathered poems resurrected from defunct re- views: le le Demon de I'analogie. it contained in its slender volume the strength of the novel whose analytic developments and ferred. poem was . le Pauvre enfant pale. thoughts whose excited keenness which pen- of an irresistible suggestiveness. and especially Plaintes d'automne and Frisson d'hiver which were Mallarme's masterpieces and were also celebrated among the masterpieces of prose poems. that of the the form Des Esseintes preHandled by an alchemist of genius. pulsations of the soul of a sensitive person nerves vibrate with a etrates ravishingly and induces a sadness. like incantation or a a melancholy maddening melody. la Pipe.
To Des sented the prose poem repre- the concrete juice of literature. a spiritual collaboration agreed to between ten superior persons scattered throughout the universe. divine the future of the souls of the characters. and to pile for many others. opening such perspectives dream for whole weeks on its sense at once precise and complex. to sketch the up observations and minute details. reconstruct the past. Quite Des Esseintes had meditated on that disquieting problem to write a novel concentrated in a few phrases which should contain the essence of hundreds of pages always em- — ployed to establish the setting. re- vealed by the gleams of this unique epithet. the adjective placed in such it an ingenious and definite fashion that that the reader could could not be displaced. Thus conceived and condensed in a page or two.AGAINST THE GRAIN descriptive redundancies often. the essential oil of art. could record the present. the novel could become a communion of thought between a magical writer and an ideal reader. a delight offered to the fined. Then the chosen words would be so unexchangeable that they would do duty characters. re- and accessible Esseintes. it 299 suppressed. That succulence. to them alone. developed and concen- .
and yet its which make intent upon ex- pressing everything in decline. Here were the quintessences of Baudelaire and of Poe. here were their fine and powerful substances distilled and disengaging new flavors and intoxications. yi' organism. was incarnate in Mallarme. the decadence of a literature. would probably never have anything added to it. already existed in laire and in those poems of Mallarme which he read with such deep joy. Des Esseintes told himself that his books which had ended on this last book. sensitive only to the curiosities sick persons feverish. ended by dissolving. eager to re- pair all the omissions of enjoyment. When In fact. to be- queath the most subtle memories of grief in its death bed. enfeebled by exhausted by excesses of syntax. after having become moldy from age to age. in the most perfect exquisite manner imaginable. its irre- parably affected in old ideas. he had closed his anthology. It was the agony of the old language which. by reaching that deliquescence of the Latin language which expired in the mysterious concepts and the enigmatical expressions of Saint Boniface and Saint Adhelme.300 AGAINST THE GRAIN Baude- trated into a drop. .
And Des folios Esseintes. a distance of four hundred years the and superb epithet of Claudian and Rutilius and existed between the spotted gamy epithet of the eighth century. In the French language. epoch and century. Du erudite scholar Cange. last murmurings. the last flashes of the Latin language in the cloisters and sounding . a long transition.AGAINST THE GRAIN The had been effected 301 decomposition of the French language suddenly. In the Latin language. smiled at opened on the thought that the moment would soon come when an would prepare for the decadence of the French language a glossary similar to that in which the savant. has noted the dying of old age its death rattle. gazing at one of the his chapel desk. living in the same period. the last spasms. no lapse of time. no succession of ages had taken place. the stained and superb style of the de Goncourts and the gamy style of Verlaine and Mallarme jostled in Paris.
The malady increased in strength it. Attacked by a strong fever.URNING at first like a rick on fire. . peculiar symptoms attended After the nightmares hallucinations of smell. Torpid at first. and then this hot essence induced such an irritation in his stomach that Des Esseintes was quickly compelled to stop using it. after the arteries and deep coughing which recurred with clock-like sions pounding of his heart and and the cold perspiration. Des Esseintes suddenly heard murmurings of water. his enthusiasm for the digester as quickly died out. arose illuof hearing. pains in the eye regularity. those alterations which only reveal themselves in the last period of sickness. then those sounds united into one and resembled a roaring which increased and then slowly resolved itself into a silvery bell sound. his nervous dyspepsia reappeared. He felt his delirious brain whirling in mu- .
bringing with tures of the school them picand the chapel where they had resounded. driving their hallucinations to the olfactory and visual organs. the religious ceremonies had been practiced with great pomp. the teenth century pleasures while listening to the plain-chant which the organist had preserved regardless of new ideas. oratorios by Handel. The was in love with the old masters and on holidays celebrated masses by Palestrina and Orlando Lasso. engulfed in the mystic whirlwinds infancy.AGAINST THE GRAIN sical 303 waves. he preferred to render the sweet and facile compilations of Father Lambillotte so much favored organist "Laudi Spirituali" of the sixwhose sacerdotal beauty had often bewitched Des Esseintes. At the Fathers. An excellent organist and remarkable singing director made an artistic delight of these spiritual exercises that were conducive to worship. That form which was now considered a . But he particularly extracted ineffable by priests. of his The songs learned at the Jesuits reappeared. psalms by Marcello. veiling them with clouds of incense and the pallid light irradiating through the stained-glass windows. motets by Bach. under the lofty arches.
with its strong unison. the soul's transports. harmony with during mighty. making eloquent the Romanesque vaults. an archaeeological curiosity. sad and mournful as a suppressed sob. How under often had Des Esseintes not thrilled its spell.304 AGAINST THE GRAIN decrepit and Gothic form of Christian liturgy. poignant as a despairing invocation of humanity bewailing tiny its its mortal des- and imploring the tender forgiveness of to Savior! All religious music seemed profane him compared with that magnificent chant created by the genius of the Church. It was the eternal prayer that had been sung and modulated in time. like freestone. At . was not out of place with the old basilicas. its solemn and massive harmonies. anonymous as the organ whose inventor is unknown. the soul of the Middle Age. when the "Christus factus est" of the Gregorian chant rose from the nave whose pillars seemed to tremble rolling clouds from censers. whose emanation and very spirit they seeemd to be. or among the when the "De Profundis" was sung. the en- hymn uplifted for centuries to the Al- That traditional melody was the only one which. a relic of ancient had been the voice of the early church.
august and solemn. or the sacrifice of an effect of art.AGAINST THE GRAIN 305 bottom. Carissimi and Durante. in the works of Jomeli and Porpora. absolutely majesty of the old plain-chant. the religious style. Des Esseintes had shunned those ambiguous works tolerated by the indulgent Church. in the most wonderful compositions of Handel and Bach. there was never a hint of a renunciation of public success. revolted by these Maters devised by the Pergoleses and the Rossinis. their impurity tainting the tones of the holy organ. this weakness brought about by the desire for large congregations had quickly resulted in the adoption of songs bor- rowed from Italian operas. pretexts at Stabat In addition. At the most. had crystallized in Lesueur's imposing masses celebrated at Saint-Roch. by this intrusion of profane art in liturgic art. of low cavatinas and indecent quadrilles played in churches converted to boudoirs and surrendered to stage actors whose voices resounded aloft. or the abdication of its human pride hearkening to own prayer. contenting . tending to approach the severe nudity and austere Since then. For years he had obstinately refused to take part in these pious entertainments.
that hymn so simple and solemn composed by some unknown saint. And he had not studied music with that passion which had led him towards painting and letters. from the soul of humanity. that emaciated music fessed regarding the other arts. Then (he freely confessed it) he was incapable of understanding the tricks that the contemporary masters had introduced into Catholic art. of the technique needed really to understand a nuance. to . Des Esseintes' ideas on music were in flagrant contradiction with the theories he pro- In religious music. to appreciate a finesse. a Saint Ambrose or Hilary who. for he remembered that admirable plain-chant.306 AGAINST THE GRAIN He himself with his memories of childhood. but he was ignorant of harmony. even regretted having heard the Te Deum of the great masters. in the piercing and almost celestial accents of conviction. uttered. lacking the complicated resources of an orchestra and the musical mechanics of modern science. a delirious jubilation. he approved only of the monastic music of the Middle Ages. which instinctively reacted on his nerves like certain pages of the old Christian Latin. He played indifferently on the piano and after many painful attempts had succeeded in reading a score. revealed an ardent faith.
To enjoy music. not even a phrase of one of the operas of the amazing Wagner which could with impunity be detached from its whole. one perceives a loutish-looking man butchering episodes from Wagner. one must become part of that public which fills the theatres where. since (like the chapters of a book. in a vile atmosphere. several fragments of which had bewitched him by their passionate exaltations and their vigorous fugues. In other respects. cut and served on the plate of a concert. The fragments. when not read in solitude. completing each other and moving to an inevitable conclusion) Wagner's melodies were necessary to sketch the characters. He knew that their in- genious and persistent returns were understood only by the auditors subject who followed the be- from the beginning and gradually . to incarnate their thoughts and to express their apparent or secret motives. He had always lacked the courage to plunge in this mob-bath so as to listen to Berlioz' compositions. lost all significance and remained senseless. profane music is a promiscuous art.AGAINST THE GRAIN 307 savor a refinement with full comprehension. and he was certain that there was not one single scene. to the huge delight of the ignorant mob.
That was why he felt that. in a setting held the characters in from which they could not be removed without dying. the wretched trills of Auber and Boieldieu. scarcely any knew the score that was being massacred. sued. Granted also that intelligent to patriotism forbade a French theatre opera. like branches torn from a tree. when the ushers consented to be silent and permit the orchestra to be heard. is nothing of musical arcana and to either cannot or will not betake themselves to remain at home. the only thing give a to Wagnerian curious left the who know Bayreuth. among the vulgar herd of melomaniacs enthusing each Sunday on benches.308 AGAINST THE GRAIN relief. and during the years of his abstention. of Adam and Flotow and the rhetorical commonplaces of Ambroise Thomas and the Bazins disgusted him as did the superannuated affectations and vulgar graces of the Italians. That was why he had resolutely broken with musical art. And precisely the course of conduct he that was had pur- The more public and facile music and the independent pieces of the old operas hardly interested him. he pleasurably recalled only certain programs of chamber music when he .
AGAINST THE GRAIN 309 had heard Beethoven. there him a suburban. something in it clutched him. Some of Schubert's parts for violoncello had positively left him panting. This desolate music. in the grip But it was particularly Schuof hysteria. bert's lieders that had immeasurably excited him. for in this plaint resided something beyond a mere broken-hearted state. and especially Schumann and Schubert which had affected his nerves in the same manner as had the more intimate and troubling poems of Edgar Allen Poe. crying from the inmost depths. to contain so many dim miseries and vague griefs. infinity of forgotten sufferings And for always. flinty was evoked and gloomy site where a succession of silent bent persons. or a mystic dissipation of the soul. something like a romance ending in a gloomy landscape. sad plaints returned to his lips. terrified while charming him. This music penetrated and drove back an and spleen in He was astonished at being able his heart. causing him to experience similar sensations as after a waste of nervous fluid. when these exquisite. Never could he repeat the "Young Girl's Lament" without a welling of tears in his eyes. haras- .
nevertheless. added to the horror of the sunken face and a looking-glass. the lips bloated and dry. It fell staring eyes burning with feverish intensity in this skeleton head that bristled with hair. He felt lost. this despairing chant haunted him. One morning. untended since his illness by the domestic. His face was a clay color. More ings than his weakness. He ended by abandoning himself guishes suddenly to the torrent of an- dammed by the chant of psalms slowly rising in his tortured head. did his changed visage terrify him. struck by an inexpressibly melan- choly and stubborn distress whose mysterious intensity excluded all consolation. so much the more inappeasable its for the fact that he could not discover cause. prostrated by fever and agitated by an anxiety pose. more than his emaciation. steeped disgust. His hair and beard. now that he was in bed. filed past into the twilight. the tongue parched. pity and re- Like a funeral-knell. . in bitterness felt and overflowing with he himself solitary in this dejected landscape. he felt more tranquil and requested the servant to bring from his hands. while. more than his vomit- which began with each attempt at taking nourishment. the skin rough. He hardly recognized himself.310 sed by AGAINST THE GRAIN life.
in the dejection which overcame him." Des Esseintes reflected. but then a new fear His servant might have failed to find the physician. He had strength to write letter to his Paris physician and to order the servant to depart instantly. this one would prescribe the eternal oxyde of zinc and quinine. seek and bring him back that very day. He passed suddenly from complete depres- This physician was renowned for his cures of nervous maladies "He must have cured many more dangerous cases than mine. . bromide of potassium and valerian." Disenchantment succeeded his confidence. this expectation of being cured cheered him. a sudden energy forced him in a sitting posture. a doctor not taken the right quantities?" In spite of everything. passing entered. Learned and intuitive though they be. Like the others. Again he grew faint. could it not be due to the fact that I have sion into boundless hope. a celebrated specialist. being ignorant of their origins. physicians know absolutely nothing of neurotic diseases. He had recourse to another thought: "If these remedies have availed me little in the past. "I shall certainly be on my feet in a few days.AGAINST THE GRAIN 311 Then.
and he ended by reproaching himself for having waited so long before seeking aid. he angrily told himself that he certainly would have been saved. and he relapsed into exhausted sleep interrupted by incoherent dreams. in utter passed and despair and convinced that the physician would not arrive. Little whom by little. had he acted sooner. when the physician suddenly doctor had doubtless been apprised by the servant of Des Esssintes' mode of living The . The by crushing him. and he was stupefied. these alternations of hope poor head. the most baseless exaggerating the chances of a sudden recovery and his apprehensions of danger. joy. the The hours moment came when. Then his rage against the servant and the physician he accused of permitting him to die. experiencing neither aston- ishment or arrived. abated. a sort of syncope pierced by awakenings in which he was barely conscious and alarms jostling in his struggles ended of anything. vanished. He had reached such a state where he lost all idea of desires and fears. persuading himself that he would now be wholly cured had he that very last evening used the medicine.312 instantly AGAINST THE GRAIN from the most unreasoning hopes to fears.
Esseintes could seize grafted a certain indescribable languor. He wrote a prescription and left without saying omre than that he would soon return. Then his thoughts began to obsess him less his suffering disappeared and to the exhaustion he had felt throughout his members was uneasiness. and a faint smile played on his lips when the servant brought a nourishing injection of peptone and told him he . But the serv- ant declared that the doctor had exhibited no and despite his suspicions.AGAINST THE GRAIN the day 313 and of the various symptoms observed since when the master of the house had been found near the window. He was astonished and satisfied not to be weighted with drugs and vials. he adjured his servant not to conceal the truth from him any longer. This visit comforted Des Esseintes who none the less was frightened by the taciturnity ob- served. overwhelmed by the violence of perfumes. Des upon no sign that might betray a shadow of a lie on the tranquil countenance of the old men. He felt his pulse and attentively studied the urine where certain white spots revealed one of the determining causes of nervousness. He put very few questions to the patient whom he had known for many years.
"to continue this simple regime in complete What economy what a pro- nounced deliverance from the aversion which food gives those who lack appetite! What a complete riddance from the disgust induced by food forcibly eaten! What an energetic protestation against the vile sin of gluttony. One could easily stimulate desire for food by swallowing a strong aperitif. though involuntarily. "How health! delicious it would be" he of time. the question.314 AGAINST THE GRAIN to take it three was times every twenty-four hours." he continued. reflected. The nourish- ment thus absorbed was the ultimate deviation one could possibly commit." one would move to the table and place the instrument on the cloth. Farther one could not go. had created. what a positive insult hurled at old nature whose monotonous demands would thus be avoided. and . reached the supreme goal. talking to himself halfaloud. And After "what time is it getting to be? I am famished. The this operation succeeded and Des Esseintes to could not forbear existence he congratulate himself on event which in a manner crowned the His penchant towards the artificial had now.
restaurant. Several days afterwards. Once in the wake of these reflections. the servant presented an injection whose color and odor differed from the other. He who weakened state of his stomach self thinking of combinations to please an artificial epicure.AGAINST THE GRAIN then. perhaps he had wished. was surprised to find himof the He remained meditative. Then a strange idea crossed Perhaps the physician had imagwas fatigued by the taste of the peptone. to vary the taste of foods and to prevent the monotony of dishes that might lead to want of appetite. gazing with deep feeling at the liquid poured into the apparatus. like a clever chef. ined that the strange palate of his patient . "But tes it is not the same at all!" Des Essein- cried. Des his brain. one could have suppressed the tiresome and vulgar de- mands of the body. by reason had never seriously preoccupied hismelf with the art of the cuisine. in the time 315 it takes to say grace. As if in a and unfold- ing the physician's prescription. read: Cod Liver Beef Tea Oil 20 grammes 200 grammes 200 grammes Burgundy Wine Yolk of one egg. he asked for the card.
leaning on a cane and supporting himself on the furniture. and he was soon swallowing. using the dose of cod liver oil and wine. Meats were digested with the aid of pepsines.316 AGAINST THE GRAIN sketched Esseintes new recipes. he was able to stand up and attempt to walk. he forgot his past pains. a syrup of punch containing a pulverized meat whose faint aroma of cacao pleased his palate. Instead of being thankful over his success. grew irritated at the length of time needed for convalescence and reproached the doctor for not effecting a more rapid cure. to over- and which habit had accustomed him . moments. Certain blemishes it possessed. Then his study At last the irritated him. but these attacks were disposed of by ginger ale and Rivieres' antiemetic drink. for the physician succeeded gradually in curing the vomiting attacks. dismissing the beef tea as a meat food specially prohibited by the Church. But he had no occasion longer to ruminate on these nourishing drinks. Recovering strength. perparing vegetable dinners for Fridays. day came when he could remain standing for whole afternoons. Finally the organs were restored. in the normal manner. Weeks passed before his stomach decided The nausea returned at certain to function.
to 317 now were apparent. the physician entered and. dreaming of Russian orphrey dalmaticas and brocaded copes flowered with Slavonic letters done in Ural stones and rows of pearls. his unrealizable He commenced to contrive new color schemes. while contemplating his orange and blue walls. questioned him. to talk of harmonies and discords meant to produce.AGAINST THE GRAIN look. And. he informed Des Esseintes that he had done his utmost in re-establishing the digestive functions and that now it was necessary to attack the neurosis which was by no means cured and which would necessitate years of of tones he . considering some ideal tapestries worked with stoles of the Greek Church. hybrid pairings of cloth and leathers." he reflected. The colors chosen be seen by lamp-light seemed discordant in full day. without giving him time to catch breath. One morning. He thought of changing them and for whole hours he combined rebellious har- monies of hues. taking note of his old hobbies. Des Esseintes spoke longings. when the doctor stunned him by peremptorily announcing that these projects would never be executed here. noticing of the patient's eyes. "I am certainly on the road to recovery.
"So hulks!" it is a choice between death and the exasperatedly ex- Des doctor. The prejudices of who was imbued with all the a man of the world. impossible of execution at tude." Des Esseintes indignantly cried. He therapic treatment. in his eyes. return to Paris. Fontenay. a ques- tion of health or insanity possibly complicated in the near future by tuberculosis. smiled and reached the door without saying a word. . Des Esseintes must quit that soliand live an ordinary of existence mode others.318 diet AGAINST THE GRAIN and ing a added that before attemptcure. the doctor merely asserted that this radical change was. by amusing himself like "But the pleasures of others will not amuse me. before commencing any hydrocare. Esseintes claimed. a question of life or death. Without debating the matter.
in a tone that admitted of dict. drove his flesh. the fear of once more submitting to the pains he had endured. and there is nothing to prove that these wretches and sages become madmen or consumptives. absorbed from the world in their own affairs. coldly and firmly. sorrow into The physi- order was being fulfilled. that his ver- (confirmed besides by consultation with the experts on neurosis) was that distrac- tion. closing his ears to the sounds of hammers on packing cases. all no reply. Each a cian's stroke rent his heart. amusement. pleasure alone might make . the fear of a frightful agony had acted more powerfully on Des Esseintes than the hatred of the detestable existence to the medical order Yet he live told which condemned him.jES ESSEINTES locked himself up in his bedroom. the latter had repeated. like and trappists. He had unsucfar recluses cessfully cited these examples to the doctor. himself there were people who without conversing with anyone.
he had rented an apartment in a new house. With whom. Sunk in his easy chair. All having unhesitantly approved of the action of their colleague. breaking the strings of his pres- His beatitude was ended. he for refuse the last time declared that he would continue treating him if to a change of air. had instantly betaken himhad consulted other specialists. he now ruminated upon that unyielding order which was wrecking his plans. had given others to have his trunks packed. and made impatient by the recriminations to of his patient. and live he did not consent under new hygienic conditions. had returned to Fontenay and. and with what did wish him to distract and amuse himself? he not banished himself from society? Had Did he know a single person whose existence would approximate his in seclusion and con- . The they physicians spoke of amusement and distraction. He was compelled to abandon this sheltering haven and return at full speed into the stupidity which had once ent life and overturning his future plans.320 AGAINST THE GRAIN an impression on this malady whose spiritual side eluded all remedy. Des Esseintes self to Paris. white with rage. had impartially put the case before them. attacked him.
after having enjoyed. by this time must have married life. strumpets. "A pretty change — this custom adopted by reflected. . the subtlety of a painting. the aristocracy had marched whose to imbecility or ordure! It was exits tinguished in the corruption of faculties descendants grew weaker with each gen- eration and ended in the instincts of gorillas . for. during their their spouses the spoils of cads. blessing silence as a benefit. ingrati- tude as a solace.AGAINST THE GRAIN 321 templation? Did he know a man capable of appreciating the fineness of a phrase. a prudish society!" Des Esseintes The nobility had died. idea. master of the peo- ple alone waste nothing. now possessed the remains of first-fruits. contempt as a refuge and port? In the world where he had dwelt before his departure for Fontenay? But most of the county squires he had associated with must since have stultified themselves near card tables or ended upon the lips of women most . —a man whose soul was enough to the quintessence of an delicate quisite and exunderstand Mallarme and search to discover love Verlaine? Where and when must he a twin spirit. a soul detached from common- places.
The mansions tique caste themselves. as with the Choiseul-Praslins. or rather. money being needed old races. They weltered behaved in the of fraud and deceit. like mire cheap sharpers. the trappists. wallowed in the mud of lawsuits which made it equal the other classes in turpitude. an apoplectic elixir. semolina. the jacobins. Now one perceived. The monasteries had changed into apothecary or liqueur workrooms. biphosphate of medicinal lime anti- and arquebuse water. the heraldic deportment of this an- had disappeared. the Maristes Brothers.322 AGAINST THE GRAIN fermented in the brains of grooms and jockeys. announcements of corn cures by priests. The land no longer yielding anything was put up for sale. in newspapers. the secular escut- cheons. . Polignacs and Chevreuses. chocolate. They sold recipes or manufactured products: the Citeaux order. the disciples of Saint Benoit. this lust for lucre had even reacted on that other class which had constantly supported itself on the nobility the clergy. to procure the venereal witchcraft for the besotted descendants of the The all less scrupulous and stupid threw aside sense of shame. This eagerness for gain.
it was only in place of antiphonaries. This special clericalism. among the ecclesiastics that Des Esscintes could hope for pleasurable contract.AGAINST THE GRAIN treuse. faith. And yet. he would have been compelled to share their from floating between scepand transports of conviction which rose from time to time on the water. the friars of Saint Bruno. heavy ledgers reposed on reading-desks. as at the end of the last century. char- Business had invaded the cloisters where. sustained by recollections of childhood. in spite of everything. In the society of well-bred and learned canons. He would have had to muster identical opinions and never admit (he freely did in his ardent moments) a Catholicism charged with a soupcon of magic. to refrain tical ideas . and with a dash of sadism. this depraved and artistically perverse mysticism towards which he wended could not even be discussed with a priest who would not have understood them or who would have banished them with horror. as under Henry the Third. 323 benedictine . the avidity of the age was ravaging the Church. Like leprosy. weighing down the monks with inventories and invoices.
to chield it finally from all those reflections it. the mysteries and dogmas. He sighed. forgetting those accursed coveries which have destroyed the religious from top to bottom. driving back his will. Now that he was pursuing a changed life. As his religious hunger augmented and he gazed eagerly this faith visible at but so far off that the dis- tance terrified him. . ideas pressed tive upn his ac- mind. to screw irresolute state in it He would into his soul. He sadly told himself that he would have to find way to abstain from common self-discussion.324 AGAINST THE GRAIN time. by sense and mathematical proofs. neither the physiologists nor the infidels that demolish Catholicism. an end to this irresolvable have desired which he floundered. but extir- whose stupid works could pate convictions the most steadfast. which uprooted and agitated But the more he desired it and the less his emptiness of spirit was evident. to incrust it as soon as seized. to close his eyes He would and let have to learn how dis- himself be swept along by the edifice. rejecting. this For the twentieth problem troubled him. the more Christ's visitation receded. since the last two It is centuries. current. the priests. he would have liked to possess faith.
alcohol and alum. because the elements used for worship had been adulterated by the A Dominican in a manufacturers. by kidney beans. with burned bones. indispensable to the holy sacrifice. with cheap resin and benzoin. God fecula. danewort berries. wax. the two which no oblation is poshad also been debased: the wine. by numerous dilutions and by illicit introductions of Pernambuco wood.AGAINST THE GRAIN 325 proved friar. the fecula of potatoes. . potash and pipe clay. For years. had brochure entitled "On the Adulteration of Sacramental Substances" that most masses were not valid. incense. the holy oils had been adulterated with chicken fat. And. the bread of the Eucharist that must be kneaded with the fine flour of wheat. Cardinal Gousset had dwelt at length on this question of the fraud practiced from the divine point of view. Now. Rouard de Card. In the second volume of his treatise on moral theology. It refused to descend into the was an undeniable fact and a certain one. But the thing that was worse was that the substances. They had dared suppress the wheat and shameless dealers were making almost all the Host with substances without sible. But they had gone even farther.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
incontestable authority of this
master, one could not consecrate bread
of flour of oats,
the matter of using rye be less doubtful, no
argument was possible
regard to the fecula
which, according to the ecclesiastic expression, was in no way fit for sacramental purposes.
of the rapid manipulation of the
fecula and the beautiful appearance presented
by the unleavened breads created with this element, the shameless imposture had been so propagated that now the mystery of the transubstantion hardly existed any longer and the priests and faithful were holding communion, without being aware of it, with neutral elements.
was the time when Radegonda, had with her own hands
prepared the bread destined for the altars, or the time when, after the customs of Cluny, three priests or deacons, fasting and garbed in alb and amice, washed their faces and hands and then picked out the wheat, grain by grain, grinding it under millstone, kneading the paste in a cold and pure water and themselves baking it under a clear fire, while chanting
AGAINST THE GRAIN
"All this matter of eternal dupery," Des
Esseintes reflected, "is not conducive to the steadying of my already weakened faith. And
a pinch of fecula or a soupcon
reflections all the
more threw a gloom
over the view of his future
more menacing and
He was lost, utterly lost. What would become of him in this Paris where he had neither family nor friends? No bond united him to
the Saint-Germain quarters
scaling into the dust of desuetude, buried in
empty husk. And what contact could exist between him and that bourgeois class which had gradually climbed up, profiting by all the disasters to grow rich, maka
society like an
ing use of
the catastrophes to impose rethefts.
After the aristocracy of birth had come the Now one saw the reign of the caliphates of commerce, the despotism
aristocracy of money.
of the rue
Sentier, the tyranny of trade,
its train venal narrow ideas, knavand vain instincts. Viler and more dishonest than the nobility despoiled and the decayed clergy, the hour-
AGAINST THE GRAIN
borrowed their frivolous
their braggadoccio, degrading these qualities
lack of savoir-vivre; the bourgeoisie
stole their faults
and converted them into hyAnd, authoritative and sly,
low and cowardly, it pitilessly attacked its and necessary dupe, the populace, unmuzzled and placed in ambush so as to be in
readiness to assault the old castes.
was now an acknowledged
once terminated, the proletariat had been bled, supposedly as a measure of hygiene. The
bourgeoisie, reassured, strutted about in good
wealth and the contagion
power had been
the destruction of all intelliall
gence, the negation of
honesty, the death
of all art, and, in fact, the debased artists
on their knees, and they eagerly kissed
the dirty feet of the eminent jobbers and
whose alms permitted them
In painting, one
beheld a deluge of in literature, an intemperate mixture
of dull style and cowardly ideas, for they
to credit the business
a dot for his son
pay that of
virtue; chaste love to the Voltairian agnostic
AGAINST THE GRAIN
hypocritically and stupidly to
accused the clergy of rapes and then went
was the great American hulks transIt was the immense, the profound, the incommensurable peasantry of the financier and the parvenu, beaming, like a pitiful sun, upon the idolatrous town which wallowed on the ground the while it uttered impure psalms before the impious tabernacle
ported to our continent.
crash to ruin! Die,
aged world!" cried Des Esseintes, angered by the ignominy of the spectacle he had evoked. This cry of hate broke the nightmare that oppressed him.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "To think
that all this
not a dream, to think that I
return into the cowardly and servile
comforting maxims of
penhauer, and repeated to himself the sad
axiom of Pascal: "The
But the words
like sounds deprived of
sense; his ennui disintegrated, lifting all sig-
frm the words,
and gentle vigor.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
at last to perceive that the reason-
ings of pessimism availed little in comforting him, that impossible faith in a future life alone would pacify him. An access of rage swept aside, like a hurricane, his attempts at resignation
could no longer conceal the hideous nothing was left, all was in ruins. The
bourgeoisie were gormandizing on the solemn
ruins of the
Church which had become
place of rendez-vous, a mass of rubbish, soiled
by petty puns and scandalous jests. Were the terrible God of Genesis and the Pale Christ of Golgotha not going to prove their existence by commanding the cataclysms of yore, by rekindling the flames that once consumed the
and cover with
pestilence the old
world planted with seeds of iniquities and shames? The door was suddenly opened. Cleanshaved men appeared, bringing chests and carrying the furniture; then the door closed once more on the servant who was removing packages of books.
Des Esseintes sank
into a chair.
be in Paris in two days.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
rise to the
sky and they will engulf the refuge
doubts, the scep tic
Lord, pity the Christian who w ould believe,
embarking alone in the under sky no longer illumined by the night, a
the convict of life
consoling beacons of ancient faith."
. Y. N.TYPOGRAPHY AND PRINTING BY THE ULLMAN PRESS. . INC.
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