“What I write is not for carrion! “: Laurent Tailhade, the most excited libertarian of 1900

Portraits of the poets Paul Verlaine, Paul Arene and Laurent Tailhade in the newspaper “Le Procope”, February-March 1895 issue. (LEEMAGE VIA AFP)

A man who threw his chamber pot and his shit on a religious procession in Brittany, from the window of his hotel, is entitled to some consideration. When, moreover, the same pissed off composed “Les Filles de Camaret” to take revenge on these priests waving the bottle brush and holy water in front of the sea, how not to find him sympathetic? Laurent Tailhade was, in his time, an agitator, an anarchist, a swinger, a Symbolist poet, a sharp pamphleteer, a singular Freemason, a colorful Dreyfusard, an incendiary, and a rabid duelist. In “Les Reflets de Paris”, his book published post-mortem (he died in 1919 at the age of 65, the book dates from 1921), this “haughty executioner of hypocrisies, exasperated by the ignominy of the century” (according to Remy de Gourmont in The Book of Masks”) casts on paper some impressions, over the days, in front of a France devastated by the war, left bloodless by the bombs, bled in the trenches. Until the end, he castigates. And how !

Here he is spitting on “the abject feast of the upstarts and the stupidity of the bourgeois” and gets carried away by the comedy of the badly named Belle Époque: “Never have shows offered to rutting stupidity such a copious pile of garbage”, insult Felix Faure (“carnival and shit-in-bed”), defends Trotsky (“he could not stop the Moscow gangrene, stem the rot”) and Debussy (“the greatest musician of modern times”), notice “the total absence of washrooms or bathrooms which testifies to the prodigious dirtiness inherent in the natural French”, portrays the political landscape as “a singular amalgam of tribunes and grocers who prepare the advent of future times under a cotton cap”, fight music competitions (“Berlioz complained that the pianos were judged by mustard makers”) and, looking in the beer halls at the bourgeois playing manila, writes: “Stupidity emanates from them like the stench of heated macadam”.

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“To become a lion or a tiger in another planet”

Along the way, he defends Oscar Wilde (“What does the droppings drop, in passing, a crow relentless at the remains of great men? “) and observe, lucid, Montmartre, this “Courtesan Mound” where a shady world of handymen gravitates in the orbit of budding Nana: “Restaurant hunters, waiters, hairdressers without a job, thugs in sneakers, creamed pimps, repeat offenders, outdated prosecutors, a whole interlopy”. Then, on November 7, 1918, the bells of Victory ring out in Paris, and Tailhade recalls, strangely, the death of his friend Verlaine, and the meager procession that followed the coffin of the poet. A good point for the war, however: “Kings suffer a crisis like coal, olive oil, French and rolls. They are driven by the winds of Democracy, and soon the Venice carnival will have no more flying inns to give them shelter”. Long live “people of the small portion” So, long live the people! And long live reincarnation, which allows “to become a lion or a tiger in another planet”, instead of hanging out in a mediocre Paradise (or Hell) postulated by Christian dogma. And Tailhade to write the last line of his life: For anything is better than hearing what your caretaker says during Eternity.”. We can only agree with him, right?

Antimilitarist, anticlerical, anti-tsarist, anti-everything, fan of Khayyam, Charles Cros and Diafoirus, Laurent Tailhade was the most excited libertarian of 1900: author of around thirty pamphlets (including “Au Pays du mufle”, “Imbéciles et rascals”, “The Farce of the pot”), it is, today, forgotten. He had insolence in his blood: “What I write is not for carrion! ». His “Reflections of Paris”, which have become rare, have a precious quality: they carry the pen in the wound. FF

READ ALSO > “The True Face of Paul Verlaine”, according to his friend Gustave Le Rouge

The Reflections of Paris, by Laurent Tailhade, Jean Fort publisher, 252 p., around €10 on Abebooks.

We want to give thanks to the author of this article for this outstanding material

“What I write is not for carrion! “: Laurent Tailhade, the most excited libertarian of 1900

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