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Aestheticism and Decadentism

Butterflies, Orchids and Wasps. Polyglossia and Aesthetic Lives: Foreign Languages in The Spirit Lamp (1892-1893)

Papillons, orchidées et bourdons. Polyglossie et vies esthétiques : les langues étrangères dans The Spirit Lamp (1892-1893)
Xavier Giudicelli

Résumés

Cet article a pour objet The Spirit Lamp, éphémère revue oxonienne, publiée entre mai 1892 et juin 1893 par le libraire-éditeur James Thornton et d’abord dirigée par J. S. Phillimore et Sandys Wason, puis par Lord Alfred Douglas (pour les six derniers numéros). Une des caractéristiques de ce périodique est qu’il contient, outre de nombreuses traductions, des textes écrits directement en langue étrangère. La présence des langues anciennes, et en particulier du grec est certes notable et correspond au lien déjà bien étudié entre Hellénisme et homosexualité à l’époque victorienne. Toutefois, la présence de langues vivantes, et en particulier du français, bien qu’il s’agisse de l’un des traits distinctifs de The Spirit Lamp, est en général passée sous silence par la critique. Ce travail a pour but de montrer que ce phénomène de polyglossie participe de la translation et du codage de désirs autrement indicibles. L’esthétisation des désirs conduit à la construction d’une identité homosexuelle et contribue de ce fait à brouiller la frontière entre art et vie. Le passage par la langue étrangère permet d’articuler et, partant, de faire exister ces désirs. Au-delà, cette étude souligne que nous assistons dans The Spirit Lamp à la création d’une langue hybride, fondée sur un cadre de référence autre que britannique et, ainsi, à une forme de défamiliarisation de la langue anglaise.

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1The design by Aubrey Beardsley for contents page of the first issue of The Savoy,1 a periodical founded in Dieppe and edited by Arthur Symons and Aubrey Beardsley, whose eight issues appeared between January and December 1896, is emblematic of the hybrid quality that characterizes this short-lived journal as well as of the cultural exchanges distinctive of the late Victorian period. It is a depiction of a John Bull figure holding a quill and a draughtsman’s pencil, but the iconic figure of Englishness is paradoxically associated here with the mythical figure of Hermes or Mercury, the messenger of the Gods, through the detail of the winged sandals. Beardsley thereby underscores the fact that The Savoy aims to be a mediator between English and French cultures.

2This John Bull figure also seems to have undergone a caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis under the ‘civilising’ influence of art and literature: the traditional low topper bears some resemblance to a Gallic winged helm, whilst the buttonhole, flower bracelet and flowing, flower-studded cape turn him into a dandified character. The bulldog that traditionally accompanies John Bull—reminiscent of the pug-dog represented by William Hogarth in his Self-Portrait (1745, oil on canvas, 90.2×69.8 cm, Tate Britain)—rears its head in the left-hand side corner, but is cut by the frame of the picture, as if vanishing from the scene. The lithograph programmatically signals that the world into which the figure motions the reader/viewer will try and blend French and British cultures. It testifies to the aestheticization of life and British culture that The Savoy aims to achieve, whilst also suggesting that this metamorphosis will come about through the contact with things foreign, with other cultures and other languages.

3This paper focuses on a slightly earlier British periodical, The Spirit Lamp, a short-lived undergraduate journal whose fifteen issues were published in Oxford by the bookseller James Thornton (33 & 41 High Street) between May 1892 and June 1893, originally on a weekly then, starting in February 1893, on a quarterly basis (from the second issue of the third volume). Like The Savoy, The Spirit Lamp is one of the ‘little magazines’, as Ian Fletcher calls them (Fletcher 173), which flourished in the late nineteenth century. These publications certainly provide an interesting vantage point from which to look at the question of the intercultural exchanges between France and Great Britain in that period. If, in the words of Osbert Burdett, ‘the nineties is not a period but a point of view’ (Burdett 6), these literary journals, which often were ‘showcases’ for turn-of-the-century authors as well as means of conveying their aesthetic theories, can help us to define the specificity of this fin-de-siècle perspective and to assess the interplay of influences which is one of its trademarks.

  • 2 This is possibly an echo to Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua published in 1867.
  • 3 Lord Henry Arthur Somerset (1851-1926) was linked to the 1889 Cleveland Street homosexual scandal, (...)

4One of the characteristics of The Spirit Lamp is the fact that it contains quite a few foreign words or phrases both in the titles and content of the various contributions. German (‘Cabale und Liebe’, I: I, 3-4), Latin (‘Apologia pro Musa Nostra’,2 I: II, 25-27) and French terms (‘Morte d’Amour’, I: III, 48-49, ‘Tout vient à qui sait attendre’, III: II, 34-42) crop up within its pages. The Spirit Lamp also features a significant number of texts written in foreign languages. The presence of ancient languages, Greek in particular, is noteworthy (free translations into English from the Greek Anthology, for instance, or a translation into Greek of a poem by Robert Herrick, I: II, 21) and corresponds to the already well-documented link between Hellenism and homosexuality (see Dellamora, Dowling, Evangelista). The use of Greek or the reference to things Greek appears as an encoding of a homosexual subtext. What struck me, however, when I first had a look at the different issues of The Spirit Lamp and the secondary sources about that journal, was that the presence of modern languages—albeit in my opinion one of the other salient features of The Spirit Lamp—was usually overlooked. The Spirit Lamp is a polyglot periodical, and in its different issues, we find, for instance, a poem written in Italian by an Englishman (‘T’Amo’ by Lord Somerset,3 IV: I, 28) and a translation from the Arabic by John Addington Symonds (IV: II, 100). More conspicuous is the presence of French literature and language, be it in the form of translations (a translation of the poem by Baudelaire ‘Harmonie du soir’ by P. L. Osborn, IV: II, 69, for instance) or of texts directly written in French, often by British authors. Most of those are poems: ‘Les Amertumes d’une douceur’ (I: II, 24-25), ‘Caprice: la Cigarette’ (II: IV, 112), ‘Suicide Triomphant’ (III: I, 5), ‘Le Moderne’ (III: II, 3), ‘Sonnet’ (by Pierre Louÿs, IV: I, 1), ‘Échelle d’Éros’ (IV: II, 70). Apart from the sonnet by Pierre Louÿs and ‘Le Moderne’ (by Veau-Marin), those poems were composed by Percy Lancelot Osborn, a poet who, besides, is the author of several translations from the Greek featured in The Spirit Lamp and was later to publish Rose Leaves from Philostratus (1901), an adaptation of texts by the Greek writer of the Roman Imperial period, as well as a translation of poems by Sappho (1909). Within the pages of The Spirit Lamp can also be found a symbolist playlet in French entitled ‘La Baigneuse’, by Aurèle Legond’huis (II: I, 9-13), dedicated to Maurice Maeterlinck.

  • 4 See for instance Deleuze & Guattari 29 sq.

5I would first like to show that the use of several ancient or modern foreign languages is an essential element in the aestheticization of life and the expression of otherwise unspeakable desires and that it involves a performance through which a homosexual identity is created. I will then argue that what we witness in The Spirit Lamp is the creation of a hybrid language—a ‘minor’ language to borrow Deleuze and Guattari’s concept4—a form of counter-discourse for a counter-culture—based on the setting up of a framework of reference other than English.

Translation, Adaptation, Encoding

6Founded at roughly the same time as The Isis (a student magazine first established at Oxford University in April 1892), The Spirit Lamp is an undergraduate periodical whose history falls into two main periods. The first nine issues were edited by J. S. Phillimore and Sandys Wason, of Christ Church. Lord Alfred Douglas then took over as editor for the last six issues. The subtitle was significantly changed from ‘An Oxford Magazine without News’ to ‘An Aesthetic, Literary and Critical Magazine’, which was used from May 1893 onwards. In keeping with the spirit of the ‘aesthetic’ magazines of the 1890s, the material published in The Spirit Lamp, whether under the editorship of Phillimore and Wason or of Douglas, is heterogeneous: poems, as well as essays on literature, translations, playlets and short stories. The general tone however shifted with the change of editors. In both periods, foreign words and foreign texts crop up in the issues of The Spirit Lamp. Yet the significance of the gestures of translation and adaptation has different implications and testifies to the evolution in the editorial line of this journal.

  • 5 ‘The worst is, that I had arranged / To take two fellows to the Pav.’ (lines 13-14) is translated a (...)
  • 6 ‘And as for the half-crown, we'll see / If it will tea me at an AB / C’ (lines 22-24) is translated (...)

7The self-styled ‘Oxford Magazine without News’, as heralded by the tongue-in-cheek editorial of the first issue (‘a periodical combining the advantages of good Print, good Grammar, and good Intentions’, ‘Truthfulness, Modesty, and general Solidity are the virtues it may be expected to realise’, I: I, 1-2), essentially features light material, written by undergraduates, who sign their texts with their initials or humorous pseudonyms (for instance Hoc Securior, a Latin phrase which means ‘safer by this’). The subjects range from Walt Whitman and Percy Bysshe Shelley (‘Causeries du vendredi: Whitman and Shelley’, I: II, 21-23) to the virtues of hot baths (‘The Bathos of Bathing’, II: IV, 45-47). The general impression conveyed is that of naughty boys playing pranks and mocking figures of authority or surrogate father figures, such as scouts (‘The Scout’, I: I, 4-6) or dons (‘An Undergraduate on Oxford Dons’ by Alfred Douglas, II: III, 69-73). Although the material featured is very diverse in nature and in quality, the first period of The Spirit Lamp holds a mirror up to the concerns, opinions and framework of reference of late-nineteenth century Oxford students. It is in the context of the light and slightly mischievous tone that characterises the early part of the history of The Spirit Lamp that the first text in French to be found within its pages should be read. Entitled ‘Les Amertumes d’une douceur’ (signed with the initial Y.), it appeared in the second issue of the first volume of The Spirit Lamp (I: II, 24-25) immediately following ‘The Tipped’, a poem in English (signed with the initials O. T. M.) It is in fact a free translation into French of that poem about a stingy uncle giving his nephew a paltry sum of money. ‘Les Amertumes d’une douceur’ partakes both of a scholarly exercise and of a linguistic game. We can notice for instance a rather bold use of adaptation: ‘The Pav.’—presumably the London Pavilion, a music hall theatre which opened on Piccadilly Circus in 1885—is translated as ‘la Gaîté’—a famous Parisian theatre built in the mid-nineteenth century—,5 and, in the last lines, ‘tea me at an AB / C’ is rendered as ‘Tasse […] / D’absinthe’.6

  • 7 Oscar Wilde published several texts in The Spirit Lamp: ‘The New Remorse’ (II: IV, 1), ‘The House o (...)
  • 8 ‘The Incomparable Beauty of Modern Dress’ (IV: II, 90-98).
  • 9 ‘To Leander’ (III: III, 29), ‘Beethoven’s Concerto in E Dur’ (IV: I, 3), ‘From the Arabic’ (IV: II, (...)
  • 10 The word ‘Uranian’ itself finds its origin in Plato’s Symposium. In this dialogue, Pausanias distin (...)

8Under the editorship of Alfred Douglas, one can notice the presence of better-known contributors, including Oscar Wilde,7 Max Beerbohm8 and John Addington Symonds.9 What is conspicuous as well is the creation of a ‘Uranian’ subtext, a period coding of homosexuality, mainly through classical references and translations from or into Greek. The term ‘Uranian’ was first taken up in English by John Addington Symonds. In The Spirit Lamp, it appears in Symonds’s poem ‘To Leander’ published in the February 1893 issue (‘live image of Uranian love’, III: III, 29). The adjective ‘Uranian’ designates a group of homosexual poets of the second half of the nineteenth century, which includes Symonds, but also Alfred Douglas and Percy Lancelot Osborn, all contributors to The Spirit Lamp. Their texts are characterised by an appeal to an idealised vision of Ancient Greece and pederasty and by the expression of love for adolescent boys.10

  • 11 Douglas ‘In Sarum Close’, 21.
  • 12 Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925) is famous for his Chansons de Bilitis (Paris, Librairie de l’art indépenda (...)
  • 13 Charles Kains Jackson published a poem on the mythological figure of Hyacinthus in The Artist and J (...)

9The Hyacinthus sonnet by Pierre Louÿs, published anonymously in the first issue of the fourth volume of The Spirit Lamp (‘A letter written in prose poetry by Mr Oscar Wilde to a friend, and translated into rhymed poetry by a poet of no importance’, IV: I, 1), provides an example of a different use of the French language in line with the editorial changes within The Spirit Lamp from its May 1893 issue onwards. The biographical circumstances of the composition of the poem are well known. Wilde had written a passionate letter to Alfred Douglas, in which he praised the sonnet the latter had sent him (‘In Sarum Close’11) and compared the young man to the classical figure of Hyacinthus—loved and unwittingly killed by Apollo, then turned into a flower (Wilde 2000, 544). This letter was later used in the trials as evidence to prosecute Wilde (Dowling 149). According to Ellmann’s biography, Wilde asked Pierre Louÿs,12 who had come to London in April 1893 to attend the opening night of A Woman of No Importance (hence the allusion to ‘a poet of no importance’ in the title of the poem in The Spirit Lamp), to translate the letter into French and turn it into poetry so as to escape possible blackmail (Ellmann 370). This text is emblematic of the process of encoding through the use of foreign languages at work in the later issues of The Spirit Lamp. It offers an illustration of the use of foreign languages as a means of aestheticizing life and articulating otherwise unspeakable desires. Both the letter and the sonnet rely on intertextual echoes and the creation of an imaginary genealogy. The figure of Hyacinthus sends back not only to Greek mythology but also to Walter Pater and his rewriting of the myth in his text ‘Apollo in Picardy’ (1893). Similarly, the poems of the so-called Uranians constitute a gallery of mythological and historical figures (Corydon, Narcissus, Antinoüs, for instance) used to express and embody same-sex desires.13 Alfred Douglas is seen as a reincarnation of Hyacinthus in Wilde’s letter: ‘I know Hyacinthus, whom Apollo loved so madly was you in Greek days’ (Wilde 2000, 544). Hyacinthus’ return is wished for in the sonnet:

‘Va ! rafraîchis tes mains dans le clair crépuscule
Des choses où descend l’âme antique. Et reviens,

Hyacinthe adoré ! hyacinthe ! hyacinthe !
Car je veux voir toujours dans les bois syriens
Ton beau corps étendu sur la rose et l’absinthe.’ (lines 10-14)

  • 14 Pierre Louÿs might also have been influenced by Théodore de Banville and his poem ‘L’exil des Dieux (...)
  • 15 The colours used, red and blue, are also significant in this encoding process (see Ribeyrol).
  • 16 The very form of the sonnet sends back to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (published in 1609), discussed by W (...)

10The oft-repeated name gives an incantatory quality to the poem and recalls the theme of the return of the Gods in exile borrowed from Heinrich Heine (Die Götter im Exil, 1853) and which can be traced in Pater as well as in Wilde (see Bizzotto).14 Furthermore, what we have here is a form of multiple coding and a double displacement of desire: first through the reference to mythology, but also through the use of French in the poem by Louÿs.15 The process of translation and transposition (a letter in English prose turned into a sonnet in French16) can be seen as an ambivalent gesture, as both a form of concealment and of revelation. It is also part of a staging of desire, based on performativity and performance. Of course, the desires in question pre-exist the superimposition of codes (such as the reference to Ancient Greece or the use of French). But my feeling is that the two become inseparable, that homosexuality comes to exist and to be conceived only through the words and the aesthetic framework that is set up, thus blurring the limits between art and life. As Robert Aldrich underlines, the existence of a homosexual man in the late-nineteenth century was only conceivable as an ‘aesthetic existence’, within the frame of artistic references, or, as he puts it pithily, ‘homosexuality was literature and art’ (Aldrich 221-222) and the use of French is part and parcel of this aestheticization of desire.

  • 17 Several Greek and Roman writers have written on the same theme, Plato in The Symposium and Lysis, b (...)
  • 18 Affairs of the Heart, attributed to Lucian of Samosata, introductory notes and translation by A. M. (...)

11‘Échelle d’Éros’, published in the second issue of the fourth volume of The Spirit Lamp (IV: II, 70) is another example of a process of multiple coding and complex transposition. The poem describes a progression in sensory and erotic pleasures, from sight, to song, to touch and bodily union, thus echoing the sonnet by Louÿs, which evokes the song of Hyacinthus (‘Tu chantais’, line 5) and concludes on Hyacinthus’ body (‘Ton beau corps étendu sur la rose et l’absinthe’, line 14). Yet ‘Échelle d’Éros’ adds a further twist to the encoding process, as it is a translation of a Greek text into French by an Englishman. French is here a form of detour, both obfuscating and revealing the risqué content of the poem. Amores, attributed to Lucian of Samosata, a Syrian rhetorician and satirist who wrote in Greek, is an example of contest literature. It is a dialogue in which the two protagonists compare the merits of the love of women and the love of boys.17 The translated passage appears at the end of the dialogue, where Theomnestus explains how love has created a ‘ladder of pleasure’.18 Osborn’s poem is one of the most explicit evocations of homosexuality to be found in The Spirit Lamp: ‘Le premier pas de ton échelle, / Aphrodite unisexuelle C’est regarder le doux enfant, / Et de sa voix oüir [sic] le chant.’ (IV: II, 70, lines 1-4).

  • 19 See Cardon. One might recall here that, in Sodome et Gomorrhe, Proust does not use the terms ‘homos (...)

12The ‘Aphrodite unisexuelle’ evoked in the second line is an unambiguous reference to homosexuality; the French ‘unisexuel’ was used at the time to refer to same-sex desires and practices. For instance, Marc André Raffalovich, a French poet and writer on homosexuality who lived in Britain, preferred this term to ‘homosexual’ and used it in the title of his work on Uranisme et Unisexualité (1896).19 As in the previous example, the use of French appears as both a screen, a way of making the poem less directly accessible and thus less open to criticism or attack, and as a wink to those ‘in the know’. As in the Hyacinthus sonnet, the linguistic game is paired with a generic transposition: a dialogue in prose rendered into verse, a ‘poeticization’ that might be read as a further ‘aestheticization’. Interestingly enough, Rose Leaves from Philostratus by Percy Lancelot Osborn, published in 1901, similarly consists in the translation into verse form of the (prose) love letters of Greek author Philostratus.

13Yet beyond the encoding function which the last two examples illustrate, I wish to contend that the use of foreign languages, and of French in particular, within the pages of The Spirit Lamp, can more generally be ascribed to a desire to aestheticize life by forging a new culture, with a different set of references. The Spirit Lamp, under the editorship of Alfred Douglas, testifies to an attempt to steer its readers away from mainstream British culture and cultivate their taste for things ‘un-English’ and ‘unhealthy’.

The Wasp and the Orchid

  • 20 For more details on Verlaine and England, see Underwood.
  • 21 Verlaine, Romances sans paroles [1874], verlaine 132-139.

14Paul Verlaine—who spent time in Britain on numerous occasions20 and gave English titles to several of his poems (‘Birds in the Night’, ‘Green’, ‘Child Wife’, ‘A Poor Young Shepherd’ in Romances sans paroles, for instance21)—features among the main inspirational figures for a number of British writers at the turn of the century. The short poem by Percy Lancelot Osborn entitled ‘Caprice: la cigarette’ (II: IV, 114), published in the 6 December 1892 issue of The Spirit Lamp, certainly attests to the influence of the French poet. The tone and subject of this poem are rather playful. It is an ode to the cigarette as the epitome of ephemeral pleasure and as a metaphor for the inanity of man’s life in this world:

Ô cigarette à douce odeur,
Les tourbillons de ta vapeur
Ressemblent à la vie humaine,
Qui n’est que vaporeuse et vaine.

Comme dans l’air la vapeur fuit
L’âme qui meurt s’évanouit
Dieu s’écrie ! Ah, si l’on regrette
Roulons une autre cigarette.

  • 22 This is the beginning of ‘Vendanges’ in Jadis et Naguère [1884] in Verlaine 211.
  • 23 For more details on Paul Verlaine in ‘little magazines’ of the 1890s, and in particular The Savoy, (...)
  • 24 Charles Kains-Jackson (1857-1933) was also the editor of The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, wh (...)

15The theme was fashionable: we also come across it in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, for instance (‘A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?’ Wilde 1988, 65). The form of Osborn’s poem (two quatrains of octosyllabic lines)—as well as its title—are reminiscent of Verlaine’s poetry. ‘Caprices’ (in the plural) is the title of the fourth section of Verlaine’s Poèmes saturniens (1866). It is also the title of a collection of poems published in 1893 by Theodore Wratislaw, a ‘Uranian’ poet, which contains an epigraph by Verlaine (‘Les choses qui chantent dans la tête / Alors que la mémoire est absente, / Écoutez ! c’est notre sang qui chante… / Ô musique lointaine et discrète.22) as well as translations from the French poet: ‘Le piano que baise’ (Wratislaw 26), ‘L’espoir luit’ (27) and ‘Allégorie’ (28). The rhymes of ‘Caprice: la cigarette’, half of which have feminine endings (‘humaine’/’vaine’, ‘regrette’/’cigarette’), and the words chosen (‘vaporeuse’, ‘s’évanouit’), which connote vagueness, point to an interpretation of the text as a pastiche of Verlaine’s verse.23 The use of French in The Spirit Lamp thus appears as metonymic of some French authors and some aspects of French culture at odds with the values and tenets of British society. Several of the poems in English published in The Spirit Lamp read as imitations of Verlaine’s ‘impressionism’, such as for instance Charles Kains Jackson’s24 ‘Impressions’, featured in the 10 March 1893 issue of the journal (III: III, 55), testifying to a form of cultural exchange between French and English poetry.

  • 25 Arthur Symons (1865-1945) is a poet, critic and magazine editor. Silhouettes (London: Elkin Mathews (...)
  • 26 This review incited Wilde to ask Douglas to translate Salomé into English. Douglas’s translation wa (...)
  • 27 On the use of French in Salomé, see Eells 2010.

16The desire to foster a Frenchified, hybrid culture also surfaces in two laudatory reviews published in The Spirit Lamp. Uranian poet Stanley Addleshaw’s ‘Short Note upon a New Volume of Poems’ (II: IV, 117-118) compares Arthur Symons’s Silhouettes (published in 1892)25 to Verlaine’s poetry. Symons is, according to Addleshaw, the ‘first English poet to produce verse thoroughly steeped in the delicious languor and exotic ennui which are the very essence of the great French master’s being’ (II: IV, 117) and praises him for being ‘more French than English’ (II: IV, 118). Addleshaw adds: ‘To those who see no charm in decay, and whose ideals of beauty are confined entirely within the limits of the healthy and the normal, it would be futile to recommend such a book’. To him, Symons’s poems are ‘the orchids of the muse’, that is to say artificial, hothouse flowers liable to be appreciated only by a ‘chosen’—and Francophile—few (II: IV, 118). Similarly, Alfred Douglas writes of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé (‘Salomé: A Critical Review’, IV: I, 20-27),26 a play originally written in French27: ‘I suppose the play is unhealthy, morbid, unwholesome, and un-English, ça va sans dire’ (IV: I, 27, in French in the text). The review, interspersed with long quotations from the French text, is an indictment of English prudery and philistinism. Referring to the fact that Salomé was censored and therefore not produced in London, Douglas ironically exclaims: ‘O Happy England, land of healthy sentiment, roast beef and Bible, long may you have such men to keep guard over your morals’ (IV: I, 22). Regarding the use of French in the play, he comments: ‘… it is written in French, and therefore unwholesome to the average Englishman who can’t digest French’ (IV: I, 27). He concludes the article by stressing the existence of a potential community of readers, presumably able to digest French, who ‘will find in Mr Oscar Wilde’s tragedy … ambrosia to feed their souls with honey of sweet-bitter thoughts’ (IV: I, 27).

17Generally speaking, The Spirit Lamp is fraught with foreign—and in particular French—words, as well as references to French literature: phrases such as Vous vous écartez de la question (I: V, 73), joie de vivre (II: IV, 118), faute de mieux (III: II, 78), ça va sans dire (IV: 1, 27), titles such as ‘Causeries du vendredi’ (volume I, n° II, III and IV), which echo the Causeries du lundi by French critic Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), to quote only a few examples. The use of foreign languages and the various references to non-English literature which we find in The Spirit Lamp is, I think, more than merely decorative. It aims at creating a new, hybrid language, removed from the constraints of Victorian Britain, and thus at forging another identity and another outlook on the world. ‘Unhealthy’ or ‘un-English’, far from being derogatory terms, are qualities to be sought after. The process at work is one of defamiliarization of the English language.

18In his works, Gilles Deleuze repeatedly uses the metaphor of the wasp and the orchid, a reference to the encounter between Jupien and Charlus in the opening pages of Sodome et Gomorrhe, the fourth volume of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu:

Or Jupien, perdant aussitôt l’air humble et bon que je lui avais toujours connu, avait – en symétrie parfaite avec le baron – redressé la tête, donnait à sa taille un port avantageux, posait avec une impertinence grotesque son poing sur la hanche, faisait saillir son derrière, prenait des poses avec la coquetterie qu’aurait pu avoir l’orchidée pour le bourdon providentiellement survenu. (Proust III, 6)

  • 28 See Eells 2002, 99. In Proust, the orchid often has transgressive implications, as is the case for (...)

19Proust, drawing on a botanical metaphor inspired by Darwin,28 gives an account of the metamorphosis of both Jupien and Charlus as well as of their ‘mating dance’, closely scrutinised by the gaze of the narrator/voyeur. With this passage as a starting point, Deleuze uses the term ‘deterritorialize’ to explain how, in the context of pollination, the orchid forms an image of a wasp, but the wasp is also deterritorialized, becoming a piece of the orchid’s reproductive apparatus. To quote Deleuze on the process of what he calls ‘becoming-animal’ in Kafka’s works: ‘C’est de cette manière aussi que l’orchidée a l’air de reproduire une image de guêpe, mais plus profondément se déterritorialise en elle, en même temps que la guêpe à son tour se déterritorialise en s’accouplant à l’orchidée’ (Deleuze 26). The concept of deterritorialization/reterritorialization is an intrinsically dynamic process, offering an adequate paradigm to envisage the attempt at hybridization at stake in the pages of The Spirit Lamp.

20What I would like to suggest in conclusion is that the use of foreign languages in The Spirit Lamp is an attempt to deterritorialize English and thus to transform and aestheticize life. As Jean-Jacques Lecercle writes in relation to Adorno’s text ‘Words from Abroad’, foreign words are the equivalent of the attraction one can feel for men or women from another country or another culture. They represent a way of setting ourselves free from the doxa (Lecercle 21) and also to forge, as Didier Éribon phrases it, ‘a position from which it would be possible to create oneself in a way that steered clear of dominant norms’ (Éribon 247).

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Ellmann, Richard. Oscar Wilde (1987). London: Penguin, 1988.

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Fletcher, Ian. ‘Decadence and the Little Magazines’. Decadence and the 1890s. Ed. Ian Fletcher. London: Edward Arnold, 1979. 173-202.

Giudicelli, Xavier. ‘Double Perspectives. French Literature in Text and Image in The Savoy’. Regard des Anglo-Saxons sur la France au cours du long xixe siècle. Ed. Odile Boucher-Rivalain and Catherine Hadjenko-Marshall. Paris : L’Harmattan, 2008. 181-194.

Goujon, Jean-Pierre. Pierre Louÿs. Une vie secrète (1870-1925) (1988). Paris : Arthème Fayard, 2002.

Gray, John. A Friendship of the Nineties: Letters between John Gray and Pierre Louÿs. Edinburgh: Tragara, 1984.

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Notes

1 http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/beardsley/aubrey/art/complete.html.

Contents Page, from “The Savoy” No. 1. This image is reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence (available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/au/). 

2 This is possibly an echo to Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro Vita Sua published in 1867.

3 Lord Henry Arthur Somerset (1851-1926) was linked to the 1889 Cleveland Street homosexual scandal, following which he left Great Britain and lived in exile. See D’Arch Smith 52.

4 See for instance Deleuze & Guattari 29 sq.

5 ‘The worst is, that I had arranged / To take two fellows to the Pav.’ (lines 13-14) is translated as ‘D’ailleurs, j’allais à la Gaîté / Emmener deux de mes amis’ (lines 12-13), The Spirit Lamp, I: II, 24-25.

6 ‘And as for the half-crown, we'll see / If it will tea me at an AB / C’ (lines 22-24) is translated as ‘Quant aux francs maudits, ça vaut mainte / Tasse, chez le traiteur là-bas / D’absinthe’ (lines 21-23), The Spirit Lamp, I: II, 25.

7 Oscar Wilde published several texts in The Spirit Lamp: ‘The New Remorse’ (II: IV, 1), ‘The House of Judgment’ (III: II, 52-53), ‘The Disciple’ (IV: II, 49-50).

8 ‘The Incomparable Beauty of Modern Dress’ (IV: II, 90-98).

9 ‘To Leander’ (III: III, 29), ‘Beethoven’s Concerto in E Dur’ (IV: I, 3), ‘From the Arabic’ (IV: II, 100).

10 The word ‘Uranian’ itself finds its origin in Plato’s Symposium. In this dialogue, Pausanias distinguishes two types of love, symbolised by the different accounts of the birth of Aphrodite. In one, she was born of Uranus (the heavens), a birth in which the female has no part. See Plato 550.

11 Douglas ‘In Sarum Close’, 21.

12 Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925) is famous for his Chansons de Bilitis (Paris, Librairie de l’art indépendant, 1895): a literary hoax, it consists of sapphic poems in fact not translated from the Greek but written by Louÿs himself. His taste for things Greek (he also translated Meleager) can be paralleled with that of the English ‘Uranian’ poets featured in the pages of The Spirit Lamp, such as Percy Lancelot Osborn. Wilde and Louÿs first met in 1891, through their common friend Stuart Merrill. Oscar Wilde asked Louÿs to correct the drafts of Salomé and dedicated the play to the Frenchman. Louÿs also translated into French two tales by Wilde, ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ and ‘The Young King’. An anglophile, Louÿs stayed in London in June-July 1892 and in April 1893. Notably homophobic, Louÿs still befriended not only Wilde but also poet John Gray, with whom he exchanged several letters (see Gray). Wilde and Louÿs later fell out and the French writer was to remain silent during Wilde’s trials (see Goujon 179-302).

13 Charles Kains Jackson published a poem on the mythological figure of Hyacinthus in The Artist and Journal of Home Culture (see Brake 277).

14 Pierre Louÿs might also have been influenced by Théodore de Banville and his poem ‘L’exil des Dieux’ (1865), in Les Exilés (1867), Paris, Fasquelle, 1899, 7-13.

15 The colours used, red and blue, are also significant in this encoding process (see Ribeyrol).

16 The very form of the sonnet sends back to Shakespeare’s Sonnets (published in 1609), discussed by Wilde in The Portrait of Mr W. H. (1889), a story revolving around the quest for the enigmatic ‘Mr W. H.’, the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Moreover, the sonnet by Louÿs partly echoes Douglas’s (praised by Wilde in his letter) through the synesthetic reference to Hyacinthus cooling his hands in the twilight (see ‘to cool my burning hands / In this calm twilight of gray Gothic things’: ‘In Sarum Close’, Douglas 21, lines 3-4).

17 Several Greek and Roman writers have written on the same theme, Plato in The Symposium and Lysis, but also Plutarch in his Erôtikos; Achilles Tatius, in The Adventures of Leucippe and Clithophon, also draws a parallel similar to the one in Lucian’s Amores.

18 Affairs of the Heart, attributed to Lucian of Samosata, introductory notes and translation by A. M. Harmon (Loeb edition). ˂http://www.well.com/user/aquarius/lucian-amores.htm>, last consulted 25/1/2013, §53. A French translation by French gay writer Roger Peyrefitte (1907-2000), author of Les Amitiés particulières (Marseille, Jean Vigneau, 1944), was published in 1954 (Lucien de Samosate, Les Amours, trad. Roger Peyrefitte, Paris, Flammarion, 1954).

19 See Cardon. One might recall here that, in Sodome et Gomorrhe, Proust does not use the terms ‘homosexuality’ and ‘homosexual’, which he deemed too Germanic and pedantic (the word ‘homosexuality’ was first used in 1869 by the Hungarian Karoly Maria Benkert), and prefers those of ‘inversion’ and ‘invert’ or even that of ‘tante’ (used by Balzac). See Antoine Compagnon in Proust III, 1217.

20 For more details on Verlaine and England, see Underwood.

21 Verlaine, Romances sans paroles [1874], verlaine 132-139.

22 This is the beginning of ‘Vendanges’ in Jadis et Naguère [1884] in Verlaine 211.

23 For more details on Paul Verlaine in ‘little magazines’ of the 1890s, and in particular The Savoy, see Giudicelli.

24 Charles Kains-Jackson (1857-1933) was also the editor of The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, which published ‘Uranian’ material. He wrote such homoerotic texts as ‘Sonnet on a Picture by Tuke’ (The Artist, 1 May 1889) or ‘The New Chivalry’ (The Artist, 2 April 1894).

25 Arthur Symons (1865-1945) is a poet, critic and magazine editor. Silhouettes (London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, 1892) is his second published collection of poems (after Days and Nights, London and New York: Macmillan, 1889). He is also the author of the influential essay The Symbolist Movement in Literature (London: William Heinemann, 1899).

26 This review incited Wilde to ask Douglas to translate Salomé into English. Douglas’s translation was hardly satisfactory and led to a quarrel between the two men. See Ellmann 379 sq.

27 On the use of French in Salomé, see Eells 2010.

28 See Eells 2002, 99. In Proust, the orchid often has transgressive implications, as is the case for instance in Un amour de Swann, where the phrase ‘faire cattleya’ is used as a code word for love-making by Swann and Odette (see Proust I, 228-230).

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Xavier Giudicelli, « Butterflies, Orchids and Wasps. Polyglossia and Aesthetic Lives: Foreign Languages in The Spirit Lamp (1892-1893) », Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 78 Automne | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2013, consulté le 25 avril 2017. URL : http://cve.revues.org/930 ; DOI : 10.4000/cve.930

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Xavier Giudicelli

Xavier Giudicelli is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, where he teaches British and American literature as well as translation. His doctoral thesis for the University of Paris-Sorbonne proposed an analysis of the illustrated editions of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. His research interests include the illustration of literary texts, and the relationship between text and image, as well as the rewriting and reinterpretation of Victorian and Edwardian literature in the 20th and 21st centuries. He has written several articles on these topics.

Xavier Giudicelli, ancien élève de l’École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay Saint-Cloud, agrégé d’anglais, est maître de conférences en langue et littérature anglaises à l’université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne. Il est l’auteur d’une thèse de doctorat portant sur les éditions illustrées de The Picture of Dorian Gray d’Oscar Wilde soutenue à l’université Paris-Sorbonne. Ses recherches actuelles portent sur le rapport texte/image, plus précisément sur l’illustration des textes littéraires, ainsi que sur la réécriture et la réinterprétation de la littérature victorienne et édouardienne aux xxe et xxie siècles, sujets sur lesquels il a publié plusieurs articles, entre autres dans Études anglaises et les Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens.

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