|French literary history|
Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier (April 29, 1780 – January 27, 1844), was a French author who introduced a younger generation of Romanticists to the conte fantastique, gothic literature, vampire tales, and the importance of dreams as part of literary creation, and whose career as a librarian is often underestimated by literary historians.
He was born at Besançon. His father, on the outbreak of the French Revolution, was appointed mayor of Besançon and consequently chief police magistrate; he seems to have become an instrument of the tyranny of the Jacobins without sharing their principles; but his son was for a time an ardent citizen, and is said to have been a Jacobin Club member at the age of twelve. In 1793 Charles saved the life of a lady guilty of sending money to an émigré, declaring to his father that if she were condemned he would take his own life. He was sent to Strasbourg, where he lived in the house of Eulogius Schneider, the notorious Jacobin governor of Alsace, but a good Greek scholar.
Activism and wanderings
During the Reign of Terror his father put him under the care of Justin Girod-Chantrans, with whom he studied English and German. His love of books began very early, and he combined with it a strong interest in nature, which Girod-Chantrans was able to foster. He became librarian in his native town, but his exertions in the cause of suspected persons brought him under suspicion. An inspection of his papers by the police, however, revealed nothing more dangerous than a dissertation on the antennae of insects. Entomology continued to be a favourite study with him, but he varied it with philology and pure literature and even political writing. For a skit on Napoleon, in 1803, he was imprisoned for some months.
He then left Paris, where he had gone after losing his position at Besançon, and for some years lived a very unsettled life at Besançon, Dole, where he married, and in other places in the Jura. During these wanderings he wrote Le peintre de Salzbourg, journal des émotions d'un coeur souffrant, suivi des Meditations du cloître(1803). The hero, Charles, who is a variation of the Werther type, desires the restoration of the monasteries, to afford a refuge from the woes of the world.
In December 1812 Nodier moved to Ljubljana, then the capital of the newly established French Illyrian Provinces, and was in 1813 the last editor of a multilingual newspaper, the Official Telegraph of the Illyrian Provinces (Télégraphe officiel des Provinces Illyriennes) published in French, German and Italian. It was there that Nodier composed, in 1812, the first draft of his novel Jean Sbogar. The story about a love between a brigand and a daughter of a rich merchant was finally published in 1818. After the evacuation of French forces from the Illyrian provinces in 1813 he returned to Paris, and the Restauration found him a royalist, though he retained something of republican sentiment. In 1824 he was appointed librarian of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal. He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1833, and made a member of the Legion of Honour. He died, aged, 63, in Paris.
The twenty years at the arsenal were by far the most important and fruitful of Nodier's life. He had the advantage of a settled home in which to collect and study rare and unusual books; and he was able to supply a centre and rallying place to a knot of young literary men of greater individual talent than himself—the so-called Romanticists of 1830—and to colour their tastes and work very decidedly with his own predilections. Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset and Sainte-Beuve all acknowledged their obligations to him. He was a passionate admirer of Goethe and of Shakespeare, and had himself contributed to the personal literature that was one of the leading traits of the Romantic school.
His best and most characteristic work, some of which is exquisite in its kind, consists partly of short tales of a more or less fantastic character, partly of nondescript articles, half bibliographic, half narrative, the nearest analogue to which in English is to be found in some of the papers of Thomas de Quincey. The best examples of the latter are to be found in the volume entitled Mélanges tirés d'une petite bibliothèque, published in 1829 and afterwards continued. Of his tales the best are Infernaliana (1822); Smarra, ou les démons de la nuit (1821); Trilby, ou le lutin d'Argail (1822); Histoire du roi de Bohême et de ses sept châteaux (1830); La Fée aux miettes (1832); Inès de las Sierras (1837); Les quatre talismans et la légende de soeur Béatrix (1838), together with some fairy stories published in the year of his death, and Franciscus Columna, which appeared after it. The Souvenirs de jeunesse (1832) are interesting but untrustworthy, and the Dictionnaire universel de la langue française (1823), which, in the days before Littré, was one of the most useful of its kind, is said to have been not wholly or mainly Nodier's. There is a so-called collection of Œuvres complêtes, in 12 vols. (1832), but at that time much of the author's best work had not appeared, and it included but a part of what was actually published. Nodier found an indulgent biographer in Prosper Merimée on the occasion of the younger man's admission to the academy.
An account of his share in the Romantic movement is to be found in Georg Brandes's Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature. His Description raisonnée d'une jolie collection de livres (1844), which is a catalogue of the books in his library, contains a life by Francis Wey and a complete bibliography of his numerous works. See also Sainte-Beuve, Portraits littéraires, vol. ii.; Prosper Mérimée, Portraits historiques et littéraires (1874); and A Estignard, Correspondance inédite de Charles Nodier, 1796–1844 (1876), containing his letters to Charles Weiss.
A collection of Nodier's dream writings (De Quelques Phenomenes Du Sommeil) was published by Le Castor Astral in 1996.
Musical adaptations of Nodier's Trilby
Nodier's 1822 novel Trilby, ou le lutin d'Argail provided the inspiration for La Sylphide, 1822, to a scenario devised by Adolphe Nourrit. In 1870, the novel was adapted for a ballet titled Trilby by the great choreographer Marius Petipa, balletmaster of the Tsar's Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia.
The centre of French science and culture in Ljubljana, established in December 1966, was in 1983 named the Charles Nodier French Cultural Centre (now the Charles Nodier French Institute). It is housed on the left bank of the Ljubljanica, between the Prešeren Square and the St. James' Bridge. From 1994 to 2008, the institute regularly published a bulletin titled Le Petit Nodier. Since 1985, a bronze bust of Nodier stands at the court of its building, work of Jakov Brdar, according to the plans by the architect Marjan Ocvirk. It is a vivid portrait with a sharp look and some traces of the Secession style.
- "The Painter of Salzburg, journal of the emotions of a suffering heart, followed by Meditations on the Cloister".
- Juvan, Andreja (1994). "Charles Nodier in Ilirija" [Charles Nodier and Illyria]. Kronika: časopis za slovensko krajevno zgodovino (in Slovene) (Section for the History of Places, Union of Historical Societies of Slovenia) 42 (2): 19. ISSN 0023-4923. More than one of
- "Charles Nodier (1780–1844)". Ilirske Province / Provinces Illyriennes [Illyrian Provinces] (in Slovene, French). Government Communication Office, Republic of Slovenia. 9 May 2009. p. 6.
- He appears as a chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur on the title page of his Mélanges, 1829.
- The source for the opera Béatrice by André Messager
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Oliver, A. Richard, (1964). Charles Nodier: Pilot of Romanticism (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press)
- Loving, M. (2003). "Charles Nodier: The Romantic Librarian". Libraries & Culture, 38(2), 166–188.
- Engel, Manfred, (2008). "Literarische Anthropologie à rebours. Zum poetologischen Innovationspotential des Traumes in der Romantik am Beispiel von Charles Nodiers Smarra und Thomas DeQuinceys Dream-Fugue". Komparatistik als Humanwissenschaft, ed. Monika Schmitz-Emans, Claudia Schmitt and Christian Winterhalter (Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann), 107–116.
- Porée, Adolphe-André (1903). Note sur Auguste Le Prévost et Charles Nodier (in fr). Rouen: L. Gy.