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Louisiana Creole LiteratureA Historical Study$

Catharine Savage Brosman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781617039102

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617039102.001.0001

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Mid-Nineteenth-Century Immigrant Francophone Authors

Mid-Nineteenth-Century Immigrant Francophone Authors

(p.57) Chapter Five Mid-Nineteenth-Century Immigrant Francophone Authors
Louisiana Creole Literature

Catharine Savage Brosman

University Press of Mississippi

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines three minor authors and two important novelists, all of whom immigrated to Louisiana and wrote in French. Charles Testut, a journalist, poet, and novelist, is examined especially for his long epic novel Le Vieux Salomon, which has points in common with Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Testut’s quasi-Christian socialism and Masonic leanings are identified. Louis-Armand Garreau’s historical novel Louisiana and his short stories, including “Bras-coupé,” receive detailed commentary. The radical political views of these two writers are noted, and their repeated denunciations of slavery and other sorts of oppression are stressed. The neo-Marxist social theory of the Frankfort School is cited as a grid by which to read Garreau.

Keywords:   Charles Testut, Louis-Armand Garreau, Radical political views, Socialism, Historical novel

The careers sketched here show how French-born immigrants to Louisiana were often more radical than locals of liberal persuasion. The violent revolutionary tradition—begun in 1789, with its proclamation of the universal rights of Man, and reaffirmed in 1848—and the early veins of French socialism constituted a line of radical thought that differed from American liberalism, even that of the abolitionists. The writings of these immigrants illustrate how literary romanticism and liberal republicanism were often allied on both continents. Their adherents looked upon literature as an almost sacred undertaking, not mere self-expression or l’art pour l’art but enlightenment for the public and activism.

Tullius de Saint-Céran (1800–55), who abandoned the particle de, was born in Jamaica, but reared in New Orleans, where his family settled following an insurrection. He became a printer and edited the French section of the Gazette de la Louisiane. He was a prolific poet and wrote in French, Spanish, and English. In 1836 he published Chansons et poésies diverses, drawn from L’Abeille, and the following year another collection. In 1838 he brought out an epic poem on the Battle of New Orleans; his collection Les Louisianaises followed in 1840.1

Charles Testut (1816–92) left France as a young man and went to New York, where he started a French-language paper. He later worked in La Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, until the extremely destructive earthquake and fire of 1843; he then settled in Louisiana, except for a brief, unfruitful stay in Mobile. He was married and had children. His main activities were literary and journalistic. He bought the weekly La Chronique in 1849 and as an associated project began a series devoted to Louisiana fiction, “Veillées (p.58) louisianaises,” in which he published his Saint-Denis (1849), a historical tale involving the founder of Natchitoches and his travels to New Mexico. Testut also composed the serial novels Calisto (1849) (with an important hurricane episode) and Or et fange, ou les Mystères de la Nouvelle Orléans (1852–54), the title of which reflects Eugène sue’s Les Mystères de Paris. Testut’s novels are, in the words of The Cambridge History of American Literature, “long, loosely composed, and often forced in language and sentiment … [yet] eloquent, and rich in Louisiana lore.” The length is not surprising, given their date. They are derivative, containing whole pages borrowed from Charles Gayarré. One paper for which Testut wrote in the 1860s was La Tribune de la Nouvelle-Orléans. It was noted earlier that his Portraits littéraires de la Nouvelle-Orléans (1850) is one of the earliest ventures into literary history and criticism in Louisiana. He was both a Freemason and an anticlerical, and was drawn into spiritualism. He became secretary of the New Orleans branch of The International.2

In 1849 Testut brought out a collection of poems, Les Echos, followed by Les Fleurs d’été (1851). Illustrating the connections among French and Louisiana authors, Les Echos includes dedicatory and adulatory verses to a French poet, Amable Testu (no relation), thanking her for counsel and encouragement, in addition to a poem in praise of George Washington, a “grand phare” (great beacon), and one dedicated to Alexandre Latil.

  • Oh! de tes vers en pleurs que je sens l’harmonie …
  • Oh! comme ta souffrance arrive et chante en moi …
  • … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …
  • Poète des douleurs, qu’une douce croyance,
  • Comme un baume divin, dore ton avenir!
  • [Oh! how i feel the harmony of your lines, weeping …
  • Oh! how your suffering reaches and sings in me …
  • … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … . .
  • Poet of suffering, may a gentle belief,
  • Like a divine balm, make your future golden!]

“Le Retour” features lines of four syllables, an unusual form for the date. “Sur la mort de l’auteur des Ephémères,” from Les Fleurs d’été, dedicated to Latil’s widow, is a long elegiac poem.3

In 1871 Testut published serially in a paper he had founded, L’Equité, his abolitionist novel Le Vieux Salomon, ou une famille d’esclaves au XIXème (p.59) siècle, which has been called the first American Marxist novel (but its Marxism must be considerably qualified). Its similarity to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly (1852) has been rightly noted. (Among other common features, they both have New Orleans as a major setting and Creole characters.) Testut’s work is an eloquent, if sentimental, protest against the injustice of slavery in both principle and practice—no matter how kindly slaves are treated—but especially against abusive masters, including those who (violating the Code Noir) separate couples and families. According to a prefatory note, added in 1872, it was composed in New York in 1858. if this is true, then it was not influenced by the prose of Martin R. Delany, who published serially, starting in 1859, his novel Blake: or the Huts of America; A Tale of the Mississippi Valley, the Southern United States, and Cuba (partially reprinted, 1970). The question of contact arises because, in addition to the focus on the horrors of enslavement and what it does to the human person, Freemasonry or at least a secret society is featured in both novels, and a portion of each story is set on a Caribbean island, the rest largely in the south. (One of Delany’s episodes takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.)4

Testut’s note stresses that his story is to have a broad application. By its antitheses and its concern with justice, injustice, and the trials of the good, it is not without resemblances to Victor Hugo’s novels, especially Bug-Jar-gal (1826), which concerns the slave revolts in Saint Domingue; similar episodes and other features, including friendship between the black eponymous hero—the first black hero in a French novel—and a white man, lead one to conclude that Testut read that early Hugo work. The nineteenth-century credo of progress underlies Testut’s entire work. Despite reference to the proletariat, the novel does not, however, feature crowd actions in which the proletariat appears as a single historical agent, unlike, for instance, Emile Zola’s La Débâcle (1892).5

Testut should be considered a Christian socialist. Christ died, it is averred, to teach the three revolutionary virtues. “Courage! brothers … courage and patience! Corporal bondage has been abolished, the proletariat—monetary slavery—will be in its turn, and, once these two scourges are destroyed, True Liberty will be born in the bosom of order, between equality and fraternity, in the second stable of a second Bethlehem.” in Le Vieux Salomon, a camp de marrons, or fugitive slave camp, near the volcano la soufrière in Guadeloupe, is organized on socialist principles: there is no ownership of real property, no mercantile exchange, but residents are given land to cultivate, the amount being decided by the family size. Grand-Soleil, an imposing black (p.60) man whose name suggests majesty as well as light, exercises authority generally. A council decides disputes. Unlike classical Marxism, however, Testut’s socialism favors the singular over the collective or corps social (in Christian terms, the lost sheep is valued more than the flock); social disorder is turned into order by individual action on grounds of individual values.6

Le Vieux Salomon is coherent, its composition not so loose as suggested by the Cambridge History assessment. Given the elements of lore and strangeness, the work may be read as historical romance as well as a novel. The narrative rhetoric includes analepses and prolepses and, unsurprisingly for the date, a first-person plural omniscient authorial voice, nous, embracing readers (“We shall see …”) and making judgments. There are further authorial interruptions—breaks in the diegetic line (time-space continuum), which call attention to the work qua work: reference to the novel itself, the date of its composition, and its moral lesson; and apostrophes to readers. Testut tells, ostensibly in his own voice, extraneous though thematically related stories, purportedly true, and uses the editorial nous in the singular, thus speaking outside of the plural that embraces narrator and narratee. He also reproduces in his own name the opening poem of Les Echos, “La Guade-loupe,” thus interrupting the principal story line and introducing autotextuality (self-allusion or self-quotation).

Hyperbole, romantic antitheses, and exclamation marks are abundant. Scenes are vivid, with lively conversation; sometimes the narrative present is employed. In contrast, for instance, to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ruth McEnery Stuart’s stories, which attempt to reproduce by a rough phonetic spelling and other means the morphology, syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation of slaves and unlettered whites, Testut uses excellent French throughout; occasional spelling errors in the reprint may be scribal or typographic. Thus, like that of the white planters, slaves’ speech, though said to be “less than that of the Academy” (127), is correct, with no reflection of their condition; the imperfect subjunctive appears, and slaves often address each other as vous. Similarly, coarse overseers speak beautiful French. Such written language used to convey spoken discourse, however unlettered the ostensible speakers, was customary in France then. (Decades passed before popular speech appeared routinely in French-language fiction; it was not firmly established until Louis-Ferdinand Céline published his Voyage au bout de la nuit in 1933 and even then was considered shocking.)

Part one of Le Vieux Salomon, which bears the title “Splendeurs et misères,” echoing Honoré de Balzac’s Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, alludes doubtless to the contrast between nature’s splendor and man’s misery; (p.61) it also suggests the vicissitudes of human existence, including those of old Salomon, a freed slave aged more than a hundred years, as wise as suggested by his name and his blindness (recalling Tiresias). He has a Terre Neuve dog—like the Newfoundland dog in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As in that novel, Christian faith underlies the entire belief system, especially the slaves’. Allusions to God, Christ’s sacrifice, and Providence are frequent; all men are said to be God’s children, and slavery is called an insult to the Divinity. But this faith is a broad, tolerant one, more a universal human impulse than a doctrine. Additionally, in contrast to Stowe’s work, where references to sexuality are rare and understated—doubtless as a consequence of her New England morality—the faith of Testut’s characters is not colored by Puritanism. Sexuality receives considerable attention: on the one hand, an appealing voluptuousness—seen, following views of the time, as natural to black women—as well as conjugal love and even one voluntary infidelity by the heroine; on the other, assaults by owners on slave women and near-rapes. Self-defense is a right; killing can be justified, especially when a man defends his wife against a brutal slave owner. Honor, yes; humility, much less, in view of the fundamental principle of human equality. Predication is not so prevalent as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whether by the authorial voice or characters; wine and spirits are not banished, and the text is less lachrymose.

The story begins and ends in Guadeloupe, a natural paradise disfigured by the institution of slavery; blacks there live in bondage or else as fugitives from the law. Moreover, while certain whites are fundamentally good and treat their slaves fairly, others are brutal, thus morally dark, in contrast to the principal black characters, noble of character and morally light, such as Grand-Soleil. There are villainous blacks also, however—Testut does not imagine any society without evil. Gradually it becomes clear that Salomon is part of a spiritual association, somewhat like the Freemasons, to which many generous men of both races, encountered later in the novel, belong; the society will ultimately be identified as Frères de la Croyance Universelle. It is explicitly opposed to bigotry and the Roman Catholic Church, viewed as intolerant and tyrannical, and other “foolishness and mysteries of religions fabricated by men” (505). In contrast to rouquette’s anathemas, Protestantism is praised, but only as a tolerant, nondoctrinal position. There are even suggestions of mysterious spiritual insight and paranormal phenomena.7

Although Salomon gives his name to the novel, the chief male character is the slave Casimir, sold, with his wife, Rose, to an American, Captain Jackson, a spiritualist. The sale is part of an elaborate plot eventually to free Casimir and Rose. Jackson is in fact Casimir’s half-brother, though the relationship is (p.62) not known by the reader or Casimir until later—a typical nineteenth-century withholding of information. The great earthquake of 1843 and its aftermath delay the departure of Jackson’s ship. Testut describes the disaster (despite his “plume défaillante” [failing pen]) in the detail that natural catastrophes called for in nineteenth-century accounts. Before Casimir and Rose depart, Old Salomon relates to them his story, as instructive. This embedded account, one among others, echoes Prosper Mérimée’s famous tale “Tamango” (1829; collected in 1833), in which an African chief who sells other blacks to slavers is then himself sold. As in Mérimée’s story—which shares with Testut’s novel a humorous ironic tone, and in which both whites and blacks are subjected to criticism—Salomon, formerly a trader in men, acknowledges his own brutality. He too was tricked, by a slaver, Captain Lebon (the name echoes Mérimée’s Ledoux), who separates him from his love, Aurore (another name suggesting light). Salomon was sold first to a good master in Guadeloupe, then an evil one, under whose mistreatment he learned the value of suffering, like Uncle Tom, and like Jean Valjean in Hugo’s Les Misérables.

The title of part two, “L’Esclavage dans les pays libres,” emphasizes the antithesis between freedom and bondage. The ship calls first in New York, then New Orleans, where the slaves’ American adventures begin. Practiced on a huge scale, and with ample legal protection for owners, slavery corrupts and dehumanizes perpetrators, victims, and everyone in between: black women who consent (frequently under duress) to liaisons with owners; slaves to whom oversight is assigned and who become abusive (few men can be more brutal than a black overseer); officers of the law. Despite Jackson’s goodwill, events, including his death, expose Casimir and Rose to terrible trials. First, they are under the control of a fanatic Catholic, called Madame L. (use of the initial suggests a real model) and her son, a would-be seducer of Rose, who, however, in a melodramatic reversal, changes his behavior entirely and becomes devoted to her. Later, the two become the property of a horrible Cane River planter—the Sort Stowe described and Kate Chopin would later evoke briefly—named Roque. Roque forces himself on Rose and drives a slave to drown herself. Testut denounces not only slavery but also the nearly universal prejudice against a woman who has been assaulted, a prejudice shown to be unreasonable.

The title of part three, “La Terre et le Ciel” (Earth and Heaven), provides another antithesis but also suggests reconciliation in the Christian eschatological perspective. Structurally, the story circles around, as Casimir and Rose, assisted by members of the brotherhood, are repatriated, via Mobile, to Guadeloupe. (Casimir is saved at the last hour from death on the scaffold (p.63) for the murder of Roque, and Rose, a runaway, is similarly rescued.) Old Salomon, still alive, evokes a great vision he has had of brotherhood and celestial happiness.

Secondary themes deriving from that of slavery are theodicy and literacy. Why does a just God allow evil? While no answer is provided, it is clear, following the Christian dialectic of felix culpa, that good can arise from evil, as if evil were its crucible. “Each day of great unhappiness has created for us in its wake better days” (488). It is not that the soul must be tried, though often it is; Testut does not have Stowe’s apparent belief that suffering, fundamentally, is good for the spirit. Rather, events proceed by false steps and even wickedness; God “leads man well” out of his errors. History itself is a product of error (albeit without the intermediate syntheses conceived by Marxist dialectics) and thus a series of Hugoesque antitheses and reversals: “War with its barbarity will bring peace; slavery with its horrors will bring emancipation; tyranny with its abuses will bring freedom. Good always arises from an excess of evil …” (413). As for literacy, it is (as for Stowe) viewed as the great key to emancipation—from slavery, from ignorance, including the moral ignorance of slave owners. When slaves have a chance to acquire skill in reading, they take it, learn, and share their learning.8

Louis-Armand Garreau (1817–65), a printer by trade, was another figure of liberal, even radical, persuasion, as printers often have been. He was the son of a Creole from Martinique, with whom his father had founded a second family after divorcing his first wife. Born in La Charente, the youth was sent to Paris for his education but was obliged by lack of funds to return home. He married and had a large family. In 1841 he went to New Orleans, where he began teaching and wrote for newspapers, including Le Démocrite, a short-lived paper he founded. After nine years he returned to France, where he became a publisher, moved in political circles that included Victor Hugo, and was active in underground opposition to Louis-Napoleon after the latter’s coup d’état (1851). Garreau went back to Louisiana in 1858. After war broke out, he joined the Confederate army; his son was killed at Vicksburg. His novel Louisiana (1849), published in France, relied on formulas developed by the great Romantic generation, and its features—political conspiracy, imprisonment, love, poison, revenge—made it attractive to French readers. But the background, setting, and characters (including Choctaws) mark it as distinctly Louisianan. Expanding upon the historical accounts, it depicts the rebellion against the Spanish in 1768 at the time of Alejandro O’Reilly and the project of forming an independent nation. Garreau portrays with enthusiasm the conspiracy and its heroes, representative of all who rise against illegitimate (p.64) authority. As he wrote, he must have kept in mind the violent struggles of the 1848 revolution, during which his brother died.9

The melodramatic plot includes a love story, a prison wedding, a duel on the dueling grounds near Bayou St. John, and poisoning of the villain by a faithful slave from Guinea (who speaks perfect French; Garreau, like Testut, eschewed writing the language as she would have spoken it). O’Reilly and other French (Gayarré’s ancestor among them) appear under their true names. One, Nouan de Bienville, had recently married; he refused to dissociate himself from his companions and thus turned down a pardon offered on condition that he renounce them. The hangman is likewise based on a historical figure. It was forbidden in the French colony for an enslaved Negro to execute whites; and no white was willing to serve as executioner against the rebels. In Garreau’s version, the Spanish authorities demand that Jeannot, a free black, perform the task; they attempt to blackmail him by threatening his beloved, Julia, who otherwise will be bought and mistreated by the horrible Spaniard don Manuel. In reply, he cuts off his right hand. The execution is carried out instead by a firing squad of Spanish soldiers.10

Garreau also published stories, six of which are collected in a modern edition. Under the title “Souvenirs d’outre-mer,” four appeared in France (1856) in Les Cinq Centimes Illustrées, a popular publication featuring serial novels; others, one of which, posthumous, may be by his son, appeared in La Renaissance Louisianaise. The most striking stories, which would not have been well received locally, are devoted to plantation slaves and their mistreatment. Attached to melodramatic situations, Garreau’s depictions are graphic and horrible, like those by Stowe, Testut, and George Washington Cable.11

The tales describe plantation, or “plantocratique,” society. In “Un Nègre marron,” a frame story, the account of the inner narrator (a newly hired over-seer) constitutes almost the entire text, without the use of quotation marks; the effect is that the inner narrator’s voice bleeds into the outer voice, which has narrative authority. Thus, when the reader sees, for instance, the comparison of a slave to a monkey, or reads that blacks are imbeciles and cannot control their passions, the point of view appears to be (but surely was not) the author’s. D., a sadistic planter (based, implied Garreau, on a real figure), dominated by greed, castrates a slave who has run away repeatedly. Contrasted to D. is the new overseer, a decent fellow who attempts to alleviate the slaves’ misery. Instead, he loses their respect and they become undisciplined—thus appearing to prove that one gets nowhere with blacks by being gentle. The fault, as Garreau surely believed, was in the system of bondage; unfortunately, the author gives voice to arguments for severe treatment of (p.65) the enslaved. Many contemporary readers may have accepted these arguments; slavery had not long been completely abolished in French territories, and even abolitionist sympathizers often saw blacks as essentially inferior. Another figure, the apparently oversexed slave who cannot control his desire or think of the consequences of his lust, illustrates the widespread American fear of unbridled Negro sexuality.

Twentieth-century Marxist social analysis and particularly the Frankfort School’s neo-Marxist social theory support (as Fabrice Leroy indicates in the introduction to the collected stories) what must have been Garreau’s understanding. The plantation economy, in which the worker is alienated from both his labor and himself, distorts all human relationships. In a system founded on theft and violence, gentleness is ineffective; the principles of mercy and proportionality in justice are discarded. D. is the most corrupt of all; but the overseer, who takes the job out of need, must become a cog in the wheel of persecution or fail. The slaves themselves, being without autonomy and subject to tyrannical treatment, know nothing but brutality, and, as the foreman notes, “It is not unusual to see a black man, having other slaves under his control, be crueler than the most ferocious planters” (54). Seen in this light, Garreau’s story is, under the guise of studies of manners, a denunciation of the plantation system.

In “Bras-coupé,” which has conversation in black Creole, D. appears again. He forces a pregnant slave into a murky bayou and pushes her down until she drowns. He loses thereby valuable property, but gains, he asserts, by affirming his power and demonstrating to his other slaves that they should not threaten suicide. Others in the sphere of the plantation economy and on its edges are likewise guilty, whether unconscionably greedy (an Irish shop-keeper whose grasping and insensitivity make him accuse the slave of theft and ultimately contribute to her death) or simply willing to participate in the system. Bras-coupé, who loves the drowned slave, becomes a runaway and lives in the forests and swamps. Shot through the arm and caught, he is taken into custody but escapes. He continues to survive as an outlaw, killing without scruple those sent to track him. The offer of a huge reward inspires a Spaniard to go after him; the runaway is captured by chance and cunning. The story is to be compared with the Bras-coupé episode in Cable’s The Grandissimes.12

“Naïda,” a tragic idyll, takes places in the virgin forest as François-René de Chateaubriand and the Rouquettes evoked it. The narrator, disillusioned like Chateaubriand’s René, comes upon an Indian maiden, an Atala figure. Echoes of the great Romantics come through: “Tout, à cette heure, révélait (p.66) à l’intelligence des mystères qu’il n’est pas donné à la faiblesse humaine de pénétrer, tout enfin renfermait des flots de poésie dans lesquels l’âme aime à se bercer …” [At that hour, everything revealed to the intelligence mysteries that human weakness may not penetrate; everything enclosed waves of poetry in which the soul loves to rock itself] (102). Though she is in fact half-English and thus cross-cultural, the Indian girl is unspoiled by contact with civilization and its corruption; indeed, her tribe, the Seminoles, has struggled nobly against the white man to preserve its ways. In this Rousseauesque vision, social ills are viewed not as the result of an evil human nature; rather, they are the product of human customs and social organization.

Another topic in Garreau’s stories is the immoral double standard according to which society disowns a woman who commits a fault and brands her child as illegitimate, whereas the man responsible for her seduction is free to marry properly and ignore his victim’s claims. In “Un Jour de noces”—which illustrates feminine solidarity—the woman who has been seduced and abandoned appears on the seducer’s wedding day to plead for her son. In despair, she has taken poison, but she lives long enough to confront the father and beg him to take the boy. The man refuses all responsibility. The bride, however, overhearing the conversation, promises that she will take care of the child; moreover, though, as a Catholic, she cannot leave her husband, she vows that the marriage will not be consummated.

“L’Idiote”—set in Les Landes—is an early example of what one may call Bordelais Gothic, a vein made famous in the twentieth century by François Mauriac but foreshadowed by Garreau (as by Balzac). A deranged woman, deprived of her just inheritance by a greedy half-brother, sets fire to his house on the evening that his daughter is to be married; the fiancé arrives in time to attempt a rescue of his betrothed, trapped, but, ironically, the body he carries down from the upper story as it collapses is not hers. Again, an initial injustice—not just the man’s mistreatment of his sister but the legal and social system by which his theft of her legacy stands up—leads to death. The final story, “Une Créole,” relates how a beautiful woman jilts her lover because his notion of success is not satisfactory; she requires wealth. Having taken orders, he officiates (unidentified) at her wedding to a wealthy man. But the latter wastes his fortune, and she is left poverty-stricken with two children. At her death, the priest, revealing his identity, promises to take care of the children.

Another radical writer, Joseph Déjacque (1822–65?), generally labeled an “anarcho-communist,” was born in Paris. His mother, widowed, was a laun-dress; he adopted readily the socialist ideas of Karl Marx and Pierre-Joseph (p.67) Proudhon, though he criticized the latter for supporting individual ownership of the products of labor. After participating in the Revolution of 1848, Déjacque was banned from Paris. Les Lazaréennes, a collection of radical poetry (1851), led to his arrest. He fled to Belgium and England, then New York and finally New Orleans (1856–58), where he published an enlarged version of the volume. During his short stay, he composed his tract L’Humanisphère, utopie anarchique, later published in New York. In New Orleans he also founded Le Libertaire, an anarcho-communist journal. He published abolitionist pamphlets and called for armed insurrection against the south.13

Another French immigrant, François Tujague (1836–96), differs from those surveyed above; he was, as his work shows, a traditionalist and devout catholic. He arrived in New Orleans in 1841. He may have attempted to live by writing, but shortly went into business. He served as president of L’Union Française and vice president of L’Athénée Louisianais. He published Le Premier Pas: Essais littéraires and contributed to periodicals his tender and well-crafted studies of character and mores, Acadian and Creole, a “race chevaleresque” (95). Many stories, he claimed, were based on facts and models. He likewise composed nature and historical sketches, including portraits of Jean Lafitte and Nicolas-Chauvin de la Frénière, who was executed in the plot against the Spanish. The great forests and trembling Prairies of Louisiana are well evoked. in “Les Forêts de la Louisiane,” he first recalls Chateaubriand’s depictions of luxurious nature and the natural life as preached by Chactas; to this picture is opposed, however, the mortal danger a forest can present. “Les Chasseurs de crocodiles en Louisiane” evokes similar dangers in untamed nature, but humorously. These pages do not reflect the upheavals of the 1860s and beyond in Louisiana, nor social concerns; blacks are depicted as happy. His regret that Creole life had changed led him to treating dueling as an unfortunate but honorable tradition. On the Franco-Prussian War, he displayed strong patriotic sentiments comparable to those of Zola and Alphonse Daudet: in Tujague’s story “Repentir,” a Frenchman speaks candidly of his “hatred of the implacable invader” (37).14


(1) . See Creole Echoes: The Francophone Poetry of Nineteenth-Century Louisiana, trans. Norman R. Shapiro, introduction and notes by M. Lynn Weiss (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004), 3.

(p.204) (2) . Testut, Saint-Denis (rpt., Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2003); William P. Trent et al., eds., The Cambridge History of American Literature (New York: Putnam’s, 1921) and subsequent editions. See also Camille Thierry, Les Vagabondes, ed. and trans. Frans Amelinckx and May Rush Gwin Waggoner (Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2004), 170–71.

(3) . Creole Echoes, 198–209; French Women Poets of Nine Centuries, trans. Shapiro, ed. with notes by Weiss (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 604.

(4) . For information On Delany’s work and an assessment, see John Ernest, Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995), 109–39.

(5) . Le Vieux Salomon also resembles (partly by the theme of redemption) Hugo’s Les Misérables (1862), which Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly denounced for its “socialism.”

(6) . Testut, Le Vieux Salomon, ou une famille d’esclaves au XIXème siècle (New Orleans, 1872; rpt., Shreveport: Editions Tintamarre, 2003), 6, 9, 165. Other references are given parenthetically. See Sheri Lyn Abel, Charles Testut’s ‘Le Vieux Salomon’: Race, Religion, Socialism, and Freemasonry (lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2009).

(7) . Spiritualism and paranormal phenomena, and the associations that favored and investigated them, played an enormous role in nineteenth-century thought and letters in France, England, and America, as positive phenomena, not the delusions displayed by Mercier’s characters. Victor Hugo and his Turning Tables, the “Sâr” Joséphin Péladan and other Rosicrucians, the British Psychic Society, and William James can be cited. In Louisiana, certain authors among the Free Men of Color cultivated spiritualism (see chapter 7). On Freemasonry and spiritualism, see Abel, and also Caryn Cossé Bell, Revolution, Romanticism, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana 1718–1868 (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1997), chapters 5 and 6; Chris Michaelides, Paroles d’honneur: Ecrits de Creoles de couleur néo-orléanais (Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2004), 189–210, 235 n. 28. Concerning a Freemason publication in French in Louisiana, see James L. Cowan, ed., La Marseillaise noire et autres poèmes français des Créoles de couleur de la Nouvelle-Orléans (1862–1869) (Lyons: Eds. du cosmogone, 2001), 109 n. 99. Cowan avers that Testut’s father was a knight of the Rosicrucians (108).

(8) . This outcome differs strikingly from that in Constance Fenimore Woolson’s story “King David,” in which emancipated slaves after the war turn to drink and become indolent, giving up any effort at learning. See Woolson, Rodman the Keeper: Southern Sketches (New York: Appleton,1880; rpt., New York: Garrett Press, 1969).

(9) . Garreau, Louisiana, ed. D. A. Kress (Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2003), 10.

(10) . Grace King, New Orleans: The Place and the People (New York: Macmillan, 1895), 80, 113. King says that the model for the hangman was connected to the Company des indes; she also mentions as background the governorship of Vaudreuil and (p.205) Kerlérec (1740s and ’50s) before the rebellion. See the section On Brenda Marie Osbey in chapter 13 for another mention of an executioner, probably the same.

(11) . Garreau, Bras coupé et autres récits louisianais, introduction by Fabrice Leroy (Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2007).

(12) . On the historical figure, see chapter 8. Twentieth-century writers who have mentioned him include Marcus Christian and Tom Dent. See Violet Harrington Bryan, The Myth of New Orleans in Literature: Dialogues of Race and Gender (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993), 113, 138, 162.

(13) . See Creole Echoes, 32–33, 186–91.

(14) . Le Premier Pas: Essais littéraires (New Orleans: Marchand, 1863). see Chroniques louisianaises (Shreveport: Tintamarre, 2003). Page references are to this collection.