Friday, 8 July 2011
Daudet's Kings in Exile
So Art had picked a book at random, of ancient biography, from the shelves, and read aloud, in a sepulchral voice, some words to this effect: "As a young man I had often brushed against the ghastly black wig of the Duke of Brunswick l traversing the corridors of night restaurants in the hot breath of gas, patchouli and spiced meats; at Bignon's, on the couch at the rear, Citron-le-Taciturne had appeared to me one evening, eating a slice of fois gras ..." Elephant and Colosseum
The extract Arthur Wilding reads to Cosnahan in Lowry's short story is actually taken from Alphonse Daudet's Memories of a man of letters in the chapter entitled "Kings in Exile" which is a memoir of the writing of his Les Rois en Exil 1879; English: Kings in Exile (1896).The choice of the quote is far from "random" - Lowry must have been interested in Daudet's work as he had a copy of Nabob in his library at Dollarton; there is a certain resonance in the idea of exile reflecting both Lowry's and Cosnahan's exile from their homelands; Cosnahan is struggling with the newspaper reviews for his work which is also reflected in Daudet's memoir as he recalls the hostile reception of the Paris press to his novel and Lowry probably identified with Daudet's experiences given some of the reviews of his own work.
The Duke of Brunswick, referred to by Daudet in his wonderful description of meeting him, was Charles 11 of the Duchy of Brunswick:
Charles was the eldest son of Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. After the death of his father in 1815, Charles inherited the Duchy, but since he was still underage, he was put under the guardianship of George, the Prince Regent of the United Kingdom and Hanover. When Charles neared his 18th birthday, a dispute over the date of his majority erupted; Charles claimed majority at age 18, while George considered the age of majority to be 21 years. A compromise was made, and Charles reached his majority at age 19, and took over government on 30 October 1823.
In 1827, Charles declared some of the laws made during his minority invalid, which caused a dispute with Hanover. The German Confederation finally had to intervene in this conflict and ordered Charles to accept all the laws from his minority, which he did.
Charles' administration was considered corrupt and misguided. When in 1830 the July Revolution broke out, Charles happened to be in Paris; he fled home to Brunswick, where he announced his intention to suppress all revolutionary tendencies by force of arms. But on 6 September, he was attacked by stone throwers while riding home from the theater; on the next day, a large mob tried to break into the palace. Charles fled; the palace was completely destroyed by fire. When Charles' brother, William, arrived in Brunswick on 10 September, he was received joyfully by the people. William originally considered himself only his brother's regent, but after a year declared himself ruling duke. Charles made several desperate attempts to depose his brother by diplomacy and by force, but they were unsuccessful. None of the other European monarchs wanted to support Charles.
Charles spent the rest of his life outside of Germany; mostly in Paris and London. While he lived in London he engaged in a high profile feud with the publisher Barnard Gregory due to articles published about the Duke in The Satirist. After the war between France and Germany broke out, he moved to Geneva, where he died in 1873. He left his considerable wealth to the City of Geneva. Charles never married.