Nodier, Charles

Nodier, Charles

(shärl nôdyā`), 1780–1844, French novelist and poet. From 1824 he was librarian of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris. His salon was the nucleus of the beginning romantic movement and was frequented by such men as Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, and Dumas père. His most noted works are the fantastic tales Trilby; ou, Le Lutin d'Argail (1822) and La Fée aux miettes (1832).

Bibliography

See bibliography by S. F. Bell (1971); study by H. Nelson (1972).

Nodier, Charles (1780–1844)

(pop culture)

Jean Charles Nodier, a dramatist who introduced the vampire theme to the French stage, was born on April 29, 1780, in Basancon, France. As a young man he began his writing career and became politically involved. In 1818, Nodier settled in Paris where he remained for the rest of his life. That same year, Jean Shogar, his first novel, was published. In Paris he became associated with several authors who were exploring what, in the post–Freudian world, would be known as the subconscious. His literary works began to explore the world of dreams, and included some attention to the nightmare. The larger movement would become known as the romantic movement and was seen as a distinct reaction to the limitations of the rationalism typified by Voltaire and his colleagues of the previous generation.

Nodier had just settled into his life in Paris when, in April 1819, John Polidori‘s short story “The Vampyre,” appeared in the New Monthly Magazine. The story attracted considerable attention, in part because of its initial attribution to Lord Byron. Nodier was asked to write a review of it. He saw in the tale the expression of a widespread need in his generation to relieve its boredom through the experience of the outrageous and fantastic. The review was the first manifestation of a love-hate relationship with the vampire. Although Nodier seemed fascinated with it, he also saw a need, as an up-and-coming leader in Parisian literary and intellectual circles, to show a certain disdain. He did recognize its importance and termed the legend of the vampire “the most important of all our superstitions.” In an 1819 article, he called his readers’ attention to the stories of people who confessed to being vampires and doing horrible things during their sleeping hours.

In 1820, his colleague Cyprien Bérard’s two-volume sequel to “The Vampyre,” Lord Ruthven ou Les Vampires, was published anonymously but included an introductory article by Nodier. Many then assumed that Nodier had written both Lord Ruthven tales. After some investigation, Bérard’s authorship was discovered. Meanwhile, Nodier was at work on his own vampire production, a stage melodrama called Le Vampire, (Pierre François Carmouche and Achille de Jouffroy collaborated on the piece). In Le Vampire, Nodier presented his own interpretation of Lord Ruthven, the lead character in Polidori’s tale.

Ruthven was introduced as the hero who had saved the life of Sir Aubrey. Aubrey believed him dead, but when Ruthven arrived on the scene to marry Malvina, Aubrey’s sister, he was welcomed. Meanwhile, Ruthven was shot while attending the wedding feast of Lovette and Edgar after Edgar had been angered at Ruthven’s attempts to seduce his wife-to-be. Again, Aubrey thought Ruthven was dying and swore not to tell Malvina about his actions. As Aubrey was about to tell Malvina about her fiance’s death, Ruthven suddenly appeared and reminded Aubrey of his oath. Aubrey was momentarily lost in the conflict between his duty and his oath, and Ruthven moved on to the church with his prospective bride, Malvina. Ruthven was foiled only in the last moment when Aubrey came to his senses and interrupted the service.

Le Vampire opened on June 13, 1819, at the Theatre de la Porte-Saint-Martin. Despite mixed reviews, some by his political detractors, Nodier’s drama was an immediate success. The text of the play was soon published and also found a popular audience. In the wake of the immense audience reaction, two other vampire plays soon opened at competing theatres—as did several comical and satirical plays lampooning it. Le Vampire had a long and successful run; in 1823, it was revived for a second long run with the same stars, Monsieur Phillipe and Madame Dorval. Alexandre Dumas attended the revival. He included a lengthy account of the performance in his memoirs, and the play would later inspire his own vampire drama in the 1850s. Nodier returned to the subjects of nightmares and vampires in his opium-inspired 1821 story, Smarra; ou, Les Demons de la Nuit. Opium, he believed, provided a gate to another world—the realm of dreams and nightmares. Smarra told the story of Lorenzo, who experienced an encounter with a vampire. However, the vampire was not Lord Ruthven, the almost human creature who mingled in society and delighted in destroying others, but more of a spirit-like creature of the dream world.

Among Nodier’s Paris acquaintances in the early 1820s was the youthful Victor Hugo, who published his first novel, a gothic horror story titled Hans de’Islande, in 1823. Hans de’Islande (Hans of Iceland) featured a central character who consumed the blood of his victims, but did so by gathering and then drinking the blood in a skull as an act of revenge. Although Nodier tried to validate the horror fantasy realm as a reasonable one for a neophyte writer to explore, Hugo explicitly denounced Le Vampire in a review of the play’s opening. Nodier had the opportunity to review Hans de’Islande and gave it a sympathetic review, calling attention to Hugo’s latent talent.

In 1824, in recognition of his work (especially that devoted to the vampire theme), Nodier was appointed curator of the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal, one of Paris’s outstanding libraries. He later founded a salon where the literary world gathered and he authored a number of works, the best being his many short stories that explored the fantasy world of dreams, both good and bad. A 13-volume collected work was published during the years 1832–1841. In 1833, he was elected to the French Academy. He died January 27, 1844. Throughout the nineteenth century, many writers were inspired by Nodier’s fantastic tales and he eventually found a new audience in the French surrealists. Recently, Le Vampire and other of Nodier’s dramatic works were reprinted in the “Textes Littéraires Francais” series. An English translation of his vampire play is available on the Internet at http://www.munseys.com/diskone/vampnod.pdf.

Sources:

Nelson, Hilda. Charles Nodier. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972. 188 pp.
Nodier, Charles. Le Vampire. Edition critique par Ginette Picat-Guinoiseau. Geneva: Librairie Droz S. A., 1990. 255 pp.
Oliver, A. Richard. Charles Nodier: Pilot of Romanticism. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1964. 276 pp.
Pavicevic, Mylena. Charles Nodier et le Theme du Vampire. Ottawa, ON: Biblioteque Nationale du Canada, 1988.
Stuart, Roxana. Stage Blood: Vampires of the 19th-Century Stage. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1994. 377 pp.

Nora see: Hungary, Vampires in

Norway, Vampires in see: Scandinavia, Vampires in

Nodier, Charles

 

Born Apr. 29, 1780, in Besançon; died Jan. 27, 1844, in Paris. French writer. Member of the Académie Française (1833).

The son of a lawyer, Nodier studied at the Ecole Centrale in Besançon. His first novel was The Exiles (1802). After the publication in London in 1803 of a satire on Napoleon, Nodier was forced into exile. In 1812–13 he edited the newspaper Télégraphe illyrien in Laibach (now Ljubljana). The Balkan Slavs’ struggle for independence inspired him to write the novel Jean Sbogar (published anonymously in 1818 in Paris), which became a landmark in the history of French romanticism.

On returning to Paris, Nodier founded the first cénacle (a coterie or group that formed around the early leaders of the romantic movement). His penchant for “black romance” (Smarra, 1821; published under the pseudonym M. Odin) did not affect the folktale quality of his stories, especially those written in the 1830’s. The majority of them served as models for the fantastic short story.

WORKS

Oeuvres, vols. 1–12. Paris, 1833–37.
Contes. Paris [1961].
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.

REFERENCES

Oblomievskii, D. D. Frantsuzskii romantizm. Moscow, 1947.
Istoriia frantszuskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Held, M. C. Nodier et le romantisme. Bonnier, 1949.
Juin, H. Charles Nodier. [Paris, 1970.] (In the series Ecrivains d’hier et d’aujourd’hui.)
Bender, E. J. Bibliographie: C. Nodier. Lafayette, Ind., 1969.

M. A. GOL’DMAN