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Paul de Kock and the marketplace of culture.

By the early July Monarchy, Paul de Kock's name had been a fixture of the Parisian literary scene for over a decade, thanks to his inexhaustible production of vaudevilles, novels, songs and occasional writings on Paris. The author who self-published his first novel, L'Enfant de ma femme in 1811, wrote consistently until his death in 1871, composing "de facon industrielle ensuite un roman en un mois chaque annee" (Therenty 668). Though known as the favored novelist of grisettes and cuisinieres, he occupied "une figure particuliere dans le champ litteraire: celle de l'ecrivain bourgeois" (Fougere 8). If de Kock was the July Monarchy's bourgeois writer par excellence, his name itself, by the 1830s, carried a specific connotation: "Paul de Kock," signified "bad" literature, a sort of Bourdieusian marker of poor taste. As Benoit Denis indicates, it "acquiert la valeur synonymique de 'mauvais style'" (45). So prevalent was "de Kock" as a critically-charged sign that Flaubert wrote to Louise Colet in 1851, "'J'ai peur de tomber dans le Paul de Kock'" (Denis 45) and in 1852, "'Ce que j'ecris presentement risque d'etre du Paul de Kock si je n'y mets une forme profondement litteraire'" (Fougere 9). The use of "Paul de Kock" as a brand name for "bad" literature was so engrained in early-July Monarchy culture that on October 11, 1835, Le Charivari entitled the unrelated compte-rendu of a comical legal case a "Scene a la Paul de Kock."

While no reputable author wished to "faire du Paul de Kock," the same name also connoted market success, for, as his biographer Eugene de Mirecourt wrote, "le jour ou l'on mettait en vente un roman de Paul de Kock, il y avait une veritable emeute en librairie." (33) The author thus occupied the dual positions of commercial success and critical failure that Valerie Stienon characterizes as a "succes initial de diffusion ... proche d'une certaine forme de consecration" and a "delegitimation d'une esthetique depreciee pour sa facilite et sa grivoiserie" (51). De Kock was taken to task by critics for his work's bawdiness, for his "tableaux licencieux," as one 1841 reviewer claimed (Revue 2). The legacy of his work, as twentieth-century critic LegrandChabrier noted at the 51st anniversary of de Kock's death, is as '"endiable, excessif et lassant, pris a doses trop fortes, et tout le long d'une lente combinaison de petits faits vulgaires'" (Fougere 16). Yet despite a seemingly unanimous perception of immorality, the excesses in de Kock's novels are consistently punished; characters who (mostly) uphold bourgeois values in their widely-accepted forms are rewarded.

This article uses literary reading and reception history to expose complexities that both nineteenth-century and contemporary received ideas about de Kock overlook. First I examine novelistic "scenes a la Paul de Kock" from one of the author's better-known novels, Mon Voisin Raymond (1823): comic scenes of excess followed by moral reprimand. By studying this novel as representative of de Kock's oeuvre, I show that the author deploys humorous narratives of debauchery and moral castigation to appeal to his readers while simultaneously reassuring them of the values of the bourgeois classes who both populated and read his works. Raymond stages a dynamic interaction between excess and restraint that nuances stereotypes about this author of mass-cultural "grossness and immorality" (Bowan 300). Secondly, I chart the reception of Paul de Kock in the widely-read Journal des debats, "[l]'un ... des plus importants organes de la presse classique" (Therenty 705), as well as in La France litteraire, Le Monde dramatique, 1!Independant and Revue des deux mondes, to discover when "Paul de Kock" began to signify "Paul de Kock." Reviews of his first publications through the heyday of his career in the July Monarchy indicate that while "Paul de Kock" does come to embody an anxiety over the influx of popular literature in the burgeoning literary market of the 1830s and 40s, it actually held simultaneously distinct, and sometimes opposite, meanings--even within the same journal--depending on the historical moment and context. Critics deployed his name as a negative linguistic sign but then contradicted this sign with reviews that appreciated the mass appeal of his work. Analyses of these complexities present us with what we might call the "De Kock Paradox:" that the static definition of "Paul de Kock" as lowbrow literature, coupled with his often varied reception throughout the July Monarchy, betrays his more complicated relationship to the literary market, a cultural field undergoing radical changes due to overwhelming rises in literacy rates, the proliferation of lending libraries and the cabinet de lecture, the explosion of literary journals and political newspapers, the blurred lines between press and literature and the roman-feuilleton. (1) Indeed, more than simply validating a bad/good binary of taste, these reviews evince contemporary critics' recognition of de Kock as having successfully mastered a formula for popular writing in the modern age of the feuilleton and of a massive reading public. A more nuanced understanding of this paradox questions rigid high/low literary paradigms twenty- and twenty-first century critics still apply unproblematically to the author, and also documents de Kock's command of a changing media environment--a nascent literary marketplace in which "new commercial and political conditions permitted larger numbers of writers to live without the patronage that had largely disappeared with the ancient regime" and more readers, "cheaper books, and less repressive censorship enabled literary professionalism to appear in its stead" (Allen 89).

Mon Voisin Raymond: Restraint and Excess

De Kock's novels conform to a certain narrative formula, one Jacques Migozzi characterizes as a medley "de meprises, de surprises a fonction narrative ou ludique, de coincidences, de quiproquos ou de mystifications," embellished with "episodes burlesques et de grivoiseries" (145). Mostly situated in Paris and peppered with digressions on urban phenomena, they often conclude with moral lessons "du sens commun" (Migozzi 144). Deemed "le roman typique du genre" by the Grand dictionnaire universel (1236), Mon Voisin Raymond (1823) was, for de Kock, the novel that "everyone thought was [his] best" (139). Raymond's central plotline focuses on the amorous quests of protagonist, Dorsan, which are consistently thwarted by his meddling neighbor Raymond. Whether attempting to woo Dorsan's former love Agathe, sleeping with Dorsans wife Pelagie or courting Dorsan's other lovers, Raymond unfailingly returns to pester Dorsan and anyone else he encounters. The two rentiers, Dorsan and Raymond, have an antagonistic relationship, a typical trope of de Kock's novels whose function is usually comedic. (2) While Raymonds "grotesque" excesses provide comic relief and extend the narrative of Dorsan's romantic life, these behaviors are consistently punished throughout the novel.

Dorsan, from whose perspective the novel is narrated, is himself not a particularly upstanding character. He, too, has romantic dalliances, yet, contrary to Raymond, he has an awareness of his actions and their consequences. For example, after spending an evening unabashedly flirting with uninterested bouquetieres, Dorsan offers to accompany Nicette, another flower seller, home, remarking, "Vous voyez, lecteur, j'ai du bon quelquefois" (Kock 17). When Nicette's mother refuses her entry into their home, Dorsan allows her to stay with him, but doggedly attempts to seduce her. Stung by Nicette's discomfort and rejections, Dorsan explains, "elle m'a demande l'hospitalite et j'allais profiter de cela pour la seduire! C'est fort mal" (Kock 35). Though at times his personal admonishments seem less than genuine, Dorsan's self-reflections distinguish him from Raymond, whose extravagant conduct betrays no inner moral compass.

As first-person narrator, Dorsan polices his own behavior but is also the first to reprimand Raymond for his misconduct. He takes Raymond to task for stealing his ex-lover Agathe, for injuring a man in a game of oiseau egyptien, and for upsetting boxes and strings of colored glasses as he flees the scene. Dorsan first scolds his neighbor by making him aware of his careless deeds: "L'homme que vous avez blesse est tres mal; ... les degats que vous avez commis dans le jardin sont considerables" (Kock 88-89). When Raymond tries to flee again, Dorsan tricks him by pretending to serve as his look-out and then leaves him waiting indefinitely: "Sa conduite de la veille meritait bien cette petite vengeance" (Kock 90). Bad behavior is, once again, punished.

One final example of the narrative chastising of Raymonds excesses occurs on a botched outing in the countryside where Raymond tries to seduce a servant. She resists, but mockingly indicates the direction of her bedroom, to which he proceeds despite Dorsan's warnings. The next morning, Dorsan finds Raymond in a pantry "ayant une jambe prise dans un piege, et assis sur une pile de jambons sur laquelle il est endormi" (Kock 213). While Raymond makes "une grimace epouvantable" as he is removed from the trap, "la grosse fille rit aux larmes" (ibid). The antagonists sexual appetite is left unfulfilled, and he is painfully injured and humiliated for his impropriety. In this case, Dorsan does not reproach Raymond overtly, but the reader understands his disapproval: "Je pourrais railler mon compagnon sur le guignon qui le poursuit dans ses bonnes fortunes, mais je suis genereux et je me tais" (Kock 214). Dorsan evinces more control over his behavior than Raymond and extends kindness to his antagonist, even as he acknowledges his own faults.

The "good" and "bad" characters are clearly demarcated at the conclusion of the novel: Pelagie (Dorsan's new wife) and Raymond's infidelities are discovered, Pelagie dies repentant, and Dorsan and Nicette are reunited. The two lovers travel to Switzerland to begin anew, but once they arrive at their auberge, they learn that a traveler has fallen fatally ill from overeating eggs as a bet: "[il] a pretendu qu'il etait plus habile que personne, et qu'il avalerait six oeufs durs avant de dejeuner et mangerait encore plus vite que tout le monde" (Kock 392). The egg-eater is, of course, Raymond who "venait de mourir des suites de son pari" (Kock 393), killed by his excesses, this time by his gluttonous appetite and competitive nature, without having learned from his previous castigations.

The moral lessons of excess and restraint found in Raymond function comically, and not subtly, and arise in the majority of de Kock's works. Scenes of egregious adultery in Un mari dont on se moque (1869), for example, are corrected when the unfaithful wife is killed off. Ribald drunkenness in Le Barbier de Paris (1827) is remedied when the inebriated character is humiliated. The "exces," the "petits faits vulgaires" which, for Legrand-Chabrier, were the legacy of the author's works, are consistently reined in or offered in opposition to the basic bourgeois virtue of self-regulation. Likewise, Ellen Constans underscores the "morale conformiste" in the author's works, noting that "[b]ien des romans de Paul de Kock pourraient recevoir comme sous-titre 'Les epreuves et le triomphe du merite'" (82). While the subjects this bourgeois writer chose may have troubled some early to mid-nineteenth-century readers, his obvious emphasis on virtue belies the assessment of his works as "tableaux licencieux." Close readings of the author's oeuvre and its reception, we will see, problematize received ideas about de Kock's immorality, both in the nineteenth century and in contemporary criticism.

The de Kock Paradox

As Flaubert's worry that he might "tomber dans le Paul de Kock," exemplifies, by the mid-nineteenth century, the name de Kock had become a critical doxa signifying "bad" literature, literature written for a popular audience. A survey of journals from the beginning of de Kock's career through the July Monarchy reveals the early 1830s as the moment when this negative connotation solidified; few examples of the name "de Kock" as synonym for lowbrow literature appear in the 1820s. By the July Monarchy, however, critics often evoked de Kock's name to critique other authors and as a negative marker of bourgeois taste, characteristic of the "taxinomie indigene, nee de la lutte des classements dont le champ litteraire est le lieu" for Bourdieu (123). A review of Aubert du Bayet's "Les Nudzadelphines," from an 1836 issue of La France Litteraire, assessed the work as "presque du Paul de Kock en vers" (207)--hardly praise for Bayet's poetic abilities. The following year, the same journal suggested that Emile Souvestre's La Maison Rouges title "annoncait tout au plus un roman a la maniere de Paul de Kock" (235). In these examples, critics operate under the assumption that their readers understood "Paul de Kock" as philistine literature. Perhaps the most revealing example of de Kock's critically-charged name is found earlier in 1835 regarding his vaudeville Un Raout chez M. Lupot. In this one-line review, the critic simply writes, "Je vous dis que la piece est de Mon-Sieur-Paul-deKock!" (Journal 2) Placing emphasis on each syllable of the name visually and textually reinforces its significance. One sentence suffices to describe the play's style and content; readers can judge it by its author. This type of tongue-in-cheek review appears as early as 1835, proving that by the beginning of the July Monarchy de Kock's literary reputation had solidified.

Paradoxically, de Kocks name was also frequently splashed across the back page of the very same Journal with an entirely different connotation: that of a sought-after, profitable author. Ads for his work, in fact, contained little more than the authors name in enlarged font, which often dwarfed the title of the new text. A May 31,1834 ad for La Pucelle de Belleville boasted "Paul de Kock" in letters quadruple the size of the title, indicating that this new "mise en vente" was less significant than the fact that it was written by de Kock. Six weeks later, an advertisement for Les Oeuvres de Ch. Paul de Kock graced the back page of the Journal: "Paul de Kock" was written once again in font so large that the only other word on the back cover written as prominently was "Testament" in an ad for the Bible. This marketing tactic appeared throughout the July Monarchy--in ads for a new edition of Mon Voisin Raymond in 1835, in massive page-wide ads for his collected works in 1836 and in 1840, in an ad for a new edition of Le Barbier de Paris in 1842. In 1841, de Kock's publisher Gustave Barba used the name to sell the works of a newly popular British author: a March 27,1841 ad in the Journal read "Nouveau roman du Paul de Kock Anglais (Charles Dickens) Oliver Twist" (4). Barba banked on de Kock's popularity to help him sell Dickens' work. Here again we see "Paul de Kock" signifying something entirely different from its critical meaning; it is used as a publicity technique to attract potential readers, rather than repel them from an inferior literary commodity. This double connotation is all the more powerful when we consider that within the same month or week, this name would have appeared twice in the same journal at cross-purposes. Sainte-Beuve's "De la litterature industrielle" identifies this phenomenon, asking, "Comment condamner a deux doigts de distance, qualifier detestable et funeste ce qui se proclamait et s'affichait deux doigts plus bas comme la merveille de l'epoque?" (682) This double value of "Paul de Kock" in the July Monarchy literary market is an established phenomenon that nevertheless invites an in-depth analysis of de Kock's reviews and belies the idea that for all critics "Paul de Kock" had a single negative meaning.

De Kock's early critics generally exhibited more in-depth, nuanced analyses of his work than those in following decades. Despite mentions of the lightly immoral content of his work or his stylistic excesses, reviews of de Kock's works from the 1820s give little indication that, at the turn of the decade, his name would become synonymous with lowbrow literature. For example, in the first review of de Kock's work from the Journal, a November 28, 1820 study of Georgette, the critic evokes the immodest subject matter yet elucidates the morality at the heart of the novel: "Le but de ce roman est moral; mais les details ne sont pas toujours assez pudiques. ... : La mere en defendra la lecture a sa fille. Mais ... la mere pourra bien s'en permettre la lecture, et la mere s'amusera" (3). Despite its author's caveats about the novel's content, this generally positive review praises de Kock's humor, guaranteeing that adult readers will enjoy themselves. Far from panning the novel's style and virtue, it defines de Kocks burgeoning literary method well; humorous prose peppered with lightly salacious details that seek nothing more than to uphold established morals.

Reviews of his non-novelistic works appeared in the Journal soon after, and while an August 18, 1821 reviewer of de Kock's opera-comique Philosophe en voyage critiqued the staging and music, he was nonetheless impressed by the play's prose: "La piece de M. de Kock, renferme des situations comiques, une action vive, il y a de la gaite dans le style et quelques mots heureux ont fait passer une foule d'invraisemblances" (4). Once again the playfulness of de Kock's style is noted, as are comic scenes that delight the audience. In these early reviews of the popular novelist, before his reputation as an author of the masses has crystallized, his style is appreciated rather than reproached as trite, immoral or mediocre.

In the mid-1820S, de Kock's name appeared numerous times in reviews of vaudeville plays based on his novels, which he authored or co-authored. An August 10,1825 review of the opera-comique Enfants de Maitre Pierre, whose dialogue de Kock wrote, delves into a detailed analysis of his style, beginning with strong words of praise for the author who "[y] a reuni son double talent de romancier et de dramaturge" (1). Recognizing that de Kock often transformed his novels into plays, this reviewer actually encourages him to do the opposite: "Rien ne serait si facile que de tirer de son opera un bon roman en quatre volumes" (ibid). Unlike many July Monarchy critics, who often lamented hearing de Kock's prose at the theater, this reviewer incites the author to remediate his works further, and, despite some grievances about style, ultimately labels the work an "ouvrage estimable a beaucoup d'egards" (ibid). The author of a February 14, 1828 review of the novel Jean calls attention, as others would later do, to de Kock's monetary success. Yet he congratulates the author "d'avoir presente sous des formes nouvelles un sujet qui offre de si heureux developpements ... Jean est un des romans les plus gais qu'il ait composes jusqu'ici" (Journal 4). This puts into question the notion that financial success somehow diminished de Kock's literary prestige. Such close attention to style suggests that in the late Restauration literary field, the name de Kock had not yet attained its July Monarchy meaning. De Kock was less omnipresent then but also less reproachable.

As the regime of Louis-Philippe began, reviews of and ads selling de Kock's work cropped up more consistently in the Journal, as well as in newly-established papers like Le Charivari (1832), Le Monde dramatique (1835), and La France litteraire (1832). While these frequent reviews were not universally negative, we nonetheless see increased negativity toward and growing disdain for this popular author. Because many of these critiques are well known, I have chosen to touch on only a few. Purely negative reviews were not as ubiquitous as the critical consensus seems to suggest, but given the author's ultimate reputation as the embodiment of lowbrow literature, their increased frequency under the July Monarchy merits our attention.

One often-criticized aspect of de Kock's writing was his tendency to turn a novel into a play, or vice versa, thereby proving, for some, his lack of originality. An April 17, 1834 review of his play La Femme, le Mari et l'Amant in L'Independant evoked his habit of recycling material from one genre to another, remarking that "M. Paul de Kock n'a pas fait grands frais d'imagination pour bacler cette pretendue folie-vaudeville; il a tout bonnement transcrit une partie de son roman." (2) The pejorative "bacler" immediately indicates the critic's appraisal of de Kock's literary talents. A month later, another reviewer wrote of de Kock's lack of originality in La Maison Blanche: "Il est convenu quand M. Paul de Kock fait une piece quelconque, que c'est toujours avec un de ses romans ... cela epargne a M. Paul de Kock la peine d'inventer, et a nous celle de parler de ses pieces" (L'Independant, 15 mai 1834, 2). Here his work is deemed uninspired, unworthy of serious consideration. The author's literary recycling contributed to the perceived absence of creativity in his work and required critics to double their efforts as they reviewed the same work in multiple formats. Representative reviews from this period make clear that, as de Kock's novelistic and theatrical production increased, so did their critical dismissal.

Another reproach often found in reviews of de Kock's works is of his style. A July 27, 1840 reviewer of La Jolie Fille du Faubourg remarks that "II ecrit, il est vrai, comme un barbare, il n'invente rien, sa fable est commune, ses personnages sont d'une trivialite deporable." This play is "comme toutes les autres histoires du meme auteur, un de ces mauvais contes qu'il impro vise avec si peu de sans-gene et tant de bonne humeur" (Journal 2). We also find a number of instances that simply take de Kock's "style barbare" for granted. An 1842 article from L'Independant announced that "Malgre la chaleur et la prose de M. Paul de Kock, les exercices perilleux et vraiment extraordinaires des Marocains attirent la foule" (3). Despite having drawn a crowd, Les Marocains suffers from de Kock's writing. A September 14,1846 review in the Journal labels his Place Ventadour as "une insipide plaisanterie" (2), while a September 27,1847 review calls La Femme a deux maris "une bouffonnerie que le theatre du Palais-Royal n'aurait pas voulu en plein carnaval!" (Journal 1)

Much of this criticism either anticipates or articulates arguments found in Sainte-Beuve's 1839 "De la litterature industrielle," where he complains of a literary field under attack by a coalition of untrained, untalented writers. Railing against the unoriginality and unfavorable style found in this flood of "litterature industrielle," Sainte-Beuve sees the moment in which he is writing as a "comble" of this "envahissement"--even if inferior literature has always existed (677). For him, "litterature industrielle," emerged in the July Monarchy: "Lorsqu'il y a tout a l'heure dix ans, une brusque revolution vint rompre la serie d'etudes et d'idees qui etaient en plein developpement, une premiere et longue anarchie s'ensuivit ... Mais voila qu'en litterature, comme en politique, a mesure que les causes exterieures de perturbation ont cesse, les symptomes interieurs et de desorganisation profonde se sont mieux laisse voir" (676). These negative reviews of de Kock, then, seem perfectly in keeping with common anxieties about the literary field in the 1830s and 40s. In other words, if, somewhat abruptly, Paul de Kock shifted from a light, but mostly appreciated author of the 1820s to one considered negatively in the 1830s, his work had become symptomatic, for some critics, of a broader "desorganisation profonde" in literary culture itself.

Despite the purely negative reviews examined above, a significant number of reviews throughout the July Monarchy took a less unilateral approach to de Kock's oeuvre: they tended, instead, to critique the novel or play in question for its style or content, but then highlight a redemptive sense of wit. (3) An 1837 review of Tourlourou from Le Monde Dramatique cautions potential spectators: "Ne cherchez rien d'extradorinaire dans Tourlourou',' but concludes that "il y a de la joyeusete de cabaret, de bonnes betises de caserne, de la folie, de l'esprit de bas etage, et tout cela a pleine gorge. Aussi, a-t-on beaucoup ri sans se soucier du reste" (191). Similarly, in a review of La Laitiere de la foret, an 1839 critic remarks that the play "est un peu trop longue pour son sujet"; yet he finds "dans cet ouvrage des situations d'une fraiche gaite" (Monde, 282). In both cases, we see formal criticisms, but a conviction that humor redeems the work. In L'Independant's February 17, 1842 review of Le Lazareth, a critic writes that "Beaucoup de grosse gaite, de joyeuses boutades, de situations risibles rendent ce vaudeville fort amusant. On eut pu faire mieux, quant a l'intrigue; quant aux details ... vous savez que la piece est de M. Paul de Kock!" (2) Here, the critic relies on de Kock's literary reputation to characterize the style of the play, yet is still compelled to praise its wit.

This critical tendency to highlight stylistic flaws while extolling wit is exemplified in an 1832 review of the novel Madeleine, which acknowledges the "bad writing" at the center of de Kock's work and the critic's pleasure in reading it:

[Mjais n'importe pour qui soient faits les romans de M. Paul de Kock, ils sont amusants; du moins ils m'amusent, moi; je l'avoue a ma honte ... Certes je sais bien que M. Paul de Kock ecrit tres mal ... eh bien! malgre ses defauts, Madeleine n'ennuie pas un seul instant. (Litteraire 670)

Here the critic admits his shame in appreciating de Kock, acknowledging the critical commonplace of de Kock's poor writing, but nonetheless highlights the ephemeral pleasures afforded the reader by one of the author's works. Similarly, in an assessment from August 31, 1835 of UAgnes de Belleville which he calls "cet infect volume," Jules Janin grapples with why readers are drawn to the "horrible plaisir" of de Kock's work:

C'est que dans ces sortes d'ouvrages, que repoussent egalement le gout, le bon sens, le style, l'imagination, tout ce qui fait les hommes raisonnables ... l'auteur a delaye quelque chose a son insu, que rien ne remplace et qui remplace toutes choses, esprit, genie, invention et style ... Jugez apres ce que c'est que cette grande puissance--la gaite! (Journal 3) (4)

The refrain "gaite" punctuates this paragraph, which considers de Kock's work both at odds with taste and style yet powerfully humorous; even in small doses this "gaite" is capable of convincing readers to consume the author's works. Finally, though a September 4, 1842 reviewer of Les Trois Culottes deemed the vaudeville's script "depourvu d'originalite" (L'Independant, 1), he nevertheless recommends that readers consider de Kock's work "au point de vue de l'observation, souvent au point de vue de la morale et de la raison, plus souvent encore a celui de l'esprit, et [ils verront] si une grande partie des oeuvres de M. Paul de Kock ne sont pas dignes de leur immense popularite" (ibid., 2). In part for its keen observations, but above all for its wit, de Kock's popularity is, for this critic, understandable. In spite of twenty-first century critics' assertions that, for example, "la lecture de la reception des adaptations theatrales des romans de Paul de Kock montre un auteur victime de sa popularite" (Rootering 115), we have seen, conversely, that despite what they perceive as formal shortcomings, July Monarchy critics still recognize literary and entertainment value in his oeuvre, and, on the whole, did not universally dismiss the author as "bad." On some level, these critics seem aware that, despite their own assessments of the works' aesthetic qualities, the author has undeniably tapped into a popular market with the genre of work he produced.

Amid negative and mixed July Monarchy reviews of de Kock's novels and plays, there emerged yet another critical trend regarding his contributions to the genre of panoramic literature. Reviewers heaped praise on Pierre-Francois Ladvocat's enormous 1831 volume, Paris, ou le livre des cent-et-un, a work authored by 101 different writers in an attempt to relieve the editor of his financial distress. Of this "fidelite d'observations dans la variete des situations et des moeurs," one critic in the August 19, 1833 Journal signaled his appreciation of the collaboration of such a disparate list of authors: "M. Paul de Kock comme M. Charles Nodier sont egalement a l'aise dans ce champ d'imagination et du cceur, ou l'art d'ecrire ne rencontre d'autres regles et d'autres limites que le devoir de plaire ou d'attacher. Ces habiles ecrivains ont si bien empreint leur travail du genie particulier que leurs autres productions nous avaient appris a connaitre et a aimer" (3). Given this same journal's critique of de Kock's Le Bon enfant seven weeks later as "absurde, faux, fatigant et ennuyeux" (19 aout, 1833,1), it is surprising to see him labeled as an "habile ecrivain" for his contribution to Ladvocat's volume. This example of positive critical treatment of de Kock's work in the texts that would eventually make up the corpus of panoramic literature is not, however, unique.

Over the next two decades, in particular during the boom of panoramic literature in the first few years of the 1840s, de Kock's ability to observe and document Parisian phenomena, his skill for "le devoir de plaire ou d'attacher," earned him critical capital. A September 25, 1841 passage from the Journal characterized de Kock's newly-published Physiologie de l'Homme Marie as "un texte plein d'esprit et d'observation" (3). A similar February 13, 1842 report on the publication of Les Francais peints par eux-memes lists de Kock's contribution among other "articles remarquables" (Journal 2). For what was, perhaps, de Kock's most significant contribution to the movement of panoramic literature, his 1842 La Grande Ville, nouveau tableau de Paris, the author received praise for having "repandu toute la gaite, tout le naturel qui en ont fait le peintre de la bourgeoisie parisienne" (14 novembre, 1842, Charivari 4). For July Monarchy critics, then, de Kock excelled at depictions of social life and urban phenomena in the panoramic genre; his textual tableaux attempting to understand Paris at its most modern moment represented some of his best work.

In addition to works that make up what is now recognized as the canon of panoramic literature, a number of de Kock's theatrical or novelistic efforts containing Parisian tableaux received critical acclaim. If reviewers criticized the style or the morals of his works, they nonetheless praised passages in these same texts for their realistic, comic depictions of urban life. In a September 14, 1845, Charivari review of de Kock's Place Ventadour, the critic deems the idea behind the play "bien legere," but nonetheless points to "ces petits tableaux de mceurs dans lesquels il excelle; il en a meme trop mis ... Le tableau n'est pas neuf, mais il est gai" (2). He chides the author for his excessive use of urban tableaux, but still concedes that de Kock's talent lies in these pleasant paintings of Parisian bourgeois life. This simultaneous critique of de Kock's style and praise for his panoramic observations is again apparent in an 1840 review of La Jolie fille du faubourg in the Revue Critique des Livres Nouveaux: "Il s'y trouve trois ou quatre scenes qui sont, dans un genre un peu trivial sans doute, de petits chefs-d'ceuvre de verite et d'observation ... [qui] meritent d'etre citees comme echantillons du talent veritable de M. Paul de Kock" (107). Here, de Kock's novelistic passages that mirror the panoramic literary texts in form and content give evidence of his literary talent. The popular panoramic genre, with Ladvocat's 1831 work as its precursor, exploded onto the literary scene roughly between 1840 and 1844, years during which many of these positive assessments of de Kock's work were written. Contrary to critical commonplaces, then, during the boom of panoramic literature, de Kock actually gained cultural capital for his contributions to that genre.


I want now to return to the consumers of de Kock's novels: those for whom "Paul de Kock" signified someone whose work was worth purchasing; those for whom it connoted critical failure; those who found themselves in between. Despite the cliche that "on l'aime ou on le deteste" (Rootering 109), we have seen a more complex response to de Kock, whose name became emblematic of the anxiety over changes in the literary market developing in the early July Monarchy. While critics around 1830 began to use his name synonymously with lowbrow literature, many of their reviews evinced an appreciation of some elements of his work and recognition of the author's successful command of the taste of modern readers. Simply put: "Paul de Kock" did not always signify "Paul de Kock."

Moreover, his work, with Raymond as a particularly illustrative example, demonstrates the author's keen understanding of his target readership. The repetition of moral lessons shows de Kock mastering a key formal element of market success. For Stienon, this clear "thematisation des valeurs de l'univers bourgeois urbain," is directed toward his "public-cible" for whom the author attempts to offer "une reception a court terme, pratique et divertissante, quitte a faire de son ceuvre une production de commande" (52). These values, coupled with the amusing, digestible plot lines, drew in and retained his readers. De Kock actually corroborates the readings of twentyand twenty-first-century critics in his preface to the 1842 edition of Raymond: "[J]'ai toujours cherche a montrer les suites de l'inconduite, a prouver ou peuvent nous entrainer nos passions, a tourner le vice en ridicule ... Aux yeux de bien des gens je serai toujours coupable, mais je compte sur l'indulgence du plus grand nombre" (11-12). Bourdieu, writing over 150 years later of the author's novels, "qui flattent le public en lui renvoyant sa propre image sous la forme de heros a la psychologie directement transcrite de la vie quotidienne de la petite bourgeoisie" would certainly concur (153). If analyses of de Kock's work and reception do not necessarily change his position as a "representant de l'art bourgeois'" (Bourdieu 123), such studies nonetheless complicate our understanding of his field of cultural production.

De Kock was acutely aware of his position in the contemporary literary market and aptly exemplifies the response of "minor literati to their new commercial context" (Allen 94). Consistently stigmatized as a novelist for the lower classes, de Kock's work was actually consumed by a much broader audience. Recent critics acknowledge a gap between those who read de Kock and those who admitted to reading him: "Si en realite de Gregoire VI a Chateaubriand, tout le beau monde le lit, il est mal vu de se dire son lecteur" (Couleau 118). On the one hand, the author fully emblematizes the literary field of the mid-nineteenth century, where, for Bourdieu, high culture and commercial culture were newly pitted against one another. De Kock represents a particular moment in the modern mass media market and serves as marker--often negative--of social positioning and taste. However, as our analysis of his reception demonstrates, within the framework of these established markers of taste, de Kock actually challenges the rigid binaries of the nascent nineteenth-century literary field.

Georgetown University


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Berkovicius, Andre. "Visages du bourgeois dans le roman populaire (1800-1830)." Romantisme 17-18. (1977): 139-155).

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(1.) See Allen; Quefilec; Therenty, Mosaiques: Therenty, Alain Vaillant, 1836.

(2.) See Berkovicius, p. 149.

(3.) By underscoring the repeated praise of wit--"esprit" or "gaite"--in reviews of de Kock, I am not arguing that critics viewed this quality as one which rendered the authors works erudite or made them consider de Kock on the same literary level as authors generally considered intellectual. As Jennifer Tsien notes in her study on eighteenth-century literary taste, writers--Voltaire among them--have historically pointed to wit (bel-esprit) as indicative of a lack of substance or philosophy. This consistent praise of de Kock's wit points nonetheless to an appreciation of his work, despite his style, and contradicts the idea that his oeuvre was simply disregarded by critics.

(4.) Marie-Pierre Rootering reads this review as negative-"[Janin] pointe du doigt la terrible arme litteraire que constitue le comique pour Paul de Kock" (113). While Janin and others are dismissive of the authors style, they nonetheless acknowledge a redemptive sense of wit that enables readers to overlook stylistic flaws.
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Author:O'Neil-Henry, Anne
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Date:Mar 22, 2014
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