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That Rascal Gustave

That Rascal Gustave
By
Charles Paul de
Kock

Introduction

 

            Those who have heard of Paul de Kock at all will have probably have come across the name in Ulysses; Molly Bloom asks her husband Leopold to get her one of his books, and there are several other references to him in various places in the novel. (Though Sweets of Sin, the book Bloom bought, is apparently not by him.) Even to Joyceans it may come as a surprise to realise that Paul de Kock really existed; at least one (amateur) Joyce fan assured me that he didn't. But he did; he was a well-known and enormously popular French author of the first half of the nineteenth century. His books were translated into several languages, and popular in Britain for many years. Collected editions in English translation were published in both England and the USA in 1902-1904.

 

That Rascal Gustave.

            That Rascal Gustave, published in French as Gustave le Mauvais sujet in 1822, is a typical example of his manner, which 19th century audiences found titillating, though of course, it is very tame by ours. Gustave is a harum-scarum, forever running after women, sometimes catching one, and getting into ludicrous scrapes. His father, who loves him but is exasperated by his antics, is trying to make him settle down with a more eligible partner, and Gustave expends a lot of time and energy in trying to avoid this.  It ends, of course, with wedding bells and both father and son happy with the outcome.

 

Paul de Kock - a Brief Biography

(From the 11th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica [1911])
            KOCK, CHARLES PAUL DE (1793-1871), French novelist, was born at Passy on the 21st of May 1793. He was a posthumous child, his father, a banker of Dutch extraction, having been a victim of the Terror. Paul de Kock began life as a banker's clerk. For the most part he resided on the Boulevard St Martin, and was one of the most inveterate of Parisians. He died in Paris on the 27th of April 1871. He began to write for the stage very early, and composed many operatic libretti. His first novel, L'Enfant de ma Femme (1811), was published at his own expense. In 1820 he began his long and successful series of novels dealing with Parisian life with Georgette, ou La Mère de Tabellion. His period of greatest and most successful activity was the Restoration and the early days of Louis Philippe. He was relatively less popular in France itself than abroad, where he was considered as the special painter of life in Paris. Major Pendennis's remark that he had read nothing of the novel kind for thirty years except Paul de Kock, who certainly made him laugh, is likely to remain one of the most durable of his testimonials, and may be classed with the legendary question of a foreign sovereign to a Frenchman who was paying his respects, "Vous venez de Paris et vous devez savoir des nouvelles. Comment se porte Paul de Kock?" The disappearance of the grisette and of the cheap dissipation described by Henri Murger practically made Paul de Kock obsolete. But to the student of manners his portraiture of low and middle class life in the first half of the 19th century at Paris still has its value.
The works of Paul de Kock are very numerous. With the exception of a few not very felicitous excursions into historical romance and some miscellaneous works of which his share in La Grande Rue, Paris (1842), is the chief, they are all stories of middle-class Parisian life, of guinguettes and cabarets and equivocal adventures of one sort or another. The most famous are Andre le Savoyard (1825) and Le Barbier de Paris (1826).

 

Quotations

. . . Get another of Paul de Kock's. Nice name he has.

. . . I wonder what kind is that book he brought me Sweets of Sin by a gentleman of fashion some other Mr de Kock I suppose the people gave him that nickname going about with his tube from one woman to another . . .
-- James Joyce, Ulysses

Besides the works of English "light literature" which this diligent student devoured, he brought down boxes of the light literature of the neighbouring country of France: into the leaves of which when Helen dipped, she read such things as caused her to open her eyes with wonder. But Pen showed her that it was not he who made the books, though it was absolutely necessary that he should keep up his French by an acquaintance with the most celebrated writers of the day, and that it was as clearly his duty to read the eminent Paul de Kock, as to study Swift or Moliere.
-- William Thackeray, The History of Pendennis

 

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LINKS
Wikipedia Article
Review at the Neglected Books website

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