Setting out for Brussels: Conrad and the "Sepulchral City"

Article excerpt

RONALD FIRBANK'S waspish line in his 1915 novel Vainglory, "'I can hardly imagine anyone," Lady Georgia observed, "setting out deliberately for Brussels," finds its flat contradiction in Conrad's life-story. As his correspondence documents, he visited the city on several occasions in search of employment and for personal reasons. Still, given the paucity of Conrad's contact with the capital of Belgium and Marlow's hostility towards it in "Heart of Darkness," it is hardly surprising that Brussels is neglected among the far-flung cities treated in the homage to Hans van Marle, Conrad's Cities.1 Conrad's contact with the city proved crucial: it was for him the gateway to the Congo; he met several of its important and influential residents during his passages through it; and, although camouflaged, it provided the setting for parts of "Heart of Darkness."

Meeting the Congo in rue Brederode: Thys and Wauters

The preparation for Marlow's meeting with the Company Manager in "Heart of Darkness" is widely admired as one of the great set-pieces of Modernist literature. It privileges the metaphoric over the literal as darkness, silence, disorder, and hermetic and inward-looking closure presage entrée to the meeting with the Fates: "A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones . . . immense double doors standing ponderously ajar" (Youth 55). Conrad recast his own encounter with rue Brederode, in which the offices of the Société Anonyme Belge du Haut-Congo were located, in imaginative terms; it was transformed for fictional purposes and given symbolic dimensions.

The actual street to which Conrad had made his way,2 named after the Renaissance comte Henri de Bréderode, lies directly behind the Royal Palace and proves in effect to have been (as it is today) its back entrance (see Map 1). In 1890, the Annuaire official du commerce et de l'industrie (hereafter cited as Annuaire), a street-by-street listing of businesses and residents, indicates its mixed character (I, 24); there were a handful of private residents, including a baron, but, as might be expected given its centrality, the street was largely given over to offices, shops, and services (a pharmacy, a hairdresser's, a shoemaker's, a wine merchant's). The palace, with its granthose and ornate frontage, also had positioned behind it several commercial interests linked to the Congo. In addition to the Société Anonyme Belge du Haut-Congo, headed by Albert Thys,3 the Annuaire lists no less than three other such concerns: the Compagnie des Magasins généraux du Congo (S. A.), the Compagnie du Congo (S. A.), and the Bureaux de la Compagnie du Congo. Thys's enterprise, housed at no. 9, was located directly next door to the Department of the Interior's office for the Congo, the Administration générale de l'État indépendent du Congo. (The intermingling of business and government could be no more eloquently clear.)

Conrad's first visit to rue Brederode occurred sometime in late October 1889, his letter to Thys (Fig. 1), of 4 November being written to follow up his visit (CL1 25). Dating is, for once, important: Conrad's first contact with the company had no connection with Marguerite Poradowska, whom he first met some months after it, a departure from its fictional depiction, with Marlow's aunt providing him entrée. How the meeting with Thys came about must remain a matter of speculation; Conrad presumably relied upon friends in shipping circles in London to provide him with an introduction.

It is unclear whether he also met on this occasion the enormously versatile A. -J. Wauters, the Secretary-General of the Société Anonyme Belge pour le Haut Congo (Fig. 2).4 Conrad certainly did encounter him on his next visit, calling on him on 5 February 1890 (CL1 46, 62). 5 Wauters presumably lies behind the statement of Marlow's aunt in "Heart of Darkness": "I know the wife of a very high personage in the Administration, and also a man who has lots of influence with,' etc., etc" (Youth 53). Poradowska was acquainted with the influential man himself (CL1 54, 59, 61), possibly coming to know him through interlocking artistic circles, but one of the circles in which he moved.

The influential A(lphonse) -J(ules)-Marie Wauters (1845-1916) was, in fact, a man of considerable personal culture who enjoyed several careers. In his youth, he had pronounced musical interests, encouraged, no doubt, by his father, a notary with literary and artistic interests who served as president of the Philharmonic Society of Brussels. The young Wauters not only played a minor role in an Offenbach operetta, but also tried his hand at composing in the form. Author of a couple of plays, he also saw into print a collection of short stories for children, written during convalescence from an illness. As an art critic, he published in Belgium as well as in London's Burlington Magazine and Magazine of Art, and he wrote full-length studies on the Renaissance painter Hugues Van der Goes (1864), on Flemish painting (1883), and on Brussels tapestries (1906).6 A geographer and cartographer, he was a member of the National Geographic Institute of Belgium, editor-in-chief of Le Mouvement géographique from 1884 and the founding editor of Le Congo illustré (1892-95), writing extensively on the Congo (although he never visited it). For his projects in the Congo, Leopold II found an unbridled enthusiast in Wauters, who, welcome at court, used his journalistic connections and own writings to further the Leopoldine project. He later turned against it, falling out with the King and Thys and attacking the Congo enterprise publicly in speeches throughout Belgium. In his later career, he contributed to the Belgian Biographie nationale and was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters, and Fine Arts.

How much Conrad may have known of this chameleon figure is impossible to gauge, but one wonders, given the extreme diversity of Wauters's activity, if he provides some hints for the background of that "universal genius" Mr Kurtz, painter, writer, journalist, and potential politician. Wauters's Flemish surname and French forenames also betoken mixed cultural origins, even if not involving "all Europe."

Ixelles: Meeting Poradowska

The Poradowskis lived at 48 rue Veydt,7 (see Map 2) named after Maximilien Veydt (1823-73), a lecturer in the Université libre de Bruxelles, former member of Parliament and some time Minister of Finance, in the commune of Ixelles, formerly an independent town but long since an integral part of southern Brussels.8

The area was well-known to Poradowska and a family memory, her father, Émile Gachet (1809-57), having settled in Ixelles, where Marguerite Poradowska's brother was born.9 When the Poradowskis settled in this quarter of the city in 1884 (see Appendix), it was undergoing considerable and rapid change, and even upheaval, losing its still almost rural character as the city relentlessly expanded southwards. The Annuaire officiel for 1885 and 1886 describe rue Veydt as "Comm. chaus. de Charleroi, finit dans les champs" [Beginning at the chausée de Charleroi and terminating in the fields]. The quarter has long been favoured by artists and intellectuals, with Puccini, the opera singer Maria Malibran (a street in Ixelles bears her name) and Rodin, as well as Marx and Lenin, among its better known temporary residents.

The short residential street, dating to 1864, in which the Poradowskis settled begins at the wide and mainly commercial thoroughfare chausée de Charleroi. Traversed by rue Florence, a rather more prosperous street of greater architectural interest, rue Veydt now terminates in the rue Defacqz, undeveloped at the time the Poradowskis lived there. Below the chausée de Charleroi, the sloping rue de la Source, testifies to an area in transition, some of its elegantly fronted and highly decorated houses bearing construction dates (1885, 1889, 1891) and bearing witness to what in effect was a building-boom as well as what is now called gentrification as wealthier residents moved into the area.

The Poradowskis resided in rue Veydt's upper part (that is, the section above rue Florence, notably wider than the part commencing at the chausée de Charleroi), and preserving its original character more than the street's lower part. The numbering has altered in the century and two decades since, and it is now difficult to determine the exact house in which they lived. A street of determinedly modest character from its establishment, today it is a not especially harmonious architectural medley of late-nineteenth-century townhouses, mainly of three storeys and some with iron-grille balconies, mingled with more recent characterless buildings. Rue Veydt retains its residential character, although the houses have predictably been turned into flats. The one conspicuously grand house on the street (between rue Florence and the chausée de Charleroi) is now a luxury hotel somewhat oddly situated on a thoroughfare that is otherwise unremarkable.

In 1886, the street was socially mixed, reflecting the general condition of Ixelles during a transitional period. Its residents included artisans (carpenters, plasterers) as well as artists, to use that word to include both singing teachers and café-owners. The bottom rung of the intellectual class was represented by language teachers, and there was a smattering of professionals, low-level civil servants and lawyers (Annuaire 1886: I, 269). In 1890, the year of Conrad's meeting with the Poradowskis, the character of the street had altered slightly. The list of residents, however, increases in interest: Camille Janssen, Governor-General of the Congo Free State, is listed as having his residence at no. 36 (Annuaire I, 180).10 That Poradowska resided in the same street as such an influential person in the Congo is, of course, a coincidence. Janssen goes unmentioned in Conrad's correspondence, and whether Poradowska would have known him is likely to remain unknown.

However that may be, the street's sans façon social mixture provides at least some insight into the financial and class situation of the Poradowskis. Their income was likely not to have been much more than adequate: Poradowski had evidently left Galicia with some means, evidently, as the 1890 Annuaire gives his profession as rentier (I, 180), and as we know he involved himself deeply in Polish affairs, a charitable enterprise, rather than in regular employment, that perhaps not available to him given his health and age. His wife must have been in receipt of some monies from her family. In class terms, they were solidly middle class, but there was almost certainly nothing fashionable or elegant about them, and the well-known photograph of Poradowska that figures in several Conrad biographies perhaps overstates the case, or rather represents it earlier in her life when her circumstances depended not upon her exiled husband and herself but on her father.

Conrad in Brussels: February 1890

Conrad's brief stay in Brussels featured cloud and cold, the temperature dipping to as low as -30C one night. The news was occupied with an anti-slavery conference then being held in the capital and the arrest of the duc d'Orléans (see Journal de Bruxelles).11 Had he wished to go the opera, a known interest, there was little on at the Théâtre royale de la Monnaie, both Friday, the 7th, and Saturday, the 8th, being dark. He could have hardly missed, however, even if noted only on advertising posters in the street, the flurry about an adaptation of Flaubert's Salammbô, by the French composer Ernest Reyer to a libretto by Camille du Locle. (He was no stranger to the grand tradition having written the scenario on which Verdi's librettist based Aïda) The front page of the same paper that carried his uncle's obituary (see Appendix) featured a long review of its début performance on 10 February that suggests the public interest taken in it:

Depuis quinze iours il n'est question que de Salammbô. Flaubert et son oeuvre sont l'objet de toutes les conversations, le sujet des chroniques et des conférences. Jamais on n'a autant lu le roman, jamais on n'en autant célebré les merites.

(Journal de Bruxelles, 12 February 1890: 1)

[Salammbô has been all the rage for a fortnight. Flaubert and his work have been the object of every conversation, the subject of articles and of lectures. Never has the novel been so read, never have its merits been so lauded.]

The Paris critics made a pilgrimage to Brussels for the dress rehearsal, and the musical and intellectual elite flocked to see it. Although he may have been aware of it, by the time the public could attend a performance Conrad had already left for the Ukraine; his cousin, who would later attend the Brussels première performances of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde with him, was mourning her husband, who had died at home in the early morning of 7 February (Fig. 4).

News of his distant cousin's death reached Conrad quickly, no doubt by telegram. He did not, however, interrupt his journey to the Ukraine to attend the funeral ceremonies, Poradowska instead sending him a report of them that included extracts from the oration delivered at her home (see Appendix). Conrad mentions reading the account "avec une melancholique plaisir" in his letter to her from the Ukraine of 10 March 1890 (CL1 40).

Further and Final Visits

Conrad visited Brussels again for formalities with the Société Anonyme Belge du Haut-Congo, almost certainly dealing with A.-J. Wauters, just before his departure for Africa at the end of April 1890. He rushed back and forth between the city and London in a flurry later described to his cousin Karol Zagórski with a self-consciously dramatic flair:

If you only knew the devilish haste I had to make! From London to Brussels, and back again to London! And then again I dashed full tilt to Brussels! If you had only seen all the tin boxes and revolvers, the high boots and the tender farewells: just another handshake and just another pair of trousers! - and if you knew ... all the affectionate wishes I took away with me, you would understand in what a typhoon, cyclone, hurricane, earthquake - no! - in what a universal cataclysm, in what a fantastic atmosphere of mixed shopping, business, and affecting scenes, I passed two whole weeks. (22 May 1890; CL1 52)12

The return to the city, long before he planned on it, occurred in January 1891. Ill and unemployed, shaken by the Congo catastrophe, Conrad again called upon Poradowska. Apart from that bald fact, the only other things known of this visit is that he met Poradowska's English sister-inlaw, Maud Cachet, and probably her only brother, Charles; greetings in letters also suggest that he met Poradowska's widowed mother.13 Conrad also met Poradowska's friends, Émile Bouillot and his wife (CL1 6768).14

We possess no information about where Conrad stayed in the city on this or on previous occasions. His brief visit of mid-March 1895 (CL1 203-05) is the only one for which this detail is revealed. His letter to his publisher T. Fisher Unwin of the 12th was written from the "Hotel Royal Nord," but the Guide de l'étranger of 1890 leaves open two possibilities: the Hôtel Royal du Nord at 8 place Charles Rogier and the Hôtel Royal at 87 boulevard de Hainaut (28-29). The description of the latter in Baedeker's 1894 Handbook (71) suggests, on balance, that it was where he shored up; located near the Gare du Nord, the hotel offered rooms at 1.5 francs but offered no table d'hôte.

Like cities Conrad knew in the East, Brussels proved a passing acquaintance. Poradowska, some time after her husband's death, removed mainly to Passy in Paris, and Conrad had little reason thereafter to visit it. He knew it over a concentrated period of years, and then never saw it again, his life after his honeymoon in Brittany mainly limited to England. There was, of course, yet one more visit to Brussels - the last and most important - that undertaken in 1898-99, when he was work on "Heart of Darkness."

1 The city's importance to Conrad has not been wholly neglected; see the Brussels entry in Knowles and Moore (2000). Arnold (2009) also treats the city passingly in her study of Marguerite Poradowska.

2 At the period, there were six daily boat-trains from London to Brussels via Ostende or Calais from Charing Cross or Cannon Street Station. Depending upon the route taken and sea conditions, the trip typically took from seven-anda-half to nine hours. Other possible routes were via Antwerp, managed by the General Steam Navigation Company, and there was a thrice weekly service direct from London on the Baron Osy (Guide de l'étranger 1890: 57; Bædecker 1894: 64-65; advertisement for the South Eastern Railway Company, Annuaire 1896). Transportation in the city itself was by steam tramway and omnibus. For details, see Guide de l'étranger 1890.

3 For a study of Thys and his career, see Defauwes (2005).

4 The biographical information on Wauters presented here is summarized from the obituary appreciation by Solvay (1926).

5 The famous semi-comic meeting with the Manager in "Heart of Darkness," as has been noted, was based on Conrad's meeting with Thys, which in reality may have been perfunctory, Conrad's more substantial dealings being with the Society's Secretary-General, Wauters.

6 Wauters's younger brother, Émile (1846-1933,) was a late-Romantic painter specializing in historical subjects. His most notable canvas, The Madness of Hugo van der Goes (1872), was commented upon by Van Gogh in letters of c. 25 July and c. 21 October 1888 to his brother Theo. His death in Paris was noted in The Times (13 December 1933: 9).

7 The Annuaire officiel misspells the surname as "Paradowiski" and provides no initial for the principal (that is, male) resident (1890: I, 180).

8 The street and its history are described in some detail, in French and Flemish only, on the Brussels Capital Region website (see Works cited), the source, in addition to personal observation in August 2009, for the description of it given here. See also De Jonghe d'Ardoye (Accessed: November 2009). The map department of the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique possessed no map relevant to the period, and the map presented here, by default, reflects to a certain degree the modern layout of the street and its vicinity.

9 Gachet had arrived in the city in 1834. For a comprehensive obituary appreciation (as well as a poem by her written to celebrate Marguerite Gachet's birth), see Dainaux (1857), and for additional biographical information, see N. L. (1860) as well as de Steyn I, 476, and Biographie nationale, VII, 406. On the birth of her brother Charles, see Bensacq-Tixier (2003: 241).

10 Janssen (1837-1926) served as head under the title Administrator General from 1886 to March 1887, when he was appointed Governor-General, remaining in that post until March 1888. He was again appointed Governor-General from 1889 to April 1891.

11 The eldest son of Louis-Philippe-Albert, comte de Paris, and great-grandson of Louis-Philippe, the duc d'Orléans had been banished from France in 1886 as a threat to the republican regime. On his return, he was arrested and given a prison sentence but after a few months was released and escorted out of the country.

12 Cf. "I flew around like mad to get ready, and before forty-eight hours I was crossing the Channel to show myself to my employers, and sign the contract," "Heart of Darkness" (Youth 55).

13 Maud Gachet (née Chamberlin, 1854-1921), who married Charles-LouisÉmile Gachet (b. 1849) in England in 1878. Marie Gachet (née Marie-FrançoiseFanny Jouvenel) had married Émile Gachet in 1847.

14 A Belgian painter, particularly of Biblical, historical and mythological subjects, Bouillot (1823-1905) founded the École de dessin et de modelage d'Ixelles (now the École des Arts d'Ixelles in Brussels) in 1863, and was its director for thirtyfive years, teaching drawing, before retiring in 1899. A Brussels street is named after him. Conrad gets his name wrong (CL1 68), but his identity is confirmed by Annuaire 1890, which places him at 20 rue Godecharles, and by his presence at Poradowski's funeral (see Appendix).

15 The death certificate gives his age precisely as 55 years, 4 months, and 29 days, and records death having occurred at 6 a.m. (Acte de décés: 11 February 1890).

16 Aleksander Poradowski (1789-1844). One source notes that Poradowski was the "petit fils du roi Pologne Stanislas- August (à la suite d'un liason de celui-ci avec Elisabeth Grabowska" [the grandson of the King of Poland Stanislaw August [Poniatowski, 1732-98] (issue of a liaison between him and Elisabeth Grabowska)] (Goldbery 1990: 212).

17 Given Poradowski's military background, possibly Jan Karol Jean-Charles) Luboradzki (b. 1817), a career soldier, formerly sub-lieutenant and later sergeant in the 3rd artillery regiment of the Belgian Army. His name figures among émigré Poles naturalized in 1845 (Annales parlementaires), and his promotion is recorded m Journal de l'armée (1851: 1, 337).

18 On Charles-François-Gommaire BuIs (1837-1914; burgomaster 1881-99), see Arnold (2009).

19 A. Mignot-Delstanche (1838-1903), an industrialist in business in marble and sculptures, member of Ixelles City Council and one of the founders of the commune's museum. Bouillot (see above) was apparently connected with the Athénée royal de Saint-Gilles, a school in Ixelles, prior to, or concurrent with, his later commitments to the Academy of Art.

20 L(éon- Victor-Albert-Joseph) Vanderkindere (1842-1906), Professor of History, specializing in the medieval history of Belgium and in ethnography, at the Université libre de Bruxelles, also enjoyed a political career, first as a representative in the Belgian Parliament from 1880-84 (re-elected 1892-94) and later as burgomaster of the commune of Uccie (1900-06). On his political career and for a portrait, see Delfosse (2005: 279); see also de Steyn II, 1025.

21 See above. He was presumably connected with the Athénée de St-Gilles (now Athénée royale Victor Horta).

22 Hedwige Julie Wanda, Princess Lubomirska (1815-95), third wife of the Prince de Ligne, lived in Mons.

23 In writing of Poland, the French publicist and historian Charles Forbes René de Montalembert (1810-70) adapted the phrase of Byron on Rome in Childe Harolà (IV, 79): "Salut donc, ô chère et noble Pologne, si dieu prolonge ton épreuve, c'est pour te rendre plus digne d'une glorieuse émancipation. Salut, Niobé des nations!" [Hail, then, o beloved and noble Poland. If God prolongs your trials, it is to make you more worthy of a glorious emancipation. Hail, Niobe of nations] (Montalembert 1868: 169-70).

24 The church, built in 1882 and located at the terminus of the Ixelles omnibus and tramway lines, no longer exists. It was demolished in 1893, and replaced by a larger, considerably more elegant structure, which opened in 1895. For a history, see Région de Bruxelles-Capitale: Ixelles: L'Église paroissale de SainteTrinité .



I am grateful to Anne Arnold for sharing her research with me on Alexander Poradowski; to Owen Knowles, as ever, for sage advice and encouragement; and for several courtesies to the staff of the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique. A version of this essay was presented at the 36th Annual International Conference of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK), Paris/Versailles, September 2010.

Works cited

Académie royale. Biographie nationale. Brussels: Bruylant, 1957-86.

Annales parlementaire. Séances plénières de la chambre des représentants. Brussels, 184445.

Annuaire officiel du commerce et de l'industrie de Bruxelles. 1885-90 and 1895. Brussels:

Arnold, Anne. "Marguerite Poradowska as Conrad's Friend and Adviser." The Conradian 34.1 (2009): 68-83.

Bsæedecker, Karl. Belgium ana Holland, including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg: Handbook for Travellers, 11th edn. Leipzig: Bsedecker, 1894.

Bensacq-Tixier, Nicole. Dictionnaire du corps diplomatique et consulaire français en Chine, 1840-191 /.Paris: Ministère des affaires étrangères, 2003.

Brussels 'Remembers. Charles Buis. . Accessed: August 2009.

Dainaux, A(rthur). "Emile Gachet. " In Archives histonques et littéraires du Nord de la France et du Midi de Belgique. VI, 147-55. Valenciennes: 1857.

Defauwes, Georges. Albert Thys, de Dalhem au Congo. Blegny-Mine: Libraire Blegny-Mine, 2005.

Defosse, Pol, Jean-Michel Dufays, and Martine Goldberg. Dictionnaire histonque de la laïcité en Belgique. Brussels: Editions Luc Pire, 2005.

de Steyn, Eugène. Dictionnaire biographique des sciences, des lettres et des arts en Belgique. Brussels: Éditions l'Avenir, 1936.

Goldbery, Roger. Mon Oncle, Paul Gachet: Souvenirs d'Auvers-sur-Oise 1940-1960. Paris: Valhermeil, 1990.

Guide de l'étranger dans Bruxelles et ses environs. 15th edn. Brussels: Librairie Kiessling, 1890.

Jonghe d'Ardoye, Yves de, Marinette de Cloedt, and Paul van Gossum. A la découverte de l'histoire álxeUes: 5 Le quartier Tenbosch. site/downloads/publications/histoire05-1.pdf. Accessed: November 2009.

Journal de l'armée belge: recueil d'art, d'histoire et de science militaire (1851). Brussels: G. Stapeleaux, imprimeur-éditeur, 1851.

Journal de Bruxelles, 3-12 février 1890.

Knowles, Owen, and Gene M. Moore. Oxford 'Reader's Companion to Conrad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

L, N. "Notice sur Emile Gachet." Bulletin du bibliographie belge, 16 (1860): 73-85. 'M. Emile Wauters." The Times, 13 December 1933: 9.

Minakowski, M. J. Genealogia potomkow Sejmu Wielkiego, . Accessed: September 2009.

Montalembert, le comte de. "Une Nation en deuil." In OEuvres polémique et averses. III, 97-170. 3 vols. Paris: Lecoffre Fus et Cie, 1868.

Moore, Gene M. Conrad's Cities: Essays for Hans van Mark. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992.

"Necrologie. Alexandre P. ot&aowsìd" Journal de Bruxelles, 12 février 1890: [2].

Région de Bruxelles-Capitale. Inventaire du patrimoine architectural. Ixelles: rue Veydt. . Accessed: August 2009.

Royaume de Belgique : Commune de Ixelles. Acte de décès de Alexandre Poradowski [Death certificate of Alexandre Poradowski]. No. 118. Dated 9 February 1890.

Solvay, Lucien. "Notice sur Alphonse-Jules Wauters, membre de l'Académie." Annuaire de l'Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique 1926. 169-87. Brussels: Maurice Lamartin, éditeur, 1926.

Stewart, John. African States and Ru/ers: An Encyclopedia of Native, Colonial, and Independent States and Rulers Past and Present. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1989.

[Author Affiliation]

J. H. Stape

Research Fellow at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, London

[Author Affiliation]

J. H. STAPE, Research Fellow in English at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, London, is the author of The Several Uves of Joseph Conrad (2007) and co-editor with Harold Ray Stevens of Last Essays (2010) and with Ernest W. Sullivan II of Lord Jim, A Tale (forthcoming 201 1) in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad.


Obituary Notice of Alexandre Poradowski in the Journal de Bruxelles


ALEXANDRE PORADOWSKI. - Le 7 février s'est éteint, à l'âge de 54 ans,15 dans sa petite maison de la rue Veydt, un homme de grand coeur, après toute une vie de souffrances physiques et morales. C'était un patriote polonais. Alexandre Poradowski était né à Varsovie et descendait d'une ancienne famille noble de Lituanie. Son père était général.16 Lui-même servit dans la cavalerie de l'armée russe jusqu'en 1862. Il donna alors sa démission et prit part à l'insurrection de la Pologne en 1863. Chef d'un détachement de Lituanie sous le pseudonyme d'O koya [sic] (éperon), il combattit avec héroïsme. Émigré en 1864, il séjourna tantôt à Dresde, tantôt à Paris. Après son mariage avec Mlle Marguerite Gachet, de Bruxelles, l'auteur bien connu des nouvelles galiciennes publiées par la Revue des Deux Mondes, il devient propriétaire foncier en Galicie, puis il entra comme employé à la banque rusticale de Lemberg. Obligé de quitter la Galicie, dont sa femme ne supportait pas le climat, Alexandre Poradowski vint s'établir, en 1884, à Bruxelles, où il ne tarda pas lui-même à être assiégé par de graves maladies. Il les supporta comme l'exil, avec un stoïcisme chrétien. On peut dire que son corps, usé par les fatigues n'était soutenu que par les espérances indomptables de son âme. Il aimait sa nation à la folie et il était prêt tous les jours à lui sacrificier sa vie.

Correspondant du journal de Varsovie Siowo, ancien officier de cavalerie de l'armé [e] russe et l'un des chefs de l'insurrection militaire en Pologne de 1 863, homme d'élite, âme chevaleresque, il a su se concilier de nombreuses sympathies à Bruxelles, où il vivait depuis quelques années.

Aussi avons-nous rencontré à ses funérailles tout ce que la colonie polonaise a de plus distingué: M. Rembowski, Luboradzki, président,17 et Merzbach, vice-président de la Société de bienfaisance polonaise, M.

Buis, bourgmestre,18 Mignot-Dels tanche,19 Vanderderkindere, ancien représentant,20 Bouillot, ancien préfet de l'athénée,21 le comte de Nydprack etc. La princesse de Ligne, née princesse Lubomirska, empêchée d'assister au service de son compatriote, envers lequel elle avait toujours manifesté des sentiments très bienveillants, s'est excusée par lettre de son absence.22 M. Merzbach a prononcé dans la maison mortuaire un discours dont voici quelques extraits :

* Messieurs et chers compatriotes, c'est au nom de la Société de bienfaisance polonaise, dont notre défunt ami fut un des fondateurs et dont il s'occupa jusqu'à sa dernière heure avec la plus grande sollicitude, que je viens lui dire un dernier, un suprême adieu.

* Compagnon de nos luttes politiques d'il y a 25 ans, ancien officier de cavalerie issu d'une excellente famille, Poradowski, sous le nom de Ostraga (Eperon), fut un des héros de la dernière insurrection polonaise. ll a porté dignement l'étendard de l'indépendance renaissante de notre pauvre pays. Intrépide sur le champ de bataille, la tête haute, le coeur haute-place, il n'avait emporté de sa patrie que ce glorieux souvenir et avec lui l'espoir de sa résurrection. C'est ce souvenir et cet espoir qui lui donnaient la force de lutter sur un autre champ de bataille, qui se nomme V exil. Partout, avec tous, il ne pensait et ne parlait que de la Pologne.

* Après notre dernière défaite un vrai torrent de malheureux se répandit dans le monde entier, semblable aux torrents de lave sortant d'un cratère à peine éteint. Poradowski accueillait ces malheureux et, à la vue de leur misère, créa avec nous la Société de bienfaisance.

* II s'en occupa activement. Il y avait tant de misères à secourir. Aucun indigent ne s'adressait à lui dans cette langue qu'il aimait tant sans obtenir non seulement une obole de notre modeste société, dont il fut le secrétaire, mais un appui moral, une parole d'encouragement. Il était touchant de voir quel intérêt il portait à ses chers compatriotes, les diligences qu'il faisait pour leur obtenir un emploi, les sacrifices qu'il s'imposait pour leur venir en aide.

* C'est en leur faisant du bien sur une terre étrangère qu'il croyait encore rendre hommage au souvenir qu'il gardait de sa patrie lointaine! « L'émotion ne me permet pas de vous dire plus longuement ce qu'était ce coeur d'or, ce rêveur d'un autre âge. Nature élevée, homme intègre et chevaleresque, patriote austère, il sera pleuré par nous et restera pour nous l'exemple de foi politique, cet idéal pour ceux qui ont perdu le bien suprême, la patrie.

* Mais, avant de finir, qu'il me soit permis de remercier sur cette tombe la femme supérieur et courageuse qui associa sa vie et son travail d'écrivain à la vie et au labeur d'un pauvre exilé. Elle supporta avec lui tant de douleurs et fut, dans les bons et les mauvais jours, son Egèrie.

Inspirée par son mari et par le séjour qu'elle fit en Pologne, elle !'étudia, l'aima et la décrivit. Ses oeuvres resteront et ajouteront une couronne de plus à celles qui entourent ce cercueil. Puisse la compagne de cet homme de bien trouver dans l'hommage que nous rendons à sa mémoire une consolation à ses douleurs !

* Et toi, brave ami, adieu! et que la terre de l'exil te soit plus légère que l'exil même. »

Nous avons eu l'honneur de connaître cet honnête homme et ce soldat vaincu, mais non abattu. Dans sa société nous avons eu l'occasion de faire une étude sur les douleurs de l'exil. Vous souvenez-vous d'un des derniers écrits de Montalembert où il parlait de la « Niobé des nations » ?23 Poradowski nous a fait penser bien souvent à cette image expressive d'un peuple qui, dans le lugubre silence où il verse des larmes ameres, conserve des espérances immortelles. Le service du pauvre soldat polonais a été célébré dans la petite église rurale de la Sainte Trinité (avenue Brugman).24 Paix à son âme et honneur à sa mémoire !



ALEXANDRE PORADOWSKI. - On 7 February, in his small house in rue Veydt, at the age of 54, a man of great heart passed away after a whole life spent in physical and spiritual sufferings. He was a Polish patriot. Alexandre Poradowski was born in Warsaw and came from an old noble Lithuanian family. His father was a general. He himself served in the cavalry of the Russian Army until 1862. He then resigned and took part in the Polish Insurrection of 1863. Head of a Lithuanian detachment under the pseudonym Okoya (the spur), he fought with heroism. An émigré in 1864, he spent time in Dresden and Paris. After his marriage to Mademoiselle Marguerite Cachet, of Brussels, the well-known author of Galician stories published in the Reme des Deux Mondes, he became a property owner in Galicia, and was subsequently in the employ of the Farmer's Bank in Lemberg. Forced to leave Galicia, whose climate his wife found unsuitable, Alexandre Poradowski settled in Brussels, where he quickly fell victim to serious illnesses. He bore them as he did exile, with Christian stoicism. One might say that his body, worn out by fatigue was sustained only by the indomitable hopes of his spirit. He loved his nation to obsession and was ever ready to sacrifice his life for her.

Correspondent for the Warsaw journal Stowe, former officer in the cavalry of the Russian Army, and one of the leaders of the military uprising in Poland of 1863, a man belonging to the elite class, with a chivalric character, he could reconcile several sympathies in Brussels, where he lived for some years.

At his funeral ceremony, we encountered the most distinguished personalities of the Polish community: Messrs. Rembowski, Luboradzki, (the president) and Merzbach (the vice-president) of the Polish Relief Society; Mr BuIs, the burgomaster; Mignot-D els tanche; Vanderkindere, the former representative; Bouillot, former prefect of the Athénée; Count de Nydprack, and so on. The Princess de Ligne (born Princess Lubomirska), prevented from attending the service for her compatriot towards whom she always showed very cordial sentiments, excused her absence by letter. Mr Merzbach delivered the oration at the house of the deceased, from which extracts are given here: Sirs and dear compatriots, it is in the name of the Polish Relief Society, of which our departed friend was a founder and for which he was active until his final hour with the greatest solicitude, that I come to address to him a last, a supreme, farewell.

Companion in our political struggles of twenty-five years ago, the former cavalry officer, scion of a distinguished family, Poradowski, under the name of Ostraga (Spur), was one of the heroes of the last Polish uprising. He carried worthily the standard of the re -born independence of our poor country. Intrepid on the field of battle, with head held high and heart highly placed, he carried away from his fatherland only that glorious memory and with it the hope of her resurrection. It is that memory and that hope that gave him the strength to fight on another battlefield, which has for its name: exile. Everywhere and with everyone, he thought and spoke only of Poland.

After our final defeat, a veritable torrent of unfortunates spread throughout the whole world, similar to those torrents of lava flowing from a barely extinct crater. Poradowski received these unfortunates, and at the sight of their misery created with us the Relief Society.

He was actively engaged in it. There was so much misery to assuage. No indigent person appealed to him in that language that he loved so greatly without receiving not only a mite from our modest organization, whose secretary he was, but also moral support, a word of encouragement. It was touching to observe the interest he took in his beloved compatriots, the efforts he undertook to obtain employment for them, the sacrifices he took upon himself to come to their assistance.

In doing them good in a foreign land, he believed he was paying homage still to the memory that he kept of his distant fatherland!

My emotions do not allow me to speak at greater length of that heart of gold, that dreamer from another time. A refined spirit, a man of integrity and of chivalric character, an austere patriot, he will be mourned by us and will remain for us an example of a political belief - that ideal for those who have lost the supreme good - a homeland.

But, before closing, it might be permitted to me to express gratitude upon this tomb to the fine and courageous woman who linked her life and her work as a writer to the life and work of a poor exile. She bore with him so many sorrows and was, in good times and ill, his Egeria. Inspired by her husband and by her own sojourn in Poland, she studied, loved, and depicted her. Her works will remain and will add one wreath the more to those that surround this bier. May the companion of this good man find in the homage we pay to his memory a comfort to her grief.

And to you, brave friend, farewell! And may the soil of exile lie more lightly upon you than did exile itself.

We have had the privilege of knowing this honest man and soldier, defeated but not beaten. In his company we have had occasion to make a study of the pains of exile. Do you remember one of the last writings of Montalembert where he speaks of "the Niobe of nations"? Poradowski often made us think of that expressive image of a people who, in the gloomy silence in which the shed bitter tears, preserve immortal hopes. The service of the poor Polish soldier was celebrated in the small rural church of the Holy Trinity (avenue Brugman). Peace be upon his soul and honour to his memory!


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