"All research is fortuitous," they say. Indeed! While musing about the "new" portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, I decided to move back in time, to when Friedrich Manskopf of Frankfurt am Main purchased three watercolors of French musicians probably during a visit to Paris in the late 1880s. "What might Manskopf have read," I asked myself, "to make him aware of the existence of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Henri Du Mont, and Michel Lambert?" A logical source of information was Fétis's Biographie universelle des musiciens (1834) which went through several editions. "But," I mused, "as a young man in Frankfurt, circa 1855-60, did Manskopf read an older source? A source that was likely to be available in a serious German library?"
Michaud's Biographie universelle immediately came to mind, because I recalled that it contained a biographical sketch of Charpentier. I hied myself to the university library and consulted Michaud. It turns out that both the article on Charpentier and the one on Du Mont were signed by "Roquefort." Not only that, but these articles constitute a bridge between eighteenth-century texts about these composers, and the articles that Fétis published in the nineteenth century. Even more, Roquefort's articles are so similar to Fétis's that the latter's scholarship merits re-thinking.
NOTE: Several months after publishing this article, my search for a copy of an article about François-Joseph Fétis finally produced results: L. Alvin, "Notice sur François-Joseph Fétis," in Annuaire de l'Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Belgique, 1874. pp. 376-418. The information gleaned from Alvin's article has been incorporated into the presentation that follows.
Jean-Baptiste-Bonaventure Roquefort-Flamericourt and François-Joseph
Fétis: Both were born in Mons, Belgium, one in 1777, the other in 1784.
Both settled in Paris in or around 1800 and conducted scholarly research
in the great libraries of Paris. Were they two ships passing in the
night, unaware of their proximity? Did Roquefort hire Fétis to write
some articles for him?
These questions cannot be answered at this time. On the other hand, it is clear that Roquefort played a significant role in making Marc-Antoine Charpentier known to nineteenth-century readers across Europe.
Roquefort's biography is sketchy, but there can be little doubt that he is the "Roquefort" who was part of a team that included Benjamin Constant and young François Guizot, and that was preparing articles for the Michauds' Biographie universelle, published in 1811. Not only does the content of the articles signed "R-t" mesh with the scholarly interests of Roquefort-Flamericourt, but a letter he wrote to one of the Michaud brothers in 1811 was listed for sale on the Internet in December 2005 (http://www.traces-ecrites.com).
Dated October 5, 1811, the letter (according to these autograph dealers) recounts how Roquefort "n'a pas réussi à s'entendre avec son correspondant, et lui demande le [read: de?] lui rendre, notamment, un exemplaire du Dictionnaire Biographique" - that is, the multi-volume publication that had just appeared in print and to which Roquefort had contributed. The recipient of the letter was "M. Michaud, imprimeur et libraire," either Louis-Gabriel Michaud or his brother, Jean-François Michaud, whose printing enterprise, 1811-1862, was known as "Michaud frères." In sum, Roquefort's letter was written soon after the Michauds published the first edition of their Biographie universelle.
Born at Mons, Belgium, in 1777, Roquefort is described by Pauphilet as a "publiciste, historien, médiéviste. Son oeuvre est variée." An apt summary of the man's career. Roquefort settled in Paris and published a glossary of the "langue romane" in 1808, At the time he presumably was also doing the background research for the articles he was to write for Michaud. Thus he would have been working in the different libraries of the French capital. Indeed, some of Roquefort's articles for Michaud reveal that he was familiar not only with the published works at the Imperial Library (today's BnF) but also with the manuscript collection, and that he had consulted the library's collection of engraved portraits as well.
The cause and effect is quite clear between the subjects of Roquefort's personal research into medieval French speech and poetry, and some of the articles he was assigned to write for Michaud. For the biographical dictionary Roquefort produced numerous entries on the period 700-1500, usually with emphasis upon the writings of the individual whose life he was summarizing. He did not crib his materials from the obvious pre-Revolutionary source, Moréri's Grand dictionnaire historique, which rarely discussed these individuals. To write those articles, Roquefort had to do a lot of reading, a lot of digging. This led him to comment upon the poor quality of a published edition, or to the fact that an interesting manuscript variant had been omitted from an edition. Most of his articles do not name the sources of his information. The Michaud project - and the research about poets and literary figures which it necessitated may have broadened Roquefort's perspectives and stimulated his curiosity. At any rate, at some point after the publication of the dictionary, he began to focus on medieval poetry.
A scholar, then, whose primary interests were anchored in the middle ages. A man who nonetheless agreed to write a few articles about people involved in seventeenth-century music, among them Jean-Laurent Lecerf de la Viéville, Henri Du Mont, and Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The article about Lecerf is brief and factual, little more than the man's vital statistics and an enumeration of his published works. (Roquefort's use of the phrase "âgé seulement de 33 ans," suggests that he consulted Niceron's Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire des hommes illustres, 1727, vol. 2, pp. 49-53: "seulement âgé de 33 ans.") The articles about Du Mont and Charpentier are quite different from some of Roquefort's other biographical sketches. It is immediately clear that although they repeat the evidence assembled by Titon du Tillet, Titon's brief biographies have been ornamented with anecdotes. After a bit of reflection, one exclaims: "I've read those anecdotes elsewhere. But where?" The anecdotes, it turns out, are to be found not only in Fétis's Biographie universelle des musiciens (1834), but also in François and Claude Parfaict's Histoire de l'Académie royale de Musique, written back in 1741 and preserved at the BnF (ms. n.a.fr. 6532). And if they ring a bell with Carpentarists, it is because they are quoted in Catherine Cessac's second edition of her Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Paris: Fayard, 2004, pp. 16, 39).
Chronologically, Roquefort's article on Charpentier comes midway between the Parfaict article and the Fétis one. In short, in 1811 the Parfaicts' account of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's life ― with its tale of his abandoning art for music ― found its way out of the Manuscript Room of the Bibliothèque impériale and was made available to the educated reader through Michaud's Biographie universelle. It is however noteworthy that the anecdote about the advice that Charpentier was wont to give to young musicians is found neither in Titon's biographical sketch nor in the Parfaicts' history.
Exactly what Roquefort was doing circa 1809-1811, besides working against deadlines as part of the Michaud team, is not known. But in 1814 a flow of publications began, and on a variety of subjects, none of them musical: Mémoires d'Ali Bey, in 3 volumes (1814); De l'état de la poésie française dans les XIIe et XIIIe siècles (1815); a 2-volume edition of Les poésies de Marie de France (1819-1820); a Supplément to his glossary of 1808; Dictionnaire historique et descriptif des monuments religieux, civils et militaires de Paris (1826); and a 2-volume Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue française par familles (1829). Roquefort died on the island of Guadeloupe in 1834.
Does the story stop there? Did Fétis simply crib from Roquefort's
earlier articles on Charpentier, Lecerf de la Viéville, and Du Mont for
Michaud's Biographie universelle? Perhaps. Still, why did Fétis
give his biographical dictionary, published in 1834, almost the same
name as Michaud's: Biographie universelle des musiciens
[etc.]....? Above all, why did Fétis later claim to have begun working
on his biographical dictionary in 1806 ― just when Roquefort was
preparing his articles for Michaud?
What, very briefly, do we know about Fétis?
Fétis was born in Mons in 1784, only seven years after Roquefort's birth in that Belgian city. Something of a child prodigy, Fétis began composing at seven, and by nine he was a church organist. In October 1800 he went to Paris to study at the Conservatoire under masters such as Boieldieu, Rey and Pradher. In 1803, while traveling, he became acquainted with the music of Bach and his contemporaries. Back in Paris by 1804 (Alvin, p. 381), young Fétis began to study Guido and his musical notation; and by 1806 he had begun moving backwards in time in his research, looking for changes in Roman liturgical chant, in hopes of finding just what the chant of the early Church had been.
That same year, 1806, Fétis is said to have "begun" work on his Biographie universelle des musiciens. Alvin paints a slightly different picture: in addition to carrying out some "travaux sérieux embrassant l'ensemble de l'art musical," etc., Fétis conceived another project in 1804: a "journal de musique en collaboration avec deux littéraires musiciens, ses amis, Roquefort et Delaunaye." (p. 382) We can now be certain that Fétis was very close to Roquefort as early as 1804. In other words, from about 1804 until 1811, both Fétis and Roquefort were working on biographical projects, but Fétis focused exclusively on musicians, while Roquefort was primarily writing brief biographies of scholars, poets, literary figures, and clerics. Then, in 1811, just as the Michaud volumes were being printed, Fétis left Paris, not to return until 1818. Alvin offers the following explanation for Fétis's sudden departure from Paris: it was owing to "de fausses spéculations, où il n'eut que le tort d'une imprudente condescendance envers un ami." (p. 382). What was Alvin implying when he talked of condescendance, a word that can mean either "yielding to someone's wishes" or "assuming a superior air toward someone"? Did the "dishonest speculation" involve a real estate fraud perpetrated by one of Fétis's wealthier friends? Or was Alvin suggesting that Fétis had agreed to work as a paid researcher for Roquefort, and that the Michauds were enraged when they discovered the pair's duplicity?
Returning in Paris in 1818, Fétis became the composer, scholar, and collector we all know. During his absence from Paris, he returned to the dictionary project - in approximately 1815. In 1826 he was appointed librarian of the Paris Conservatory but was dismissed from the post in 1831, in large part because it was becoming clear that he was stealing documents from the library. In 1833 ― when the inquiry into the missing materials was gaining momentum, and just when his Biographie universelle des musiciens was going to press (it was published in 1834) ― Fétis accepted a position at the Brussels conservatory. (On the "Fétis Affair," see François Lesure, "L'affaire Fétis," Revue belge de musicologie, 28-30 [1974-76], pp. 214-221). One is tempted to chuckle at Alvin's depiction of how Fétis re-bound the materials he had taken from the Bibliothèque impériale in Paris: "Bibliophile passionné, .... il ne reculait devant aucun sacrifice pour l'enrichir et pour donner aux livres qu'il honorait d'une place sur ses rayons, une reliure digne ..." (p. 398). Is there not a similarity in tone between Alvin's remarks about the library and his evocation the scandal that forced Fétis to flee Paris in 1811?
Fétis died in Brussels in 1871.
The coincidences in my biographical sketches of Roquefort and Fétis jump out at one, but I summarize them here:
1806 Roquefort and Fétis, near-contemporaries born in Mons, are doing research in Paris. In fact, they are described as having been "friends" as early as 1804. Roquefort is in his early thirties, Fétis in his early twenties. The older man's research centers upon the spoken language, and he is writing articles for Michaud's "universal biography" project. The younger man, who lives for music and music theory, "begins" his "universal biography of musicians."
1811 Michaud's Biographie universelle appears in print, with articles by Roquefort, including "Dumont (Henri)" and "Charpentier (Marc-Antoine)," and "Lecerf de la Viéville (Jean-Laurent)." For unknown reasons, Roquefort has a dispute with Michaud. That same year, owing to a scandal involving a "friend," Fétis leaves Paris, not to return for seven years.
1834 Roquefort dies on the island of Guadeloupe. That same year, Fétis's Biographie universelle des musiciens is published and includes Roquefort's old articles on Du Mont, Charpentier, and Lecerf de la Viéville, with some stylistic changes, and above all with expanded citations of each individual's writings.
Truth is stranger than fiction, they say. Still, are these particular coincidences too strange to be brushed aside? We know that Roquefort and Fétis were acquainted, and that they were "friends" in 1806-1811, as they pored over books and manuscripts in Parisian libraries? Did Roquefort hire Fétis to write the articles on Du Mont and Charpentier ― and perhaps on Lecerf too? Is that why Fétis felt free to reproduce Roquefort's articles, making insignificant stylistic modifications and amplifying the citations of the individuals' writings?
Or was Fétis - like Roquefort before him - simply carrying on a long-standing tradition? Was he observing the principles that had guided the Parfaict brothers, who gave up the idea of writing "un tout sur notre propre compte" (an expression that is the rough equivalent of "starting from scratch") and decided that it was "plus à propos de nous servir des mêmes termes et des mêmes idées de ceux dont nous empruntons des faits et des jugemens." Having decided to borrow the terms and ideas of their predecessors, for their article on Charpentier, the Parfaicts used Titon du Tillet's statements as the skeleton for their mini-biography. To this skeleton they added information that they claimed to have found in the library of someone who wanted to remain anonymous (ms. n.a.fr. 6523, pp. 79-80).
The article signed by Roquefort in 1811 takes the same approach. That is to say, changing a word here and a word there, Roquefort borrowed the Parfaicts' terms and ideas. To this he added a small amount of information that his predecessors either had not uncovered or had not seen fit to include in their life of Charpentier. It presumably was for lack of space that he did not provide the titles of Charpentier's "more than twenty-five" vernacular entertainments, which were readily available in Titon and in the Mercure galant.
In turn, in 1834, Fétis modified the style of some of Roquefort's sentences and corrected a factual error here and there. And he eliminated the Parfaicts' and Roquefort's tale of how Charpentier was known as "le phénix de la France." Yet ― aside from listing most of the works named by Titon, and aside from summarizing the Mercure's accounts of Les amours d'Acis..., La pierre philosophale, and Les amours de Vénus ... ― Fétis added little in 1834. He does not seem to have considered the result to be plagiarism.
Was the article already his own? Had he written it back in 1806-1810? Put another way, did Roquefort hire young Fétis to ghost-write those articles about musicians? It that why Fétis later claimed to have "begun" his own dictionary in 1806, when he was just twenty-two?
I raise these questions, but for compelling reasons I will make no attempt to answer them. First of all, here in Baltimore I do not have access to the 1811 edition of Michaud's Biographie universelle. The university owns the 1854-65 edition, but its paper is so brittle that I cannot search through all the volumes to determine whether Roquefort wrote other articles on musicians. Even if I decided to damage the volumes in order to conduct such a search, I would be unable to determine whether the texts of the 1811 and the 1854-65 editions are identical. Secondly, I do not have access to the 1834 edition of Fétis's Biographie universelle des musiciens..., neither through Gallica (the BnF scanned the 1860s edition), nor at the university.
The questions merit answering, however. Indeed, this would be a good subject for a scholarly paper. I therefore propose the project to scholars who are in a position to compare all the volumes of the various editions of both dictionaries. Perhaps they will be able to determine whether young Jean-François Fétis was a ghost-writer for Jean-Baptiste-Bonaventure Roquefort-Flamericourt, circa 1806.
From the color-coded text about Charpentier, reproduced below, it becomes clear that the person who wrote the article for Michaud in 1811, consulted Titon du Tillet's Parnasse François almost certainly an copy that had not been corrected by Titon himself (as he personally corrected Charpentier's death-date in the 1727 copy at the Johns Hopkins Library). In fact, the allusion to "more than 25 dramatic works" strongly indicates Titon was one of the sources consulted by the author of the article signed by Roquefort, but that the author probably lacked space to cite the titles in full. That is to say, he would have arrived at that approximate number by counting the 17 works specifically named by Titon; the 3 divertissements discussed in the Mercure galant (subsequently were woven into Fétis's article); and the vague allusions to "spiritual tragedies" in the plural, and to "pastorales on different subjects," also in the plural.
The principal source for the Roquefort article clearly was the Parfait brothers' article on Charpentier from their manuscript Histoire de l'Académie royale de Musique (1741, BnF, ms. n.a.fr. 6532). Roquefort presumably would have been permitted to consult this source in the Manuscript Room of the Imperial Library. (We must not forget that Roquefort's articles show that he was familiar with the contents of that particular collection.) And Fétis? It is difficult to imagine that, circa 1806-1808, he could have been doing serious research on the history of liturgical chant, without consulting the published books and the manuscripts preserved at the Imperial Library. In sum, either man could have done the research upon which the Michaud article about Charpentier is based.
The use of the adjective "dur" to describe Charpentier's music seems to come from Lecerf de la Viéville's Comparaison (Minkoff reprint of the Brussels, 1705, edition, III. p. 138). That comes as no surprise, because Lecerf was the subject of one of the articles signed by Roquefort. It is therefore likely that the author came upon the expression while taking notes on Lecerf for Michaud's dictionary. The information about Charpentier's work for the Dauphin must have been based upon one or another issue of Le Mercure galant for the late 1670s and early 1680s. (The Mercure is, of course, the source where Fétis found his information about the chamber opera for Riants, La pierre philosophale, and Visé's Les amours de Vénus et Adonis.)
I repeat what I wrote above: here in the USA I have limited access to the 1854-65 edition of Michaud's Biographie universelle. I therefore must assume that the 1811 version of Roquefort's article, "Charpentier (Marc-Antoine)" is the same as the text I reproduce below. The text has been color-coded to suggest the sources. Until the twentieth-century, the common source for all Charpentier biographies, be they long and short, has of course been Titon du Tillet's Parnasse Françoise, which first appeared in 1727. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century biographical sketches of Charpentier, facts gleaned from Titon are so that I could not devise a way to color-code them. Simply underlining every borrowing from Titon proved extremely confusing. I therefore settled for highlighting in red some of the facts that the Parfaicts found in Titon.
For Charpentier's death date and his age, most of the sources that Roquefort and Fétis consulted relied upon one or another edition of Titon's Parnasse François - but not a hand-corrected copy, and not the last edition, which finally read "1704." Concluding that the Parfaicts were wrong in writing "1624" and "78 ans," Roquefort and Fétis opted for de La Borde's and Titon's "mars 1702" and "68 ans." This suggests that neither man consulted L. Roualle de Boisgelou's Catalogue des livres de la Bibliothèque du roi, BnF, Rés. Vm8 22-23, who quotes Brossard: "24 février 1704 à 7 heures du matin," nor Brossard's own papers. Although the 28 volumes of Charpentier's Mélanges had been bound in 1752, aside from the vague allusion to "masses," there is no suggestion that Roquefort or Fétis pored over these autograph manuscripts.
The following color-coding suggests the biographies or sources that Roquefort/Fétis consulted for the Charpentier article:
UNDERLINE = an expression used by
Lecerf de la Viéville in his Comparaison, 1705, but not found
in the sources that Roquefort and Fétis obviously consulted.
BROWN ITALICS = a statement found in Benjamin de Laborde's Essai sur la musique, 1780 (and which also appears in L. Roualle de Boisgelou's Catalogue des livres de la Bibliothèque du roi, BNF, Rés. Vm8 22-23, "Charpentier.")
GREEN = information obviously borrowed from Titon du Tillet's Parnasse François, 1727, but not mentioned in the other sources that Roquefort and Fétis clearly consulted.
RED = information repeatedly mentioned in the Mercure galant during the late 1670s. (The assertions about Rome and Carissimi, which appears in Titon, are also found quite a few times in the Mercure, but no attempt has been made to show this corroborating evidence by means of color-coding.)
BLUE = information gleaned from the Parfaict brothers' manuscript Histoire de l'Académie royale de musique (1741).
BLACK = new information or stylistic embroidery found in Roquefort's article.
CHARPENTIER (Marc-Antoine), savant compositeur, naquit à Paris, en 1634. A l'âge de quinze ans, il alla à Rome dans le dessein d'étudier la peinture. Comme il avait quelques principes de musique, en arrivant en Italie, il entra dans une église, où il entendit un motet de la composition du célèbre Carissimi. Dès ce moment Charpentier abandonna la peinture pour se livrer entièrement à la musique. Carissimi, qui lui donna des leçons, trouvant en lui toute la disposition qu'il fallait pour s'attacher à un tel sujet, le mit en peu de temps en état d'être l'un des plus habiles de son temps. Les morceaux que Charpentier composa en Italie lui attirèrent une si grande réputation que les Italiens le surnommèrent le phénix de la France. Revenue dans sa patrie, le roi le nomma maître de la chapelle de Monseigneur; mais la jalousie de Lulli lui fit ôter cette place, qu'il joignait à celles qu'il avait déjà. Charpentier entra chez mademoiselle de Guise pour être maître de sa musique, et composa un grand nombre d'excellents morceaux; mais ensuite, piqué contre Lulli, il changea sa manière pour ne point lui ressembler, et ne s'attacha qu'à composer de la musique très-difficile, mais en même temps d'une harmonie et d'une richesse d'effet jusqu'alors inconnues en France, ce qui lui attira de la part des ignorants le titre de compositeur dur et barbare. Le duc d'Orléans, qui fut depuis régent, apprit de lui la composition, et lui accorda l'intendance de sa musique. Charpentier a été un des plus habiles maîtres de son temps; il a composé la musique d'un grand nombre d'opéras, de ballets et de divertissements. C'est lui qui est l'auteur des airs du Malade imaginaire, qu'on attribue à tort à Lulli. Le nombre des ouvrages dramatiques qu'il a mis en musique s'élève à plus de vingt-cinq. Les dégoûts qu'il avait éprouvés par la jalousie de Lulli lui firent abandonner la scène, et il ne s'exerça plus que sur des paroles latines. Il fut nommé maître de musique de l'église du collége et de la maison professe des jésuites à Paris, où tous les amateurs se rendaient en foule pour l'entendre. Il devint ensuite maître de la Ste-Chapelle, où il a été inhumé. Charpentier mourut au mois de mars 1702, dans la 68e année de son âge, après avoir professé pendant quarante ans. Il avait coutume de dire qu'il ne connaissait pour son égal que Lalouette, maître de musique de la cathédrale. Quand un jeune homme voulait se destiner à la composition, il lui disait: "Allez en Italie, c'est la véritable source; cepandant je ne désespère pas que quelque jour les Italiens ne viennent apprendre chez nous; mais je n'y serai plus." On doit encore à Charpentier plusieurs recueils d'airs à boire, à deux, trois et quatre parties, des messes, des motets, etc. Rt.
To deepen our understanding of the article on Charpentier that Michaud published in 1811, I am providing the full texts about Charpentier from Titon, the Parfaicts, Roquefort, and Fétis. I am also providing the articles about Henri Du Mont from Titon, Roquefort, and Fétis, as well as Roquefort's and Fétis's versions of the article on Jean-Laurent Lecerf de la Viéville. (For these appendices, click the appropriate link, below)