|23 Rue Tran, Pau|
The Toulet family were descended from the 16th c. seigneurs of Buros, in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine region. The village of Buros is located in the commune of Morlaàs, part of the district of Pau and a fountain in the village, now destroyed, once bore their name. But some of the family had long since emigrated, in particular to Mauritius, where they became planters.
Son of Pierre, advocate, and of Marie-Emeline Catalogne, Bernard-Gaston, Paul-John's father, was born at Pau 20 July 1840. His ancestors were farmers and gentlemen. Pierre Toulet had 3 sons - Gaston, Paul and Adrien, and 2 daughters, Louise and Amanda.
Paul, born 18 October 1838, was the eldest, and after a brief sojourn in Mauritius, headed for Madagascar. Family history puts him in intimate relations with queen Ranavalo, but a cursory glance at the history of that dynasty puts paid to that rumour. Not that Paul-Jean was in any way deterred from adopting the legend, (as he did the story of the Bailli de Suffren armchair) – boasting to his school friend Henri Dartiguenave, (and shamelessly conflating father and uncle): “Ce n’est pas pour rien que mon père a été amant de la reine de Madagascar”
Although the family maintained that Uncle Paul at least had married a pretty Malagasy princess, by whom he had 4 children, the reality is more prosaic. Before he settled in Mauritius, sometime after 1864 (he did not attend Gaston’s wedding) Paul made two trips to Mexico. When he returned to Mauritius he re-joined his brother in La Savanne, where he married Marie Jolivet in October 1869. He was a witness at Gaston’s second wedding in 1877, to Rosette, daughter of Isidore Loustau-Lalanne, older brother of Marie-Emma. Paul’s wife died in 1890 and Paul himself in 1898, aged 59. His death notice states that he had been overseer on the Belle-Vue-Maurel estate, in the Rivière du Rempart District to the north. Before that he had run his own sugar plantation, the Mont d’Or, near Ruisseau Rose, Pamplemousses, at the same time as an aloes spinning mill.
Adrien or Edouard, was born 30 March 1842. He ran a ferry service at Tamatave, Madagascar, before marrying Antoinette Agnès of Chazal, Mauritius, and shared his life between France and Mauritius. He was in Pau around 1879 where he looked after Paul-Jean as he attended the lycée. He stopped travelling to settle as a planter at Chemin Grenier, in the south of the island, where he died childless, in 1891 aged 49.
Gaston emigrated around 1861-2, still in his early 20s to join his exotic relations. He initially found employment in a small property called La Louisa, attached to Belle-Vue-Harel. Impressed by the fecundity of the land, he decided on becoming a planter on his own account and settled in the south at La Savanne, where he found acquaintances of his father, émigrés from Béarn, already well-established. There he met Marie-Emma Loustau-Lalanne at a dinner and married her 26 September 1864, in La Savanne, and became a planter like his father-in-law. When his wife became pregnant, the Toulets voyaged to France, where Jane was born. They returned with the baby and a nurse they found in Lescar, a small village 5 km from Pau.
Marie-Emma Loustau-Lalanne was 13th child of Pierre Loustau-Lalanne, also a planter, also from Béarn stock. She was born at La Savanne, Mauritius, 31 March 1841.
Jean Loustau, grandfather of Emma, was born 1742. He made his career in the navy, joining the fleet of the Bailli de Suffren, Comte Pierre André de Suffren de Saint-Tropez, in India, then retiring, glorious and triumphant, to Mauritius, where he became secretary of the island council, with the title “greffier notaire”; this function and title he kept until the island passed into British possession in 1810. He died in 1827. He married Jeanne de Corday, a grand-daughter of the dramatist Corneille, and possibly a close relative of Charlotte Corday, Marat’s assassin. Paul-Jean was not slow in adopting this ancestor either. Jeanne and Jean had many children, of whom Jean-Charles (called Jeanny) married Elisabeth de Laborde. Their eldest daughter Auguste-Félicité married Pierre Loustau-Lalanne (1794-1862) whose family originated in Salies-de-Béarn. Pierre had land on the Rivière des Anguilles, where he exploited the plantations. (Pierre’s father had been jailed for embezzlement, and his wife travelled from Ile de France to Versailles to plead his case. She was successful to the extent that not only was he cleared, but he was granted in compensation the lands on the Rivière des Anguilles by the King.)
Of their fourteen children Emma was second to last.
Although Paul was conceived in Mauritius, his parents wanted him born in France so they came back to Pau to la maison Lapleine, 16 Rue d’Orleans, to his paternal grandparent and former advocate Pierre Toulet. The house was rented by a M. Dabadie, most likely Eugène who married Louise, Gaston’s sister. He was an artillery officer, scion of a military family whose tradition went back to Louis XV.
Paul was born June 5th 1867, his birth registered at the Mairie the following day and he was baptised the same day in the parish church of Saint-Jacques.
Some of Toulet’s biographers assert that Toulet’s parents were anxious to have him born in Béarn, for sentimental reasons – Béarn being his ancestral home on his father’s side. Solange de la Blanchetai, Toulet’s niece, is of this opinion. (She pointed out that Bernard-Gaston made the return voyage at least seventeen times, as he wished the children of his second marriage to become familiar with their native land.) However, there may have been more pragmatic reasons for undertaking the voyage. Alex Ichas points out that there was an inheritance issue of eighteen years standing, to be resolved, since the death in 1849 at Haget of Pierre-Isidore Loustau, uncle of Emma, Toulet’s mother. Pierre-Isidore Loustau was a bachelor at fifty, himself the recipient of three large bequests, and at his death the inventory of his vast fortune took three months to complete.
What’s more, in 1866-1867, a violent malaria epidemic occurred in Mauritius, resulting in 40,000 deaths in a population of 330,000, with 6,000 deaths occurring during just one month in urban Port Louis. After the epidemic, Mauritius was notorious throughout the world for its intense malaria transmission.
So clearly there were multifactorial and pressing reasons for Gaston and Emma Toulet to quit the island for Béarn, even with Emma three months pregnant. They embarked at Mauritius on the Emirne, belonging to the Messageries Impériales, 18 January 1867, bringing with them the ten-month-old Jane, together with her French nursemaid.
The spring voyage was testing. The Suez Canal had not been built at the time, so passengers on the Messageries Impériales, which served the Indian Ocean, debarked their passengers for Europe at Suez, where they took a train to Alexandria where another ship of the same line was waiting to take them on to Marseilles. The total duration of a voyage from Port Louis to Marseilles took between 26 and 31 days. The passengers who embarked at Port Louis on the Emirne on January 18th arrived at Marseilles on board the Péluz on 15th February. The Toulets took the train to Pau, where they arrived 16th February, some three and a half months before Paul’s birth. Emma’s mother Félicité embarked with them, and died at sea. (Apparently she had been born at sea too.)
When his mother died 2 weeks later on June 19, aged 26, Paul-Jean’s father seemed to take little further interest in the children. He entrusted the baby to his sisters, Louise and Amanda, who was only 19 at the time, and his daughter Jane to his sister-in-law Amélie Chaline, née Loustau-Lalanne, before returning to Mauritius to further his interests in the sugar industry. Amanda was soon to marry an officer at the Pau garrison called Jacques Terlé. (Aristide Chaline bought La Rafette ten years later.)
Gaston remarried in May 1878, to Rose Loustau-Lalanne, eldest daughter of his brother-in-law Isidore. She was considerably younger than he, born in 1859, and gave birth to seven boys: Adrien, Francis, Stephane, (who died aged four while Paul-Jean was in Mauritius, in April 1886), Guy, Marc, Georges and Philippe. Rose died in 1897 and Gaston remained a widower for the rest of his life. He sold his estate, Surinam, when business was poor, and passed the remainder of his days living in familiar surroundings with one or other of his sons. He died on 16 March 1922, at Guy’s house at Mon-Loisir-Rouillard. Paul-Jean later accused him of ruining him - something he was well able to do of his own accord.
So Paul-Jean was brought up by his grandfather Pierre, aunt Amanda and uncle Jacques Terlé, who lived at Billères in a suburb of Pau in the villa Mauricia built by grandfather Pierre some years previously and so-called in memory of Mauritius.( When Pierre sold the house it was re-named Inisfail, suggesting an Irish purchaser, and it was badly damaged in a fire in 2012.) His grandmother, Marie-Émeline Catalogne, gets a sole mention in a quote from Paul, in a memory that is Proustian in its sentiment:
“C’est dans le passé qu’est tout notre bonheur; et le mien me torture de sa grâce évanouie. Parfois au moment que le sommeil vient enfin, on s’imagine être encore l’enfant d’autrefois, avec un cœur d’enfant parmi les fleurs…Mais les fleurs de jadis étaient belles et pliantes et parfumées; il en est qu’on revoit avec une netteté surprenante. Ainsi à Bilhère, contre une des fenêtres de ma grand’mère, et presque sous le dallet, il y avait une giroflée, de celles qu’on appelle je crois violier, je l’aimais beaucoup.”
(“It is in the past where all our happiness resides; mine torments me with its faded grace. Sometimes, at the moment of dozing off, I imagine I am still that child of long ago, with a child’s heart among the flowers… But the flowers of yesteryear were beautiful and pliant and scented; I can still see them with amazing clarity. At Bilhère, against one of my grandmother’s window, almost under the sill, there was a gillyflower, one of those called wallflowers I think, that I really liked.”)
In one of those curious post-cards that he wrote to himself years later, in April 1904, Paul-Jean remembers further : "At about six years of age, my dear friend, I was living in a small villa at Bilhère, and from there every morning during the fine season I went to the Dominican school in Pau, brought by my uncle as he was reporting to Headquarters. It was still early in the morning, a mist hung between us and the mountains. On the wallflowers in the hollow of the walls, on the red flowers by the side of the lawns, the dew had left beautiful teardrops; and my uncle plucked for me, among the large leaves, a bunch of chill grapes. Sometimes a trumpet call rose from the barracks. Sensuous even then, already nostalgic, with the cold grapes in my mouth and all round me that intoxicating metallic voice which spoke of distant things, and the wet grass which I stroked as I stroke a fur today; and the incomparable purple of the peonies – was I happy? I don’t know. But that was living, even then. What an organ is the soul of a child, until the first woman plays on it and puts it out of tune! But remember the light blue of the Pyrenees and the morning that kissed your pale cheeks.”
Paul started his schooling with the Dominicans at 23 rue Tran, Pau. A large courtyard was set between the school and the house of the state executioner, Jean-Baptiste Ferrou, “dernier executeur des hautes oeuvres de la ville”. Ferrou was a wealthy property-owner, and something of an idealist who created a homeless shelter in his house in rue du Hédas – he owned most of the rather insalubrious area. He died without issue, aged 85, in 1886 or 1895 depending on your source, bequeathing his properties to the municipality.”
At the Dominicans, a nun taught Paul-Jean the rudiments of German. He made some lasting friendships there too, notably with Léopold Bauby, seven days his junior, who features in the Contrerimes, and who remembered 50 years later “a child with fair hair crossing the Haute-Plante, a servant bringing him to school”. Paul-Jean would traverse the public park where the shadows were so green that he later remarked that “one had the impression of entering an emerald.”
A statue of Diana in the courtyard made a lasting impression on him. And not only on Paul-Jean. For the poet Francis Jammes, the Diana of rue Tran was “the longest, the most graceful that he knew”. In point of fact, this Diana was one of several copies made of a fourth-century marble in the Louvre. The Pau copy was cast in the 1840s by the Fonderie du Val d’Osne. Toulet used his poetic licence to transform her from cast-iron into plaster, and to amputate a limb:
Au détour de la rue étroite
S’ouvre l’ombre et la cour
Où Diane en plâtre, et qui court
N’a que la jambe droite.
The portion of his childhood not spent at Billères or Pau, was spent at Carresse, which he inherited from his mother. Carresse had belonged to his grand-uncle Pierre-Isidore Loustau, one of the sons of Jean-Charles (Jeanny) Loustau. He had lived there until his death in 1849 when it passed to his sister Auguste-Félicité, who left it in turn to her daughter Emma.
At Carresse the property was called Le Haget, a little outside the village, itself six kilometres from Salies-de-Béarn. The painter Labrouche, who was a friend of Paul-Jean, described it as a “quiet old-style house buried in greenery…an old wall, iron railings separate it from the road that turns at that point and descends towards the Gave. In front of the steps, a pretty little leafy garden, filled with trees, elms, magnolias. And silence.” Toulet remarked on the beautiful, pendant magnolia blossoms, so white in the evening shade, “les belles et pendantes fleurs du magnolier si blanches dans l’ombre du soir”. When he eventually had to sell the property, he expressed his regret :
« Je regretterai toute ma vie les terres de famille qu’il m’a fallu vendre…Il y avait là des bouquets d’arbes et des familles de serviteurs qui nous appartenaient depuis des siècles. On ne s’en détache pas sans un peu de mélancolie. »
Memories of Carresse inform some of his novels. A description by a character in Les Tendres Ménages can only be of Le Haget: "C’est ici que j’ai eu le premier sens de la vie un peu profound pour la gourmandise avec les plats sucrés qu’on nous servait dans la vaiselle Emoire où il y avait des vues de places bien pavées, ou d ‘Agrigente, sur ses assiettes jaunes."
Especially when one reads in Coples LXLI:
Je songe aux plats sucrés de ma vieille Detzine
Et du service Empire en son jaune marli…
If Paul-Jean remembers Detzine, the other servants remembered him, too. Toulet’s biographer, Martineau, recall interviewing the family’s old retainer Louise, years after the death of Paul-Jean:
“She was very young at the time, but she can see like it was yesterday - the lovely blond child, so delicate, that she often had to mind, look after, and to whose chest she applied mustard poultices. All around the place, on the walls or on pieces of paper, he would write in pencil: Ici repose Emma Toulet, morte peu de jours après la naissance du petit Paul. And while I would chat to her about the child she knew, she would wring her hands and keep repeating “the poor child, the poor child!”
Léontine, the laundress, remarked on the sadness and the sort of haunted air that would possess the child whenever he remembered his mother.
Paul-Jean spent almost all his holidays at Carresse with the Adrien Toulets, the Dabadies and the Terlés in turn. His grandfather Pierre died there in 1892. He followed a course of education there as irregular and spasmodic as at Pau. His aunt Louise Dabadie would teach him, and Jane, and her own children, some current affairs when she came on holidays. Even the principles of algebra! The Abbé Puyoo, curé of Carresse, started him off in Latin. At age 11 he wrote to his father complaining of the spasmodic nature of his education, which he blamed on his health, or on his teachers, one or the other of whom being frequently absent. He also complained of his eyes, often red and sore.
Paul-Jean’s fragile health delayed sending him to college. In the autumn 1878 he entered the lycée at Pau in fifth class, not as a boarder but as a “demi-pensionaire”. His uncle and aunt Adrien Toulet took him in their apartment at the Arrieu building, rue de la Préfecture, nowadays rue du Maréchal Foch. After some months Adrien and wife left for Mauritius and Paul-Jean became a full-time boarder. (French college classes are numbered in inverse order, in contrast to most other education systems. Pupils begin their secondary education in the sixième - sixth class, aged 11-12, continuing through grades cinquième, quatrième, troisième, and seconde to terminale. Until 1959 the term lycée designated a secondary school with a full curriculum - the present collége, plus lycée. Older lycées may till include a collége section, so a pupil attending a lycée may actually be a collégien. At the final year of schooling. Most students take the baccalaurét diploma, or bac.)
Once uncle Adrien had departed, Paul-Jean was to sample the delights of boarding school. At eleven years of age, cosseted and cherished, he was in for a rude awakening. Henri Dartiguenave relates an incident that occurred shortly after Paul-Jean had started, when a group of boys were attracted to a pedlar selling pocket knives in the market square. Paul wished to buy one but had no money. He asked to borrow a franc from Dartiguenave, who was likewise penniless. Paul-Jean noticed that a fellow pupil, an English lad, who had just made a purchase, still had change in his hand, and asked him for the money. He received a curt and insulting refusal, to Paul-Jean’s astonished hurt. He turned to Dartiguenave, saying, “Did you see that? Can you believe it? He refused me a franc. Why would he refuse me twenty sous?” He was incredulous and disappointed, so much so Dartiguenave had difficulty in dragging him back to school. Well before Sartre, it was realised that hell is other people. And for sensitive souls, boarding school is one of its seven circles. At Pau, Paul-Jean stood out from his fellow students, different, individual. So of course they tormented him. Catala tells the story that they called him “mulâtre” and when, furious, he charged into battle, they made the excuse that “créole ou mulâtre, c’est la même chose.” It is certain that these experiences inspired the passage in Monsieur du Paur, in which the title character describes boarding school:
"Imagine, sir, a child brought up by women, neat and clean, sincere, politeness itself. Imagine a horrible college, comrades who don’t wash, who lie to avoid punishment, who swear out of bravado and make a virtue out of being scruffy and rude. Imagine the supervisors who they deserve, or rather whom they don’t deserve, failures who have done well, who wouldn’t find work as a bailiff’s clerk or a dishwasher in a greasy spoon, to whom one entrusts the souls of children, I believe to wipe their feet on. Add to that the unctuous principal, food that would turn your stomach, the airless dormitory, etc., etc., etc., Isn’t that enough to turn a good lad into something else entirely, a ruffian, for example?”
It is also unquestionable that his experiences inspired Contrerime XIX:
Rêves d' enfant, voix de la neige,
Et vous, murs où la nuit
Tournait avec mon jeune ennui...
Collège, noir manège.
Paul-Jean only returned to being a “demi-pensionaire” during third class.
As a scholar, his fellow students recall him as being very bright, taking first place in French composition but also obtaining distinctions in Greek and Latin. He enjoyed his lessons, and he was already a voracious, if omnivorous, reader. At the end of the 1879-1880 school year he only came second in classical recitation and in German, but he had been ill in the beginning of that year.
In October 1880 he entered fourth. His father was still in France but had to return to Mauritius in the early summer of 1881, together with his new wife, two children, and Jane, now fifteen. At the end of the fourth, Paul-Jean obtained firsts in French composition, history, geography and German; second prizes in Latin and Natural History, grammar and distinctions in maths, religion and Greek. He read fluently in German and English. Years after his bac, before quitting Paris for Béarn, he would amuse himself translating Greek verse into French – something he returned to later again.
Dartiguenave, whose father was an art teacher at the lycée, recalls a composition by Paul-Jean on the subject of fox-hunting being read aloud by his teacher, M. Artaud, as a model composition, certain passages being favourably compared to Daudet!
It seems an unlikely subject matter for a class of French teenagers. But fox-hunting had been established as a country pursuit in the region since 1847. In 1875 the Pau Foxhunting Society consisted of nine members, seven of them British, meeting every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from mid-November to mid-March. Distinguished guests included the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Westminster. The hunt frequently departed from Billère, affording Paul-Jean many opportunities to observe the riders in red coats and white pants, with their horses and hounds. The essay was no chore, as he revelled in the descriptions of the landscape of Pont-Long, the autumn dew, the dark green ferns and the broom, trampled by a troop of horsemen red-jacketed like giant poppies. And thus it continued, each week during the school year – at least until his abrupt departure at the end of January 1882.
After the fourth, at about 15 years of age, Paul-Jean had changed, mutating into an unruly rascal, to the extent that he was eventually expelled for having played “un tour pendable” on a teacher. Dartiguenave describes a certain invigilator, a M. Pujo, bald, solemn, with the profile of a bird, who revelled in doling out detentions. Pujo affected to speak Latin to both pupils and masters. Only his favourites might address him freely. Words were often exchanged between him and Paul-Jean in a Latin and French together. Harassed beyond endurance, Paul-Jean concealed an ink-pot in his hatband, which doused him when he turned it over to put it on. Pujo had him thrown out.
Another version had him expelled for an incident involving insolence at morning prayers. But whatever the reason, Paul-Jean was soon looking for another school.
Before he left, he wrote in a letter to Jane that the only teacher he found to his liking was he who taught French, Latin and Greek. The history teacher had started to be a cross-patch, the German teacher was already there, and the PT instructor was refining the art of boring him. Paul-Jean’s enthusiasm, so evident in the fourth, had started to wane. And M. Artaud had been given the transfer he had requested.
After his expulsion from Pau, his uncle, commandant Eugène Dabadie, who had recently been transferred to Bayonne, decided the simplest solution would be to have him finish his year there. Paul-Jean arrived without delay, but he had adopted such habits of indiscipline that they could not be concealed. Bayonne consulted Pau as to the reasons for his expulsion. The answer came - insubordination – “but nothing in his moral conduct would prevent his admission to another establishment.”
The letter was dated 7.2 1882. Only a couple of days elapsed from this date to that on which the Principal of Bayonne addressed to Eugène Dabadie: “Sir, first impressions of your pupil the young Toulet are so bad, in just a few days he showed himself so rebellious to all advice and gave such example of insubordination that I cannot accept him as a student in the lycée of Bayonne. Please come and fetch him immediately…”
On May 1st he entered the Institut Charlemagne, still in Bayonne, and run by a M. Burguières. He entered as a boarder, although he got out regularly. At M. Burguières he made the acquaintance of a Basque lad from Labourd, robust and wealthy – sufficiently so for Paul-Jean to see him later on whenever he returned to Bayonne. He is transmogrified into M. Bordaguibus in his verse, and the character Etchepalao in La Jeune Fille Verte. –and he turned up in the chapter on his friends in les Impostures.
It might be the case that at the Institut Charlemagne the regime was less strict, the pupils fewer in number, and Paul-Jean, though he hadn’t completed his third, was admitted straight away to follow the bac course. He applied himself to such an extent that M. Burguières sought a dispensation to have him take the first part at the end of that year - a request that was denied. So he had to wait another year. He wrote to his sister from Carresse in August that he had almost gone down in Greek and Latin – his French and German got him through.
He was in Bordeaux in December 1883 in the Institution Courdurier, effectively a crammer, to prepare for the second part of the bac. In a letter to Jane dated 10 March 1884 he announced that he had been yet again sent home, apparently for scorning a college dinner and choosing to dine elsewhere. Courdurier was incensed. Mme Courdurier, the other students, and Uncle Eugène all appealed Courdurier until he agreed to accept Paul-Jean back after Lent. He was still there in November - he should have passed the bac in July. In was not until 26 July 1885 that he finally graduated. He had quit the Institution Courdurier, and come to live with Uncle Terlé in Saintes, where he was stationed after Pau. Toulet recalled his time in Saintes with affection more than thirty years later, referring to the college at Saintes as the only one from which he was not expelled. Mind you, he admits he only turned up five or six times.
His approaching exams did not prevent him from holidaying in the Basque country at Easter, a region that was new to him. He visited Saint-Palais, Ostabat, Larceveau, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Arnéguy, Valcarlos and Arradoy. Apart for some brief comments on the landscape, he notices the “très jolis filles” of Saint-Palais, and also at Valcarlos, one especially, “gracile, à un lavoir.” At the end of July he returned to Pau, and explored the valley of Ossau, land of his forefathers (“une Espagnole très blanche et très belle” was noted at Eaux-Bonnes). He spent three weeks at Cauterets, dividing his time between the theatre and the casino. He notes in his diary that he had lost some money at roulette - it seems he hadn’t yet discovered the siren call of baccarat. He left there on September 6th, returning briefly to Carresse before spending a month a La Rafette. He records a day of Perpetual Adoration at Carresse, the children of Mary, white in their muslin veils, the black dress of the old folk, black kerchiefs, peasants dressed also in black – and like flowers among the buckwheat, the kerchiefs of the girls, whom he names – Marion, Cadette, Jeanneton. He spend one afternoon reading the complete 4th volume of Houssiaux’s edition of Balzac.
He was now 18 years of age, and not long from quitting Carresse for the scented shores of Mauritius, where he had been summoned by his father. Haget was becoming too much of a strait jacket. A clue to his activities might be gleaned from those with which he endows M. de Paur, in the substituted place name Bressuire, where “you kissed the servants in the corridors and the harvesters in the hayloft, or where you chased after Aline among the hazels, while her red stockings laughed in the long grass.” Contrerime XXXI records these summer days:
Si Monsieur Paul est dans le bois
Avise à la fontaine.
Mais avise aussi the briser
Ta cruche en tournant vite.
Ah, que dirait ta mère. Évite
Son bras. Prends le baiser.
Paul-Jean was gaining a reputation as a bit of a rake. Many years later Jacques Dyssord notes that he was remembered in the locality as a young man who was too knowing and forward to leave a young lady alone in his company. Dyssord heard it at the château de Cassaber, birthplace of his grand-aunt.
Paul-Jean’s family knew it was not in his best interests to let him to his own devices in Carresse.
Secondary school over, Paul-Jean dreamed of studying law in order to enter the diplomatic service and become an ambassador – or just a consul on Mauritius. But the old family doctor, Doctor Foix, of Salies, thought his health too delicate for Paris or the Pyrenées. Paul-Jean had written to Jane about the possibility of visiting Mauritius the following year. While waiting for a decision from his father, he was sent to stay with his Aunt Amélie, his mother’s younger sister, and her husband Aristide Chaline, in Saint-Loubès in the Gironde, where they had bought the château of La Rafette in 1877. La Rafette continued to be an important refuge for Paul-Jean for the remainder of his life, and for Jane, who eventually inherited it.
So “petit Paul” as the family knew him, had to leave behind the shady plane trees of Carresse and the accommodating benches of Beaumont park in Pau for the balmy sands of Savanne and the plaintive song of the casuarina trees, like silk rubbing on silk.
Urruty investigated the why and the when Paul became Paul-Jean. Both his birth and baptismal certificate record only the single name Paul, and during his childhood he was always called either Paul or Petit-Paul (sometimes Monsieur Paul) - never Paul-Jean. In her unpublished memoirs, Paul’s niece Solange (Jane’s daughter) traces the metamorphosis to the period 1884-1885, when Paul would have been 17 or 18. Solange found the earliest letter that was signed Paul-Jean was dated 4.5.1885. But he signed variously Paul or Paul-Jean even after 1885. However, it was certainly before he set out for Mauritius that he introduced the change.
The reason for the change hinges on the French pronunciation of his initials P. T. Solange de Fougiéres wrote: Pour l’euphonie de ses initiales il n’a pas voulu s’appeler Paul Toulet car cela le choquait fort de voir broder ses mouchoirs ou marquer son linge de ses deux lettres fort incongrues qui lui donnaient des nausées – P.T.
So, the bawds of euphony were cheated by the simple expedient of adding Jean. Paul-Jean no longer had to suffer the coincidence – or co-assonance – of having his initials sound like the verb peter. Clearly a sensitive teenager with aspirations to make a noise in the world, be it in law or in literature, might not care to be known to his contemporaries, or indeed to posterity, by the nickname “Fart.”
NOTE: Léopold Bauby, 1867-1933, was one of Toulet’s best friends (and of Jammes, who wrote of him: “un délicieux vieux garçon, aimable autant que savant et artiste”) and curator of the museum at Pau. He was the nephew of the provençal writer Adrien Planté, mayor of Orthez, and possessed a library famous for its size and quality. His memoire of Toulet is on p.1377, note 10. He is mentioned in CR XI
Tel s’enivrait, a son phébus,
D’un chocolat d’Espagne,
Chez Guillot, le feutre en campage,