Laurent Tailhade

Life Dates:
1854 – 1919
Artist Biography:
Laurent Tailhade (16 April 1854, Tarbes - 2 November 1919, Combs-la-Ville) was a French satirical poet, anarchist polemicist, essayist, and translator, active in Paris in the 1890s and early 1900s. His most well-known poetry collections, "Au Pays du Mufle" (1891) and "Imbéciles et Gredins" (1900) have retained their insulting wit and verve, which blends the street slang of the outer "faubourgs" (suburbs) of Paris with the rich language of a broad-ranging culture. Interesting biographical information: Tailhade's family, which included a number of magistrates and government officers, tried to push him into a bourgeois marriage, in the hopes that the genteel boredom of family life in the provinces would prevent him from taking up a bohemian artists' lifestyle. Upon the death of his wife, Tailhade moved away from the hinterlands and took up residence in Paris, where he began the bohemian city lifestyle he had always hoped for, consuming opium and befriending the poets Paul Verlaine, Jean Moréas and Albert Samain. Tailhade soon developed an anarchist and anticlerical attitude in his poems and polemic essays. His polemical writings led him to be lambasted by the press and resulted in him being jailed for a year on the charge of "provoking murder". After December 1893, Tailhade became well-known (albeit notoriously so) after he proclaimed his admiration for a terrorist attack by an anarchist named Vaillant. After Vaillant attacked the Chamber of Deputies, Tailhade scandalized the Parisian bourgeoisie with his statement, "Qu'importe la victime si le geste est beau," which translates as "Who cares about the victim if the gesture [of the violent act] is beautiful." In an ironic twist, Tailhade was himself the victim of an unrelated terrorist attack several months later, when a bomb was exploded at a restaurant Tailhade was in. Although the explosion destroyed one of Tailhade's eyes, he did not recant his support for the anarchists; indeed, he continued to state his support for anarchism with renewed vigour.