6 June 2010

Étienne Baudry, Rochemont (Saintes) and Royan, Charente-Maritime (17), France

Étienne Baudry (1830-1908) is not a name well known in France, the country of his birth, let alone the UK, but a new book, Étienne Baudry: Une vie chantentaise...châtelain, dandy et écrivain militant (Saintes: Le Croît vif, 2010), written by his grand-daughter Yvonne Melia-Sevrain, may begin to change things. Baudry was born in Saintes and spent much of his life in the castle at Rochemont, near Saintes. Rochemont more or less depended on the revenue from its extensive vineyards.

In 1864 Baudry married Isabelle Bardin, a younger woman incapable of dressing herself without a servant, and the disastrous marriage was later satirized in Baudry's Le Camp des bourgeois (1868), a publication that came out two years before the essay Les Bras mercenaires. In these publications, along with his La fin du monde, Baudry sketched out his ideas for a future socialistic - even to some extent anarchistic - society, partly influenced by Louis Blanc and Charles Fourier.

Baudry established a workshop at Rochemont, where the artist Louis-Augustin Auguin lived for some months, and, for a longer period and more (in)famously, Gustave Courbet, who was a considerable financial burden to Baudry.

Due to the failure of his vineyards, Baudry was forced to sell Rochemont and move to Royan, where he died. Until recently, his grave in the cemetery in Royan lay unnoticed, and it is only a few years ago that it has been restored.

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