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 Émile Nelligan

Émile Nelligan

Birth
Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada
Death 18 Nov 1941 (aged 61)
Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada
Burial Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada
Plot Section N, #588
Memorial ID 3670 · View Source
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Poet. Emile Nelligan was born in Montreal, on Christmas Eve 1879, to Patrick Nelligan, the son of irish immigrants who came to Montreal, Quebec, in 1856, and Emilie Amanda Hudon, the daughter of Magloire Hudon, the first mayor of Rimouski, a parish of St. Lawrence Lower South Shore. His father worked his way up the social ladder from a simple clerk to inspector of the Postal Service. It was during the course of his duty that he met and dated Emilie Hudon, a talented musician, whose parents had died of typhus fever before her sixteenth birthday. After the marriage in 1875, the couple moved to Montreal where Emilie suffered greatly of cultural alienation from her french-canadian upbringing (none of her in-laws spoke french, except her husband). She would only see her family during the summer vacations. It was with no surprise that Emilie welcomed the birth of her first child, a son, Emile, wowing he would be brought up in the love and respect of his french-canadian heritage. Two daughters completed the Nelligan family: Eva and Gertrude. The family moved in the middle-class neighborhood of Carré St. Louis (in the heart of what is now known as Le Plateau Mont-Royal). After his primary school, Emile was sent under the authorities of the Jesuits, in the prestigious Ste-Marie College. Much to the pleasure of his mother, Emile soon displayed a penchant for litterature and poetry, a gift his mother attributed to his maternal grandfather, who wrote for various newspapers during his student's time. Emilie Hudon Nelligan, who socialised in the french-canadian bourgeoisie, encouraged her son to recite poetry at parochial charity events she attended. It was during those event the Emile met two people who became instrumental in his writing career : Robertine Barry aka « Francoise », the first french-canadian female journalist, also a Nelligan family neighbor, and Eugene Seers aka « Louis Dantin », a catholic priest who became Emile's mentor. Another close friend was Idola St-Jean, an aspiring actress who would later lead the struggle for women's vote in Quebec. Emile Nelligan, while attending sporadically his classes, published his first poems in 1896, in Le Monde Illustré, under the nickname Emile Kovar, and under his real name in 1897. During the same time, he befriended Arthur De Bussieres, a commercial painter, who wrote poetry who introduced him in l'Ecole Litteraire de Montreal, a litterary circle which organised opened public lectures of its members' production. Emile took part in two lectures, the most famous one in May 1899, when recited his celebrated poem La Romance du Vin (The Wine Song) in which he expressed the grandeur and torment of an artist in a society more preoccupied by social affluence than artistic merit. Deeply attached to his french-canadian roots, and even if he was fluent in english, Nelligan insisted his last name was pronounced in french. The desire for Emile Nelligan to fulfill his artistic activities lead him to drop out of school in May 1897. Considering it was near to impossible to live from a writing career in Quebec in those days, this infuriated his father, who had greater ambitions for his only son. After many failed attempts to find a him a regular job, creating many violent disputes between father and son, and perhaps precipitating his downfall to juvenile depression, Emile was sent for a short stint in a neurological institute. Back home, the conflict, as well as depression, deepened, forcing the family to take the hard decision to commit Emile to La Retraite St-Benoit Sanatorium, in August 1899. He was 19, and that marked the end of his fulgurant litterary career, spanning only four years. His beloved mother, who only visited her son once, died of breasts cancer in 1913. After the death of his father and sister Gertrude in 1925, Emile was transfered to St-Jean-de-Dieu Mental Hospital, where he died in 1941. In 1902, Louis Dantin secretly used the his convent's printing facilities to prepare an edition of Emile Nelligan's poems in a booklet modeled after a prospective canvas titled Le Recital des Anges (Angel's Recital). This saddly lead to his dismissal by his superiors and his exile in New York and later Cambridge MA, where he died in 1945. The book was completed by Emilie Hudon Nelligan and fellow ELM poet and painter Charles Gill, under the title Nelligan et son Œuvre (Nelligan and his Work) in 1904. The book slowly gained critical and public acclaim. It was reprinted in 1925, 1932 and 1945. A comprehensive edition of poems, still scattered in numerous newspapers and scrapbooks (Emile Nelligan, Poesies Completes 1896 – 1899) was published by Luc Lacoursiere in 1952. In the course of 50 years, Nelligan's work was translated in many languages, including spanish, russian and polish. In 1960, Ryerson Press published F. P. Widdows' english translation of Nelligan's Selected Poems, and Fred Cogswell's The Complete Poems of Emile Nelligan were published by Harvest House in 1983. With his influences spanning from Beaudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé to Edgar Allan Poe, coupled with his writing technique which played with the musical rhythm of the french language, close to what is now known as Spoken Word, Emile Nelligan is considered Quebec's first modern poet, and many young writers still cite him as a major influence. To this day, all serious french language poetry compilations list his most famous poems, Le Vaisseau d'Or (The Golden Vessel), Soir d'Hiver (Winter Evening) and La Romance du Vin (The Wine Song).

Bio by: Dominique Ritchot


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 12 Oct 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3670
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Émile Nelligan (24 Dec 1879–18 Nov 1941), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3670, citing Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .