View Full Version : Villion and R.L.S.

08-11-2007, 04:59 AM
Dear guys
I'm reading "USA" by John Dos Passos. In "1919" (the 2nd part of the trilogy), there's biography of Jack Reed, the famous brave American writer and journalist. In part of this biography, there's a reference to "Villon" (and I'm not sure if it's referring to "Francoi Villon", the French poet of 16 century, or "Jacque Villon", the cubist painer of 19 century) and also a reference to "R.L.S." At the same time, I know that Stevensen has written "A Lodging For the Night" but I can't link it with "Villon" in this text. Here's the text:

Refrain; the rusty machinery creaked, the deans quivered under their mortarboards, the cogs turned to Class Day, and Reed was out in the world:
Washington Square!
Conventional turns out to be a cussword;
Villon seeking a lodging for the night in the Italian tenements on Sullivan Street, Bleeker, Carmine;
research proves R.L.S. to have been a great cocksman,
and as for the Elizabethans
to hell with them.

Please answer my following questions:
1) Which "Villon" is the writer referring to, the poet Villon or the painter Villon;
2) What's the meaning of "seeking a lodging for the night in the Italian tenements..."
3) is there any link between "Villon" and "R.L.S."?
4) is there any relation for their reputation as "gay or homo"?
5) What are Elizabethans doing there?

Thanks you in advance.
Best regards

08-11-2007, 01:03 PM
1) RLS is indeed referring to 15th. C French medieval poet François Villon (http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/1535) in his "A Lodging For The Night" (http://www.online-literature.com/short.php/2966). He also mentions him in his non-fiction travel memoir Across the Plains (http://www.online-literature.com/view.php/across-the-plains/4)

Stevenson wrote a scathing essay about him titled "François Villon: Student, Poet, and Housebreaker" (http://www.online-literature.com/stevenson/men-and-books/6/)

2) I'm not sure if it's literal, or a euphemism, would need more context. But, might be in reference to being in exile, or hiding, as Villon had murdered a priest and was associated with a group of charlatans, thugs, thieves, etc. 'Tenement' usually has negative connotations for any period of history--squalid conditions, cheap rent, often where immigrants stick together, sometimes to the exclusion of surrounding groups of people.

3) see above but to add:

Stevenson also wrote poetry, some collected in his Underwoods (http://www.online-literature.com/stevenson/underwoods/) and Ballads (http://www.online-literature.com/stevenson/ballads/)

He also travelled much throughout the English Isles, western Europe, and North America, and on to Samoa (where he died)--some of the stories collected in his "Essays of Travel (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/627)".

It seems Stevenson took a deep personal dislike to Villon, hundreds of years later:

"It was particularly the tendency in French realism to dwell on sordidness and ugliness that Stevenson rejected. In an 1877 essay, "François Villon: Student, Poet, and Housebreaker," he castigates the French medieval poet François Villon for lying about the poor: Villon had made them out to be as greedy, covetous, and deceitful as he, but he had not the courage to depict their nobility." (http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/stevensonbio.html)

4) For the types who think this is a good 'sign' of heterosexuality :p , Stevenson married Fanny Osbourne late 1800s.

5) I'm not sure? would have to know more about the context of the text you have quoted.

08-21-2007, 08:08 AM
Dear Logos
Your explanations answered lots of my questions. But I'm still confused about "Elizabethans" there. If you have "1919" by John Dos Passos, please read "Playboy" (biography of jack (John) Silas Reed there and tell me please what you think about "Elizabethans" there. Otherwise, please send me an email so that I can send you the biography in a pdf file.
Thanks a lot.