Stensson replies, via e-mail (for context you are advised to peruse preceding posts):


Firstly: no, you can’t borrow my first editions. I have it on good authority that this ‘Active Reading’ of which you are so foolishly fond involves such practices as reading in the centre of a haystack, or in a bath of beans, neither of which are, in my opinion, even vaguely safe environments for a poor, defenceless book. What’s more I am a selfish and possessive bastard. I wouldn’t let Jesus borrow my Bible.

Secondly: you’re wrong (or ‘off beam’ as my brother’s father’s daughter used to say). My reference was not to Maurice d’Orbey (I’ll come back to him later) but, as written, to Maurice Orbez. That you have not heard of the latter comes as no surprise to those who know you. Luckily I am here, as others have been before, to set you straight (you always did need someone to tie your laces, didn’t you?)

Orbez hailed from Dijon and wrote, in the 1870s, two books. The first one was called Life is Sickness and Other Medieval Wall-Scrawlings; the second Pain is an Everpresent and Yet More Medieval Wall-Scrawlings. I suspect that the titles may provide a clue as to the books’ contents, but I will point out that both works are fiction. Orbez knew nothing of actual medieval wall-scrawlings: he simply made ‘em up – and thank God he did, for both books represent a well-contained riot of historical humour. Should you ever come across a copy – or a less self-interested friend who owns one – I insist that you dive into it (that’s a metaphor by the way: I don’t mean that you should read it whilst diving, which nonetheless sounds like your sort of caper).

Now, concerning d’Orbey, whose first editions I do not, sadly, own, I think you are doing him (and his father) an injustice by referring to the works merely as ‘raunchy ballads’. Most critics have by now agreed that the real strength of the d’Orbey poetry is the range of delicately wrought perspectives it provides on the father/son relationship. So there are a fair few barmaids, sans attire, thrown in: but there’s more to it than that, really there is. Hmmm… yes..

Now where was I? Oh yes. Lastly, though I thank you for drawing fresh attention to my article on the late great Lucas de Boer, I notice you have expressed some uncertainly over my claims to have met Vincent Van Gogh. All I can say is this: if it wasn’t the man himself, it was a mighty fine (and dedicated) imitator. Still, I respect your right to reserve judgment. My body of proof is missing a few limbs, I know.

 Toodlepip then,

C. S

P.S. By the way, you’re going to publish this on-line aren’t you? I wouldn’t have been so polite otherwise, you old **** ***** *********

My response? Well, um, indeed, yes.

More on this later.


4 thoughts on “d’Orbey/Orbez

  1. You should explain to the self-satisfied Stensson that Maurice Orbez was merely the nom-de-plume of a Madame De Bouffray-Ticholauz, who took to writing after arising from the shame of being a defrocked nun, which in fact she was. Some say the Wall-Scrawling books are written in code.

  2. I’ll wait and see what Stensson makes of your information Andrew – but be warned, his self-satisfaction knows no limits and he’s almost bound to come back at you with a cartful of contrived claims.

    As for the bath of beans, I have in fact never tried reading under these conditions (though I do confess to the haystack centre, where I once sped through a collection of Tomas Lurgsy poems)

  3. On the contrary Georgy, I am well prepared to accept elements of the information presented above. I have heard the defrocked nun rumour before, though there is a tendency amongst new-fangled critics to suppose that Bouffray-Ticholauz (who has a cameo of course in Ignatious Boswold’s ‘Religious History of the Rhineland’) actually co-wrote the text; possibly she was Maurice d’Orbey’s lover – or, as I personally believe, stole his identity (in any case, someone of his name did exist, so it probably wasn’t a straight non-de-plume).
    Talk of a code contained within the Wall-Scrawlings is, meanwhile, so much fresh lettuce to me. I have always admired the works for their simple, brutal honesty – and should hate to think that within them lurks difficult truths..

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