Cazotte: The Fantastique Writer Who Saw Death

Jacques Cazotte (1719-1792) note: some sources put his birth at 1720

” A brief but sparkling bon-bon from the French writer Jacques Cazotte, who was guillotined in 1792. A young captain, stationed in Naples, is tempted into summoning up Beelzebub, who appears first in the guise of a hideous camel, then as a cute spaniel, and lastly – and most dangerously – as a gorgeous, pouting nymphette who declares herself enamoured of the young man and follows him everywhere. This is an amusing study of temptation, with sinister undertones.” Anne Billson in Time Out “In Biondetta there remains no trace of the monstrous apparition conjured up by Alvaro in the ruins of Portico. The satanic seductress is hidden behind the face of the tormented and plaintive beauty until the end of the fable.” Jorges Luis Borges “The Devil in Love is famous on various counts: for its charm and the perfection of its scenes, but above all for the originality of its conception. ” Gerard de Nerval- from the blurb for the Dedalus European Classics edition of The Devil in Love.
Written in 1772, (original French title: Le Diable Amoureux), The Devil in Love was Jacques Cazotte’s crowning achievement  of the fantastique which paralleled the English Gothics of the day.
Educated by Jesuits, Jacques worked for public office in Martinique, and returned to Paris with the rank of commissioner-general.   In his forties, he began his foray into writing.  Having little interest in the rationalism of the day, he penned a series of fantastical stories as well as translating several Arabian tales into French.
Cazotte’s belief in his ability as a seer led him to the Martinist mysticism of Martinez de Pasqually.  The esoteric form of Christianity concerned itself with the fall of man, and his return to the divine source.
Declaring himself a “mystical monarchist”, Cazotte warned several men and women at a dinner party in 1788 that they would all soon die by guillotine or noose.  To the theater critic Sebastian Chamfort,  he declared, “You will slash your own wrists 22 times before dying a long and miserable death.” 
When the French Revolution began, Chamfort supported it for humanistic reasons.  However, as it became more and more bloody, he condemned the murders and was imprisoned.  Wishing to escape a public execution, he slashed his wrists twenty-two times with a dull razor before dying.
Cazotte’s prediction to  The Marquis de Condorcet that he would one day take poison to escape the guillotine came true in 1794.
Jacques Cazotte could not escape his own fate, either.  On September 25, 1792 he was beheaded for treason.

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28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. How fascinating! Have you read the book? Funny how certain times cause people to turn to the fantastical/supernatural to escape the turbulence of their own times (kind of like now with the proliferation of supernatural television shows and books).

  2. Hey DD,

    No, but I really want to! It’s on Gutenberg, but only in French. drats! An English translation is available on amazon, and I’m sure bookstores can order it too.

    It is funny how many shows and books now deal with the supernatural. Not long ago many networks wouldn’t touch it as only realism was considered serious and meaty and all that.

  3. Well, monkey see, monkey do. With the vacuum left by Charmed, Supernatural stepped in, Ghost Whisperer, then Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle, Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Being Human, Once Upon a Time, Grimm…there’s no end in sight. But honestly, I think we’ve had enough police procedurals too.

  4. Very interesting read. I was asking myself how in the heck someone can slice their wrist 22 times without dieing shortly and reading on I had to smile and said my question has been answer. Yes, a dull blade would do that, lol. Poor guy. I have heard of stories when young of people who can foretell others future but can never foretell their own. This is what I found interesting.

    DD you mention America Horror Story. Is that old or new in America. We have it here too and it is really good. I look forward on watching it on on Fox ever Wednesday. At the moment it is on season one where the mother is in a crazy home, the daughter found out she is dead from taking pills, and the farther is knock out somewhere. Are you on the same season there are is this old?

  5. That was a very interesting post. I want to read him now

  6. Heya Lora!

    I caught the first ep of American Horror Story when it first aired here. Really liked it and wanted to watch more. Alas, missed the next few eps, so I decided to wait and buy the first season when it comes out on DVD.

    I think it’s in the second season now over in the States, but I’m not certain.

    Glad to hear that you’re enjoying it! 🙂

  7. Hey Chazz,

    Thank you! So glad you liked the post. And yeah, I really want to read his work too. 🙂

  8. I think the bit about the predicting the guests deaths was a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy making, but still very interesting, as is the concept of the book.

  9. Hey Ralfast!

    That’s an interesting comment. Hmm…yes, it could be argued that Chamfort wouldn’t have considered cutting his wrists if Cazotte hadn’t once put the idea in his head. But,Cazotte did see that there would be a time when Chamfort would be arrested and facing the guillotine.

    From that point, Chamfort had the choice of going to his beheading, or cutting his wrists and full-filling the prophecy.

    geez…nice choices!

  10. Hi Lora,

    RE: AHS, I don’t get the Fox channel so I’ve never seen it. A lot of my Twitter pals watch it though, which is how I know about it. I don’t know which season they’re on here at the moment. I know about a lot of shows I’ve never seen 🙂

  11. Tasha how long ago did you see the first season? Because I think this one is coming to an end. Since you did not finish watch it I don’t want to say why I think it is coming to an end. I just wonder how much spirit can this house fill. It is crazy!

    I hate it that we are so behind. I am a True Blood fan and is waiting for the new series. It is not even close yet. Last American episodes I tried to watch on the internet and miss the last three. A German virus attached my computer stating it is from the Bundes Polizei, something like that. With the German flag and all. It asked me to get a Geo card or some type of payment card to pay to remove the lock. My heart stop and freaked out. Told hubby and he was piss because he always told me not to watch internet tv. Wait until I go home and visit family to watch. Don’t watch on the internet. It took me almost a week to get that darn virus off my laptop. It was hard because it seize my laptop. I could not click on nothing and as soon as the screen open it jump straight to the BP page and lock up my computer. Thank goodness I have other computers at home to find out it was a fake and a virus. To find out the real name of the virus to remove it off of my laptop. That scare the crap out of me and I learned my lesson. Not to watch American tv show on my laptop. Wait for it to come on tv.

  12. Hi DD, really. you should watch it on youtube if it is on there. I think it might pull your interest. It is a little funny and have it moment that get your heart going but lightly, lol. I am so hook to it. I have my tv on command to switch over if I forget about the timing.

  13. Hey Lora,

    ugh! First- so sorry to hear about the computer virus. That utterly stinks.

    I’m a HUGE True Blood fan. 🙂 🙂 Seems we have the same taste in tv shows. We have seen the first four seasons (so we’re caught up), and are waiting for the fifth.

    It was a while ago that I saw the first ep of American Horror Story. Really looking forward to being able to watch the full season.

  14. […] Tweet of the Day: Cazotte: The Fantastique Writer Who Say Death […]

  15. I know right. Since your on my time zone if you know any horror movies or series coming up let me know please. I have Karbel tv and Sky. Also if I never get to see the last three ep of True Blood I know who to come to and ask. Some people told me that Tira died at the end. I don’t want to know yet. I seen it when the witch place a spell on blondy and he start killing people when Bill was making a speech. That was the last one:(

  16. Hey Lora,

    i will definitely let you know about any new horror shows/films. I just checked to see when season 4 of True Blood is coming to German t.v. No luck thus far. Nor did I see a release date for it on DVD. So you might have a bit of a wait.

  17. Thank you and no problem, I can wait. I have a funny feeling it will come out the weather is beautiful here. Which is when I don’t watch must tv, more so on sucky weather days.

  18. You just made my reading list even longer.

    Have you gotten into Arthur Machen at all? I’m really liking him so far.

  19. hey Walter,

    heh. You should see MY list. 😉

    I’ve read some of Machen and definitely want to read more. Which ones have you read?

  20. I’ve just read The Great God Pan, alongside Lovecraft’s In the Mountains of Madness. Can’t say which I liked more–I thought they were both extremely good. I also want to look at Robert W. Chambers–he seems to have written some similar stuff.

  21. I really like that portrait of Cazotte. Quite the little smirk he has on his face!

  22. Poor Chamfort… he’d obviously never heard of “Down the road, not across the street”. 🙂

    Seriously, though, while I’m a complete skeptic in the paranormal, this is the kind of prediction that does intrigue me – it’s specific, it’s not easily fulfilled (e.g. if you tell someone their next child will be a boy, you’re right 50% of the time) and it really was fulfilled. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Hey Marian,

    I guess that means if we were ever cast in a show, I’d be a female Mulder to your Scully. 🙂

  24. The idea of The Devil In Love has also been reprised by Arturo Pérez-Reverte in his novel The Club Dumas. He cites the book a few times.

    There is a very loose film adaptation from Pérez-Reverte’s story called The Ninth Gate, but it is very disappointing if compared to the book.

  25. Hi Ophmac,

    First..thanks for stopping over at my blog! 🙂

    I haven’t read The Club Dumas, but I did read and enjoy another book by Arturo. Have heard good things about Club Dumas. Thank you for reminding me about it.

  26. Devil’s love, a good path to explore in literature 😉 . It’s new to me. Leave it to the french to make something kinky.

  27. Hi Edd,

    First, thanks for coming over to my blog. 🙂

    HaHa! hadn’t thought of it that way. But then, fun kink can be found around the world of literature. 😉

  28. My pleasure. Keep writing.

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