"Who could have done a better job of documenting you than Dazet?"Paul Lespès, a former friend of Isidore Ducasse, known as the Count of Lautréamont, lamented this in a letter to his first biographer. Better known under the enigmatic epithet of the "silky-eyed octopus"Georges Dazet had died 7 years earlier; in the absence of his testimony, the "Dazet mystery" at the heart of the Songs of Maldoror remains unresolved. This did not prevent "generations of exegetes [to come] up against it"(Lefrère, Lautréamont, p.39). Jean-Jacques Lefrère devotes a chapter to Georges Dazet in his two main works on Lautréamont, and the Georges Dazet dossier in the Cahiers Lautréamont contains no fewer than 7 parts, with articles by Jean José Marchand, Jean-Jacques Lefrère and Jean-Pierre Lassalle.

In fact, Georges Dazet, as well as being the first person to dedicate the Poetry Iis cited 9 times in the first version of the Songs of Maldoror (1868). It appears in stanza 9:

Ah, Dazet! you whose soul is inseparable from mine; you, the most beautiful of women's sons, though still an adolescent; [...] why aren't you with me, your chest against my chest, sitting together on some rock on the shore, contemplating this spectacle that I adore!

On the second publication of the first song in the collection Perfumes of the soul (1869), his name was replaced by the initial "D...". More curiously, in the definitive version of Songs published by Lacroix in August 1869, Dazet's surname disappeared entirely, giving way to an outpouring of more or less grotesque animal epithets: the famous "silky-eyed octopus"(stanza 9), first of all, and then "rhinolophe [...] whose nose is topped by a horseshoe-shaped crest"(stanza 10), "venerable louse, you whose body has no elytra"(stanza 12), "the four paw-feet of the sea bear from the Boreal Ocean"(stanza 13), "unfortunate toad"(stanza 13), "the acarus sarcoptes that produces scabies"(stanza 14).

This metamorphosis of Dazet's name is the main variant of the 3 known versions of the first song, and as such has given rise to a number of speculations that make up the "Dazet mystery". Could a dispute have divided the two comrades, justifying the transformation of Dazet into this strange chimera? Could it be that the Dazet family, who had often welcomed Ducasse when he was a boarder at Tarbes lycée, demanded that this ambiguous prose be censored? Was Dazet's metamorphosis a purely literary development?

 "so that the six songs as a whole would have this dialectical identity of opposites, affirming that the unity of a text is not in the maintenance of a plot built around clearly defined heroes, but in the incessant productivity it reveals"? (Peytard Jean. La rature de Dazet, ou la métamorphose du sens. Literature, n°4, 1971.. pp. 68-78)


Be that as it may, the question continues to fascinate, all the more so as questions are being asked about the friendship that might have bound Dazet, aged 16 when Canto I first appeared, to Isidore Ducasse, 6 years his senior; François Caradec goes so far as to speculate that Ducasse might have felt amorous feelings for Dazet (Isidore Ducasse, Count of Lautréamont).

Unknown during his lifetime, Lautréamont (1846-1870) was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. Read by Huysmans, Jarry and Remy de Gourmont, he was adopted as a model by the Surrealists. However, very little is known about this "iron mask of literature"(Lefrère, Isidore Ducasse, p. 7), whose biography was painstakingly pieced together from meagre clues: the list of dedicatees of the Poetry IIsidore Ducasse was placed at the Lycée Impérial in Tarbes.

Ducasse is in 5th grade, while Dazet is in 8th. Despite this age difference, the teenagers became friends: Jean Dazet, Georges' father, was probably the correspondent for the Ducasse internship - a scheme set up for students whose parents lived far away. The only known portrait of Isidore Ducasse was discovered in 1977 by Jean-Jacques Lefrère - an event of major importance in the history of research into Lautréamont - in the Dazet family photographic album, opposite a photo of Georges Dazet as a child.

  • An adult portrait of Georges Dazet by Blanchard (Tarbes), silver print in portrait carte-de-visite format, 63 x 105 mm. It should be noted that this is the same photographer who produced the only known portrait of Isidore Ducasse, discovered in the Dazet family photographic album. The marks and inscriptions on the back of the two photos, as well as their format, are identical in every respect.

Georges Dazet proved to be a brilliant student, "so much so that his teachers advised his family to let him continue his studies in the elite class of a Parisian lycée intended for the little prodigies of the Empire." (Isidore Ducasse, p. 138). He also won a number of awards, including the Prix d'Excellence, which will be awarded to him every year.

  • Two prize books from the Lycée impérial in Tarbes, where Georges Dazet met Lautréamont:
    Villmeain, Study of ancient and foreign literature by M. De Villemain. Paris, Didier et Cie, 1862. 1 vol in-12, 120 x 178 mm, [2] ff. - 395 pp. Prize label pasted on the upper flyleaf, 1st prize for religious instruction awarded to Georges Dazet, 3rd grade student. Brown basane, smooth spine decorated in gold, boards decorated with a gilt fillet and cold decoration, medallion "Lycée Impérial de Tarbes" in gold in the centre of the upper board, roulette on the edges, marbled edges. Upper headpiece missing, rubbed. Spotting, paper browned.
    Flourens, Collection of historical eulogies read at public sessions of the Académie des Sciences. Paris, Garnier frères, 1856. 3 vol. in-12, 123 x 179 mm 412 pp. + 436 pp. + 366 pp. Prize label affixed to upper flyleaf of vol. 1, 2nd prize in mathematics awarded to Georges Dazet, 2nd year student. Green basane, smooth spine with gold decoration, gilt fillet and cold decoration on boards, medallion "Lycée Impérial de Tarbes" in centre of upper board, roulette on edges, gilt edges.
  • A work from the library of Georges Dazet, with his handwritten bookplate in ink on the first white endpaper (to M. George Dazet, Tarbes"). Guizot, L'amie des enfants, petit cours de morale en action. Paris: Didier, 1856. 1 vol. in-8, 160 x 244 mm, XI pp. - 266 pp. - 1] bl. f. - 280 pp. - 17] plates. Publisher's cloth binding, smooth spine with gilt decoration, boards illustrated with polychrome decoration. Spotting, crease and small tear to one leaf, marginal tear to one plate. Interspersed with a drawing, profile of a skinned man in ink on a sheet of tracing paper, signed in pencil (illegible).

In 1862, Ducasse left the lycée in Tarbes. Dazet continued his studies there until the end of his Year 2, before moving to the capital to attend the Lycée Charlemagne. Did the two Tarbes residents meet again in Paris? Lefèvre speculates that Dazet may have been the one who introduced Ducasse to his childhood friend Paul Émion, who is also listed as the dedicatee of the Poetry I under the name Alfred Sircos. As director of the magazine Youth, Émion was the only critic to react to the publication of Songs (Isidore Ducasse, pp. 343-344). A letter from Georges Dazet to his mother testifies to his state of mind at this period of his life:

  • 1 LàS from Georges Dazet to his mother, written from Paris while he was studying at the Lycée Charlemagne and staying at the pension Massin (mention "commencement of 1870" in graphite). One 264 x 208 mm ff. in-8, folded in two, 4 pp. handwritten in ink. In it, Dazet talks about his school results, his weariness and the riots in the Parisian lycées.

Dear Mother,
I'll start with an account of my day on Sunday. - I left the boarding house late, around noon, and had lunch with our inspector, who as a near-compatriot (he is from the Ariège) is on excellent terms with me. In the afternoon I went to Tronsens' house and knocked on Prat's door, but I still haven't found him. I'd like to answer a question in your penultimate letter. Jean-Paul saw Prat during his last stay in Paris; he spent about two hours with him; it was Sunday as far as I know. Prat had a rather hard time of it, but it has passed, and he is now very comfortably settled. What's more, he lives in the central district of Paris, just fifty metres from Tronens. That evening I dined at Mayer's with Aubertin and de Pressence, and after dinner the four of us went to the Caraignac conference, which I told you about, I think, last year. This took us very quietly to 10 o'clock, the time when we parted. -
No seats again this week: Monsieur de la Coulonche takes it in his stride: for three weeks and more he has had in his hands a composition in speech. -
But what am I saying, no places? Yes, on the contrary, in the Latin version, where I managed to come ninth. - I had done my composition under the influence of those unfortunate impressions I mentioned in my last letter. All in all, a small affair.
That trouble I told you about, perhaps, and which worried my godmother so much, has disappeared like so many others I didn't tell you about. All that's left is a great deal of physical tiredness. I don't feel unwell, but I'm limp and unable to do anything. It's impossible to get out of bed in the morning, impossible not to fall asleep on my notebooks or books. I waste an incredible amount of time stretching and rubbing my eyes. Madame Lesage makes me take cinchona: it can only be very good. But I hope that spring will come and titillate me a little. I really need it.
It's the lycées of Paris in general that don't need to be roused! Riot at Ste Barbe, which you will of course hear about. Yesterday evening, riot at Jauffret. They're doing well! I think Massin will remain calm, resting on his old glory: because it was he who gave the signal, back in November, if you remember. In any case, Monsieur Lesage and Monsieur David are not at all reassured. Ah, it's a difficult job (to XXX)
Now I thank you, good mother, for the haste you have shown in getting me the things I said I needed. But you could have waited a little longer and not bothered, because I'm sure you had to be bothered, poor mother. For the rest, don't worry, I'll take it easy on you and only wear them when I absolutely need them. I'll wait another fortnight before wearing them: they'll still be XXX enough XXX (I realise I've used the plural throughout, even though it's only a dust jacket: it doesn't matter).
I'm going to give you another problem, perhaps a more serious one. It's about shopping to complete the costume of my friend Petitfront. Petitfront is going to a fancy dress ball next Sunday in eight, and he would like to have for that day: a fine red belt, whatever the price; a Catalan knife, with a good blade, about the length of a span, in the price of 10 to 18 francs; finally a Basque drum (Oh! 'chic', that's his word. Is all this possible? I doubt it. But you could at least have the belt and the knife. Needless to say, if you can also have the drum, you'll please me and you'll be doing my comrade a favour. All this as soon as you can, by next Thursday if possible. Try, so that you don't have to pay, to give the commission to some shop in Tarbes, Noilhan or other, which will send the invoice as it is to Father Petitfront... + Reply to all this in such a way that I can show the letter to Petitfront.
As for the headmaster's silence, there's not the slightest need to worry about it: he's always the most charming person in the world to me and is delighted whenever he gets a good report on me. I try, of course, to do this as often as possible.
Have you heard from Jean-Paul since he moved in? I'm at least waiting for him to send me his address. Guitry has been strongly threatened with marriage by Madame Lesage, who is taking the matter to heart. I am finishing, short of paper and time. Compliments to [Mara], reassure my godmother, who is worried about my boredom; talk to me [about Louis des au Blond, whom I don't see coming] and give everyone a big kiss for me, especially you.
Thursday, 12.1/2 noon
G Dazet


All the testimonies agree in depicting Dazet as a paragon of charisma, and emphasise both his eloquence and his advantageous physique. An old man from Tarbes described him in the following way, after meeting him on a train and being left with an unforgettable impression: "a very handsome man - the term Alcibiades was used - attractive, and there was enough to fascinate a child." (Isidore Ducasse, p. 158). While Ducasse put this fascination into words like no other, he was not the only one to choose Dazet as his muse.

  • Two poems by a certain "V. P." dedicated to Georges Dazet, namely: a handwritten poem signed V. P., with an epigraph by Georges Dazet (G. D.) (Lefrère, Lautréamont, p. 131) (1 f., 134 x 208 mm) and a typescript acrostic poem "To Georges Dazet", with an epigraph by Georges Dazet, signed V. P. (Lefrère, Lautréamont, p. 131). 1 f of 122 x 169 mm.

The overturned bench
A gigantic question mark!
- G. D.

From the confines of the arid pampas of thought
From deep in the gulf-stream of foolish things
From the Himalayas of the imagination,
From the distant Aether that no Herschell names,
A spectre of silence and contortion,
Not a demon, not a leprechaun, not a gnome,
Feet in the air, threatening, he stands up as if
A gigantic question mark....

You pass by. It's frightening, and it makes you want to
To sign up for a bit, because you fear for your life.
But He, always calm in His position,
Confounding calculations and the human gaze,
Addressing the same question.
It's big. He's scary. He looks like a ghost.
Feet in the air, threatening, he stands up as if
A gigantic question mark!

-Tired of servitude
Victim of the hind legs,
I'm freeing myself from the attitude
Lower furniture.
During my harsh existence
Among humble servants,
I was resting from weariness
Passers-by and walkers.

-But - oh human ingratitude!
How I suffer dishonour
I, who in my solicitude
Offered asylum in the bosom of flowers!...

-In the shade, when Mr Jude
Heard sweet sounds,
With what bliss
My oppressors were back!...

-A man of heart and learning,
Moved by my many misfortunes,
Eased my worry
If you'd like to sit somewhere else!

-In its loyal rectitude,
Despising the wicked and the scoffers
He came to this solitude
To rise to greatness!

V. P/D


Cat's eyes

I have the eyes of a cat...
G. D.

Ah, don't complain about having cat eyes;
To lament such a fate would be ingratitude;
Well, my goodness, we're lawyers like you,
Fate must bless this solicitude.
Raccoon, during the night, at the first favour.
Let's hope that, like him, you can see clearly too,
And that in a trial where the light is missing
You don't have to worry about it.

So be delighted by this privilege;
By your side, let the clever ones take their eyes out;
Zoroaster and Newton would have done the same....
And any good lawyer has to earn a living,
Holding it all together: claws and catlike looks.

V. P.

  • A handwritten poem probably given to Georges Dazet, a letter from a prisoner to his lover. 1 f. of 220 x 160 mm folded in 2, i.e. 2.5 pp. Unidentified.

Although Dazet confined himself to writing works on sociology and politics when he reached adulthood, some of his early manuscripts bear witness to his active role in these literary exchanges. He seems to have been particularly interested in the theatre, which enabled him to hone both his writing and his oratory skills. Lefrère cites in particular a play co-written by Dazet, a parody of Telemachus for which he played the role of Alcibiade (Lefrère, Lautréamont, p. 132)

  • Unpublished manuscripts of two early works: the incomplete manuscript of a comedy in 5 acts (i.e. Act II , Act III and the beginning of a plot summary), "Le Supplice d'une Mère" (in-4, 190 x 240 mm, 13pp. 1⁄2. Tears to the top of the last page which do not affect the understanding of the text despite a missing word). The Countess of de Gueyran seeks to marry off her daughter, but is reminded of a youthful mistake by a blackmailer. This manuscript seems to be unknown to Lefrère, who does not cite it in Lautréamont. Also the manuscript of a poem in Bigourdan patois, "Lou Pensa e la Rose counté" (3pp. 1⁄4, small in-4, 162 x 224 mm).

Hailed as a prodigy in his childhood, and enjoying a good reputation as a lawyer, Dazet was less successful in his political career, where he experienced "fewer ups than downs" (Isidore Ducasse, p. 159). Pursued by a 'historiette' (he had allegedly gambled with money that had been entrusted to him), he became involved in bitter quarrels as he tried to defend himself, lost several successive elections and was even ousted from his own party.
The scandal continued to dog him: he was implicated in the Lemoine affair, a swindle based on an alleged diamond manufacturing process. A Freemason, he was later accused of having acted as an informer for the Grand Orient during the "fiches affair": with the aim of "republicanising" the army, officers had been "filed" according to their political beliefs, on the advice of certain Freemasons.

Long lost to biographers, Isidore Ducasse has now been more or less 'reconstructed', and this incomplete portrait is based, as much as on his work, on the people who surrounded it. The photograph of Dazet included in this set thus features prominently on the covers of two of Jean-Jacques Lefrère's books devoted to the poet, interwoven into the mosaic that constitutes our answer to the mystery of Lautréamont.


"Get rid of this angel of consolation who covers me with his blue wings. Go away Dazet, let me die in peace. But unfortunately it was only a passing illness, and I feel disgusted to be reborn to life." (Strophe 10, 1st version)

Bibliography :
Lefrère, Jean-Jacques. Isidore Ducasse, author of Les Chants de Maldoror, by the comte de Lautréamont. Paris: Fayard, 1998.
Lefrère, Jean-Jacques. Lautréamont. Flammarion: 2008.

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