The Sons of Clovis – a new book on Ern Malley

Posted by on Jul 23, 2011 in Malley | 0 comments

An article by David Rainey.


A new book on literary hoaxes, with new things to say about the Ern Malley hoax, is due for publication in late August.


Researching literary hoaxes has been a twenty year quest for Associate Professor David Brooks of the Department of English at the University of Sydney. Publicity for his new book The Sons of Clovis promises that it will be a scholarly tour de force, establishing previously unrecognised connections between the Australian scene and French symboliste poetry, in what the promo predicts will be one of the most talked-about literary books of 2011.


‘The Sons of Clovis II’, oil on canvas, by Évarsity Vital Luminais, 1880, Art Gallery of New South Wales

‘The Sons of Clovis II’, oil on canvas, by Évarsity Vital Luminais, 1880, Art Gallery of New South Wales


The intriguing title of the book is likely linked to Luminais’s eponymous paintings, one in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and a second, very similar, in the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, France.  The Merovingian King Clovis II ruled the Frankish kingdoms of Neustria (modern Belgium and NW France north of the River Loire) and Bourgogne (modern SE France) from 638-659. Legend has it that when two of Clovis’s sons rebelled against him when he was absent campaigning, their mother Queen Bathilde ordered that they be hamstrung (their tendons severed and cauterised) and cast adrift on a raft on the River Seine. The raft ran ashore near the Abbeye of Jumièges downstream from Rouen, where the monks sheltered and cared for the two crippled sons who eventually took holy vows and became renowned for their piety and ecclesiastical scholarship. In time they were reconciled with their parents who then endowed the abbey lavishly.  They are known in history as Les Énervés de Jumièges (the Enervated of Jumièges).


More information on these sons of King Clovis can be found on the following links:


One connection to the Ern Malley hoax is that Les Énervés de Jumièges is one of several groups of poems in the 1885 anthology Les Déliquescences, poèmes décadents d’Adoré Floupette (The Deliquencies, decadent poems of Adoré Floupette).  The poetry was the work not of Floupette but of two rather conservative poets Henri Beauclair & Gabriel Vicaire who, in manner similar to McAuley and Stewart, did not acknowledge their authorship.   A more subtle connection is that many observers believe that Stewart and McAuley were somewhat hamstrung throughout their lives by the Malley poems and their aftermath.  Another parallel can be drawn in comparing the taking of holy orders by the sons of Clovis  with the hoaxers taking their own separate holy ways – McAuley, an ardent and devout convert to Catholicism and writer of memorable hymns; Stewart, a devotee and scholar of Pure Land Buddhism who trained for, but at the last moment declined, ordination to the priesthood.  There are bound to be other parallels and connections.


The Sons of Clovis, which also covers literary hoaxes in general, is eagerly awaited.  To whet the appetite, this post concludes with an image of a 1792 edition of the poems of Ossian – not translated by James Macpherson Esq as claimed, but in fact written by him.


Title page from a 1792 edition of 'The Poems of Ossian' by James Macpherson
Title page from a 1792 edition of ‘The Poems of Ossian’ by James Macpherson

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