Born in Saint Rémy de Provence on the 8th of August 1818, Joseph Roumanille is known as being one of the founding fathers of the Felibrige
together with Frédéric Mistral
, Théodore Aubanel, Anselme Mathieu, Paul Giera, Jean Brunet and Alphonse Tavan. Journalist and renowned Provencal poet, he actively participates in the revival of the Provencal language mostly after the opening of his bookshop which shall be the center of the revival of the Provencal culture.
Joseph Roumanille was born in Saint Rémy de Provence and spent his whole life there. He was sent to high school in Tarascon so as to learn latin and to become a priest like all the oldest boys of believing families in those days. Seemingly it was then, also, that he developed a passion for the Provencal language. He is a bright student in Latin, French as well as Provencal. Upon graduation Roumanille does not wish to take Holy Orders in the Catholic Church and leaves for Nyons to earn a living. There he rubs shoulders with poets who rhyme in Provencal. This small group made up by Hyacinthe Dupuy, Camille Raybaud and Barthelemy Chalvet together with Roumanille constitutes what Mistral will later call the “cradle of the Felibrige”. Roumanille leaves Nyons for Avignon in 1845 following Dupuy’s boarding school. He then is teaching assistant and befriends one of his pupils named Frédéric Mistral whom he catches rhyming in Provencal. In spite of the age difference and the pupil/teacher relationship these two will stay together and form the basis of the Felibrige. It is to be noted that another future “Felibre”, Anselme Mathieu, was studying in the same school at that time.
Having left his job in the boarding school, Roumanille took advantage of his new post in the Seguin printing office to publish a booklet of verses entitled “Li Margarideto” (the Daisies) in 1847. Written in Provencal, this book of verses is divided into four parts representing the four seasons and targets fellow citizens who understand the “Lengo Nostre” (our tongue). But by then, Roumanille talks of Provencal as a forgotten language, an agonizing one. Roumanille continues rhyming in Provencal until 1856 when he publishes everything in “Li Flour de Sauvi” (the Sage flowers).
In the meantime, on the 21st of May 1854, he creates the “Felibrige” with 6 Provencal fellow poets, namely: Frédéric Mistral, Théodore Aubanel, Jean Brunet, Anselme Mathieu, Paul Giera and Alphonse Tavan. Soon after, Roumanille opens up a bookshop which will become the real center of rebirth of the Provencal culture. He becomes editor, and, in 1852, amongst other he publishes “Li Prouvençalo” a book of poems from several Provencal poets. He plays a prevailing act in the literary circle of Provence and will be source of the revival of the Provencal language. He will spend his last thirty years providing tales to the “Armana du Félibrige” which puts him in the footsteps of our best storytellers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Roumanille will be remembered as the founding father of the Félibrige, the storyteller of the Vicar of Cucugnan (which will later be reworked by Alphonse Daudet) and the creator of the modern Provencal prose. In 1884 he publishes “Li conte prouvençau e li cascarelato”. He dies on the 24th of May 1891 leaving the image of a main actor of the development of Provencal culture.
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