Maurice Aristide Chapelan, Man of Three Parts

This work presents Maurice Chapelan in three distinct ways: firstly, as a poet, biographer, literary critic and writer of aphorisms; secondly, as a famous newspaper grammarian; and, thirdly, as the author of romans galants, inspired by his youthful study of his paternal grandfather’s rich library of eighteenth-century literature.

Although Chapelan died in 1992, many of his books are still in print and he is remembered with affection, admiration and gratitude, especially by those who used to relish his witty Divertissements grammaticaux (formerly Usage et grammaire) every week in Le Figaro littéraire, where he had become resident chroniqueur du langage in 1961.

Maurice Aristide Chapelan may well have been three distinct writers, signing himself in fun as MAC, le Diable—comme Dieu en trois personnes, but these three persons had a well-defined unifying thread running through their literary output: a beauty, a simplicity and an elegance of style, revealing a love of the French language and more than a hint of libertinage.


Mary Munro-Hill holds BA degrees in French and Latin, as well as an MA and a PhD in French. She also holds a BD and an MTh in Theology. Her career has been spent principally in teaching languages and theology in universities, colleges and schools. In retirement she has served as a Chaplain at the University of Hull, where she was a Visiting Tutor in French Language from 1995 to 2017. She is now an Honorary Fellow in the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at this same institution. Dr Munro-Hill is a long-serving lay minister in the Church of England (Reader) and holds the Archbishops’ Award in Church Music of the Guild of Church Musicians.

"Le titre en est pris d'après Maurice Chapelan lui-même, qui, en singeant les Évangiles, se disait, comme le diable, , à savoir l'écrivain poète sous son propre patronyme, le grammairien sous le nom d'Aristide et l'auteur de romans érotico-comiques sous le nom d'Aymé Dubois-Jolly. Mary Munro-Hill s'intéresse d'abord au traducteur, qui préfère le recours à une traduction littérale avant d'en créer une poétique. Précisément Mary Munro-Hill axe son étude sur l'inspiration, à savoir l'architecture du poème qui ne naît pas du hasard, même s'il se veut libre. L'auteure signale l'ambiguïté, la porosité entre les genres chez Maurice Chapelan, prose ou poème. C'est ainsi qu'elle décèle de la poésie jusque dans les aphorismes de Maurice Chapelan : . Si l'on considère que les jeux de langage sont de la poésie — nous dirions alors plutôt de la — cette analyse nous fait connaître la langue incroyablement spirituelle d'Aristide : Mary Munro-Hill donne une place particulière au travail sur le vers de Maurice Chapelan avec sa Symphonie poétique en double version, classique et moderne où elle sait révéler tout le talent érudit de son auteur ainsi que sa virtuosité dans le maniement du vers. Maurice Chapelan est un homme de lettres total qui vaut qu'on le lise tant il unit dans une seule et même inspiration : la littérature, les femmes, Dieu, le langage, l'amour et la mort. "The book title reflects Chapelan's humorous self-description, when he presents himself as the Devil and likens himself to the God of the New Testament, "in three persons": he is the writer and poet, Maurice Chapelan, he is the grammarian bearing the name Aristide, and he is the creator of comic erotic novels, using the pseudonym Aymé Dubois-Jolly. Mary Munro-Hill treats first the translator, who prefers to work on a literal rendering before turning it into poetry. In fact, Mary Munro-Hill concentrates on inspiration, for the structure of a poem does not appear by chance, even if it styles itself as free. She points to the ambiguity and the blurring of genres in Maurice Chapelan's work, be it prose or poetry. It is thus that she finds poetry even in the aphorisms of Maurice Chapelan : « Quand je cueille mes pensées vertes, je les laisse mûrir sur le papier » — "When I gather my green thoughts, I leave them to ripen on the page". If we regard linguistic play as poetry — we might say "poetic language" — this analysis shows us the incredibly witty writing of Aristide: « Qu'alors y faire ? (oh !), à défaut de s'échauffer la bile ? Être un mainteneur pour soi-même, par amour indéfectible du bon français, et se revancher du reste… par l'humour. » Here the play on the words calorifère (Qu’alors y faire ?) and s'échauffer la bile wittily conveys the heat of the situation. "What is the point of it all? To maintain standards for oneself, through an unwavering love of good French, and to take revenge on the rest… with humour!" Mary Munro-Hill gives pride of place in her study of Maurice Chapelan's verse to his Symphonie poétique en double version, classique et moderne, successfully revealing all the erudition and originality of his poetry. Maurice Chapelan is a complete man of letters, truly worth reading, as he brings together in one and the same inspired person: literature, women, God, the French language, love and death."

- Bernard Fournier

"Sur son petit nuage, Maurice doit être heureux. Personne n'a su dire comme Mary Munro-Hill les qualités du grammairien et étudier cette part peu connue de ses écrits : romans et poèmes érotiques ! On retrouve dans le texte chaleureux de Mary Munro-Hill le côté de l'auteur sous le pseudonyme d'Aymé Dubois-Jolly qui, s'il peut froisser les esprits moralisateurs, ne peut que réjouir les amateurs de . Notons aussi qu'on y trouvera l'étude subtile de beaux poèmes sensuels et, surtout, les lettres affectueusement coquines de Maurice à Mary. Un régal !"
- Jeanne Cressanges, Novelist

"Maurice must be happy, sitting up there on his little cloud. No one has appreciated better than Mary Munro-Hill his qualities as a grammarian nor has anyone else examined that little-known part of his writing, his erotic poems and novels. In Mary Munro-Hill’s affectionate study we encounter the "naughty" side of the writer who, under the pseudonym Aymé Dubois-Jolly, ruffled a few feathers among his more moralising readers while delighting lovers of forbidden literature. We also find not only a subtle treatment of his beautiful sensual poetry but also examples of cheeky letters Maurice wrote to Mary. A real treat!"
- Jeanne Cressanges, Novelist

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-4097-9

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-4097-2

Release Date: 13th November 2019

Pages: 275

Price: £61.99

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