James Harden-Hickey — or Saint-Patrice, as he was known in late nineteenth-century French journalism — was an extraordinarily cosmopolitan character. Born of French and American parents, he was an eccentric fantasy novelist as well as the founding genius of the satirical royalist newspaper Le Triboulet, which lasted for almost 50 years despite being prosecuted 37 times and fined a total of 200,000 francs. The newspaper, explicitly intended as a counterpart to the English Punch and the German Kladderadatsch, sought through visual and verbal satire to fight a rearguard action against the recently-founded Third Republic and to imagine a counter-community of aristocratic and royalist character. Meanwhile, the community to which the newspaper appealed was of necessity both transnational and anti-national, with the royal pretenders and their supporters either in exile or else politically and culturally at odds with the nation state in which they lived.
With French royalists declining in strength in political terms, they were all the more reliant on cultural networks and representations to sustain a sense of solidarity and to create imagined pasts and futures. But how and where did they construct their realms of fantasy? What roles did the visual — caricatures, fliers, papillons — play in defining their relationship with the current regime and in imagining an alternative society and politics? What were the consequences of such royalist fantasies for the France of the Third Republic? And how might the study of the cosmopolitan individuals within these networks illuminate the geographical (as well as cultural and temporal) boundary crossings inherent in the creation of imagined communities?
This paper draws on original research into one of the most controversial political and social groups in Third Republican France to shed new light on the relationship between culture, nationalism, and internationalism in the long fin-de-siècle. It explores the ways in which individuals and groups at odds with the time and place in which they lived sought to imagine an alternative community that was national in character and yet crossed national boundaries in both its social constitution and its search for fulfilment. It also probes the real (and often unexpected) effects of royalist fantasies on republican France, and on the lives of those involved. Saint-Patrice, indeed, was to lead a destiny worthy of his own fantasy novels, including a brief and tragic ‘reign’ as self-proclaimed monarch of an island in the South Atlantic. Cosmopolitanism, here, will be explored as a source of both creative and challenging experiences.