"J'ai trouve Hortense!" Gorey's Blue Aspic and Musings on It

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Summary: I am an Edward Gorey fan. Today, I examine a phrase at the end of the The Blue Aspic. As a despairing poor man kills a famous opera singer, he declares that he has found Hortense. But what does it mean?

BLOT: (16 Jun 2011 - 04:20:14 PM)

"J'ai trouve Hortense!" Gorey's Blue Aspic and Musings on It

Today's title comes from another Edward Gorey piece. This one is called "Blue Aspic", about which I will muse and call it a blog post. It has a large number of faux operas*, possibly parodies of actual ones, and features the inverted stories of Jasper Ankle and Ortenzia Caviglia. As Caviglia rises up and up, and becomes more and more famous as a opera singer (though "Aspic" regularly talks about how other people dying—one from poisoning, one from strangling, there is a fall down an elevator shaft, and a crushed-by-a-statue—are boons to her career, presumably she is not afraid to do extreme things for job security), Jasper loses his job, gets sent to an asylum, gets regularly sick for standing in horrible weather for opera tickets, and eventually loses everything. At the penultimate moment, Jasper stabs Caviglia in the neck and then kills himself, crying out "J'ai trouvé Hortense!" [I found Hortense!] and casting himself over her body before expiring.

I tweeted the quote and asked if anyone knew a particular importance. Got a few suggestions. There was a famous French soprano, Hortense Schneider, though she was 19th century and I'm not sure when "Blue Apsic" is set. A classmate on Twitter mentioned "La marquise de Brinvilliers", about a serial murderess who, amongst other vile deeds, separates young poor lovers Hortense and Arthur. Towards the end, when all seems lost, the two seem to be reunited. There is, of course, the fact that Ortenzia is an Italian variation of the French Hortense. It might be no deeper than that, but I love to picture Gorey unearthing some odd bit of Operatic history and tossing it in.

By the way, it looks like the whole thing is up for "preview" on Google Books. Via the Amphigorey Also scan they have. I recommend it and others (I'm sure to blog about them, too, someday).

* You can look at the Wikipedia entry, List of Fictional Musical Works, in the Operas/Other section, and do a text search for Blue Aspic. You'll see quite a few with some explanations for names. Operas called things like "The nation of hospitable cattle" and "The dubious errand".


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