Delepierre, Joseph Octave (DNB00)

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DELEPIERRE, JOSEPH OCTAVE (1802–1879), author and antiquary, was born at Bruges in Belgium, 12 March 1802. His father was Joseph Delepierre, for many years receveur-général of the province of West Flanders. His mother was a Penaranda, descended from a Spanish family settled in the Netherlands from the days of Margaret of Parma. His boyhood was passed under an exclusively physical and moral training, so that at the age of twelve he could neither read nor write. But his bodily powers were highly developed, and when at last he was put to school he made such rapid progress that he was soon qualified for the university of Ghent. Having obtained the degree of doctor of laws, he became an avocat, and was appointed ‘archiviste de la Flandre Occidentale’ in Bruges. From political and other causes the archives were in great confusion, and Delepierre at once set himself to bring them into better order. His earliest publication was a small volume of poetry in 1829; two years later he brought out, in association with M. J. Perneel, a translation of a contemporary life of Charles-le-Bon, by Gualbert of Bruges, with a continuation to the end of the fourteenth century. Researches among the ancient charters and documents under his charge produced in 1834, ‘Chroniques, traditions, &c., de l'ancienne histoire des Flamands,’ in which old legends were retold with a slight addition of fiction. ‘Précis des annales de Bruges,’ in 1835, was the first of many volumes devoted to the antiquities of his native city. He had long been collecting books and works of art, and his fame as a local antiquary attracted many visitors. Professor J. W. Loebell of Bonn, writing from Bruges 30 Sept. 1835, speaks of his friendly reception by Delepierre, who had done so much in awakening enthusiasm for the past in Flanders (Reisebriefe aus Belgien, Berlin, 1837, p. 277). Among the other distinguished visitors at this period were Sir E. B. L. Bulwer, Dr. Dibdin, Ch. Nodier, Alex. Dumas, J. Michelet, &c. When the prince consort and his brother passed through Bruges to England in 1839, Delepierre was chosen as their cicerone. During the next five years his publications included a translation of the vision of Tundal, editions of ‘Tiel Eulenspiegel’ and ‘Reynard the Fox,’ for both he claimed a Flemish origin, and ten works relating to Bruges and Belgium. In 1840 appeared the first volume of a ‘Précis Analytique’ of the contents of the archives under his care, with his name as compiler. He contributed the letter-press in 1841 to two works on the famous reliquary of Ste. Ursula, painted by Hans Memling, and edited the ‘Philippide’ of Guillaume-le-Breton to supersede an unsatisfactory edition brought out by Guizot in 1825. This was one of several volumes edited by him for the Société d'Emulation. He busied himself with many literary undertakings during the next year or so, but was not satisfied with his official position, an application for promotion having been disregarded. He had made the acquaintance of Van de Weyer, afterwards Belgian minister in England, who induced him in 1843 to come to London, and in August 1849 appointed him a secretary of legation, and obtained for him the post of Belgian consul. He soon made himself popular, and many of the best-known men and women of literary, artistic, and social distinction were to be seen at his Sunday evening receptions. He produced nothing between 1843 and 1845, when he published his first English book, ‘Old Flanders,’ a collection of stories adapted from an earlier French book by himself. During the first years of his life in England official cares occupied him so completely, that, with the exception of two or three translations, he published nothing of importance until 1849, when he drew up an interesting account of a unique collection of early French farces and moralities in the British Museum. In 1852 he produced ‘Macaronéana,’ followed by ‘Macaronéana Andra’ in 1862. These publications form an encyclopædia of information on this curious branch of literary history. In them, says Brunet, ‘l'histoire de la littérature macaronique, depuis son origine jusqu'à nos jours, se trouve ainsi faite et parfaite; il n'y a plus à y revenir’ (Le Livre, January 1880, p. 26).

When the Duc d'Aumale, Van de Weyer, Lord Houghton, and others founded the Philobiblon Society in 1853 (then limited to thirty-six members), Delepierre was appointed one of the honorary secretaries. He contributed twenty-two papers to its privately printed ‘Miscellanies,’ among them being his valuable contributions on centos, or poetry made up of words or verses from other poems, on the literary history of lunatics, on parodies, and on visions of hell; all of these he enlarged and republished separately. His most matured and valuable writings were produced during his residence in England. He printed a history of Flemish literature, the best work on the subject in English, in 1860; the first volume, in 1863, of a collection (completed in 1876) of his friend Van de Weyer's writings; and in 1872 a valuable supplement to Quérard's ‘Supercheries Littéraires,’ but on a different plan.

Delepierre was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a member of many other English, Belgian, and French societies. He was decorated with several foreign orders of knighthood. For more than thirty-five years he acted as Belgian secretary of legation, and, until 1877, when he resigned, he was consul-general for Belgium in London. He was twice married, first to Emily, the sister of Lord Napier of Magdala, by whom he had two daughters. One of these died young, the other married the late Nicholas Trübner. His second wife, who survived him, was the widow of Captain Jasper Trowce. He died 18 Aug. 1879, aged 77, at the house of his son-in-law, Mr. Trübner, 29 Upper Hamilton Terrace, London, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 22 Aug.

Delepierre was a born student and book-lover. ‘Un des philologues les plus laborieux de notre temps,’ says M. Gustave Brunet, ‘chez qui un jugement exquis se joint à une instruction aussi solide qu'étendue’ (preface to reprint of Maranzakiniana, 1875, p. 36). His reading was very extensive, his memory tenacious, and the list of his writings testifies to his incessant industry. ‘Ces nombreux volumes sont peu répandus; ils ont été imprimés à petit nombre et souvent pour être distribués aux amis de l'auteur, sans entrer dans le commerce; les bibliophiles éclairés et délicats en connaissent bien tout le prix. Delepierre ne recherchait nullement la célébrité’ (Techener, Bulletin du Bibliophile, November 1879, p. 453). Although he became in habits and speech quite English, he never lost his attachment to his native land. He was tall and of dignified appearance, a charming causeur, a fine elocutionist, and a good chess-player. A portrait after a photograph by Dr. Diamond is prefixed to the privately printed ‘Memoirs.’

The following is a complete list of his works:

  1. ‘Heures de loisir, essais poétiques,’ Ghent, 1829, sm. 8vo.
  2. ‘Histoire du règne de Charles-le-Bon, précédée d'un résumé de l'histoire des Flandres, et suivie d'un appendice,’ Brussels, 1831, 8vo (in association with J. Perneel).
  3. ‘Chroniques, traditions et légendes de l'ancienne histoire des Flamands,’ Lille, 1834, 8vo (nineteen legends, reprinted with a different arrangement and another piece, under the title ‘Chroniques, &c. … des Flandres,’ Bruges, 1834, 8vo).
  4. ‘Précis des annales de Bruges, depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu'au commencement du XVIIe siècle, augmenté d'une notice sur l'Hôtel-de-Ville,’ Bruges, 1835, large 8vo.
  5. ‘Aventures de Tiel Ulenspiegel, de ses bons mots, finesses, et amusantes inventions: nouvelle édition, dediée aux Bibliophiles Belges, augmentée de rapprochemens littéraires et d'une notice des principales éditions,’ Bruges, 1835, 8vo (only fifty copies; reprinted at Brussels in 1840 as ‘Aventures de Tiel Ulenspiegel, illustrées par Lauters,’ sm. 8vo).
  6. ‘Aperçu historique et raisonné des découvertes, inventions et perfectionnements en Belgique depuis les Romains,’ Bruges, 1836, 8vo.
  7. ‘Vision de Tondalus; récit mystique du douzième siècle, mis en français pour la première fois,’ Mons, 1837, 8vo (printed in red, green, blue, and black ink; 100 copies for sale; No. 5 of the publications of the Société des Bibliophiles de Mons; part of preface used in No. 55; there is a list of works on visions).
  8. ‘Description des tableaux, statues, et autres objets d'art de la ville de Bruges, et abrégé de son histoire et de ses institutions,’ Bruges [1837], 8vo.
  9. ‘Album pittoresque de Bruges, ou collection des plus belles vues et des principaux monuments de cette ville, accompagnés d'un texte historique,’ Bruges, 1837, 2 parts, folio.
  10. ‘Guide dans Bruges,’ Bruges, 1837, 18mo; 2me éd. 1838, 18mo; 3me éd. 1840, 18mo (unaltered); 4me éd., published as ‘Guide indispensable,’ 1847, sm. 8vo; 5me éd. 1851, 24mo.
  11. ‘Le Roman du Renard, traduit pour la première fois d'après un texte flamand du XIIe siècle, édité par J. F. Willems, augmenté d'une analyse de ce que l'on a écrit au sujet des romans français du Renard,’ Paris, 1837, 8vo (with bibliography).
  12. Translation from the English of T. C. Grattan's novel under the title of ‘L'héritière de Bruges,’ Brussels, 1837, 3 vols. 18mo.
  13. ‘Chronique des faits et gestes admirables de Maximilien I durant son mariage avec Marie de Bourgogne, translatée du flamand en français pour la première fois et augmentée d'éclaircissements et de documents inédits,’ Brussels, 1839, 8vo.
  14. ‘Chronique de l'abbaye de Saint-André, traduite pour la première fois, suivie de mélanges,’ Bruges, 1839, 8vo.
  15. ‘De l'origine du Flamand, avec une esquisse de la littérature flamande et hollandaise d'après l'anglais du Rev. T. Bosworth, avec des additions et annotations,’ Tournay, 1840, la. 8vo (100 copies).
  16. ‘Galerie d'artistes Brugeois, ou biographie des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs célèbres de Bruges,’ Bruges, 1840, 8vo (with portraits after P. de Vlamynck).
  17. ‘La Belgique illustrée par les sciences, les arts et les lettres,’ Brussels, 1840, 8vo.
  18. ‘Précis analytique des documents que renferme le dépôt des archives de la Flandre Occidentale,’ Bruges, 1840–2, 3 vols. 8vo; sér. 2, 1843–58, 9 vols. 8vo (the first series and vol. i. of the second series only bear Delepierre's name).
  19. ‘Marie de Bourgogne,’ Brussels, 1840, 4to (beautifully printed, with illuminated frontispiece, and elaborate initials believed to have been designed by Mary herself).
  20. ‘Edouard III, roi d'Angleterre, en Belgique, chronique rimée écrite vers l'an 1347, par Jean de Klerk, d'Anvers, traduite pour la première fois en français,’ Ghent, 1841, la. 8vo (100 copies).
  21. ‘Le château de Zomerghern, légende imitée du flamand de Ledeganck,’ Bruges, 1841, 8vo.
  22. ‘Châsse de Sainte-Ursule, peinte par Memling, lithographiée par MM. Ghemar et Manche de la grandeur des panneaux, coloriée d'après l'original par M. Malherbe fils,’ Bruges, 1841, la. fol.
  23. ‘La châsse de Sainte-Ursule gravée au trait par Ch. Onghéna d'après Jean Memling,’ Brussels, 1841, 4to (No. 22 has the plates coloured the size of the originals, with text by Delepierre; in No. 23 the plates are reduced in outline, with a different text by Delepierre and A. Voisin).
  24. ‘Philippide de Guillaume-le-Breton: extraits concernant les guerres de Flandres, texte latin et français, avec une introduction,’ Bruges, 1841, 4to (‘Recueil des chroniques,’ &c., 2me sér., published by Société d'Emulation de Bruges).
  25. ‘Fête de la Toison d'Or, célébrée à Bruges en 1478,’ Bruges, 1842, 8vo.
  26. ‘Collection des Kueren ou statuts de tous les métiers de Bruges, avec des notes philologiques par M. J. F. Willems,’ Ghent, 1842, 4to (‘Liminaire’ signed by Delepierre; forms part of ‘Recueil de chroniques,’ &c., 3me sér., published by the Société d'Emulation de Bruges).
  27. ‘Notice sur les tombes découvertes en août, 1841, dans l'église cathédrale de St. Sauveur à Bruges,’ Bruges, 1842, 8vo.
  28. ‘Monuments anciens recueillis en Belgique et en Allemagne par Louis Haghe, de Tournai, lithographiés d'après lui et accompagnés de notices historiques,’ Brussels, 1842, la. folio (plates with brief text; reissued in 1845, 2 vols.).
  29. ‘Notice sur la cheminée de bois sculptée du Franc de Bruges,’ Bruges, 1842, 8vo.
  30. ‘Le château de Winendale,’ Bruges, 1843, 8vo.
  31. ‘Biographie des hommes remarquables de la Flandre Occidentale,’ Bruges, 1843–9, 4 vols. 8vo (dedication signed by C. Carton, F. van de Putte, I. de Merseman, O. Delepierre; published by the Société d'Emulation de Bruges).
  32. ‘Tableau fidèle des troubles et révolutions arrivés en Flandre et dans ses environs depuis 1500 jusqu'à 1585, par Beaucourt de Noortvelde, avec une introduction,’ Mons, 1845, 8vo (vol. xiv. of the publications of the Société des Bibliophiles Belges séant à Mons; 100 copies for sale; supposed to be the second part of a work published in 1792; the error pointed out by M. Delecourt in ‘Le Bibliophile Belge,’ 1866, pp. 302–3).
  33. ‘Old Flanders, or Popular Traditions and Legends of Belgium,’ London, 1845, 2 vols. sm. 8vo (adapted from No. 3).
  34. ‘Lettres de l'Abbé Mann sur les sciences et lettres en Belgique, 1773–88, traduites de l'anglais,’ Brussels, 1845, 8vo (150 copies).
  35. ‘Mémoires historiques relatifs à une mission à la cour de Vienne en 1806, par Sir Robert Adair, traduites,’ Brussels, 1846, 8vo.
  36. ‘Coup d'œil rétrospectif sur l'histoire de la législation des céréales en Angleterre,’ Brussels, 1846, 16mo.
  37. ‘Examen de ce que renferme la Bibliothèque du Musée Britannique,’ Brussels, 1846, 12mo.
  38. ‘Description bibliographique et analyse d'un livre unique qui se trouve au Musée Britannique par Tridace-Nafé-Théobrome [ps.], au Meschacébé,’ 1849, la. 8vo (100 copies; the volume described is a collection of sixty-four French farces and moralities printed between 1542 and 1548, most of them unknown to bibliographers, subsequently printed in the ‘Ancien Théâtre Français,’ Paris, 1854–7, 10 vols. 12mo, of which they form the first three volumes).
  39. ‘Macaronéana, ou mélanges de littérature macaronique des différents peuples de l'Europe,’ Paris, 1852, 8vo.
  40. ‘Bibliothèque bibliophilo-facétieuse, éditée par les frères Gébéodé [i.e. G. Brunet and Octave Delepierre, the four initials forming the pseudonym],’ London, 1852–6, 3 vols. sm. 8vo (only 60 copies; the first volume consists of a reprint of a Rabelaisian satire by G. Reboul, ‘Le premier acte du synode nocturne,’ 1608; the second comprises an analysis of fourteen rare and curious French and Italian books; and the third an interesting collection of ‘Chansons sur la cour de France’).
  41. ‘The Rose, its Cultivation, Use, and Symbolical Meaning in Antiquity, translated from the German,’ London, 1856, 8vo (100 copies).
  42. ‘A Sketch of the History of Flemish Literature and its celebrated Authors from the Twelfth Century to the Present Time,’ London, 1860, 8vo.
  43. ‘Histoire littéraire des fous,’ London, 1860, sm. 8vo (enlarged from articles in the ‘Miscellanies’ of the Philobiblon Society).
  44. ‘Un point curieux des mœurs privées de la Grèce,’ Paris, 1861, 12mo (reprinted at Brussels in 1870); rewritten and enlarged as ‘Dissertation sur les idées morales des Grecs, par M. Audé’ (Rouen, 1879, 8vo).
  45. ‘Analyse des Travaux de la Société des Philobiblon de Londres,’ London, 1862, 8vo (a useful description of the first six volumes).
  46. ‘Macaronéana andra, overum nouveaux mélanges de littérature macaronique,’ London, 1862, sm. 4to (250 copies reprinted from vol. vii. of the ‘Miscellanies’ of the Philobiblon Society; vol. ii. contains a paper by him on the same subject of which a few copies were reprinted in 1856).
  47. ‘Les anciens peintres flamands, leur vie et leurs œuvres, par J. A. Crowe et G. B. Cavalcaselle, traduit de l'Anglais par O. D., annoté et augmenté par A. Pinchart et Ch. Ruelens,’ Brussels, 1862–5, 2 vols. 8vo.
  48. ‘Choix d'opuscules philosophiques, historiques, politiques et littéraires de Sylvain Van de Weyer, précédés d'avant-propos, sér. i.–iv.,’ London, 1863–76, 4 vols. sm. 8vo.
  49. * ‘Machine intéressante à mouvement rotatoire, par M. Forsey,’ Lusarte, 1864, 8vo (facétie).
  50. ‘Historical Doubts and contested Events,’ London, 1868, 8vo (reprinted from ‘Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society,’ the ‘St. James's Magazine,’ &c., with bibliographical index).
  51. ‘Revue analytique des ouvrages écrits en centon depuis les temps anciens jusqu' au XIXe siècle,’ London, 1868, sm. 4to (reprinted from vols. x. and xi. of the Philobiblon Society).
  52. ‘La Parodie chez les Grecs, chez les Romains et chez les modernes,’ London, 1870, sm. 4to (from vol. xii. of the Philobiblon Society).
  53. ‘Essai historique et bibliographique sur les Rébus,’ London, 1870, 8vo (with woodcuts of old French and Italian rebuses, and bibliography).
  54. ‘Supercheries littéraires, pastiches, suppositions d'auteur, dans les lettres et dans les arts,’ London, 1872, sm. 4to.
  55. ‘Tableau de la litérature du centon, chez les anciens et chez les modernes,’ London, 1874–5, 2 vols. sm. 4to (enlarged edition of No. 50).
  56. ‘L'Enfer, essai philosophique et historique sur les légendes de la vie future,’ London, 1876, sm. 8vo (enlarged edition of ‘L'Enfer décrit par ceux qui l'ont vu’ in Philobiblon Society, vols. viii. and ix., with bibliography; some copies have four photographs). He also contributed to the ‘Annales de la Société d'Emulation de Bruges’ (1839–43), ‘Messager des Sciences Historiques’ (1833–79), ‘Le Bibliophile Belge’ (1845–65), ‘St. James's Magazine,’ &c. He left several works in manuscript.

    [J. O. Delepierre, In Memoriam, for friends only (by N. Trübner, 1880), sm. 4to, extended from Trübner's Record, 1879, pp. 113–15, with a bibliography and portrait; G. Brunet in Le Livre, January 1880; Polybiblion, 2me sér. t. x. 1879, p. 275; Techener's Bulletin du Bibliophile, November 1879, p. 453; Athenæum, 30 Aug. 1879, p. 272; Academy, 30 Aug. 1879, p. 159; Times, 19 and 26 Aug. 1879; see also Notes and Queries, 5th ser. xii. 180; Dr. R. Blakey's Memoirs, 1879, pp. 208–12, 230, 239; Catena librorum tacendorum, by Pisanus Fraxi, 1885, 4to pp.]

    H. R. T.