Crémazie, Octave

Octave Crémazie, baptized Claude-Joseph-Olivier, poet, bookseller (b at Québec, Lower Canada 16 Apr 1827; d at Le Havre, France 16 Jan 1879). Known as the father of French Canadian poetry, Crémazie on finishing his studies in 1844 was a French Canadian determined to preserve his identity within the United Province of Canada through economic and cultural development. He opened a French bookstore in Québec City which prospered. He was a founder at Québec of the traditionalist INSTITUT CANADIEN and was its president 1857-58. But it was his poetry that made him famous. His nostalgic evocation of the happiness that preceded the Conquest and the miseries that followed roused his compatriots' fervour. "Le vieux soldat canadien" (1855) and Le Drapeau de Carillon (1858) were enthusiastically received and won Crémazie his title as "national bard."

He tackled other lyrical subjects as his range of interests broadened, and seemed destined to play a major role in the 1860s literary movement. But after his bookstore's 1862 bankruptcy he fled to France and abandoned poetry. His writings consist of his youthful poetry, his correspondence and a "Journal du siège de Paris." His letters to Henri-Raymond CASGRAIN offer pertinent thoughts on poetry and criticism and his own literary beliefs. Crémazie loved romanticism, yet both realism and fantasy attracted him. This poet who celebrated the glories of his ancestors received extraordinary posthumous acclaim.