Azelie (.pdf file [554 KB])
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“Azélie” appeared in the December 1894 issue of The Century between Rudyard Kipling’s “A Walking Delegate” and George A. Hibbard’s “One Woman’s Way.” “Azélie” is accompanied by two custom illustrations by Eric Pape, who I will discuss briefly below. Other notable contributors to this issue of The Century include Sarah Orne Jewett and F. Marion Crawford.
“Azélie” is a story about Mr. ‘Polyte, a shop owner, who falls desperately in love with young Azélie after she robs his store one night. When the young woman breaks in to steal tobacco and alcohol, there is something about her inherent defiance of him that charms him in a way that was formerly unconceivable to him. The narrator says “He had always been an industrious, bustling fellow, never idle. Now there were hours and hours in which he did nothing but long for the sight of Azelie. Even when at work there was that gnawing want at his heart to see her, often so urgent that he would leave everything to wander down by her cabin with the hope of seeing her” (Azélie 286). Azélie takes advantage of this situation essentially trading on ‘Polyte’s affection for her in order to get almost anything that she wants from the store for free. In contrast to Toth’s reading of this story, Azélie never once hesitates, repents, or even gives a hint of a suggestion that what she is doing might be wrong. ‘Polyte decides that he is going to ask Azélie to marry him, despite the fact that she has never shown any interest in him in the slightest. At the conclusion of the story, Azélie and her father board a boat to sail down the river to an unknown location, and ‘Polyte is left behind. Unfortunately, he decides that he too will sail down the river to be with Azélie, a woman who has never reciprocated any of his interest.
“Azélie” is also illustrated by Eric Pape, a rising star in the illustration and painting world. In an 1899 biographical piece on Pape and his work written by Donna Morrell in Brush and Pencil, Morrell said of Pape that “Among the younger men in the field of art few have gained a higher place than Eric Pape, or gained it more quickly. A Californian by birth, taught mostly in the art schools of Paris, a traveler in various quarters of the earth, Mr. Pape has the wide circumference of the cosmopolite, and it is to this breadth perhaps, that he owes his not being merely the man of one idea” (Morrell 321). Pape’s illustrations include a pen and ink drawing of Azélie herself (figure 1) and a pen and ink drawing of Azélie and ‘Polyte fighting after she robs the store (figure 2).
At its core, “Azélie” is a very disturbing story about the obsessive projection involved in affective relations, and an experimental attempt at two different types of class-inflected regional dialects. Scholars interested in affect studies (particularly those working on attachment and love) would greatly benefit from working with this story.