Radu D. Rosetti

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Radu D. Rosetti
Radu D. Rosetti in 1931
Radu D. Rosetti in 1931
Born December 13 or 18, 1874
Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
Died 1964 (aged 89 or 90)
Bucharest, Communist Romania
Occupation lawyer, journalist, activist
Nationality Romanian
Period 1890–1964
Genre lyric poetry, epigram, madrigal, romanza, drama, sketch story, travelogue, memoir
Literary movement Neoromanticism
Decadent movement
Convorbiri Critice

Radu D. Rosetti or Rossetti (December 13[1] or December 18,[2] 1874 – 1964) was a Romanian poet, playwright, and short story writer, also distinguished as an attorney and activist. The son of playwright-aristocrat Dimitrie Rosetti-Max and nephew of Titu Maiorescu, he had a troubled and rebellious youth, but kept company with senior literary figures such as Ion Luca Caragiale. Graduating from the University of Bucharest at age 26, he was already a successful poet of neoromantic sensibilities, a published translator of plays and novels, and also famous for his unhappy marriage to the literary critic Elena Bacaloglu. He then switched to writing social-themed plays and stories of his professional life, earning a high profile as a defender of left-wing causes. From ca. 1913, Rosetti was also the public face of cremation activism, engaged in public polemics with the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Although an artillery officer stationed in Chitila, Rosetti was mostly active during World War I as a patriotic orator and propagandist, later returning to his work at the Ilfov County bar association. During the interwar, he maintained contact with both the socialists and the "cremationists", but grew more conservative and passeistic. This attitude consolidated his success as the author of memoirs. Largely forgotten in his old age, he withdrew to a garret.


Early years

The future poet was born in Bucharest into the boyar Rosetti family.[1] His grandfather was a Wallachian statesman, Aga Radu Rosetti, who headed the National Theater Bucharest under Prince Gheorghe Bibescu.[1] In 1847, he was Prefect of Gorj County, noted for establishing obligatory medical examinations for the local prostitutes.[3] Radu Sr was also Prefect of Bucharest police during the reign of Barbu Dimitrie Știrbei, who kept him as a Paharnic.[4] He was nevertheless sacked in 1855 for his alleged mistreatment of foreigners.[5] The Paharnic's son was Dimitrie Rosetti-Max, the author of light comedies that appeared in Convorbiri Literare. He was also National Theater chairman, replacing the playwright Ion Luca Caragiale for a time.[1] "Max" was a collaborator of poet-satirist Iacob Negruzzi,[6] who married his sister Maria; another one of Radu's paternal aunts, Ana, was the second wife of culture critic Titu Maiorescu.[1] Radu D. Rosetti, who described himself as Maiorescu's nephew "by marriage",[7] was born to Dimitrie and to Natalia Gheorghiu when the couple was unmarried; however, they did marry during the child's infancy.[1]

The couple divorced some time after, and, as literary historian George Călinescu suggests, this event imposed a "rough life" on Radu, explaining why he, an aristocrat, maintained "quasi-proletarian" customs and sympathies.[2] The same was noted by his younger friend Victor Eftimiu: "A boy of select birth, [Rosetti] did not linger in that scornful Olympus of his caste, but rather gave himself, spent himself, a troubadour and proletarian, wherever he found impetus, suffering, elation."[8] Unusually, Rosetti was a contemporary of his homonymous relative, General Radu R. Rosetti (1877–1949). Since the latter was also engaged in writing, Radu D. joked to his readers: "If you liked my little work, know that I'm me [...], Radu D. Rosetti. If not, then I wasn't me, [...] but my homonym, General Radu Rosetti. Phone him at his house and call him names."[9] Repeatedly confused with the general by reviewers such as George Panu, he adopted the initial "D." (signaling his patronymic) as a distinguishing mark.[10]

Initially raised by his maternal grandmother, Rosetti was then sent to various schools, and in 1890 was studying at Andrei Șaguna High School in Brașov, then under Austro-Hungarian rule.[1][2][11] He was passionate about the city, where he also learned to speak Hungarian "by necessity".[9] It was here that he met poet Ștefan Octavian Iosif, together with whom he put out the hectographed magazine Păcăleandru.[11] Stubborn and rebelling against the prison-like conditions in boarding schools, he was then placed under private tutors, but did not manage to complete his studies.[1] Reputedly, it was during these years that he first met Caragiale, who (despite being formally uneducated) worked as a teacher of Romanian history at one of the schools attended by young Rosetti.[12] Rosetti was saluted by Caragiale as Romania's second-greatest writer, after Caragiale himself. Later, he found out that this was a prank: Caragiale would pay that same compliment to other writers in his circle.[13]

Leaving Matei Basarab High School, he worked for a while as a proofreader at Adevărul daily.[2] His first verse appeared in Vieața with the support of Alexandru Vlahuță, through whom he came to know Nicolae Grigorescu and Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea, while also maintaining contacts with Caragiale.[1] The latter also published his poetry in the review Vatra, which allowed Rosetti to preserve links with other Romanian magazines published in Austria-Hungary.[14] Constantin Mille, his Adevărul employer, wrote the preface to his first short volume of verse, Foi de toamnă ("Autumn Leafs", 1892).[1] His lifelong poetic work, described by Călinescu as "provincial and rustic" neoromanticism, comprised a large number of epigrams, madrigals and romanzas; some of the work showed the influence of Traian Demetrescu,[2] and, through him, that of Heinrich Heine.[15]

Rise to fame

In 1894, Rosetti also debuted as an epigrammatist in Graiul magazine, which was edited by Ilarie Chendi.[11] A volume of such works came out that year, as Epigrame, and other volumes of verse followed in quick succession: Din inimă ("From the Heart", 1895), Sincere ("Sincere Ones", 1896), Duioase ("Soothing Ones", 1897).[16] In his review of Sincere, Alexandru Antemireanu noted that Rosetti's "sweet melancholy" was highly popular with the public: "they love him as one loves a gentle child, a child who never hurts anyone".[17] This gentleness was nevertheless interrupted by samples of social realism, including a translation from Jean Richepin. According to Antemireanu, this was a "stupid" selection, "glorifying barbarity and profanity".[17]

For a while, with Ludovic Dauș, Rosetti put out the literary magazine Doina—named after the folk singing style.[18] To 1898, Rosetti was one of the regulars at literary gatherings in Fialcovsky Coffeehouse (also attended by his father),[19] where he met Alexandru Macedonski, Mircea Demetriade, and actor Ion Livescu. The latter recalled that Rosetti was "as gentle and soft as his poetry, as thin and as supple as a reed, with long blond hair and dreamy eyes".[20] Macedonski also co-opted him to write for Literatorul.[21] At that stage, Rosetti was involved in the project to erect a statue of Demetrescu at Craiova, arguing that this had been Demetrescu's explicit wish.[22]

While not affiliated with the Symbolist movement, Rosetti had some ideological links with various of its exponents. In 1913, critic Gheorghe Savul included him in the overlapping "decadent movement", alongside Symbolists Ștefan Petică and Iuliu Cezar Săvescu. All three were also followers of a "disillusioned socialism", left isolated following the collapse of the Workers' Party; but were also attached to Romanian nationalism, and inspired by the poetry of Mihai Eminescu.[23] Stylistically, Rosetti was an early and episodic influence on young Symbolists such as Eftimiu and Ion Minulescu.[15] This did not refer just to his poetic standard, but also to his lifestyle: as Eftimiu recalls, they were envious of his physical beauty and sentimental adventures. Although Eftimiu believes that Rosetti was wholly indifferent to Baudelaire and Verlaine,[15] he in fact revered the latter. In 1935 he recalled that he chanced upon aging and "stiff drunk" Verlaine while walking around Paris: "It seemed to me that even his inebriation was something grand and beautiful".[24]

In order to enter the University of Bucharest, Rosetti obtained a high school degree from Brussels.[1][2] He married a first time, to the novelist and literary critic Elena Bacaloglu, with whom he had a daughter.[25][26] They were engaged on December 19, 1896, and had their religious wedding in January of the next year; politician Nicolae Filipescu was their godfather.[27] However, within the year, dissatisfied with his material condition, he had moved out of the family home and sued for divorce.[25] The despaired Bacaloglu shot herself, but survived. The event shocked Rosetti,[25] but was recalled with some enthusiasm by Eftimiu, who noted that Rosetti had "avenged the tribe", showing that poets could be the seducers, not just the seduced.[15] Rosetti and Bacaloglu were divorced by 1899, with Elena marrying the literary theorist Ovid Densusianu in 1902.[28]

In 1900, Rosetti ultimately graduated from the Bucharest law faculty with a thesis on press infractions in Romanian law.[1][2] He performed service in the Romanian Land Forces, reaching the rank of Lieutenant in an artillery regiment stationed at Chitila fort.[29] After working in minor positions for the tribunals of Brăila and Constanța, by 1903 he had been advanced to prosecutor for the Prahova County court. Living in Ploiești, he married and divorced a Marioara Naumescu.[2] This period also saw his debut as a dramatic author, with plays on social topics. In the 1898 O lecție ("A Lesson"), the wife of a plagiarist expresses her contempt by pursuing an adulterous affair and getting pregnant; Păcate ("Sins"), which appeared in 1901, unveils the love triangles that break apart a middle-class family.[2] Both plays were taken up by the National Theater Bucharest,[30] with Livescu in one of the title roles.[31] In June 1900, O lecție was performed at the National Theater Budapest, as the first Romanian play to be performed by a Hungarian troupe.[32]


Rosetti in 1912

With time, Rosetti also focused more fully on translation work, which he began with a version of Richepin's L'Étoile, taken up by the same National Theater in 1898.[33] Livescu, who starred in it as Sir Richard, called the work "excellent".[34] In 1901, he returned to poetry with the collection Cele din urmă ("The Very Last Ones"), comprising pieces by himself and translations from his favorite poets. The reviewer at Familia magazine described as "pessimistic, but always coquette".[35] Rosetti also published versions of Robinson Crusoe (1900) and Gulliver's Travels (1905), followed in 1908 by selections from Guy de Maupassant and André Gill.[16]

His former wife Marioara went on to marry another epigrammatist, Ion Ionescu-Quintus, who was also a provincial leader of the National Liberal Party; their son, Mircea Ionescu-Quintus, would also take up poetry in the genre, and eventually become party leader. Rosetti remained close friends with the family, and visited them in their home.[36] He was at the time married to Lucreția Cristescu-Coroiu, who spent 20 of their 21 years together bedridden with illness.[37] Rosetti himself traveled throughout Europe and in Egypt, putting out accounts of his visits which doubled as travel guides.[2] Some of these were first collected, alongside sketch stories, in the volume Printre Picăturĭ ("Between Drops", 1903).[38] As argued by Călinescu, they are entirely devoid of "acuteness of perception and artistic preparation."[2]

A 1904 volume of verse, Din toate ("Some of Everything") was panned by the Symbolist Emil Isac in Familia: Isac argued that they announced Rosetti's death as a poet.[39] However, as noted by the same Familia, Rosetti remained "one of the most widely read authors" in the Romanian Old Kingdom, his style being "accessible".[38] By 1908, he was a regular contributor to Convorbiri Critice, put out by the traditionalist Mihail Dragomirescu, and to the tourism magazine Printre Hotare.[40] He was also recovered in the 1910s by the nationalist Nicolae Iorga, who viewed Rosetti's marginalization as unfair, and published his "lively" travelogues in Neamul Românesc review.[41]

In April 1911, the Romanian Theatrical Society elected Rosetti on its first Steering Committee, alongside George Diamandy, A. de Herz, Paul Gusty and George Ranetti.[42] With Diamandy, Rosetti also organnized a Literary Circle at Comoedia Theater, and as such also a February 1912 festival honoring Caragiale.[43] In March, as a delegate of the Society, he welcomed to Richepin to Bucharest and spoke at his banquet.[44] His work appeared alongside that of Symbolist poets in the magazines Ilustrația and Noi Pagini Literare,[45] but was shunned by the more radical Symbolists and socialists at Facla. Here, Rosetti was listed alongside Constantin Banu, Petre Locusteanu and Maica Smara as a "triumphant mediocrity", a literary "street organ".[46]

Rosetti had a lengthy career as a defense lawyer, an experience that informed certain of his literary output, including memoirs such as Din sala pașilor pierduți ("From the Hall of Wasted Pacing", 1922).[1][16] As both Călinescu and Eftimiu note, he was one of several Romanian orators inspired by the style and social-justice ideology of François Coppée.[47] A dean of the Bar in Ilfov County,[48] he was especially involved in pleading for left-wing activists prosecuted by the state. In 1909, he and Mille failed to obtain an acquittal for I. C. Frimu, Gheorghe Cristescu and Panait Istrati, who had been charged with sedition.[49]

Another leading cause for Rosetti was the advocacy of cremation, on which he spoke at the Romanian Atheneum in March 1913. As a result, newspapers reported (probably exaggerating) that some 3,000 people had joined the "cremationist" movement.[50] The speech fed satirical commentary by Tudor Arghezi and Ranetti, the latter in particular noting that Rosetti was planning to strip funeral artists, undertakers and florists of their business. He responded in Ranetti's Furnica with an ironic piece, in which he informed readers that they could still bury their ashes to maintain the funeral trade.[51] A figure of importance in the "cremationist" trend, which openly challenged the funeral customs of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Rosetti would later shun moderates such as Constantin Dissescu—who, Rosetti claimed, had betrayed the cause.[52]

World War I and 1920s scandals

The Bucharest Crematorium, set up by Rosetti and his fellow "cremationists"

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, with Romania still neutral territory, the Francophile Rosetti campaigned for Romania to join the Entente Powers, and tackled the issue during debates at the Romanian Writers' Society.[53] However, he earned recognition for his court defense of Hasan Tahsin, would-be assassin of the pro-Entente campaigners Noel and Charles Buxton.[2] In the end, Romania joined the Entente, and Rosetti was called under arms. Unexpectedly, he was moved to a horse artillery unit, but was shielded from active service by General Alexandru Averescu, and only assigned to give patriotic speeches to his troops on the front line.[29] During the subsequent siege of Bucharest, Rosetti was at Periș with the staff of Constantin PrezanIon G. Duca, who joined him there, recalled that he "made himself look important".[54] The Army headquarters eventually withdrew to Iași, with Rosetti assigned to write for the military propaganda magazine, România.[29][55]

Rosetti eventually returned to Bucharest following the November 1918 Armistice. In 1919, he and Mille were part of a defense team that represented the leadership of the Socialist Party of Romania, tried for their role in the general strike of December.[56] In the early 1920s, Rosetti returned as a contributor to newspapers and magazines throughout Greater Romania, including Dimineața, Îndreptarea, Rampa, Universul, Viața Romînească, Ziarul Științelor și Călătoriilor, Cele Trei Crișuri, Di Granda, Foaia Tinerimii, Ilustrația, Izbânda, Lumea Copiilor, Lumea Ilustrată, Poetul, Sănătatea, Săptămâna Muncii Intelectuale și Artistice, and Viața Studențească.[57] By 1930, his work was also featured in Omul Liber, Basarabia, Brazda, Ecoul, Propilee Literare, Revista Politică, and Revista Subofițerilor.[58] He also published translations in Orizontul, as well as legal literature in Curierul Judiciar, Revista Penală,[59] and later in Palatul de Justiție and Poliția Modernă.[60] In 1923, he rallied with the left-leaning League of Human Rights, founded by Constantin Costa-Foru and Vasile Stroescu.[61] In March, alongside the forensic scientist Mina Minovici and the politician Grigore Trancu-Iași, he founded Nirvana Society (later Cenușa, "The Ash"), which operated the Bucharest Crematorium.[62] However, when his wife died in 1926, she was conventionally buried at Bellu cemetery.[63]

In December 1923, he also returned at the Atheneum to advocate cremation, and boasted 6,000 new recruits, although his interest in the matter continued to fuel ridicule and provided subject matter to the epigrammatist N. Crevedia.[64] It was also met with protests from Orthodox leaders such as Iuliu Scriban and Dumitru Popescu-Moșoaia, who noted, in public disputations with Rosetti, that Nirvana was channeling public funds; however, most clergymen were by then passively reconciled with the practice.[65] A more serious challenge came from religious-right newspapers such as Curentul, Cuvântul, and Glasul Monahilor, who backed priest Marin C. Ionescu, sued for slander by Minovici. Rosetti was the latter's lawyer, himself accused by the Orthodox lobby of consciously lying to promote his client's interests.[66]

The memoirist

Publishing volumes of his wartime memoirs—Remember (1921) and Obolul meu ("My Contribution", 1922)—, Rosetti joined Emil Cerbu in compiling an anthology of modern love verse, Cartea dragostei ("The Book of Love", 1922).[16] He followed up with definitive collections of his scattered prose and poetry: Poezii ("Poems", 1926), Eri ("Yesterday", 1931), Vechituri ("Old Things", year unknown), Pagini alese ("Selected Pages", 1935), and Instantanee turistice ("A Tourist's Highlights", 1939).[16] His work in travel writing was complimented by his 1935 introduction to Mihai Tican Rumano's account of life in the Ethiopian Empire. It underscored Rosetti's admiration for Tican Rumano, who had "braved unimaginable exhaustion", "unaided by any 'Officialdom' or private sponsor".[67] In May of the same year, Rosetti was feted at the Atheneum upon the initiative of his friend, Trancu-Iași. Contributors to the ceremony included Ion Marin Sadoveanu, Ionel Perlea, and Ion Sân-Giorgiu.[68]

His own memoirs, appearing in book form and in other formats, were treasured by the reading public, and were featured in Romanian Radio broadcasts. As noted by Eftimiu, they conserved the universe of the more senior readers, who bought the books to regain contact with the prewar world.[69] Writing in 1931, Isac also saluted in them the return of the old 1890s poet, who, although "belated", offered "a compendium of civilization, affection, and true Romanianism."[70] Rosetti himself was avowedly backward-looking and uninterested in modernist literature. In a 1935 interview with Mihail Sebastian of Rampa, Rosetti argued that Dada and Futurism were "here today, gone tomorrow", declaring that he only read works by his own generation colleagues.[71] He continued to causes other than cremation. Prior to the election of 1931, he represented Averescu in a civil lawsuit against journalist Bazil Gruia, who had referred to the general as an "assassin of the peasants". Although, as he noted, he regarded himself as Averescu's political adversary, he agreed to defend the "great commander who had led our troops to victory".[29]

During World War II, Rosetti was an occasional contributor to Universul, where, in 1940, he published a piece romanticizing the history of Moșilor quarter.[72] Around that time, the fascist National Legionary State resumed the attacks on the "cremationist" movement: by 1941, Education Minister Traian Brăileanu was proposing to disestablish the Bucharest Crematorium, describing it as anti-Christian.[73] In 1942, Editura Cugetarea issued a final volume of Rosetti's recollections, Odinioară ("Once"). It features chapters on the more picturesque figures who had crossed the author's path, for instance Macedonski, Claymoor, Nicolae Fleva, Alceu Urechia, and Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești. Much of the work was dedicated to deriding historical urban policies, and in particular to the memory of horsecars.[9][74] At the time of its publishing, Odinioară was censured for its pessimism in the far-right Gândirea. Its literary reviewer Nicolae Roșu saw Rosetti as "despondent and washed-out, pining for a useless world", "superficial and gelatinous", his ink "drenched in mothballs".[75] He also denounced the memoirist as a "Knight of Malta, that is to say a Freemason."[76] The characters in the book, Roșu claimed, were tinged by "adultery and concubinage", their luxury made possible by "millions of peasant slaves, toiling in sorrow"; the work itself was "addressed to those few fossils to have survived the great social uplift."[77] Some of these statements were formally retracted by editor Nichifor Crainic, to whom Rosetti had sent a letter of protest. Clarifications included a note according to which Rosetti "is not a Freemason, his name absent from all lists that have ever been made public."[7]

Following the establishment of a Romanian communist regime, Rosetti lived in isolation. Largely forgotten by the public,[78] he inhabited a garret in Bucharest, where he kept an urn destined for his ashes, leaving only the date of his death to be completed by the engraver.[79] In the 1950s, he was frequenting the literary parties held at Ion Larian Postolache's home, on Dobroteasa Street, alongside former rival Crevedia, Virgil Carianopol, Ion Buzdugan, and Crevedia's son Eugen Barbu.[80] His daughter by Bacaloglu was also living in Bucharest, and had a government job before being sacked.[26] Rosetti finally died in 1964 and, according to his wish, was cremated.[52] His urn was deposed in Lucreția's tomb at Bellu.[63] Writing in 1968, critic Remus Zăstroiu referred to Rosetti as "all but forgotten". Though he viewed Rosetti as less relevant than other authors of his age, he pleaded for a contextual understanding, in terms of his "social and cultural framework".[81]


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  3. ^ J.-M. Caillat, Voyage médical dans les provinces danubiennes (Publications de l'Union Médicale, Année 1854), p. 59. Paris: Typographie de Félix Malteste et Cie, 1854. OCLC 916478569
  4. ^ Iorga (1905), p. 440
  5. ^ Iorga (1905), pp. 255–256, 260–261, 264
  6. ^ Iorga (1934), p. 23
  7. ^ a b Nichifor Crainic, "Cronica măruntă. O rectificare", in Gândirea, Nr. 1/1943, pp. 55–56
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  11. ^ a b c Tudor Opriș, Istoria debutului literar al scriitorilor români în timpul școlii (1820–2000), p. 18. Bucharest: Aramis Print, 2002. ISBN 973-8294-72-X
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  73. ^ Valentin Săndulescu, "Convertiri și reconvertiri: elite academice și culturale și schimbare politică în România anilor 1930–1960", in Cristian Vasile (ed.), "Ne trebuie oameni!". Elite intelectuale și transformări istorice în România modernă și contemporană, p. 161. Târgoviște: Nicolae Iorga Institute of History & Editura Cetatea de Scaun, 2017. ISBN 978-606-537-385-3
  74. ^ Potra, pp. 287, 293; Roșu, p. 528
  75. ^ Roșu, pp. 527–528
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  77. ^ Roșu, p. 527
  78. ^ Boia, p. 104
  79. ^ Călinescu, p. 594; Rotar, p. 77
  80. ^ C. D. Zeletin, "Poetul N. Crevedia în aducerea aminte (I)", in Ateneu, Nr. 6/2012, p. 8
  81. ^ Remus Zăstroiu, "Aspecte ale criticii literare românești dintre 1880—1900", in Anuar de Lingvistică și Istorie Literară, Vol. 19, 1968, pp. 99–100


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