6 August 2012

The Agathopèdes

Via Eric Poindron, I discover Arthur Dinaux's Les sociétés badines, bachiques, littéraires et chantantes (Paris: Bachelin-Deflorenne, 1867) -- a history of jesting, drinking, literary, and singing clubs. On page 8 of the first volume there is an entry for the Agathopèdes. My translation:
This jesting club was founded in Brussels around 1850 by several writers and wits who amused themselves by publishing a very small number of works of eccentric buffoonery. The society held burlesque contests, imitated Rabelais' joyous inventiveness in their derisive foolishness, and was fairly notorious.  
At the Agathopèdes, or Pig Fanciers, members assumed or were given nicknames that corresponded to their qualities or even their faults. Initially these names were taken from the Roman de Renart; there was Mr. Fox etc.  
A certain amount of laughter, more merry than significant, accompanied this kind of baptism. The society also proposed questions for resolution, and awarded prizes and medals.
The description of the club runs to several pages and covers ceremonial garb, the motto (amis comme cochons -- "thick as pigs", as in "thick as thieves"), the submission of papers ("must be written legibly in Latin, French, or Dutch"), and so on.

There is also an article about the society on the French version of Wikipedia, where it says members founded the club in order to spend their evenings "sheltered from finks, noise, music, and other inconveniences."