Thursday, December 24, 2015

F.B. Ghensi (1865-1943)

Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi
Aka Norbert Lorédan
Government Worker, Diplomat, Theatre Director, Librettist, Lyricist, Journalist, Editor, Publisher, Author 
Born November 21, 1865, Toulouse, France
Died January 30, 1943, Paris, France

In its May issue of 1940, the month in which the Sitzkrieg ended and the Nazis invaded France, Weird Tales printed a story it called "The Red Gibbet" by an author it called F.B. Ghensi. Like the Sitzkrieg, the title and the author's name were phony. His identity has been a minor mystery since then. The Internet allows a solution to the mystery.

Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi was born on November 21, 1865, in Toulouse, France. He studied in Castres and in Toulouse. In 1887-1889, he worked on the revue Le Décadent littéraire et artistique, where he wrote under the pseudonym Norbert Lorédan, but his literary career stalled and he went into politics.

Gheusi was well connected. Among his friends, associates, and supporters were scholar François de Vesian, politician Jean Jaurès, poet and essayist Laurent Tailhade, musician Georges Pierfitte, author Émile Zola, and poet Catulle Mendès. In 1889, Gheusi joined the political campaign of Jaurès in Castres. For several years after that, he held government posts, including in Rheims. In 1894, Gheusi relocated to Paris. In that same year, he married Adrienne Willems, niece of the painter Florent Willems. In 1897, Gheusi made an inspection tour of the Christian schools in Palestine. In 1906, he held a post at le Ministère des Colonies. And in 1911, he served as a diplomat in working to restore relations between France and Venezuela.

From 1888 to 1931, Gheusi wrote works for the stage, including lyrics, libretti, dramas, and comedies. He also authored histories and other works of non-fiction. His first novel was Gaucher Myrian, vie aventureuse d'un escholier féodal. Salamanque, Toulouse et Paris au XIIIe siècle, written with Paul Lavigne and published in 1893. Eleven more novels followed, the last of which, La Fille de Monte-Cristo, was published posthumously in 1948. I have not read any of his books and know nothing about them except for their titles. At least two have titles suggesting genre fiction, however, Le Serpent de mer, roman à clés (The Sea Serpent, a "key novel," 1899) and Les Atlantes, aventures de temps légendaires (The Atlanteans, Adventures of Legendary Times, with Charles Lomon, 1905). As it turns out, Les Atlantes is a fantasy, and it has recently been reprinted. (See below.)

In later years, Gheusi held various positions of directorship or editorship, including of Le Gaulois du dimanche (1897), Nouvelle Revue (1899), le Paris Opéra (1906, 1914), l'Opéra Comique (to 1918), le Théâtre Lyrique du Vaudeville (1919–1920), Le Figaro (to 1932), and again l'Opéra-Comique (to 1936). During World War I, he was on the staff of General Joseph Gallieni. Gheusi also used his castle near Biarritz as a hospital for French troops.

The life of Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi was very nearly bracketed by German invasions of his native land. The Franco-Prussian War broke out when he was only four years old and ended not long after his fifth birthday with a humiliating defeat for the French. (His distant cousin, Léon Gambetta, was a leading figure during the war.) Sixty-nine years later, Germans reentered France and again dealt it a humiliating defeat, worse than in his childhood. He would not live to see his country liberated. Gheusi died on January 30, 1943, in Paris.

Three years before, perhaps unbeknownst to him, Weird Tales had reprinted the story "The Red Gibbet," translated by H. Twitchell. Twitchell translated numerous works from numerous languages into English. Unfortunately, Twitchell seems to have left his or her Christian name unrevealed except for its initial. The translator would appear a dead end. The phrase "the red gibbet," however, leads to a solution as to the identity of the author.

I have not read the the story "The Red Gibbet" in Weird Tales, but it seems certain to me that it is merely a retitled reprinting of "The Christmas Wolves" by P.B. Gheusi, originally published in French in Figaro Illustré in February 1897, then in an English translation by H. Twitchell in The International: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine in December 1897 (Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 546-552). You can read it by clicking here. As its title implies, the story takes place at Christmastime. It involves not only wolves but also a hanged witch. Oddly for a Christmas story, it is a tale of revenge.

So why did Weird Tales change the name of the story and its author? I don't know. The misspelling of Gheusi's name may simply be a typographical error. I doubt it, though. I think it more likely that the magazine was trying to avoid problems with copyrights or other legalistic matters. In any case, the mystery of "The Red Gibbet" is solved, and we have another French author to add to the list of those who were in Weird Tales.

F.B. Ghensi's [sic] Story in Weird Tales
"The Red Gibbet" (May 1940; originally published in the United States as "The Christmas Wolves" by P.B. Gheusi in The International: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Dec. 1897)

Further Reading
"Gheusi, Pierre-Barthélemy," in French, at the following URL:


"Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi" on the French version of Wikipedia:


A portrait drawing of Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi. Note the reference to Gallieni, "the savior of Paris."

On October 31, 2015, Hollywood Comics/Blackcoat Press published The Last Days of Atlantis by Charles Lomon and Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi. The book was originally published in 1905 as Les Atlantes, aventures de temps légendaires. Artist Mike Hoffman created the cover illustration.

Merry Christmas from Tellers of Weird Tales!

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

2 comments:

  1. You probably came across it in your research, but Brian Stableford wrote an article on Gheusi at http://www.nyrsf.com/2015/10/brian-stableford-the-origins-of-epic-fantasy-the-modern-marketing-category-of-fantasy-emerged-a.html.

    Stableford often publishes articles at NYRSF on authors he's translated for Blackcoat Press.

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    Replies
    1. Dear Marzaat,

      As a matter I fact, I didn't see that article while I was doing my research. Thanks for pointing it out. I didn't even know about the new book until after I had already started writing. Everything depended on a Google search for the phrase "the red gibbet," a search that led me to the story from 1897 on Google Books.

      Thanks again.

      TH

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