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John Henry Fabre celebration

John-Henry Fabre was born in 1823 in a small village in the Rouergue, Sant-Leons, to the northwest of Millau.


His studies were rather ill-assorted and at the age of about 15 he was more or less obliged to work for his own living. Nevertheless he sat the entrance examination to the «Ecole normale» (teacher’s training college) in Avignon in 1841 and passed top of the class ! after the Ecole normale, in 1843, he was a teacher in Carpentras. He married Marie-Césarine Villars, also a teacher, they had seven children, then she died in 1885. Without ever going to university he passed «A» levels in both literary and scientific subjects ; then 3 degrees in mathematics, physics and natural sciences and finally a doctorate. He taught physics in Ajaccio (1849-1853) then in Avignon (1853-70).

In 1870 he was obliged to resign from education for having spoken about polinisation of flowers by bees, to young girls at an evening class. He then lived in Orange (1871-79) and devoted himself to writing teaching manuals (about a hundred) most of which were published by Delagrave. In 1879 he acquired a small property he called «l’Harmas» (fallow land) at Serignan (Vaucluse). In 1887 he married his house-keeper, Marie-Joséphine Daudel, 40 years younger than himself ! They had three children.

Since his stay in Carpentras he always continued to be interested in insects and spent most of his time in Orange then in Serignan studying their habits. Little by little he published ten volumes of his observations : «Souvenirs entomologiques» (1878-1907). He also painted about 600 water-colours representing differnet varieties of mushrooms. He also wrote poems and songs both in French and in Provençal (39 poems and songs). We know neither where nor how he learned painting and music ! In 1888 he became friendly with two young «felibres» (member of Felibrige association) : Alphonse Martin and Louis Charrasse, then in 1908 he met Frederic Mistral. He became Felibre, then in 1909 Majoral of Felibrige (the Carcassone cicada) in 1913 the president of the Republic visited him in Serignan. He died in Serignan on 11th october 1915 where he was buried. Now one hundred years ago.

In 1868, Victor Duruy, minister of education, gave him the «Legion d’honneur» and he was made an officer in 1910. A veritable genius, it appears that Fabre could succeed in all enterprises. He was undoubtedly the initiator of entomology (the study of insects). He is famous the world over, particulary in Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Mexico and above all in Japan where all children read extracts of his works at primary school.

His motto was «Laboremus», that is to say «Let us work».

He wrote «My favorite subject is to plead the cause of the weak, the wretched, the slandered, the rejected … I would never be able to forgive myself if I were to forget those who are forsaken.»

Our «Centre de Documentation Provençale» has, at your disposal more than 200 references more or less on the subject of Fabre, of which more than 20 books, and also a documentary publication, 25 pages, (in french and provençal) : « Jean-Henri FABRE » 8 euros (for U.K.) postage included.

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