Nicolas Gilbert in the Catacombs, a cursed poet... who stupidly died

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Gilbert's grave - ©Rijin / CC-BY-SA Gilbert's grave - ©Rijin / CC-BY-SA
Paris catacombs Burial place Accident

The poet's farewell

A fake grave? Yes, the one belonging to Nicolas Gilbert, poet from Lorraine in the 18th century. A grave also known as Sarcophage du Lacrymatoire. We can read on it those poetry verses written by Nico himself, from his poem Adieux à la vie ("Farewell, life"):

Au banquet de la vie, infortuné convive, J’apparus un jour, et je meurs. Je meurs, et sur ma tombe, où lentement j’arrive, Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs.

"At the banquet of life I was invited, as a poor unhappy guest, and I die. I die, and on my grave, no one will come to shed a tear."

Whoa, he was a cursed poet! Because he wrote mainly satires. So he had lots of enemies. And Nicolas will die: accident, said the official version. Murder, yelled gossips!! Maybe some nasty chaps wanted to kill him... to take revenge.

Choked by a key

So, in 1780, Nicolas was 29 years old. And the drama happened: he came off his horse and get a big haematoma to the head. He was quickly brought in Paris hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu. But he won’t die of his haematoma! He became completely loony, until the final fit of madness where he swallowed his casket’s key and choked.

He died 24 hours after the ingestion, on November 12th 1780. Aaah, so stupid... Today, this poor old Gilbert left this grave in the Catacombs... and a French expression, mourir comme Gilbert en avalant sa clé ("to die like Gilbert by swallowing a key")!


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