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Cabinet Photograph
Unknown Photographer
3 Place de la Madelein, Paris, France
c. 1909

Although in rather poor condition this cabinet photograph offers a very personal window into the past. The photograph depicts a young officer of the French Fusiliers Marins – Marine Fusiliers. The photograph is heavily inscribed but lacks the officer’s name. The inscription both front and back was intended for a certain Mademoiselle Lilli with whom the officer had a romantic connection.

I had the inscriptions translated by a native French speaker and have tried to record them here in everyday English although as my friend Erik stated it is very hard to do due to the very personal nature of the message. The front inscription is addressed to Lilli and dedicated to her in remembrance of the years 1908-09. The rather long inscription on the reverse is a poem of sorts:

Toqué,  your friend.

The shortest pleasures in the world
Often make the finest loves
Now the time has come to leave you
And go to where my duty calls
Possibly to my death
So very far away, yet so very much alive
Forever, forever.

Nomeá, 22 April 1910

The poem’s title begins with the rather odd “name” Toqué which usually refers to a type that may actually be a nickname or term of endearment that Lilli had for her officer.  While the photograph was taken in Paris it was inscribed at Nomeá – the capital of French New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. From the poem, one would think that this officer was about to deploy into combat but what his mission may have been is a mystery.

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