this 18th-century "smiley" the earliest one found to date?
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below to see larger versions.
by William Porquet, M.A.
l'abbé Porquet 1
In the back of tome second (book two) of Stanislas
de Boufflers' Œuvres (Paris: Chez Pironnet, 1805 - possibly
a reprint of the original 1786 edition) one finds a short collection
of poetry written by the author's extended family, most of which are in
a humourous vein. These may have been collected from salon recitations
and private correspondence. One of these poetic send-ups is the "Chanson
de l'abbé Porquet". Abbé Pierre-Charles-François Porquet (b.
Jan. 12 1723 - d. Nov. 22 1796) was Boufflers' tutor and companion from
c. 1749 to 1766 (?). Porquet may have written this piece for one of Boufflers' birthdays
("Célébrons l'heureuse naissance / De notre aimable chevalier").
I can imagine the poem being recited by Porquet, glass of wine in hand, at a private
party on or around May 31 (Boufflers' birthday), but the year is
not stated. Boufflers notes under the title that this poem was written about
the author while Porquet was still his tutor ("Sur l'Auteur dont il avait
le précepteur") which helps to date when the work was originally
penned (I'm guessing in the early 1760s after Boufflers and Porquet did a
grand tour of Europe together).
l'abbé Porquet 2
Most of the poem is tongue-in-cheek
(if not utterly hyberbolic) praise by Porquet for his young student.
After praising Boufflers for excelling in all crafts, he writes one line
as a direct poke at Boufflers' apparent "two left feet" dance technique
(eighth line down on page 286):
Exceptons-en pourtant la dance : )
Compared to Porquet's use of punctuation elsewhere in this poem,
this looks like a purposeful visual pun, putting a smile on the end of
the one line in his whole poem poking fun at his beloved student. Is this
the earliest example of a published "smiley" emoticon, published in 1805
and based on a manuscript from the mid-1760s?
If you have an older example, please email the author.
Emoticon Turns 20
Smiley From Mars
© William M. Porquet, MMII