Is this 18th-century "smiley" the earliest one found to date?
Porquet Emoticon Smiley
by William Porquet, M.A.


Click on the images below to see larger versions.

Chanson de l'abbé Porquet 1
Chanson 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).

Chanson de l'abbé Porquet 2
Chanson 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.

Related links:
The First Online Smiley
Smiley Lore
Smiley Emoticon Turns 20
Smiley From Mars

© William M. Porquet, MMII
2038 Consulting