DARVEAU, LOUIS-MICHEL, notary, journalist, and literary critic, b. 29 Sept. 1833 at Quebec, son of Grégoire Darveau and Marie Simpson; d. 24 Aug. 1875 in his native city.
Louis-Michel Darveau entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec in 1845 and finished his classical education six years later. On 5 May 1856 he became a notary. He seldom acted in this capacity, preferring the more exciting career of a journalist. On 9 March 1858, at Quebec, he started a weekly L’Observateur, which had as its motto: “I observe everything; I support the good; I fight the bad and with a laugh I tell each person the truth about himself.” Darveau regularly used banter as an antidote for the ridiculous in his contemplation of the world and the life of men. He published the last number of L’Observateur on 17 May 1860, and 33 days later started a more moderate weekly La Réforme, in which he undertook the defence of the Rouge party.
In May 1863, a new political team headed by John Sandfield Macdonald and Antoine-Aimé Dorion* came into power; the Liberals were seeking an organ to represent their ideas and approached Darveau with a view to making La Réforme a party newspaper. As they considered the weekly a little too radical, Antoine-Aimé Dorion and Luc Letellier* de Saint-Just, the minister of agriculture, negotiated with its owner to get him to change his attitude. They asked him to let them choose another name for the journal, as well as a new editor. Darveau accepted these two conditions, but refused a third: that of allowing the name of a figure-head to appear as owner in place of his. An agreement was finally reached in August: Darveau assumed all the costs of publication in exchange for a promise of political patronage. The last number of La Réforme appeared on 18 August, and the first issue of La Tribune seven days later. But contrary to the promises they had made, the governing party did not reimburse the owner for the sums spent in maintaining the Liberal paper. This situation irritated Darveau. On 19 September, to force the government’s hand, he announced the discontinuance of La Tribune as a daily paper speaking for the party in power. He resumed publication five days later, however, after reaching an understanding with Napoléon Aubin*. Aubin induced Darveau to sign an agreement to sell, which was realized on 9 Nov. 1863. Frustrated, the Quebec journalist left for Montreal, where he wrote for a number of papers. He contributed in particular to Le National, a paper with liberal and democratic leanings.
In 1864, at the time of an action brought against the broker John R. Healy [see Octave Crémazie], Darveau prepared a pamphlet, Cause célèbre; procès de J.-R. Healy, en juillet 1864 . . . affaire Crémazie, in which he attempted to disparage Joseph–Édouard Cauchon*, François Évanturel*, and Augustin Côté*, his political enemies; these three had stood surety for loans contracted by Octave Crémazie.
Darveau belonged to the school of Louis-Joseph Papineau, Antoine-Aimé Dorion, and Louis-Antoine Dessaulles*. He was a Rouge: an idealist, a patriot, and a democrat. He had close ties with the nationalists of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste societies and the radical liberals of the Institut Canadien of Montreal. He even delivered lectures to these associations, and L’Observateur published two of them. In the first, given before the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Quebec on 15 Jan. 1858, he declared his nationalist and democratic stand: “we are Catholics and French; we must always be so. We have two principles to defend: Catholicism and democracy; they constitute our nationality. We cannot defend one and deny the other: they are identical.” On the national level, Darveau considered the independence of the United Canadas as “the supreme end towards which the destiny of the country is bent.” As a French Canadian nationalist, he propagated a veritable mystique of the Patriotes of 1837–38. But, for him, the real value of a people is revealed in its literary accomplishments.
Afflicted with partial paralysis in 1867, Darveau was unable to walk and remained tied to an armchair until his death. Despite his illness, he found the courage to become a literary critic and to write several biographies. He published the first portion of them in 1873 in his volume Nos hommes de lettres. Although he put into it all his talent and effort, this work is not a masterpiece of literary criticism; he accepted or rejected an author’s opinion to the extent that it resembled his own patriotic and democratic ideal. Death struck him down on 24 Aug. 1875 and prevented him from publishing a second volume. On 7 Jan. 1857, at Saint-Roch in Quebec, he had married Henriette Giguère; they had no children.
Louis-Michel Darveau was above all a radical journalist, a supporter of democratic ideas and freedom of expression. Unfortunately, at that period there was no place for independent journalism. Papers that wished to survive had to remain strictly tied to political parties.
AJM, Greffe de Louis-Michel Darveau, 1871–1874. AJQ, Greffe de Louis-Michel Darveau, 1856–1868. Archives paroissiales de Saint-Roch (Québec), Registre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures. ASQ, Fichier des anciens du séminaire. L.-M. Darveau, Nos hommes de lettres (Montréal, 1873). L’Observateur (Québec), 9 mars 1858–21 mars 1860. La Réforme (Québec), 9 juin 1860–18 août 1863. La Tribune (Québec), 25 août–15 sept. 1863. Beaulieu et Hamelin, Journaux du Québec, 204, 215, 223–24. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, IV, 133–35. Lareau, Hist. de la littérature canadienne. J.-P. Tremblay, A la recherche de Napoléon Aubin (Vie des Lettres canadiennes, 7, Québec, 1969).