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Carpentier Biographies

From Pit Boy to Champion Boxer: The Romance of Georges Carpentier, F. Hurdman-Lucas  (London, 1914)

Judging from its content, this very early biography appears to have been written very soon after the rematch with Wells in December 1913. Hurdman-Lucas is described in a publisher’s preface as “a constant and familiar companion and friend of the great French boxer” and thus well placed to tell his story. This volume emphasizes, as its sub-title indicates, the romantic quality of Carpentier’s improbable rise to fame and fortune at a young age:

“In this Life of Georges Carpentier, the good fairy steps on the scene at the rise of the curtain, and we have all the ingredients at once of a veritable romance […] we follow the story as it unfolds itself with an excitement which is more real than that conjured up by our favourite fairy tales.”

While much of the information in the volume is factual, there is indeed a significant element of fairy tale nonetheless. The very title of the volume demonstrates this: Georges Carpentier never worked in the mines, despite what a romantic tale it makes for Hurdman-Lucas:

“No more going down the somber mines. No longer would his features be distorted by clogging coal dust. […] Everlasting night was to be changed into day, and his youthful lungs were to know the exhilaration of oxygenized winds untainted by deadly fumes.”

More hagiography than biography, From Pit Boy to Champion Boxer is unstinting in its purple praise of the talent, beauty, intelligence and virtue of the young Carpentier. It was prose like this that helped make Carpentier the idol of England.

Georges Carpentier: Gentleman du ring, Olivier Merlin (1975)

The second book-length biography of Carpentier was published just one month after his death in October 1975.  Merlin, sportswriter at Le Monde and editor-in-chief of Paris Match, had a long-time friendship with Carpentier and their conversations inform the content of the biography. The text is relatively brief, recounting the highlights of Carpentier’s career without excess detail and providing a sense of his personality; it includes a number of photographs.  Merlin’s tone and content clearly express his respect, admiration and affection for Carpentier, but the book is too intelligent and restrained to be dismissed as hagiography.

Georges Carpentier, Ginette Haÿ (1993)

This volume, published in anticipation of the centennial of Carpentier’s birth in 1994 by a non-profit association devoted to the history of the region surrounding Carpentier’s birthplace in the North of France, is an invaluable resource.  Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of photographs and extensively researched, it provides a nearly day-by-day account of his entire life.  Multiple sub-headings in bold in the margins and informative thematic sidebars make it extremely user friendly for both casual readers and purposeful scholars. While taking full account of the Carpentier myth, it remains firmly within the realm of the factual and the documented.