Did you know ...? #05
Did you know that John Cockerill has inspired romantic authors?
In the 19th century, John Cockerill enjoys an international reputation. The industrial complex which he has created is without equal and even inspires the great names of literature. So it is that Théophile Gautier, on the occasion of the expedition he undertakes with Nerval, writes in 'A trip round Belgium', published for the first time in the Paris press in 1836: Just a short distance from Liège, Serin (sic!) is smoking and bubbling away, where Mr. Cockerill has his factories. The forges at Lemnos, with their 3 miserable Cyclops, were as nothing compared to this immense establishment, constantly black with smoke, red from the flames, where metals run in torrents, where people are puddling, people are lashing at the metal, where huge artefacts are made, the steel structures of steam engines; here, industry is elevated to the realms of poetry, and leaves the mythological inventions far behind it.
Victor Hugo, during his 1838 trip to the Rhine, writes in 'Letter to a friend VII, The Banks of the Meuse, Huy-Liège': Once you get past the place they call Petite-Flemalle (sic), things become really indescribable and truly magnificent. The whole valley seems to be pierced by erupting craters. Behind the little hedges, some are spewing out great clouds of bright red steam, sprinkled with sparks; others project, against a red background, the oppressive black silhouettes of the villages; elsewhere, the flames creep among the gaps
between groups of buildings. You would think an enemy army had just crossed the country and that twenty villages, razed to the ground, are at once offering you, during this gloomy night, all the aspects and all the phases of fire, these burning, those smoking, others flaming. This show of war is put on by peace; this frightening image of devastation is made by industry. You have quite simply before your eyes the blast furnaces of Mr. Cockerill.
The romantic authors looking for inspiration during their travels from mediaeval cathedrals, antique ruins and picturesque landscapes, thus find food for their quills in Seraing.