Edmond de la Fontaine (1823-1891), also known by his pen name "Dicks", was a prominent Luxembourgish writer and playwright. He is considered to be one of the most important figures in Luxembourgish literature and culture.

Born in Luxembourg (then in personal union with the Kingdom of Netherlands), Edmond de la Fontaine was the son of Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Gaspard Théodore Ignace de la Fontaine. After graduating from the Athénée in Luxembourg, he went on to study law at the University of Liège from 1844 to 1846 and at the University of Heidelberg from 1846 to 1847.

He worked as a lawyer for his brother's law practice, but went on to become a deputy judge for the Justice of the Peace in Luxembourg, in 1854. After a few years he quit law and went on to live in Remich where he founded a weaving company. Unfortunately, the weaving industry suffered a serious economic crisis in the mid-1860s, forcing him to close the business.


De la Fontaine weaving company in Remich, next to the Moselle, in 1865. / © https://www.industrie.lu/ @Desom

After marrying his cousin Élise Dutreux and moving to the castle of Stadtbredimus, which they inherited in 1863, he also becomes the mayor of the city in 1866 until 1870.

Edmond de la Fontaine made his literary debut during the revolution of 1848. At that time, there was a wave of revolutions occurring across Europe, due to inequality, dissatisfaction with the authoritarian government and a lack of civil liberties. During that time, he published a series of articles anonymously for the newspaper "Der Volksfreund" in which he attacked his father's (Liberal-Conservative) political opponents. His publications were met with great praise because of his satirical references. Edmond de la Fontaine's pen name was "Dicks" and probably goes back to when a German officer called him that as a child, referring to his chubbiness (German: "dick"=chubby).

His satirical poem of 1848, "D'Vulleparlament am Grengewald" (The Birds' Parliament in the Grengewald), mockingly depicted the members of the Luxembourg Estates as birds. It was the first time that the Luxembourgish language was used for a "literary" setting.


© RTL Play

It was de la Fontaine's play "De Scholdschäin" which took place in 1855 at the Cercle building on the Place d'Armes that marked the birth of the Luxembourg theatre. The play was a huge success, and was followed by a series of other plays that De la Fontaine wrote. Some of the most famous ones, which were also performed for charity, are "De Koséng oder Schwârz oder Blont", "D'Kirmesgèscht" and "De Ramplassang". These plays, also called "vaudevilles", were accompanied by dancing and songs, which Dicks also composed himself.

Beneath you can listen to one of his more popular compositions that are known among people until today.

Dicks' main themes were rather ordinary and very accessible, such as the love between two young people, who try to overcome different difficulties in order to attain a happy marriage, which was also one of the reasons for their success. De la Fontaine was known for his language play and songs that accompanied his plays, but what made his works so beloved was the fact they contributed in giving the language national identity, and a means for people to connect creatively.

Given that Luxembourg was a largely rural country at that time, De la Fontaine's work was very important to the development of Luxembourg's identity. His interest in the language, but also the country's folklore and tradition were crucial to Luxembourg's literature. In 1877 he launched an appeal to school teachers, to collect myths, legends, as well as the customs and habits of Luxembourgers. These were to be handed over to the Institut grand-ducal. All the contributions led to Dicks' famous "Luxemburger Sitten und Bräuche" (Luxembourg's habits and customs).

Beneath you can listen to parts of his most famous operette "D’Mumm Séis oder De Geescht" (1855).

Today, de la Fontaine is remembered as one of Luxembourg's greatest writers and cultural figures. His work continues to be read and studied in school, and his plays are regularly performed in Luxembourgish theaters.

The main source used for this article was provided by "Dictionnaire des auteurs luxembourgeois" (Luxembourg's dictionary of authors). You can read more on Edmond de la Fontaine and other authors here.

Famous monuments


The monument to Dicks and Michel Lentz, national poets of Luxembourg, which is located at of the Place d'Armes in Luxembourg City. / © Razvan Orendovici

This monument can be located at the Place d'Armes in the city and celebrates Luxembourg's two national poets: Dicks (1823-1891) and Michel Lentz (1820-1893). The lion at the top of the monument represents the Grand Duchy's national animal, while the inscription on the pillar features the famous saying: "Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin" (We want to stay what we are).


Edmond the la Fontaine's birth house. / © https://www.industrie.lu/

This is a building you've probably seen before but never realized it was actually the birth place of Edmond de la Fontaine. The building features an inscription plate stating "Here the national poet Edmond de la Fontaine was born on 24 of July in 1823".