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DURANTY, Louis Edmond

La Cause du beau Guillaume

Paris, J. Hetzel - Librairie Claye, 1862





In-8 (177 x 112mm). Le roman a été réédité par Félix Fénéon aux Éditions de la Sirène en 1920. “Il avait bon goût” (Peter Salt)
COLLATION : 4-340 pp. (1 f.) 4 pp. de catalogue
ENVOI autographe signé, à l’encre brune, sur le faux-titre :

À Charles Baudelaire


Louis Leforgeur est
en mâle ce que Henriette
Gérard est en femelle.
Amour particulier de l’auteur
pour les êtres faibles et violents.

L’article, venant
trop tard, pourra servir
de préface à une 2e édition

RELIURE DE L’ÉPOQUE. Dos à nerfs de percaline prune, dos orné, plats de papier marbré, tranches mouchetées
PROVENANCE : Charles Baudelaire -- Narcisse Ancelle -- Maurice Ancelle (avec sa signature ex-libris au crayon en tête et en fin du volume) -- Bernard Malle (cachet)
EXPOSITION : Charles Baudelaire, exposition B. N., 1957, prêté par Maurice Ancelle

Edmond Duranty (1833-1880), along with Champfleury, was one of the main representatives of the realistic school of thought. In 1856 they created a short-lived magazine, Le Réalisme, in which they opposed the romantic aesthetic. Friend of Manet, Degas and Courbet, Duranty was later the first to defend the impressionists in La Nouvelle Peinture (1876). He wrote several novels, two of which were published during Baudelaire’s life : Le Malheur d’Henriette Gérard, published in volumes in 1860 by Poulet-Malassis, and La Cause du Beau Guillaume, published in 1862. In 1861, Edmond Duranty opened his puppet theatre in the Tuileries, which was eventually seized for unpaid debts in 1870.

The commentary Baudelaire wrote on the half-title of his copy of La Cause du beau Guillaume is the material proof that he had read both novels. It was usual for Baudelaire to use a pencil for the reading marks he made on his copies. What is less usual is the length (eight lines), and the content of the commentary. Associating both novels, Beaudelaire alludes to a draft preface. Duranty’s two novels are so linked to each other in Baudelaire’s mind, that the commentaries for one are valid for the other. Baudelaire wrote to his publisher about Le Malheur d’Henriette Gérard : “his book is quite remarkable. I was astonished.” (letter dated July 21st 1860). Then to Théophile Gautier a few days later : “It deserves to be read by you. I have nothing else to say to you.” (end July 1860). It is certain that Baudelaire made the same judgement about La Cause du beau Guillaume, since he set about writing an “article” about it, upon its publication in 1862, which he points out in the note at the top of his copy : “the article, coming too late, could be used as a preface to a second edition.” In Beaudelaire’s eyes, the interest of the novel was such that he even imagined transforming the article into a preface for a second edition.

The article got no further than draft form. Baudelaire’s notes in his Carnet also mention reading Duranty’s novels, and that he would like to report on them in one way or another : “For Hetzel. In Le Malheur d’Henriette Gérard, despotism of foolishness, Émile Germain, a weak man. In La Cause du Beau Guillaume, Louis Leforgeur, a weak man. However, they are two rebels. Henriette is a rebel, and Lévise as well. (July 1861-November 1863, Feuillet 39).

Duranty belonged to the realist school, but as Julien Bogousslavsky noted in a remarkable study, “he was inspired by Stendhal’s psychological realism, which means that his books are much more readable today than many works written by celebrities of the time.” One of Duranty’s original fictional techniques holds in “narrowing the field” which “announces that of the new novel” (Claude Pichois). In La Cause du Beau Guillaume, this narrowed field gives rise to particularly successful scenes ; for example that where the young Louis Leforgeur dines between his maid and his seamstress, against propriety, because he is in love with the latter. The narrative then closes in on this three-person scene in the kitchen, like a reduced focus ; which bestows a certain density to the tale, and a comic effect.

It took some time however for a true appreciation to develop between Baudelaire and Duranty, and it was always lined with significant distrust. Duranty presented himself as the spokesman of realism, whereas Beaudelaire considered himself the “imaginative man”. Duranty believed in the progress of humanity, Beaudelaire did not. Finally, Duranty equated Beaudelaire with Edgard Poe, of whom he did not think highly. However, “the accusation of realism that the author of Fleurs du Mal had to suffer, may have gained him some sympathy from the standard-bearer of the new school of fiction.” (André Guyaux).

Poulet-Malassis was probably the artisan of a rapprochement between Baudelaire and Duranty, which this copy testifies. In February 1860, Beaudelaire introduced Duranty to Constantin Guys, and requested the painter’s financial contribution for Duranty’s puppet theatre. On 19th May, Baudelaire attended the inauguration of the theater in the Tuileries. In the autumn of the same year 1860, Duranty was commissioned by Champfleury and Poulet-Malassis to write a biography of Baudelaire, who provided him with numerous documents : “I am spending tomorrow writing a bunch of notes for Duranty”, the poet wrote to Poulet-Malassis on October 18th 1860. The biography did exist, but it has never been found. It had been judged as “absolutely unprintable” (Poulet-Malassis) by Baudelaire and Champfleury, because it was “marred by excessive realism” (Claude Pichois).

Baudelaire and Duranty therefore tried to get closer to each other, as shown by the article (or preface) that Baudelaire did not write, and Duranty’s biography of Baudelaire that was never published. A few letters and indirect testimonies that recall their mutual curiosity still remain. This copy is therefore the only place of intellectual exchange known today between the most important poet of modernity, and one of the most singular art critics and novelists of the end of the century : on its own, it brings together, exceptionally, the double marks of something sent and received.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : cet ouvrage ne figure pas au Répertoire des Biens spoliés -- André Guyaux, Un demi-siècle de lectures des Fleurs du Mal (1855-1905), Paris, 2007, pp. 954 et suiv. -- Julien Bogousslavsky, De Delacroix aux surréalistes. Un siècle de livres, Lausanne, 2020, pp. 62 et suiv. --Baudelaire, Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1975-1976, I, pp. 736 et 1516 et II, pp. 245 et 1196 - Baudelaire, Correspondance, Paris, 1973, II, pp. 68, 70, 100, 693 -- Jacques Crépet, “Baudelaire et Duranty”, Mercure de France, août 1939, pp. 66-72