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PROUST, Marcel, et Jacques BIZET

Georges Royer. [La Revue verte]

Paris, 1888

THE FAMOUS LITERARY EXPERIMENTS OF PROUST AND HIS FRIENDS AT THE LYCÉE CONDORCET.

PRECIOUS AND ONLY TESTIMONY KNOWN OF LA REVUE VERTE.

THE SHORT STORY GEORGES ROYER, WRITTEN BY JACQUES BIZET (SON OF MADAME STRAUSS AND GREAT FRIEND OF PROUST), IS AMPLY CORRECTED IN THE MARGINS BY PROUST

6 pages in-8 (150 x 200mm)

F°1r : "Une rose d'automne est plus qu'une autre exquise", vers d'Agrippa d'Aubigné (Tragiques, IV, v. 1227) recopié par Marcel Proust qui trace un tiret juste en dessous. Daniel Halévy a ajouté au crayon la mention "Proust"
F° 2r-4v, MANUSCRIT AUTOGRAPHE DE 6 pages de texte, écrites recto-verso, PAR JACQUES BIZET, à l'encre violette. Sa nouvelle est titrée "Georges Royer" ; elle est publiée par Anne Borrel (Écrits de jeunesse, pp. 115-118). La dernière page contient les six derniers mots de la nouvelle et porte, répétés huit fois, le cachet de la Revue verte dont l'adresse est le "134 Bd Haussmann", soit l'adresse de Madame Straus et donc de Jacques Bizet. Au centre du cachet se trouve le monogramme "RV". F° 2r : dans les marges de la première page, Marcel Proust a annoté la nouvelle de Jacques Bizet, à l'encre brune, de ce texte :

C'est un charmant récit, dont le sujet est bien joliment choisi. L'histoire d'un raté est un des motifs les plus mélancoliques qu'il y ait. Mais c'est aussi un des plus profondément humains, un des plus difficiles à comprendre, un des plus mystérieusement impénétrables. Naturellement, tu es bien trop jeune pour avoir pensé philosophiquement à cela. Si tu refais cela dans trois ans à peu près, tu auras sûrement soin de faire ton Georges Royer extrêmement intelligent - mais affecté d'une douloureuse, et en dernière analyse, bien mystérieuse impuissance. Pourtant tu la comprendras, et tu l'expliqueras, mais tu verras que l'explication nous met face à de lois bien désolantes, mais inviolables. Alors, le type primitif de ton G. Royer te paraîtra non seulement bien superficiellement étudié, mais surtout bien [plein] de conventions, vivant d'une vie bien artificielle, bien faible. - Ce qui n'empêche pas que c'est si joli que j'ai pleuré en le lisant. Maintenant, tu diras peut-être que c'est mon amitié qui me prévenait. - Tâche d'éviter des façons déplorables comme "dans un g[ran]d enterrement etc."

CAHIER SOUPLE SIGNÉ DE LOUTREL. Peau verte, titre doré sur les plats, dos long avec titre doré, étui
PROVENANCE : famille Halévy

In October 1887, one year before writing this text, Marcel Proust was sixteen years old and joined the rhetoric class at the Lycée Condorcet. Soon enough a group of friends formed around him, the “little society of four friends” : Robert Dreyfus was fourteen years old and starting “seconde” (10th grade), Daniel Halévy and his cousin Jacques Bizet were fifteen years old and starting “troisième” (9th grade). They were joined by Henri Rabaud, Fernand Gregh and Robert de Flers. They were of course linked by affection, but also by a common passion for literature and for the avant-garde movements, that could only be sharpened by the proximity of the courses given by Mallarmé in the same Lycée Condorcet, “he recommended Wagner, Shelley, Baudelaire, Edgar Poe, Verlaine” (D. Halévy, Pays parisiens). Only a few sources shed light on this period : Daniel Halévy’s Pays parisiens, published in 1929 and especially his Journal, extensively studied by Sébastien Laurent’s brilliant thesis ; a few pages by Jean Santeuil known from the first publication in 1952 ; Robert Dreyfus’ Souvenirs, published in 1926, and his Notes of 1932, preserved at the BNF, which insist upon Proust’s “extraordinary platonic passion” for Jacques Bizet (NAF, 19772, f° 12-13).

It was Proust that Jacques Bizet asked to be his “reservoir”, to whom he wrote a letter on June 14th 1988, copied by Halévy in his “Journal”, beginning with “chéri” : “the cousin of the ‘cold” Daniel Halévy is at this moment the object of his dreams” (Écrits de Jeunesse, p. 39). To Robert Dreyfus, Proust wrote on September 10th 1888 : “I would like to tell J.B. that I adore him.” Proust, possessed by this “sensitivity of the flayed which tormented him all his life” (Robert Dreyfus), wrote to Jaques Bizet : “I admire your wisdom.”

Marcel Proust, Jacques Bizet and Daniel Halévy made up the first of the famous love triangulations of the author of La Recherche. It was thus him the master, who gave his classmates their first lessons in “aesthetics and style”, in the various literary attempts of the “society of four friends” of the Lycée Condorcet. The master with a biased friendship, also, who cried while reading his friend’s prose. At the end of June 1888, Proust wrote to Daniel Halévy : “I propose that you found with me (but always alone as directors) a great art journal” (Écrits de jeunesse, p. 57). This is one of the two journals that would succeed Lundi, since the publication of the latter, as indicated in the notice in the issue dated March 1st 1988 by Daniel Halévy, apparently ceased with this issue ; either La Revue verte of which Proust was editorial secretary… and of which we have no copy”, or La Revue Lilas “for which texts were written but of which no issue has reached us” (op. cit., p. 63).

According to Daniel Halévy’s words, Marcel Proust thus became the “teacher of taste” of the small society. “One of our preoccupations, I believe it was our styles. The French language at the time was in a bad state… One of us had understood ; it was Marcel Proust. Our master, our teacher of taste”… (Pays parisiens). In his first essays of critical thinking published in Le Lundi, Marcel Proust indeed proposed a “personal reading of classical and contemporary works.” From November 21st 1887 to March 1st 1888, Daniel Halévy and Marcel Proust published Le Lundi, a magazine duplicated with violet ink or carbon copied, for which there were only thirteen issues. Only a handful of copies remain. Written in a very personal tone, it claims to reflect the artistic and literary news in the manner of Saint-Beuve or Jules Lemaître. From the beginning of the school year in 1888, the group of young high-school students had new projects, first La Revue verte then La Revue Lilas. The former was never published as a mimeographed copy (“it was never even meant to be duplicated”, R. Dreyfus). Only the present manuscript and a leaflet on green paper have survived, reporting discussions between the secretary (Marcel Proust) and the two main authors (Halévy and Bizet). The leaflet “a bold green paper”, described by Robert Dreyfus, deals with the conservation of the archives of the future revue, which Halévy wants to appropriate, which enrages Marcel. Its location is unknown to us (cf. Écrits de jeunesse, p. 112). Neither has a copy of La Revue Lilas survived, and it is only known through three fragmentary and preparatory manuscripts, all preserved in the BNF (NAF 19 772). This autograph manuscript of a text by Bizet, annotated by Proust, preparatory to a publication in the Revue verte which was never to see the light of day, is thus today, to our knowledge, the only manuscript preserved in private hands of the literary attempts of the young students of Condorcet. The document, described by Anne Borrel (op. cit. p. 114), most certainly comes from the archives of Daniel Halévy. It was sold at auction in the 1980s.

Daniel Halévy added in pencil the note “Proust” below the verse by Agrippa d’Aubigné, copied out by Proust himself, and placed at the head of the notebook. The verse was one of Marcel’s favorite poetic references (cf. letter to Walter Berry November 25th 1917, Correspondance générale, 1935, p. 249). For Proust himself, it echoes that of Verlaine : “Ah, when will September’s roses bloom again ?” If writing is at the same time reconstituting the past and constituting the present, the theme of failure structures Proust’s works from the first steps. Jean-Yves Tadié wrote about Jacques Bizet’s short story : “Everything happens as if Marcel had foreseen that the story of a failure, and even for a long time of two, Swann and then the Narrator, would be his subject, without considering Jean Santeuil who was already unable to write, not to mention Jacques Bizet himself. This theme arouses a deep resonance in him ; he also believes that mystery can be explained, and that psychology obeys laws – which we will find again in Le Temps retrouvé." (Marcel Proust, Paris, 1996, p. 113).

REFERENCES : Marcel Proust. Écrits de jeunesse 1887-1895. Textes rassemblés… par Anne Borrel, Illiers-Combray, 1991 -- S. Laurent, Daniel Halévy. Du libéralisme au traditionnalisme. Paris, 2001, p. 82 et ssq. -- Dictionnaire Marcel Proust, Paris, 2004, p. 874