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Lohengrin fils de Parsifal [Manuscrit autographe signé]

May-June 1880





17 4to autograph leaves (251 x 208mm) signed, in red ink, abundantly corrected, mounted on guards
BINDING SIGNED BY PAUL BONET. Red morocco, flat spine with gilt title, decor on the sides of stars and cobs in inlaid white morocco and gilt fillets. Wrappers and slipcase (Carnets Paul Bonet, nos 665-667)
PUBLICATION : La Vogue, July-August 1886 (pre-first edition) -- La Revue indépendante, under the direction of Dujardin, November 1887 (first edition), pages 87-117 of the edition
PROVENANCE : Marvyn Carton, New York collector – Blaizot bookshop (1968, n° 323) -- Daniel Sickles (Paris, April 20 and 21, 1989, n° 122)

If we know many manuscript poems by Jules Laforgue, manuscripts in prose are of a very great rarity. The first edition of Moralités légendaires published for the first time in 1887, a few months after Laforgue’s death, is made up of six short stories : Hamlet ou les suites de la piété filiale, Le Miracle des roses, Lohengrin, fils de Parsifal, Salomé, Pan ou la Syrinx, Persée et Andromède ou le plus heureux des trois. The publishers of the Œuvres complètes by Laforgue list two sets of the manuscripts of Moralités légendaires. One complete with the six short stories kept at the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet, is the copy given by Laforgue just before his death in 1887, to his publisher. The other, having been part of the Sicklès collection, assembles three short stories : Salomé, today kept at the Martin Bodmer Foundation, Miracle des roses, reappeared at one of the sales of the Pierre Bergé library (Paris, November 9, 2016, n° 451, €23,184) and Lohengrin, this one. The Lohengrin manuscript is therefore one of the only two manuscripts of the Moralités légendaires not kept in a public collection.

In 1880, the poet aged twenty, used red ink. The photograph of the Sickles catalogue shows that the manuscript of Miracle de la rose is written in black ink. It is posterior to that of Lohengrin, which moreover, the publishers of Œuvre complètes by Laforgue, confirm. The Lohengrin manuscript is therefore the oldest manuscript of Moralités légendaires that we know of.

Historically, the moment when Rimbaud was rediscovered in 1886, Laforgue’s works in prose was discovered. Laforgue was one of the first readers of Rimbaud, firstly thanks to the few poems that Verlaine revealed in Les Poètes maudits (1883), then in 1886 when he participated in the adventure of La Vogue. Kahn, at whose place Laforgue was living at the time, owned one of the very rare copies of Une Saison en enfer (the copy of the Pierre Berès collection) that Verlaine had loaned to him in view of a reprinting of the text in La Vogue. We hence imagine that Laforgue had the privilege of discovering Rimbaud in the first edition, and we think of the conversations that he had with Kahn on the subject of the republication of Une Saison en enfer. The personal bond between the two poets was conveyed by La Vogue which published Lohengrin and Une Saison en enfer in the same issue.

We know Laforgue’s awe for Rimbaud. "Le passant considérable" (Mallarmé) was six years his senior. They wrote at the same age (Laforgue was twenty when he wrote this manuscript). The short story of Moralités légendaires signed and datable to 1880, attests that the young poet already planned to publish stories in prose at the time. However, it would be necessary to wait until 1885 to have its testimony : "I was keen on a volume of short stories, which were neither Villiers nor Maupassant." Then "I want to work, make of my volume of short stories something more than a mediocre bouquet of disparate flowers. It will be Art". Laforgue died at twenty-seven and would have needed maybe two years to complete his work for which he had written the program in a letter addressed to Kahn : "I forget to rhyme, I forget the number of syllables, I forget the delivery of the stanzas, my lines begin at the margin like prose. I will never write more verses than thus." This letter is not without recalling another letter written from Charleville, several years earlier.

The theme of Lohengrin, attached to the operas of Wagner in a very nationalist France, was not a trivial choice. It testifies to the avant-gardism and cosmopolitanism of Laforgue. Wagner’s opera had been created in August 1876. It was during his stay in Germany from 1881 to 1886, that Laforgue discovered the music of Wagner. During those five years, he served as reader for the German Empress Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, grandmother to the future William II. His work consisted in reading to the Empress for two hours a day, the best pages of French novels and newspaper articles like those of La Revue des Deux Mondes. It was a very well-paying job that left him free time and allowed him to travel around Europe.

In Berlin, Laforgue frequented a little circle of young Wagnerians who initiated him to the music of the master of Bayreuth. In 1882 he first met two Belgian brothers from Wallonia, musicians, the Ysaÿe, who took him to the Konzerthaus of Charlottenburg. The following year, from February to April 1883, Laforgue regularly attended the Berlin Opera and thereby attended several of Wagner’s operas : Lohengrin, Tristan und Ysolde, Tannhäuser. But the opera that Laforgue saw the most was Carmen by Bizet : it was the Empress’s favorite. She hardly went to the theater any longer except for this work which, as a result, was often performed in the cities where she was residing. Then the little Wagnerian circle widened to include Edouard Dujardin, future director of the Revue wagnérienne, founded in February 1885, and with which Mallarmé and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam would collaborate : "Since Wagner, music joins verse to form poetry" (Stéphane Mallarmé, Divagations). Through their common taste for poetry and music, Dujardin and Laforgue would remain very close following their meeting in Berlin. At the death of Laforgue, Dujardin would publish Moralités légendaires.

REFERENCES : Jules Laforgue, Œuvres Complètes, II, Lausanne, L'Age d'Homme, 1995, pp. 372, 540 et suivantes -- Jean-Jacques Lefrère, Jules Laforgue, Paris, Fayard, 2005, pp. 483-488 -- Carnets des reliures de Paul Bonet, n° 665