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BANVILLE, Théodore de

Les Stalactites

Paris, Paulier, 1846

INSCRIBED BY THÉODORE DE BANVILLE TO CHARLES ASSELINEAU : THE TWO OLDEST FRIENDS OF CHARLES BAUDELAIRE.

BINDING BY LORTIC : A MOMENT OF PERFECTION.

COPY CITED BY VICAIRE.

IT WAS ASSELINEAU WHO HAD TAKEN BANVILLE TO LORTIC

FIRST EDITION

In-8 (223 x 136mm)

ENVOI autographe signé, sur le feuillet de garde de la reliure :

Que les temps sont changés ! + mon cher Asselineau ;
Pour moi l'enfant Amour allumait son fourneau
Lorsqu'en des lieux charmants, remplis de clématites,
Je rêvais ce recueil nommé Les Stalactites,
Tout jeune encore, ainsi que Damète ou Tircis.
Hélas, c'était en mil huit cent quarante six,
Époque où j'étais cher à la Grâce indécente,
Et j'écris ces dix vers en mil huit cent soixante,
N'ayant presque plus d'or et d'argent sur le front,
Vieux lyrique fourbu, dont les jeunes riront !

Théodore de Banville

+ Racine, Athalie

RELIURE DE L’ÉPOQUE SIGNÉE PAR LORTIC, en queue du dos. Dos de maroquin vert à cinq nerfs, plats de papier marbré, tranche supérieure dorée

PROVENANCE : cet exemplaire ne figure pas au Répertoire des Biens spoliés -- Théodore de Banville : relié pour lui -- Charles Asselineau (sa vente : Catalogue de la bibliothèque romantique de feu M. Charles Asselineau, Paris, Rouquette, 1875, n° 34) -- Charles Jolly-Bavoillot (1821-1895 ; Collection importante d’ouvrages de la période romantique… riches reliures en maroquin de Cuzin, Marius Michel, Chambolle-Duru, Lortic frères, Paris, A. Durel, 1896, n° 92) -- Bernard Malle

The name of Lortic stamped on the tail of a Jansenist half-binding immediately evokes Baudelaire and his cenacle and constitutes an unequalled modernity in matters of copies of French literature : “Lortic [was the] appointed bookbinder for Baudelaire and the cenacle that surrounded him” (Jacques Guérin catalog).

One cannot imagine a more Baudelairian copy that that of Stalactiques inscribed to Charles Asselineau and bound by Lortic. The friendship of Baudelaire, Banville and Asselineau dated back to their youth and would last until Baudelaire’s death and even beyond.

Asselineau and Lortic

Charles Asselineau took Baudelaire, the first time, to the atelier of Lortic :

“We are crossing the Pont-Neuf. Here we are on rue de la Monnaie. At the first house on the left, the demon drags me and pushes me down the stairs. Two floors, and we enter a salon. This salon, I know it, it is that of L***, the famous bookbinder, my ordinary worker” (L’Enfer du bibliophile, 1860)

In Baudelaire’s cenacle, Asselineau is surely the one who owns the most Lortic bindings. The Catalogue de la bibliothèque romantique de feu M. Charles Asselineau (1875) reveals about forty volumes bound by Lortic. His copy of Fleurs du Mal appears under n° 68 : “mar. r., fil., gilt spine, dent. int., gilt. edg. (Lortic). First iss. ; of ten copies on laid paper, with autograph inscription signed by the author”. Its binding has unfortunately been broken and replaced by a Marius Michel binding. We also find in his Catalogue, an important series of books by Banville of which five are bound by Lortic. This copy of Stalactites appears under number 34. The inscription is fully transcribed.

Baudelaire’s apartment and books described by Banville

Baudelaire owned very few books. They were stowed away in a cupboard near the bottles. Théodore de Banville gives one of the most important descriptions known of Baudelaire’s apartment on quai d’Anjou, when he was young :

“the first time that I was received at Baudelaire’s, he lived in a small apartment in the Hôtel Pimodan on quai d’Anjou on the île Saint-Louis. At the time he was this handsome young man of twenty with scarlet lips and deep light eyes, with a silky, virgin beard, naturally curly long black hair and quite similar to Paganini’s, whose portrait Émile Deroy had left, that Bracquemond had engraved and that is owned today by Charles Asselineau.

On entering Baudelaire’s, my eyes were invincibly attracted by a woman’s head, which, though very dark and yet luminous, suffering, lived in a large flamboyant gilt frame, with deep grooves and various and varied planes which by learned inflections, followed each other smoothly and in a way so as to produce a beautiful harmonious line. Taken and subjugated in the first instant by the irresistible seduction of this painting, I couldn’t take my eyes off it, and to tell the truth, I saw nothing else.

It is not however, that the poet’s lodging was bare of what could excite the interest and curiosity, as it resembled him perfectly ! It was strangely composed of a very small ante chamber, a large and beautiful room with an alcove, whose sole window gave onto the river, and of several very small cabinets with windows but no fireplaces which grouped together around the room, like buds around a flower. Each of these cabinets contained one of those antique pieces of furniture with drawers, in ebony or tortoiseshell, that are also known as cabinets. In the center of the large room there was an enormous 18th century walnut table whose oval cut, those imperceptible undulations the secret of which old time cabinetmakers have taken with them, made it possible to be seated comfortably everywhere, the body entered and as embedded in the table.

As for the furniture to sit on, it was very big, very wide and covered in gray cloth covers. On the fireplace between two very old copper candlesticks with two branches, a terracotta of a group of two naked women, modeled by Feuchères, representing the nymph Callisto in the arms of Zeus who has taken the appearance of Artemis, and dedicated by the artist to Baudelaire.

In a cupboard whose door was open, I saw some books, very few, sumptuously donned in full binding, in fawn calfskin for the most part. They were 16th century poets in first editions. Sparkling on the same shelves were a few bottles of wine from the Rhine and emerald-colored glasses.

The walls of all the rooms were uniformly covered in a glazed paper with large flowers, alternately colored purple and black. On these walls, there were lithographs by Delacroix on Hamlet, simply placed under glass, and the head of the woman I spoke about” (“Charles Baudelaire”, in La Renaissance littéraire et artistique, n° 1, April 27, 1872).

Another description of Baudelaire’s apartment corroborates Théodore de Banville’s testimony :

“the glassware and crockery remained hidden in deep cupboards which also served as a refuge for books. In the thickness of the walls of Pimodan, old French and Latin poets, especially those of the decadence, for the most part in magnificently bound old editions, stood side by side with multicolored Bohemian glasses, plates, old earthenware dishes, cut crystal coupes and bottles of Rhine wine. If a friend came to visit at quai d’Anjou, the great pleasure of the master of the house was to show him, negligently without seeming to insist, a precious book, a very rare bauble or some choice glassware which seemed abandoned at the back of a cupboard” (P. Guilly).

This description of Baudelaire’s apartment by Banville dates back to before the meeting of Baudelaire and Lortic. The “fawn calfskin” copies are alas not identifiable since Baudelaire did not have an ex-libris. It was after his meeting with Lortic that Baudelaire claimed ownership in a way of a few rare copies. He then had Lortic stamp his cipher “C. B.” on the tail of their spine. Théodore de Banville would do the same for the copies of his own books that he had bound by Lortic.

Charles Baudelaire and Théodore de Banville

Banville and Baudelaire were of the same generation and their mutual influence was much more important than one might think : “to study Baudelaire without reading Banville is nonsense” (J.-M. Hovasse). They knew each other from their youth as Banville relates in his memoir :

“I had the joy, the inestimable fortune of meeting Baudelaire and loving him, when he had just turned twenty” (Mes souvenirs, 1883).

They had even successively had the same mistress, Marie Daubrun. As the ultimate sign of confidence, Baudelaire had sent his manuscripts to Banville a few days before his attempted suicide (1846).

Baudelaire and Théodore de Banville both published their masterpieces with the same publisher, Poulet-Malassis, in 1857. Baudelaire sent Banville one of the precious copies of Fleurs du Mal printed on holland. There is no doubt that Banville gifted Baudelaire a copy of Odes funambulesques.

Baudelaire and Théodore de Banville both published their masterpieces with the same publisher, Poulet-Malassis, in 1857. Baudelaire sent Banville one of the precious copies of Fleurs du Mal printed on holland. There is no doubt that Banville gifted Baudelaire a copy of Odes funambulesques.

Banville would always defend Les Fleurs du Mal and its author, as much in articles as in his correspondence, as he would later with Les Misérables. He described Baudelaire’s collection as “the most romantic and the most modern of all the books of these times, the wonderful book entitled Les Fleurs du Mal… where one feels the flame and the breath of the genius”. For his part, Baudelaire recalls that Banville was a poet of happiness, a rare quality : “Banville’s poetry represents the most beautiful hours of life, that is to say, the hours when one feels happy to think and to live”.

When Baudelaire died, Banville composed a complete panegyric of his friend, praising the man and his work, protesting against the attacks which the reputation of the poet had suffered so much. With Charles Asselineau, Théophile Gautier and Poulet-Malassis, Banville would together direct the posthumous publication of Baudelaire’s Œuvres complètes (1868), a monument and true memorial that their friend had so desired. When Asselineau died in 1874, Théodore de Banville recalled this unfailing friendship : “When a mysterious illness, striking, alas ! such a beautiful genius, overcame the poet of Fleurs du Mal, it is with tireless devotion, with fraternal solicitude that Charles Asselineau, hour by hour, encouraged, fortified, consoled this broken soul, torn by the struggles of life” (p. XVI). This Discours prononcé sur la tombe de Monsieur Charles Asselineau (Speech delivered at the tomb of Mr. Charles Asselineau) by Théodore de Banville would be published at the head of the catalog of Asselineau’s library, in 1875.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : G. Vicaire, Manuel de l’amateur de livres du XIXe siècle, I, col. 258 (cet exemplaire) -- L. Carteret, Le Trésor du bibliophile, I, p. 94 -- M. Clouzot, Guide du bibliophile français, p. 32