Paris, Victor Lecou, 1852.
12mo with vii pp., 354 pp., (1) l. of table. Lavaliere half calf, green morocco lettering-piece, marbled edges. Contemporary binding.
175 x 106 mm.
Precious first edition of this “uncommon and sought-after” work by Nerval. (Clouzot, p. 223).
Vicaire, IV, 57; Carteret, II, 219.
The volume brings together essays and short stories published in magazines between 1839 and 1850 devoted to so-called “madmen”.
This first edition contains portraits of Raoul Spifame, King of Bicêtre, Abbé de Bucquoy, Cazotte, Cagliostro, Quintus Aucler and, above all, Restif de la Bretonne, with whom Nerval had partly identified his destiny: like Restif, Nerval was a printing shop protector, he fell in love with an actress and made her his idol, he adopted the theory of likenesses and that of the transmigration of souls.
“Work by Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), published in 1852 by Victor Lecou. This portrait gallery of illuminists is a collection of articles published in magazines at various times. These notorious eccentrics, madmen, inspired, pseudo-mystics, ‘precursors of socialism’ (as the book was to be subtitled), some of whom are close to Nerval, are not blindly followed by the author, who is careful not to lose his irony. Some critics have even seen in ‘Les Illuminés’ a formal condemnation of that disease of the mind that raged towards the end of the eighteenth century […].
Nerval’s nostalgia for the old Christian faith is evident in ‘Les Illuminés’, as is his regret that the Renaissance and the Revolution dealt this faith terrible blows: not that Nerval shows any hope of a victorious return of Christianity. There is only a sad affection here, the same as Barrès will show towards these things, the simply human wish to ‘cling with tears and with prayers to the bloody feet of this Christ detached from the mystical tree, to the innocent dress of this Virgin Mother, supreme expression of the ancient alliance of heaven and earth, last kiss of the divine spirit which cries and flies away.” (Dictionnaire des Œuvres, III, 672).
A very fine copy of this sought-after first edition, preserved in its fine contemporary binding.
From the Paul Eluard library with ex libris “Après-moi le sommeil“.
A remarkable provenance for this book precursor of Surrealism.