Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2015 Issue

Madame Deshoulières - The Melancholic Nature of Man

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Women, states a critic, carry their natural loquacity, their abundant, restless and unquenchable verbosity in everything they arrogantly undertake to say, and when infatuated with the bel-esprit, they will write huge volumes about nothing, or about serious topics, which, under a pile of words, are reduced to nothing. In a word, learnt women is something Nature had never planned. Such was Abbé Feller expressing himself in his Historical Dictionary (Liège, 1790). Mr Feller was an idiot, a reactionary, a Voltaire-hater; and, as stated before, to be stigmatized by such a man was probably a good omen. Nevertheless, many shared his view, and being a learnt, beautiful and—worst of all—intelligent woman like Mme Deshoulières during the 17th century was probably quite a delicate position. As a matter of fact, her life was no pastoral poem.

 

 

Born Antoinette de la Garde in 1633—or 1634—in a family close to the Crown, Mme Deshoulières was a beautiful woman. The portrait that usually illustrates her works might be disappointing at first; but let’s bear in mind that she was around sixty when it was drawn—and that she was living in the 17th century! Let’s trust the good taste of her many suitors, including the Great Condé. The preface of the Prault’s edition of her works (Paris, 1747), reads: “Nature had assembled in Damsel de la Garde spiritual and physical ornaments to an unusual extent. She was uncommonly beautiful; she was tall above average, had a natural elegance as well as noble and caring manners; she was sometimes filled with joy, and sometimes subject to a sweet melancholy not opposed to pleasure. She could dance, ride, and did nothing but with grace.” Such a female creature, planned by Nature for sure, could have become a successful courtesan; but Antoinette wasn’t only beautiful, she was also intelligent, and talented; she avoided the trap of beauty. “Beauty is not forever,” she wrote to a female friend of hers who was getting old, “and we are paving a sad future when we count on it only, / We don’t know what to become, when we’ve been nothing but beautiful.” She even portrayed beauty as a peril to one of her daughters, reminding her that once the bud has blossomed, of the rose only the thorns remain. Antoinette Deshoulières apparently tried to live a truthful life; she even disliked make-up: “Far from attracting men, / It only awakes their disgust.” Of course, such a disposition didn’t fit Court life. And she, who hated make-up in customs even more than on faces, soon realized that her talent was a sort of curse. She had learnt Latin, Spanish and Italian from a very young age, had read many books, and had become what was then known as a femme savante (learnt woman). To a friend of hers who had decided to follow the same path, she sent a warning: “How shall you escape the grievances that the bel-esprit at Court suffers? / The air you’ll breath there is deadly to those who undertake to write.” At the end of the day, her blessing became a source of suffering: “You, whom the heavens haven’t blessed with this talent of mine, which I hate, / Believe me, don’t you acquire it.”

 

THE CURSED POETS

 

Poetry is not the most thriving market as a far as antiquarian books are concerned. Of course, first editions with prestigious provenances are sought-after—but common poetry books sell for derisory sums—especially on eBay. Furthermore, Mme Deshoulières is somewhat out of fashion. An 18th century edition of her works in a very good condition will hardly reach 150 euros. Right now, a seller is offering an 1802 edition of her selected poems (bound in half leather) for... 5 euros. Just the other day, I found a scarce morocco-bound copy of the Prault’s edition of 1747. It features two volumes, with a frontispiece and two engraved title pages; a very nice book from the printery of J.B. Coignard, printer of the King. The small fonts are neatly printed, the overall composition quite perfect—a delight to read, and the nicest edition I’ve seen so far. It also contains the very good poems of her daughter, Antoine-Thérèse. I bought it from a famous Parisian bookseller, and got it for what I consider to be a good price. Such are some beauties of our culture, ignored. Mme Deshoulières enjoyed some popularity at the time, yet; but some social faux pas cost her a lot. First, her husband was a traitor to the Crown; he followed the Prince of Condé when the latter rebelled against his King to join the Spanish army. Antoinette followed him to Rocroi and Brussels—where her talent and wit started to blossom—, but the French seized the goods of her husband when he deserted, and they had nothing left but what the Spaniards had promised them; when she showed herself too insistent in asking her due, she was arrested, and then sent to the castle of Vilvorden, where the Spaniards “meditated nothing less than putting her to death,” according to the preface of the Prault’s edition. Realizing that his new friends had become his worst enemies, Lord Deshoulières deserted, freed his wife from Vilvorden—he pretended to act on orders of Condé—, and then galloped to France where he had arranged his return with Cardinal Mazarin. Mme Deshoulières arriving to the Court of France created a lot of waves, and several poets wrote her portrait in verse, including Gramont and Lignières. But the affairs of her husband were in a terrible state, and even the odes she dedicated to Louis XIV to prove her loyalty couldn’t help her. She “sent incense to deaf divinities”, wrote Chaudon (Dictionary). The Sun King didn’t forgive easily, and when Mme Deshoulières passed away in 1694, she left little to her children.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Book of Hours. Illuminated manuscript, Flanders or northern France, c. 1450. With 12 full-page illuminated miniatures. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Zahrawi, Abu’-Qasim, al- (c. 936-1013). <i>Albucasis chirurgicorum omnium,</i> Strasbourg, 1532. The first comprehensive illustrated treatise on surgery. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Milles, Thomas. <i>The Custumers Alphabet and Primer,</i> 1608. Gilt supralibros of 17th-century English bibliophile Edward Gwynn. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Guillemeau, Jacques. <i>Child-Birth or, the Happy Deliverie of Women,</i> 1st edition in English, 1612. The second midwifery manual printed in English. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Rabisha, William. <i>The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected,</i> 1st edition, 1661. Rare. Five copies in libraries. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Royal binding. <i>An Abridgment of the English Military Discipline,</i> 1678. Contemporary red goatskin gilt by Samuel Mearne for Charles II (1630-1865). £1,500 to £2,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Pallavicino, Ferrante. <i>The Whores Rhetorick,</i> 1st edition in English, 1683. Rare anti-Jesuit satire. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>The Benefit of Farting,</i> 1st London edition, 1722. Teerink 19. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edwards, George. <i>Natural History of Uncommon Birds</i> [and] <i>Gleanings of Natural History,</i> 7 volumes, 1743-64. Contemporary tree calf, 362 hand-coloured engraved plates. £8,000 to £12,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>The Library and Picture Collection of the late Martin Woolf Orskey<br>June 26</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Campbell, Patrick. <i>Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America,</i> 1st edition, 1793. Howes C101; Sabin 10264. Uncut in original boards. £5,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Hearne, Samuel. <i>A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay, to the Northern Ocean,</i> 1st edition, 1795. Sabin 31181. Large-paper copy. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 26:</b> Edgeworth, Maria. <i>The Match Girl, A Novel,</i> 1808. £1,000 to £1,500
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.

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