stefan zweig's copy of rimbaud, une saison en enfer (1873)

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Transcript of stefan zweig's copy of rimbaud, une saison en enfer (1873)



    Chris Michaelides

    IN 1908 Stefan Zweig was given a copy of thefirst edition of Rimbaud's Une Saison en enfer;the volume now forms part of the ZweigCollection in the British Library.^ The versoof the front wrapper bears the inscription:

    A MonsieurStefan Zweig,

    en souvenir des journeespassees avec E Verhaerenau Caillou & a Angre

    Mons, le 8. X. '08Bien cordialement,O. Van den Daele

    Aware of the rarity of this item, Zweig wroteon the inside of its box:

    Originalausgabe. Die gesammte Auflage wurde bisauf ungefahr sieben Exemplare vom Verfasser ver-nichtet: dies eines der erhaltenen Rarissimum [sic]der franzosischen Literatur.^

    Une Saison en enfer has the peculiar distinc-tion of being the only book that Rimbaudhimself had published. The work was writtenbetween April and August 1873, the turbulentperiod which saw his disastrous last stay inLondon with Verlaine, and their final separa-tion after the incident in Brussels in whichVerlaine shot and wounded Rimbaud; it wascompleted by Rimbaud at Roche, his family'sfarmhouse near Charleville.-* The volume wasprinted in Brussels during September andOctober by the Alliance typographique, a wor-kers' co-operative probably known to Rim-

    baud through his contacts with Verlaine'ssocialist friends in London and Brussels.**Rimbaud distributed half a dozen copies tofriends: four went to J-L. Forain in Paris, forForain himself, Jean Richepin, Raoul Ponchon,and possibly Raoul Gineste; two were givento friends in Charleville, Ernest Delahaye andErnest Millot, and one was sent to Verlaine,by then in prison at Mons for his attack onRimbaud.^

    In 1883, in his 'Poetes maudits', Verlainewrote that Une Saison en enfer had beencompletely forgotten because its author, havinglost interest in it, had not taken the trouble topromote it:' Verlaine himself tried to remedythis neglect by publishing the work in La Voguein 1886.^ Verlaine's view was elaborated when,after Rimbaud's death in 1891, a legend thatthe poet had destroyed the entire edition beganto gain currency, the gesture being interpretedas a youthful renunciation of literature on thepart of the eighteen-year old poet. This legendwas created at first by the bibliophiles whoowned one of the rare copies and reinforcedby the recollection of Rimbaud's youngestsister, Isabelle, that, soon after the printing ofthe work, Rimbaud returned to Roche andburned all the copies in his possession, togetherwith all his manuscripts.^ Paterne Berrichon,who published the first full-length biographyof Rimbaud in 1897, the year of his marriageto Isabelle, takes up this story but adds that


  • Rimbaud saved a few copies for distribution to realizing their importance.^^ When this wastriends in Paris.'** In his 1912 study of the poet, revealed to him:Berrichon places the holocaust after Rimbaud's . . . il lacha les exemplaires de la precieuse editionreturn from Paris, the indifference and hostility au compte-goutte.'^ J'en detiens uncomme il s'enwhich he had met there determining him to doit. Emile Verhaeren, Stefan Zweig, Viele-Griffinabandon literature." ^^ quelques autres ecrivains ou amateurs de ma

    This was the accepted view until 1914, connaissance en ont re9u un'cadeau'.

    when, in a lecture delivered to the Societe des Pierard's version would seem to be morebibliopbiles et iconophiles de Belgique, Leon convincing as an explanation ofthe long intervalLosseau, a lawyer from Mons, announced his between Losseau's discovery in 1901 and itsdiscovery in 1901 ofthe entire print-run ofthe revelation in 1914. Losseau's explanation oftheoriginal edition of Une Saison en enfer in delay is hardly helped by his expressed in-the workshop of the Alliance typographique in tention of distributing copies to the Societe desBrussels.'^ Losseau claimed that, by checking bibliophiles beiges seant a Mons and this bodythe printer's account books, he had established was, in any case, limited by its rules to fiftythat Rimbaud had made an initial payment for members.^'' However, if Pierard's account isthe printing but had failed to settle the account the right one, the inscription on Zweig's copyand that, of the five hundred copies printed, demonstrates that the discovery ofthe editionhe had received no more than a dozen author's must have occurred in or before October 1908.copies. The rest remained forgotten in the Whatever the exact sequence of events, bothprinter's storeroom until they were accidentally accounts agree that the presentation of a copydiscovered twenty-eight years later. After an of Une Saison en enfer to Zweig was made atunspecified number of copies, badly damaged the instance of a third party, and Pierard moreby water, had been burnt, Losseau was left or less names himself as the instigator ofwith 425 copies, which, with the half dozen Losseau's gifts. Here Pierard's claim is bornegiven away to friends by Rimbaud, comprised out by the signature 'O. Van den Daele' inthe surviving edition. Zweig's copy. Van den Daele was Pierard's

    Losseau states, rather unconvincingly, that teacher and friend, and the dedicatee of Pier-his main reason for buying the edition was to ard's first poems,'London Sketches';'^ perhapspresent copies of it to his fellow members of he was also the friend with whom Pierardthe Societe des bibliophiles beiges seant a Mons discovered the edition in Losseau's attic.when they next met at his house. To do this Zweig's copy was given to him as a souvenirhe had had to wait until 24 November 1912! ^ ofthe days spent in the company of VerhaerenIn the meantime he gave copies to a few close at Caillou qui Bique, a hamlet near Angre, infriends, whom he swore to secrecy, and, upon the Walloon district (fig. i). Zweig first meta request made to him, distributed others to Verhaeren in 1902 and soon became his closeEmile Verhaeren, Maurice Maeterlinck, Viele- friend and disciple.'^ Their friendship, whichGriffin, and Stefan Zweig.'"^ was to last until the outbreak of the First World

    This account by Losseau has been contested War,^^ was mutually beneficial: Zweig, throughby Louis Pierard, the Belgian journalist, poet, his translations of Verhaeren's poems and playsand art critic. In an article published in 1942, made his name, hitherto confused with that ofPierard claimed that 'around 1912' he and a Verlaine, familiar to German readers,^^ whilefriend discovered, in the attic of Losseau's Verhaeren introduced his young disciple tohouse, over 250 copies of Une Saison en enfer Parisian literary and artistic circles. During thewhich'Losseau had bought as part ofthe entire period of their friendship, Verhaeren spent thestock of the Alliance typographique, without winter months in Paris and the rest of the year


  • Fig. I. Zweig (centre) with the Verhaerens atCaillou qui Bique, from E. Rieger, Stefan

    Zweig (Berlin, 1928)

    at Caillou. Zweig admired this equilibrium ofa life shared between the big city and thecountryside, Verhaeren the citizen ofthe worldcomplementing the hermit of Caillou qui Biquein total communion with Nature. In his Erin-nerungen an Emile Verhaeren, written soon afterthe poet's tragic death in 1916 and privatelyprinted in 1917, Zweig lovingly evokes Ver-haeren's house at St. Cloud, near Paris, andhis cottage at Caillou,^^ He spent five summersat Caillou as Verhaeren's guest and these healways remembered with a gratitude close toveneration, the more so after the destructionof the cottage in 1917. He relates that thecottage at Caillou became a place of pilgrimagefor Verhaeren's friends and that

    celui qui etait re^u ici, etait un ami et un hote

    qui ne faisait que passer, fugitif, mais devenait partiede la maison, partageait le pain, les heures et lesilence."

    Pierard, a native of near-by Frameries, liveduntil 1911 at Mons, where he was involved inthe publication of Antee and La Societe nouvelle,both of them reviews to which Verhaeren wasan occasional contributor. He was introducedto Verhaeren while still at school, probably byVan den Daele, and, like Zweig, he quicklybecame a privileged visitor at Caillou.^ In1907 he dedicated his Images boraines to Verha-eren and, in an article published in La Societenouvelle in 1908, he describes Verhaeren recit-ing his recently completed play Helene deSparte to a gathering of friends at the cottage:

    . . . et Verhaeren commence sa lecture, le corpsarque, le cou aux veines saillantes tendu, le brasallonge, ainsi que !e representerent Van Ryssel-berghe et Montald. C'est surtout la main nerveuse,fine et agile, qui lit Helene de Sparte cependant queles mots ^emissants, que les vers fougueux sepressent aux levres du poete.

    L'oeuvre, que M. Valere Brussov traduit en russepour Viessy et, en allemand, M. Stefan Zweig, estachevee depuis peu . . . ^

    One of Zweig's most precious memories fromCaillou is of an amusing incident during areading of this play, possibly the sameoccasion. "^

    Zweig's friendship with Pierard began atCaillou but continued long after Verhaeren'sdeath in 1916. The choice of Zweig as one ofthe privileged recipients of copies of the firstedition of Une Saison en enfer was an appropri-ate one, and Pierard must have known ofZweig's interest in Rimbaud. In 1905 Zweighad published a study of Verlaine, whichincluded a chapter on his relationship withRimbaud, *^ and in 1907 he wrote a critical-biographical foreword to a German translationof Rimbaud's poems.^^ In these works Zweig,who had read Berrichon's biography and hisedition ofthe poet's letters,^^ and who had alsomet Georges Izambard, Rimbaud's school-master, in Paris, seems to be familiar with the

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  • theory that Rimbaud had abandoned literatureat eighteen. Curiously though, he appears tobe unaware of the fact, mentioned by Berri-chon, that Rimbaud did have Une S