of 6

  • date post

  • Category


  • view

  • download


Embed Size (px)




    Chris Michaelides

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

    A Monsieur Stefan Zweig,

    en souvenir des journees passees avec E Verhaeren au Caillou & a Angre

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

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

    Originalausgabe. Die gesammte Auflage wurde bis auf 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 Rimbaud himself had published. The work was written between April and August 1873, the turbulent period which saw his disastrous last stay in London with Verlaine, and their final separa- tion after the incident in Brussels in which Verlaine shot and wounded Rimbaud; it was completed by Rimbaud at Roche, his family's farmhouse near Charleville.-* The volume was printed in Brussels during September and October by the Alliance typographique, a wor- kers' co-operative probably known to Rim-

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

    In 1883, in his 'Poetes maudits', Verlaine wrote that Une Saison en enfer had been completely forgotten because its author, having lost interest in it, had not taken the trouble to promote it:'̂ Verlaine himself tried to remedy this neglect by publishing the work in La Vogue in 1886.^ Verlaine's view was elaborated when, after Rimbaud's death in 1891, a legend that the poet had destroyed the entire edition began to gain currency, the gesture being interpreted as a youthful renunciation of literature on the part of the eighteen-year old poet.® This legend was created at first by the bibliophiles who owned one of the rare copies and reinforced by the recollection of Rimbaud's youngest sister, Isabelle, that, soon after the printing of the work, Rimbaud returned to Roche and burned all the copies in his possession, together with all his manuscripts.^ Paterne Berrichon, who published the first full-length biography of Rimbaud in 1897, the year of his marriage to Isabelle, takes up this story but adds that


  • Rimbaud saved a few copies for distribution to realizing their importance.^^ When this was triends 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 edition return from Paris, the indifference and hostility au compte-goutte.'^ J'en detiens un—comme il s'en which he had met there determining him to doit. Emile Verhaeren, Stefan Zweig, Viele-Griffin abandon 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 more bibliopbiles et iconophiles de Belgique, Leon convincing as an explanation ofthe long interval Losseau, a lawyer from Mons, announced his between Losseau's discovery in 1901 and its discovery in 1901 ofthe entire print-run ofthe revelation in 1914. Losseau's explanation ofthe original 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 des Brussels.'^ Losseau claimed that, by checking bibliophiles beiges seant a Mons and this body the printer's account books, he had established was, in any case, limited by its rules to fifty that Rimbaud had made an initial payment for members.^'' However, if Pierard's account is the printing but had failed to settle the account the right one, the inscription on Zweig's copy and that, of the five hundred copies printed, demonstrates that the discovery ofthe edition he 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, both printer's storeroom until they were accidentally accounts agree that the presentation of a copy discovered twenty-eight years later. After an of Une Saison en enfer to Zweig was made at unspecified number of copies, badly damaged the instance of a third party, and Pierard more by water, had been burnt, Losseau was left or less names himself as the instigator of with 425 copies, which, with the half dozen Losseau's gifts. Here Pierard's claim is borne given away to friends by Rimbaud, comprised out by the signature 'O. Van den Daele' in the 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';'^ perhaps present copies of it to his fellow members of he was also the friend with whom Pierard the 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 souvenir he had had to wait until 24 November 1912!̂ ^ ofthe days spent in the company of Verhaeren In the meantime he gave copies to a few close at Caillou qui Bique, a hamlet near Angre, in friends, whom he swore to secrecy, and, upon the Walloon district (fig. i). Zweig first met a request made to him, distributed others to Verhaeren in 1902 and soon became his close Emile Verhaeren, Maurice Maeterlinck, Viele- friend and disciple.'^ Their friendship, which Griffin, 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, through by Louis Pierard, the Belgian journalist, poet, his translations of Verhaeren's poems and plays and art critic. In an article published in 1942, made his name, hitherto confused with that of Pierard claimed that 'around 1912' he and a Verlaine, familiar to German readers,^^ while friend discovered, in the attic of Losseau's Verhaeren introduced his young disciple to house, over 250 copies of Une Saison en enfer Parisian literary and artistic circles. During the which'Losseau had bought as part ofthe entire period of their friendship, Verhaeren spent the stock of the Alliance typographique, without winter months in Paris and the rest of the year


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

    Zweig (Berlin, 1928)

    at Caillou. Zweig admired this equilibrium of a life shared between the big city and the countryside, Verhaeren the citizen ofthe world complementing the hermit of Caillou qui Bique in total communion with Nature. In his Erin- nerungen an Emile Verhaeren, written soon after the poet's tragic death in 1916 and privately printed in 1917, Zweig lovingly evokes Ver- haeren's house at St. Cloud, near Paris, and his cottage at Caillou,^^ He spent five summers at Caillou as Verhaeren's guest and these he always remembered with a gratitude close to veneration, the more so after the destruction of the cottage in 1917. He relates that the cottage at Caillou became a place of pilgrimage for 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 partie de la maison, partageait le pain, les heures et le silence."

    Pierard, a native of near-by Frameries, lived until 1911 at Mons, where he was involved in the publication of Antee and La Societe nouvelle, both of them reviews to which Verhaeren was an occasional contributor. He was introduced to Verhaeren while still at school, probably by Van den Daele, and, like Zweig, he quickly became a privileged visitor at Caillou.^ In 1907 he dedicated his Images boraines to Verha- eren and, in an article published in La Societe nouvelle in 1908, he describes Verhaeren recit- ing his recently completed play Helene de Sparte to a gathering of friends at the cottage:

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

    L'oeuvre, que M. Valere Brussov traduit en russe pour Viessy et, en allemand, M. Stefan Zweig, est achevee depuis peu . . .̂ ^

    One of Zweig's most precious memories from Caillou is of an amusing incident during a reading of this play, possibly the same occasion.̂ "^

    Zweig's friendship with Pierard began at Caillou but continued long after Verhaeren's death in 1916. The choice of Zweig as one of the privileged recipients of copies of the first edition of Une Saison en enfer was an appropri- ate one, and Pierard must have known of Zweig's interest in Rimbaud. In 1905 Zweig had published a study of Verlaine, which included a chapter on his relationship with Rimbaud,̂ *^ and in 1907 he wrote a critical- biographical foreword to a German translation of Rimbaud's poems.^^ In these works Zweig, who had read Berrichon's biography and his edition ofthe poet's letters,^^ and who had also met Georges Izambard, Rimbaud's scho