Proust and the Great War

Selected Letters at the University of Illinois

by François Proulx, Assistant Professor of French

This online exhibition is part of The Great War: Experiences, Representations, Effects, a campus-wide initiative marking the centenary of World War I. (Read more about this exhibition)

 

At the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was experiencing professional success and private heartbreak. Swann’s Way, the first volume of his novel In Search of Lost Time, had appeared in November 1913, to largely positive reviews. Prestigious publishers who had previously turned down the novel now approached Proust to acquire the rights to its remaining volumes. Yet Proust found himself unable to work following the death of his driver Alfred Agostinelli, a man he “really loved” and “adored.” Meanwhile, the European powers were marching toward war.

 

Letter from Marcel Proust to Lionel Hauser, 2 August 1914

 

In a letter to his financial advisor Lionel Hauser written the night of August 2, 19141 – mere hours before Germany formally declared war on France – Proust foresees the atrocities to come:

Letter from Marcel Proust to Lionel Hauser, 2 August 1914 (excerpt 1)

In the terrible days we are going through, you have other things to do besides writing letters and bothering with my petty interests, which I assure you seem wholly unimportant when I think that millions of men are going to be massacred in a War of the Worlds comparable with that of Wells,2  because the Emperor of Austria thinks it advantageous to have an outlet onto the Black Sea.3

He fears that one of these victims will be his younger brother, the doctor Robert Proust, who was mobilized on August 2 along with over three million Frenchmen:

Letter from Marcel Proust to Lionel Hauser, 2 August 1914 (excerpt 2)

I have just seen off my brother who was leaving for Verdun at midnight. Alas he insisted on being posted to the actual border.

In closing, Proust reflects further on the impending war:

Letter from Marcel Proust to Lionel Hauser, 2 August 1914 (excerpt 3a)

I still hope, non-believer though I am, that some supreme miracle will prevent, at the last second, the launch of the omni-murdering machine.

Letter from Marcel Proust to Lionel Hauser, 2 August 1914 (excerpt 3)

But I wonder how a believer, a practicing Catholic like the Emperor Franz Joseph, convinced that after his impending death he will appear before his God, can face having to account to him for the millions of human lives whose sacrifice it was in his power to prevent.

With all my heart and very sadly yours

Marcel Proust

Robert Proust survived the war, and was decorated for his courage in caring for the wounded under enemy fire. Marcel Proust left for the coastal town of Cabourg in September 1914, but soon returned to Paris where he remained for the duration of the war, enduring air raids and seeing the city’s social and cultural life first halted, then transformed. Due to his ill health, he was exempted from military duties, but many of his friends enrolled and fought, some never to return.

The war provided Proust with an unforeseen opportunity to greatly expand his novel: the three volumes announced when Swann’s Way appeared in 1913 had grown to five when In the Shadow of Young Girls In Flower appeared in 1919. After Marcel’s death in 1922, Robert Proust oversaw the publication of posthumous volumes until 1927, bringing the total number of volumes to seven. The final volume, Time Regained, includes many scenes set during and after the war, which Proust could not have imagined when he first conceived the novel in 1908.


 

This online exhibition was designed in collaboration with graduate students enrolled in the seminar “French 574: Marcel Proust.” Students have selected and commented on the following letters:

October 1914: Proust to Reynaldo Hahn, and March 1915: Reynaldo Hahn to Proust (by Anne-Bénédicte Guillaud-Marlieu)

March 1915: Proust to Louis d’Albufera (by Nick Strole)

April 1915: Madeleine Lemaire to Proust, and February 1918: Jacques-Émile Blanche to Proust (by Malyoune Benoit)

May 1915: Proust to Madame d’Humières (by Paola Pruneddu)

July 1915: Proust to Robert de Montesquiou, and Robert de Montesquiou to Proust (by Peter Tarjanyi)

July 1918: Proust to Louis Brun (by Laura Furrer)


 

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois houses over 1,100 letters to and from Marcel Proust, making it the largest collection of Proust’s letters in the world. This unique collection was built to support the remarkable work of Philip Kolb, who spent decades editing Proust’s vast correspondence. Today the collection continues to grow in collaboration with the Kolb-Proust Archive for Research: in 2013, sixteen new letters were acquired.


 

1. Marcel Proust, Lettres. Edited by Françoise Leriche. Paris: Plon, 2004. 696-698. The date of this letter was established by Philip Kolb.
2. The War of the Worlds (1897), a novel by H. G. Wells. The manuscript of this novel is part of the University of Illinois’s extensive archive of H. G. Wells papers.
3. Marcel Proust, Selected Letters. Volume III. Edited by Philip Kolb. Translated by Terence Kilmartin. 274-275. (Translation modified)

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Shakespeare’s Scribe and Scull & Cross Bones?

While we were improving the minimal cataloging of our medieval and early modern manuscript holdings, we came across a hand-written copy of one of the earliest specialized English Dictionaries, Henry Manwayring’s Seaman’s Dictionary.  Since our library boasts an amazing collection of early English dictionaries, we were not overly surprised.  It is always pleasant to see examples of industrious lovers of books copying out the text from printed books in the days before xeroxing.  The layout mimics the printed text of 1644, the entries appeared to be the same, and it even included the author’s preface.  But wait, this manuscript predates the printed text! More on that in a moment.

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The 1644 printed text is considered the first authoritative treatise in seamanship in English.  It was written by Sir Henry Manwayring, a famous seaman of the Jacobean era, who happened to be an infamous pirate for a few years.  Manwayring was a Shropshire lad, born in 1587.  And lest you think your own children or grandchildren are precocious, consider Manwayring, who matriculated at Oxford at the age of 12, received his B.A. three years later, and was admitted to the Inner Temple as a lawyer at 17. He soon became a naval officer, chasing pirates in the British Channel and off the coast of Newfoundland.  But a few years later, he took offense when King James I buckled under Spanish pressure and prevented him from fulfilling one of his naval missions.  He took out his frustrations on the Spanish, becoming a notorious pirate on the Barbary Coast.  He bedeviled the Spanish navy for several years and annoyed the French with his swashbuckling, though he claimed never to have attacked English ships.

Pre-1650_MS0211_ManwayringBriefe_-_6-copy

Fearing reprisals from France and Spain, King James eventually offered Manwayring pardon if he gave up piracy. He came back to England in 1616, received knighthood in 1618, and dedicated his “Discourse on Piracy” – an insider’s perspective, obviously – to the King.  In that book, by the way, he warns the King against granting pardons to pirates.  He later served in Parliament and received an honorary doctorate of physics from Oxford.  Needless to say, there is more to tell about our pirate-knight, but let’s get back to our manuscript.

The 1644 imprint is very small, just 20 centimeters, a handy vademecum  for a sailor to carry on board.  Though small, there is a bit more text on the title page of the printed book than the folio manuscript, but that’s to be expected since it includes publication information.  The manuscript is twice the size and the title is a little different: “A Briefe Abstract, Exposition, and Demonstration of all Termes, Parts, and Things Belonging to a Shippe, and The Practick of Navigation.” Manwayring is noted as the author.

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Suddenly, the date in the lower right corner catches the eye.  1626?  But this is a copy of a book that was first printed in 1644.  We soon learn that Manwayring appears to have written the Seaman’s Dictionary while serving at Dover Castle from 1620 to 1623.  Clearly, this is one of those texts, so common in early modern literature, which circulated in manuscript before it appeared in print.   And sure enough, there seem to have been at least 14 manuscripts of the text in circulation from 1620 to 1644.

Looking at our manuscript again, we see that the scribe has signed and dated it, and we see that his name is Raph Crane.  This is when our hearts beat a little faster because, as denizens of one of the best Elizabethan and Stuart drama collections in America, we know that Raph Crane was a scrivener for the King’s Men at the Globe Theater.  He is generally thought to have been the scribe for at least five of the fair copies of Shakespeare’s plays that appear in the First Folio.

Of course the date is 1626, ten years after Shakespeare’s death, but the connection is still there.  Scholars always want more evidence for Crane, more examples of his penmanship, and here it is in our manuscript.  Though ours is the only one signed, four other extant manuscripts have been attributed to Crane’s hand.

Pre-1650_MS0211_ManwayringBriefe_-_84-copy

So, what to make of it all?  This little encounter with an interesting manuscript in our collection not only introduced those of us not up on our Jacobean naval history to Henry Manwayring and his important early English dictionary, but this bibliographic adventure also provided further evidence for the common practice of circulating books in manuscript in the 17th century; clarified for the world exactly which copy of Manwayring’s dictionary we hold; and provided Renaissance scholars with another example of Raph Crane’s handwriting.  We have digitized the manuscript and already two researchers in England are working on it.  VH

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April 16, 2014 · 1:06 pm

Victorian Scrapbooks Rediscovered

Here at The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, seemingly simple reference questions often turn into much deeper discoveries.That was the case when a patron enquired about our material concerning one Martin F. Tupper. If you aren’t familiar with Martin F. Tupper (1810-1889), then you probably didn’t live in the mid-19th century; if you did, you likely would have ranked him alongside Wordsworth and Tennyson as one of the most brilliant contemporary English poets. Tupper originally rose to fame on the strength of his third book, Proverbial Philosophy (1838), a collection of poetry expressed as quotable wisdom consisting of such gems as “a good book is the best of friends, the same to-day and for ever”(“Of Reading”) and “A wise man in a crowded street winneth his way with gentleness” (“Of Tolerance”).

One of Martin F. Tupper’s voluminous scrapbooks (v. 58). His monogram is visible on the cover.

He was a prolific writer, full of patriotism and religious fervor, and he was always ready with a choice verse for every occasion, such as his paean to the Crystal Palace in 1851 (“Hurrah for honest Industry ! hurrah for handy Skill !”). Part self-help guru and part religious revivalist, he might be considered the Victorian version of Mitch Albom, and he appealed immensely to middlebrow Victorian readers, who devoured his maxims. Alongside his poetry, Tupper also wrote novels and plays, as well as curious fare such as An Author’s Mind: The Book of Title-Pages (1841), sketching out fifty possible books that Tupper envisioned but lacked the time to write. By mid-century, however, Tupper’s star had begun to wane, as critics took him to task for his “empty vanities” and derided his “tea table literature.” By the 1860s, “Tupperism” and other variations on his name had become bywords for overwrought sentimentality and insipid moralization, and continued to be used critically for decades. Today, if Tupper is remembered at all, he is regarded only as an emblematic representation of Victorian culture and morality. What, then, does Tupper have to do with the University of Illinois?

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A Christmas Carol and Its Corresponding Collector

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, by Solomon Eytinge, junior, and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, by Solomon Eytinge, junior, and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony.

While updating the catalogue record for an 1869 edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, I came across a letter inside the front cover. Dated 3 April 1867, it was written from Andrew Varick Stout Anthony (1835-1906) to Alexander Farnum (1830-1884) regarding William James Linton (1812-1897), an English engraver who had recently immigrated to the United States. Farnum was a Providence, Rhode Island, book collector and engraving aficionado, whose library has been described as one of “extraordinary excellence, sumptuous character and superb condition.”

The illustrations in the book were drawn by Solomon Eytinge, junior (1833-1905), and engraved by A.V.S. Anthony himself. As a book collector ever aware of matters of provenance and association, no doubt Farnum, upon acquiring the volume and remembering his correspondence with Anthony, pasted the letter into the book so as to preserve this connection.

Anthony letter 1

Anthony letter 2

694 Broadway Room 11
N.Y.  April 3d 1867

A. Farnum Esq.

Dear Sir:

W.J. Linton, the eminent English engraver – in fact the best engraver of the past or present, is in New York now, and contemplates getting up a “History of Wood Engraving,” sketching its rise and progress, but giving the larger portions of his volume to modern engraving and Engravers.

I mentioned your collection of rare old engravings to him and he is very anxious to look over them.

Would it be agreeable to you to have him drop in upon you when on his way to Boston?

He is an accomplished gentleman and has some little [infatuation?] on the other side as Poet and Journalist, and probably knows more about engraving than any other living man.

I hope to go on to Boston with him, but should I fail to make my business suit, may I give him a note to you?

Very truly yours

A.V.S. Anthony.

In 1882, Linton’s A History of Wood-Engraving in America was published in Boston and London.

Upon Farnum’s death, his collection was auctioned off by George A. Leavitt & Co. from the 9th to the 11th of June 1884. The sale was held at their headquarters at Clinton Hall (formerly the Astor Opera House) on Astor Place in Manhattan, also home to the New York Mercantile Library. Interestingly, Astor Place is only a few blocks from the location on Broadway where Anthony had written to Farnum 17 years earlier. Something of the atmosphere of this auction is surely conveyed in Spanish painter Ignacio de León y Escosura’s canvas, “Auction Sale in Clinton Hall, New York, 1876.” The building was razed in 1890 and replaced by an 11-story construction also called Clinton Hall, which stands to this day.

The catalogue of the Farnum sale naturally spoke very highly of its offerings: “Of such a class are the lots in this catalogue that the compiler honestly believes that instead of the necessity of American bibliopolists […] going to Europe of purchase from the English booksellers with whom they deal, all would find it in their best interests this Summer to buy from the Farnum Library, in Clinton Hall – books which, although printed in this century, are daily becoming of greater rarity in the old country over the sea.”

The volume was given to the Library by Mrs. Charles B. Watkins (Lucile A. Booker), class of 1899, in 1938. TB

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Sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Abraham Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” at Gettysburg, delivered 150 years ago today, are memorialized on Lincoln Hall on the University of Illinois campus.  One of the biographical panels on the Quad side of the building depicts the president as he spoke.  Pictured as seating directly behind him, according to the manufacturer of the panel in 1912, was an old man named Burke.  So I once wrote, without confirming the name (Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010).  Not so, I soon learned from Wayne C. Temple (Ph.D., Illinois, 1956).  His name was Burns.

One of sculptor Kristian Schneider's terra cotta panels on the exterior of Lincoln Hall.

One of sculptor Kristian Schneider’s terra cotta panels on the exterior of Lincoln Hall.

John Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812, was nearly three score and ten years old when the Civil War came to Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.  Although deemed too old for combat, he grabbed an old flintlock musket and trotted onto field of battle.  His antique swallow-tail coat and stove pipe hat made him an easy target.  Wounded and captured, he survived the battle.

Photographed by Matthew Brady, Burns was featured in Harper’s Weekly, and his story appeared in hundreds of papers across the North.  When Lincoln came to Gettysburg, he asked about the old soldier and soon met him.  If Burns did not sit on the platform when Lincoln spoke, as shown in the Lincoln Hall panel, he at least accompanied the president to the church service at the end of the day.  Later, Lincoln signed an act of Congress giving Burns a pension “for patriotic services at Gettysburg.”

In 1864, Bret Harte, the California poet, celebrated Burns.  “When the rebels rode through his native town,” he was “the only man who didn’t back down.”  By contrast, “all his townsfolk ran away.”  By 1911, even as “Burke” was being pictured in the terra cotta plaque on Lincoln Hall, Pennsylvania erected a bronze monument at Gettysburg for Burns, depicting him rather like Daniel Chester French’s “Minuteman” at the rude bridge in Concord.

But Burns claimed too much.  He not only freely and inconsistently embellished his story, but he also belittled the deeds of others (calling one neighbor “a damned coward, a chicken hearted squaw, a tallow faced sissy”).  For years, Burns, a cobbler by trade, had been regarded by Gettysburgians as eccentric and cantankerous, and today he is often known, erroneously, only as “the town drunk.”

The evidence about Burns, particularly at the battle, is too incomplete and contradictory to separate fact from fiction, as Timothy H. Smith’s John Burns, “The Hero of Gettysburg” (2000) makes clear.  Moreover, as Carl Caldwell, another U. of I. alumnus has pointed out, Margaret S. Creighton has now brought to the foreground others than Burns, in The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle (2005).  But it is the story of John Burns, Gettysburg’s civilian warrior, that became particularly attached to the story of one of the nation’s most memorable texts.  Much of the voluminous literature on that text, as well as graphic depictions of it, are part of the Library’s Illinois History and Lincoln Collections. — John Hoffmann, Illinois History & Lincoln Collections Librarian

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A Birthday Card for Albert Camus

Manuscript fragment from "L'Homme révolté" in Albert Camus's hand.

Manuscript fragment from L’Homme révolté in Albert Camus’s hand.

Albert Camus, the French novelist, playwright, journalist, philosopher and Nobel Prize winner was born on this day, November 7, one hundred years ago.

This is a good occasion to highlight a small manuscript fragment from Camus’s 1951 essay L’Homme révolté (Paris: Gallimard, translated in English as The Rebel) which was recently re-discovered on the shelves of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (shelfmark MS Q.216 C15h).

Small graph paper pages in Camus’s hand were pasted on seventeen larger leaves with annotations in blue ink, also in Camus’s hand. These pages appear to be a draft or variants of the fourth section of the essay, titled “Révolte et Art”, and its sub-sections “Roman et révolte,” Révolte et style” and “Création et révolution.” The manuscript pages are followed by a series of six newspaper clippings relating to an exchange of open letters in the weekly review Arts between André Breton and Albert Camus about L’Homme révolté. This fragment, bound in red morocco, was acquired from R. Simonson in 1966. CS

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The Cité du Livre – Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence (France) houses Albert Camus’s archives in its Centre Albert Camus: http://www.citedulivre-aix.com/Typo3/fileadmin/documents/Expositions/centrecamus/

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The Rare Book and Manuscript Library Invites Visiting Scholar Applications for 2014-15

The John “Bud” Velde Visiting Scholars Program

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 CALL FOR APPLICATIONS

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library annually awards two stipends of up to $3,000 to scholars and researchers, unaffiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who would like to spend a month or more conducting research with our materials. 

The holdings of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library are substantial. Comprehensive collections support research in printing and printing history, Renaissance studies, Elizabethan and Stuart life and letters, John Milton and his age, emblem studies, economic history, and works on early science and natural history. The library also houses the papers of such diverse literary figures as Carl Sandburg, H.G. Wells, William Maxwell, and W.S. Merwin.

For information about this program, how to apply, and to find out more about The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please visit our Web site at:

http://www.library.illinois.edu/rbx/research_fellowships.html

Please contact the Public Programs Manager, Dennis Sears, with further questions about the program or The Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

Or email Dennis: dsears (at) illinois (dot) edu.   

Deadline for application: *1 February 2014*.

Thank you!

 Dennis Sears

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library
1408 W. Gregory Dr., Room 346
Urbana, IL   61801

(217) 333-7242, (217) 244-1755 fax

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