Letters from great 19th century French writers such as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, George Sand, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine will be auctioned tomorrow, Thursday 9 June.
The 345 lots belong to the collection of a former university and literature lover, Jean-Luc Mercié, and are put up for sale by the Cornette de Saint-Cyr auction house.
A letter from Hugo, for example, written from Brussels in 1866 to a journalist and admirer, Auguste Vacquerie, is a plea against the death penalty which was to be reintroduced on the island of Jersey.
“Everywhere freedom is denied. Everywhere the ideal is insulted. Everywhere reaction flourishes,” (“Everywhere freedom is denied. Everywhere the ideal is insulted. Everywhere the successful reaction”), deplores the author of “Les Miserables”, in this missive supposed to bring in between 8,000 and 10,000 euros.
Flaubert in “Madame Bovary”
Four letters from Flaubert to Louise Colet written between 1846 and 1853 are estimated at up to 15,000 euros each. One of them refers to the writing of Mrs. Bovaire. “No lyricism, no reflection, no personality of the author. It will be sad to read”, he promises his former lover.
There is also a letter from George Sand addressed to Flaubert in 1868 (6,000-8,000 euros), in which she complains that he leads a cloistered life. “You, a raging troubadour, I suspect you enjoy your craft more than anything in the world,” she notes.
The 20th century and especially surrealism are well represented in the collection. A collage by André Breton entitled Ghost Team It takes between 10,000 and 15,000 euros, just like a book in English on Salvador Dali with a dedication drawn by the Spanish artist.
The most expensive item (40,000 to 50,000 euros) is an original edition of the novel by Julien Gracq The shore of Syrteswith a letter from the author to Jean-Luc Mercié, which, according to the auction house, is “a truly unpublished page”.