Only edition. A strange relic of the glory days of France's most important and influential 17th-century literary salon, Catherine de Vivonne's Hôtel de Rambouillet. Very few period Gallic literary and social luminaries were not associated with the Hôtel in some way during their careers. Corneille, Balzac, Madeleine de Scudéry, de la Fontaine, Scarron, de Malherbe, de Bussy-Rabutin, not to mention at least 700 others over the salon's roughly 40-year life. from 1620-1660. Two lesser but still radiant lights were Vincent Voiture and Jean-François Sarasin. Voiture, an established wit, inveterate practical joker, and in some ways the heart of the salon during its heyday in the 1630s, was also known for poems, stories, and epigrams, which were circulated in manuscript among qualifying members of the salon. (Voiture published nothing during his lifetime.) Sarasin, for his part, was well-published, but maybe better known for his envy of Voiture—and Voiture's patronizing toleration of Sarasin's company. Though historically referred to only parenthetically, another point of contention between the two rivals was salon founder Catherine de Vivonne's daughter, Julie d'Angennes. (More about Julie later.) Voiture died in 1648; Sarasin in 1654. Our book is an "eyewitness" account of the two rivals' meeting in Hell, where they hash out in civilized, respectful dialogue not only their differences but also the same subjects they debated in their premières vies—the history and future of the French language, the importance of conversation, the priority of sensibility over style. The dialogue diverges in strange ways: at one point a spirited debate over the nature of elephants and rhinos takes over. Spoiler alert: Sarasin gets the last, sharp narrative riposte—"J'en suis de moitié avec vous et ie vous iure de me tuer de nouveau pour luy donner un entretien plus agréable, et qui l'ennuye moins que celuy cy." But the pressing historio-bibliographical question is, who wrote this? The book is not recorded in any of the usual sources, though it is mentioned in passing by Pierre Lançon, Louis Desgraves, and Delphine Denis; however none of these historians discuss the book in any detail. Barbier evidently did not know of it. It is very tempting to interpret the authorial anonym I. A. G. D. M. as Julie [Iulie] d'Angennes, Duchesse de Montausier, for whom both Voiture and Sarasin had affections, but we have so far found no other evidence to support this conjecture. A careful look through Antoine Baudeau de Somaize's 1661 Grand Dictionnaire des Prétieuses—the essential exposé of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, its denizens, cant, and pseudonyms—reveals nothing. Clues are surely evident in the text proper, which is waiting to be mined by a sufficiently motivated scholar. (On page 216, the author interpolates quatrains on the Ruthenians, and signs them "I. A. G.," leading us to postulate that "D. M." could mean "docteur en medecine.") The author clearly knew both Voiture and Sarasin, and felt affection and sympathy toward both, but who will for now remain unknown. But the author, on the last page of the dedication to the Bishop of Rodez, Hardouin de Péréfixe, tantalizes the reader with this:
"Sarrasin et Voiture estoient de mesme en enfer, si ie les ay obtenus c'est a la condition que ie ne les regarderois point dans leur deuxieme vie: comme un amour trop curieux fit faire perdre a Orphée son illustre acquisition. Ie pourrois bien perdre par une curiosité trop amoreuse nos Illustres resuscitez, ie n'ose donc pas les revoir de peur que ce malheur m'arrive, je vois bien que ce peu de curiosité leur est aussi advantageux qu'il me prejudicie: mais c'est à le moindre vent qui m'emporte la seule ambition qui me domine, est celle de me tesmoigner par mes respects, et par mes soumissions."
One institutional copy of Les Entretiens de deux illustres deffuncts located, at BnF. No digital surrogates or modern facsimiles known.
Rodez: Guillaume Grandsaignes, 1659.
Quarto, 183 x 135 x 25 mm (binding), 180 x 133 x 22 mm (text block). π4, iij4, ⁋2, A-Qq4 [-Qq4, a blank?]; , 310 pp. Bound in modern blind-tooled calf, unlettered, new endleaves and headbands. Interior: Leaves toned, some scattered soiling and staining; worming in gutter affecting gatherings T to Cc (about 26 leaves), not near text. An unwashed copy, with a palpable punch to the type and a satisfying rattle to the leaves.
Contemporary signature to title: Merviel; the name Durand penned twice to the margin of p. 51; a few pen trials to last page.
Vincent, Leon H., Hôtel de Rambouillet and the précieuses, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1900. Unrecorded in the standard bibliographies.
Status: On Hold