Tuesday, 11 April 2017

New Addition: Hélène en fleur et Charlemagne, signed by Paul Fort!

Paul Fort, Ballades Françaises: Hélène en fleur et Charlemagne. 2nd Ed. (1921) Mercure de France: Paris. Softcover, 281 pp. Inscribed by Fort, "à mon cher / Alfred Vallette / affecteusement / Paul Fort" ("To my dear / Alfred Vallette / affectionately / Paul Fort")

This inscribed copy links two writers important to the history of Symbolism and Pataphysics. The dandyist writer Paul Fort was a key figure in the French avant-garde for over fifty years, and served as an important link between the Symbolist generation and that of the young Cubist and proto-Dada writers. For instance, he regularly played billiards with Apollinaire and Jarry, and in fact the commotion of a bar fight started by Jarry and involving a pistol with a blank cartridge had precipitated Fort's wife into early labour. At only 17 years old, Fort had founded the first independent Symbolist theatre company, known as the Théâtre d'Art. He left the group two years later, when it became the Théâtre de l'Oeuvre and went on to produce Jarry's Ubu Roi. He later edited the Symbolist journal Vers et Prose, and publish many volumes of verse. His daughter was married to the Futurist painter Gino Severini.

The publisher Alfred Vallette was the editor of the Mercure de France, which began as a small avant-garde Symbolist journal and grew into one of the most important cultural reviews in France. (The Revenant Archive owns a copy of the journal, see "Periodicals" tab.) His wife, Rachilde, was a notorious Decadent novelist--rebellious in her day but later reactionary ultra-Nationalist; four years after her husband received this copy from Fort, she was the target of an intervention by Surrealist group at an avant-garde banquet for the Symbolist Saint-Pol-Roux, a mutual friend, which ended in a food fight and police raid. In the 1890s however, the couple had been roommates with Alfred Jarry and Pierre Quillard at the home they called 'The Phalanstry' in homage to the Utopian Socialist Charles Fourier. The connections ranged far and wide indeed–Vallette and Rachilde's daughter was even married to Fort's nephew.
Since Vallette, as the publisher of Fort's book of long-form prose poetry, had ample access to copies of it, this inscribed copy is primarily the relic of a gesture to reinforce and re-inscribe the dense network of relationships between them as writers, publishers, organisers, and friends. It also appears to have been Valette's copy for a later re-reading however; it is cut up to page 156, the title page of the title poem, which is dog-eared, after which it remains uncut.

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