Gautier's Collected Works

Théophile Gautier, Collected Works, Volumes I-IV, VI-VII, & IX-XII. 1900. Edited & Translated by F.C. Sumichrast. George D. Sproul & The Brainard Publishing Co., NY. Limited edition of 1,000.
Though his role has been almost utterly forgotten within the community today, Théophile Gautier has exercised arguably the greatest influence of anyone over the continuation and self-conception of the avant-garde, for better and for worse. A co-organiser of close to a dozen avant-garde collectives including the Petit-Cénacle, Jeunes-France, Bouzingo, Bôhéme Doyenné, Club de Haschichins, and Parnasse Contemporaine; a publisher of Ultra-Romanticist journals such as the hugely influential l'Artiste; a critic and theorist who tirelessly promoted a wide range of underground and counter-cultural literature and plastic arts; and a key historiographer of the 19th Century avant-garde and its predecessors as far back as the Middle Ages: it is utterly conceivable that without Gautier, the very notion of a countercultural community founded in creative exchange, self-consciously unpopular and dedicated to alternative paradigms of human interaction, would have died out by 1840. i.e., the avant-garde might not exist today at all. The legacy of his influence is ambivalent: on the one hand, he had a guiding hand in nearly every collective effort in the avant-garde from its foundation in the late 1820s until his death half a century later, and worked tirelessly to ensure that the avant-garde would become a permanent community and not merely a one-off fluke that died along with the Bouzingo.
Corollary to Gautier's seminal role in the formation of the avant-garde community, his initially radical formulation of Literature and Art as a form of secular religion--what within the French avant-garde was literally called the Cult of Art--gradually degenerated into the proto-Modernist 'Art for Art's Sake', a development which his complete disavowal of political engagement after 1835 did little to discourage. It is no doubt this legacy which caused the Dadaist and Surrealist historiographers to ruthlessly and entirely write him out of the history of the avant-garde, a strategy which, in retrospect, has had disastrous results. Gautier's weaknesses, which have become lodged at the heart of the avant-garde's self conceptions, are no longer under discussion and pass unnoticed; while his strengths have likewise been wiped away and have not been learned from. Moreover, while his disciples such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Jarry, and Huysmans have left dual legacies in both the avant-garde and in mainstream "scholarship", Gautier has been abandoned entirely to the mainstream, who have twisted and distorted him out of all recognition, and completely eliminated from his work and his life everything that he himself held dear: his devotion to community, his lifelong engagement with collective work, the Anti/Theological foundation of his work, his lifelong championing of Romanticism in all of its forms and with all of its currents and counter-currents as an attempt to salvage a kernel of humanity and life from an encroaching industrial society. Gautier has been turned into precisely what he most hated and fought against his entire life: a symbol of literary Legitimacy.
This set of Gautier's collected works in English was printed in a limited edition of 1,000 sets, though in this copy the No. of this set has not been filled in. Despite its 20 volumes running to thousands of pages, Gautier's early work is largely ignored or dismembered. His first novella, a fictionalised memoir of the Jeunes-France, is represented only by a few scattered chapters presented out of context, though hundreds of pages of travelogues are included in their integrity. Sumichrast taught French Literature at Harvard, and the copy of Gautier's Romans et Contes in this archive contains marginalia and commentary written by one of Sumichrast's students as he was taking the course. His commentary throughout is demeaning and insulting, making one wonder why he would go to the trouble of translating thousands of pages by a person for whom he constantly expresses such disrespect. One cannot trust somebody who feels the need to add the the word 'Professor' to his name on the title-page of a book. He repeatedly tries to imply that Gautier had renounced Romanticism as a mistake of his youthful immaturity, despite the fact that his last, uncompleted work was a History of Romanticism (see "Historiography") and that on his deathbed Gautier affirmed his lifelong allegiance to radical Romanticism and called his involvement with the Bouzingo the greatest and most meaningful time of his life. Nonetheless this 1900 'deluxe edition', complete with uncredited, vaguely-relevant illustrations that Gautier would have hated, is the only nearly-comprehensive collection of Gautier available in English, and has never been reprinted.

Some Volumes readable online
The plates for this set were used to produce a number of supposedly "limited" , "special" , and "exclusive" editions, and the numbering and sometimes collation varies. The collection in the archive is composed of elements from two different sets.

While individual books from the series generally sell for $70 on ebay, this entire lot--roughly half of the set--was picked up for $75 with 'buy now' before wealthy collector caught wind of it. I hope to eventually fill out the full set with orphan volumes. Most of these copies belonged to an American couple who traveled widely and seem to have collected the books for largely aesthetic purposes; many of the pages are still uncut. Their family obliterated the bookplates with sandpaper and white-out before selling them. 

Contents are as follows:

Vol. I: Mademoiselle de Maupin. See 1854 edition in "Books" for description.

Vol. II: The Grotesques & Travels in Spain. The Grotesques appeared in 1833, at the height of Gautier's involvement with the Bouzingo, and represented his first major historiographic effort. In it, Gautier did not merely repeat the usual Classicist-Romantic dichotomy, but attacked the legitimacy of any unitary canon and style as such: he argued that those poets excluded by dominant canons represent the potential for cultural growth and evolution, and argued that eccentricities and even faults in literary 'taste' were productive and gave life and significance to creative production. He then went on to write monographs on twelve writers from the previous 400 years who had been nearly eliminated from literary history due to their refusal to conform to prevailing literary modes, and related each of these writers to the current activities of avant-garde Romanticism. (only half of the essays are translated here, those who Sumichrast considers "proper" enough--oh, the irony!) The first essay is devoted to the Medieval Poet-Thief, François Villon, who Gautier & his friends rediscovered and used as inspiration for their lived 'poetry of the streets' for which Tzara would later laud the Frenetics. Villon would become a major influence on the avant-garde from the Bouzingo through the Situationists (see P.W. Lewis' biography of Villon below). Both the published title of the 'Grotesques' and the title used for their initial serial publication, 'Literary Exhumations', carry overtones of Gothic-Frenetic Romanticism; opponents of extremist writing often accused Gautier and his comrades of being 'grotesque'. Seventy years later, the Symbolist theorist Remy de Gourmont called the Grotesques one of the fundamental texts of oppositional literary criticism. While only 50% is translated here, the Travels in Spain, written in 1840-41, appear in their entirety.

Vol. III: The Romance of a Mummy & Portraits of the Day. The Romance of a Mummy is one of Gautier's historical novels, and appended are several essays by Gautier regarding Egyptology and his travel in Egypt. The Portraits are a series of articles--partly critical, partly biographical and anecdotal--on friends and colleagues of Gautier, most associated with one or more of the many threads of Romanticism that converged in Gautier's activity. Among many others, it includes essays on Béranger (see above), Paul De Kock (see below), and Gavarni (see below in 'Prints')

Vol. IV: Travels in Italy, Fortunio, One of Cleopatra's Nights, & King Candaules. Gautier's travelogues from Italy, a light adventure novel (according to Sumichrast, who I don't trust on the matter, but I've not yet read it), and two historical novels about the ancient world.

Vol. V: The Louvre & Constantinople.

Vol. VI: Spirite, The Vampire, Arria Marcella, & The Mummy's Foot. In Gautier's weirdly tender 1865 novel Spirite a Romanticist poet, with the help of a Swedenborgian Mystic, falls in love with a ghost, their relationship carried out largely via automatic writing. I have yet to read the other works in this volume: the 1852 novella Aria Marcella is a historical novel taking place in Pompeii shortly before the eruption of Vesuvius; "The Quartet" of 1848 is a Napoleonic tale; "The Mummy's Foot", like Spirite, hinges upon apparitions of people from other planes--in this case, from the distant past.

Vol. VII: Travels in Russia, Belgium and Holland & A Day in London. Travel writing.

Vol. IX: Captain Fracasse. Gautier began writing this historical adventure novel in 1836, but it was not published until 1863. The 1866 edition was illustrated by Gautier's friend Doré (see below in Prints) but this edition instead uses the illustrations of an anonymous hack.

Vol. X: Captain Fracasse (continued), My Private Menagerie, & Paris Besieged. While certainly 'light reading' in most respects and a response to a novelty project about 'literary animals' by an unnamed author whom I have yet to identify, My Private Menagerie provides an intimate and amusing look at one aspect of avant-garde daily life in the 19th Century. When the Franco-Prussian war broke out Gautier happened to be on holiday in Switzerland, but when he learned that Paris was threatened he hastened to return to it. I have yet to read Paris Besieged, a collection of articles published by him during the siege and its aftermath in the Commune. These include a range of forms from diary-like entries to portraits and incidents involving friends in the Romantic community including Gustave Doré (see below in Prints).

Vol. XI: Militona, The Nightingales, Omphale, The Marchioness's Lap-Dog, Jack & Jill, The Thousand and Second Night, Elias Wildmanstadius, Daniel Jovard, & The Bowl of Punch. I have so far only read the last three stories. Militona is a love story about a Spanish toreador; The Nightingales was published during the Bouzingo period in 1833, though it is quite different from the Gothic-Frenetic work Gautier was also publishing at the same time; The Marchioness's Lap-Dog is a light novella set in the pre-revolutionary period; Omphale, published toward the end of the Bouzingo period in 1834 (the same year as the Annales Romantiques (see above) in which Gautier also appeared, was initially subtitled 'The Tapestry of Love' but later re-subtitled 'A Rococo Story'--the term 'rococo' first having been introduced into French discourse by the ultra-Romanticist community around that same time, as a term of abuse toward frivolous and decorative art. The novel Jack and Jill is a reworking of Marivaux's 'The Game of Love and Chance' and Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer; "The Thousand-and-Second Night" is an orientalist piece of fantasy. The last three stories represent slightly less than one-third of Gautier's first novel, The Jeunes-France. This novella, one of the seminal historiographic documents of the avant-garde and a huge influence on future fictionalised history-portrait-critiques of avant-garde communities such as those by Murger, Huysmans, Valéry, Jarry, Ball, Tzara, Breton, etc. etc., was not deemed by Sumichrast to be worthy of inclusion in the 20-volume set; these three chapters are the only three included. One of the most important potential texts for understanding daily life in the first-generation avant-garde, the novel has never been made available in English. Sumichrast goes to great lengths to try to imply that the book was an attack on the Jeunes-France, somehow ignoring the glaring facts that at the time of its publication Gautier was one of the group's leading organisers and spokesmen and would remain so for well over a year until their activities ended, that the novel had been prepared largely in collaboration with the rest of the group as part of a planned Jeunes-France anthology, that his comrades in the group loved the book, and that at no point in his life did Gautier ever repudiate his involvement. No doubt Sumichrast is in part confused by the fact that the novella is presented in the form of a comedy--a comedy written for and from within the avant-garde community, with heavy influences from Rabelais and Sterne. Like other fictionalised portraits of avant-garde communities before and since (such as Peacock's Nightmare Abbey, an obvious influence, Huysmans' A Rebours (see below), Jarry's Days & Nights and Dr. Faustroll, Ball's Tenderenda the Fantist etc.), the novel presents an intensification, a celebration, and a loving but genuine critique of both the effective and ineffective aspects of life and praxis within the Frenetic Romanticist community. "Elias Wildmanstadius" is a portrait of Gautier's fellow Bouzingo Célestin Nanteuil (see below in Prints), combined with further echoes of other members of the group engaged with Medieval historiography such as Jehan du Seigneur and Aloysius Bertrand. "Daniel Jovard" recounts the conversion of an ultra-Classicist to a Frenetic Romantic, and includes a warning concerning the danger of Freneticism degenerating from a cultural stance to a mere fashion--Jovard ends up, in the end, to be simply an 1833 version of a Hipster. "The Bowl of Punch" is a rolicking and deceptively complex account of a Romanticist Orgy--a favourite form of early avant-garde DIY event involving themed dinners, costumes, literary readings and performances, copious drinking, dancing, and role-playing.

Vol. XII: Art and Criticism, The Magic Hat, Enamels and Cameos, Albertus, and other Poems. I have yet to read these texts, aside from a few of the poems. The critical texts include 110 pages on Baudelaire, who Gautier initiated into the avant-garde and on whom his influence was immense; 80 pages on Hugo, the most influential spokesman of French Romanticism; and several other promising essays creative activity and society. Gautier's comedy The Magic Hat was premiered in 1845. Enamels and Cameos was expanded through several editions over the course of Gautier's life, and he considered it his purest and most important literary work. Reputedly among the most finely crafted and carefully wrought texts in French verse, as well as among the most linguistically revolutionary of the 19th Century, they exerted a decisive influence on future avant-gardists, especially Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Jarry, and Valéry. They are translated not by Sumichrast, who apparently didn't feel qualified to translate the verse, but by Agnes Lee. I am not in a position yet to gauge the quality of the translations. Not listed on the title page but included amongst the 'other poems' is Gautier's first published long-form poem, the Gothic-Romanticist epic Albertus; or, the Soul and Sin: A Theological Legend, written in 1831 and published the following year, at the height of Bouzingo activity. Unfortunately Sumichrast has translated it into prose, but one takes what one can get.

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