Wednesday, September 30, 2015

218. Wilde & Mallarmé (and Ricketts) at auction

The private library of Stéphane Mallarmé will be auctioned in Paris by Sotheby's on 15 October 2015. The collection contains his own copies of Le Corbeau (1875) and L'Après-midi d'un faune (1876), both with illustrations by Édouard Manet, and many other singular books and manuscripts including the manuscript of Un Coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le Hasard.

There are also two autograph letters by Oscar Wilde to Stéphane Mallarmé, written in February and November 1891 (Sotheby's dates both letters February 1891).

Oscar Wilde, letters to Stéphane Mallarmé (1891)
Both letters have been published in Oscar Wilde, The Complete Letters (2000) [pages 471 and 492].

The description of the lot puts the later letter first (here dated mid February 1891). The letter accompanied a dedication copy of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray with a cover design by Charles Ricketts. The dedication in the novel reads: 'A Stéphane Mallarmé. Hommage d'Oscar Wilde, Paris '91'. 
The copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray is not included in the sale.

On 10 November Mallarmé responded to this letter, thanking Wilde for his gift. Wilde could not have written his letter in mid February, because the book appeared in April of that year.

In the second letter, in reality the earlier one, Wilde thanks Mallarmé for the gift of a copy of Mallarmé's translation of Poe's poem Le Corbeau. Like all Mallarmé disciples and admirers, Wilde calls him 'Maître', the poem is a 'magnifique symphonie en prose'. This letter is dated 25 February 1891.

Two letters about an exchange of books between two literary masters - the estimate for these exceptional pieces is €6000-8000.

[The lot was sold for 75.000.]