ROPS Félicien (1833-1898)
L.A.S. "Fély" with 9 DRAWINGS, Thozée Jeudi [circa 1863 ?, to his friend Émile LECLERCQ]; 12 pages in8 to his number.
Superb and long letter from a Rops who was ill with love, illustrated with nine pencil drawings and blurred.
At the head of the letter, he drew himself as a hunter, sitting under a tree, rifle on his shoulder, looking at the landscape, his two dogs at his feet, a hare and a heron fleeing to the side. He comes to chat with his friend, letting himself be guided by "our colourful patron saint of the Holy Fantasy. - It is ten o'clock in the evening. I am alone in the large workshop that looks like an old church [...] Tonight my old & melancholic Thozée has infinite charms for me. - At the time of writing, she is marrying the fisherman Zephoris [Adolphe Adam's opera If I Were King], in a fantastic landscape, under the fire of Bengal flames... I'm not here!" He resisted the temptation to go to the performance in Namur: "If you only knew how much courage it took for me to tell Pierre this afternoon not to harness!" In the margin, he drew his valet Pierre, holding his chin between his thumb and forefinger, expressing amazement and incomprehension. No doubt Rops, in love with the female performer, is trying not to give in to his passion: "No, poor Fély, [...] you won't go at all, - the roses are cut. And now his blond head is popping out of the darkened depths of the workshop! Yes, my dear old man, here I am, - and I've been at it for three months! [...] It was written!
Do you ever know why you love a woman? [...]
When you think that you are three million fools who have been groping around in the human body for ten centuries & that you haven't yet managed to cure a dark-haired man of a blonde woman!"... And he draws three doctors examining a jar labeled "affection of the heart" and containing a heart pierced by an arrow and surrounded by a garland of flowers, behind which is hidden a love. He begs his friend to become a specialist in "affections of the heart". - I will be your first cure", because his case is desperate: "It's serious! And when it is a woman who has the eyes color of Spring & the lips of the Diana of
Capitol, - it is even more serious!" . He will end up hating the race of musicians, who "make the guts of quadrupeds creak & cut down the great trees of the good Lord to make pianos. - It's true, painters & poets will be eternally victims of musicians [...]. The sound, that voice of the soul (when it is not a voice from the nose), moves them stupidly, - naively - and they are tempted to cry at the moon like the melancholy poodles who hear the cornet à pistons.
When a young, pretty, loved woman sings, I fall in adoration"...
And he draws musical loves that cover with a large sheet of music the easel and the painter's palette on which a lonely love weeps.
Why go back to Namur? "to find myself stupid by bothering a woman with a love she doesn't care about?"... He was born too late: "Our narrow & silly century weighs on my shoulders like a garment that doesn't fit me. Crazy, at the same time touching & grotesque I walk in this world of 4 percent, with a medieval costume with proud arabesques, in the crowd of the black clothes of Positivism. I make the notaries laugh & I inspire gentle cheerfulness in the bailiffs; - serious people show me to their children as a terrible example of the training of the Arts!" And for the academics, "the palmibêtes", he is not a serious man. He could have looked like anyone, the two types he draws then: two respectable bourgeois "Being flat as a pavement & stupid as a number, loving easy girls, in double part, - estimating good deeds that pay more than the beautiful deeds one admires; - preferring promissory notes to soft ones; instead, I am walking alive in RuyBlas' dream: - I don't want to understand that we are no longer in the clouds, but "in oils" or "in sugars"; - I am still affected by the soft madness you know : [...] builder of castles in all Spain, stargazer in the midday sun, stormmaker in the drops of water; - creating for me the childlike happiness of the bird that sings, of the insect that flies, of the passing cloud, of the grey rock under the blue sky. - I remain in ecstasy in front of a lock of blond hair frizzing on a round nape of the neck" . This did not happen to Mr Prime Borniaux, "first alderman of the commune of Mettet", whom he drew from behind, walking in the countryside, hooves on his feet and umbrella in his hand; he deplored Rops' obstinacy in devoting himself to painting instead of making the most of the land on his estate at Thozée. But Rops easily took comfort in the abolition of seigneurial rights, seeing the local "rosiers" of which he drew three specimens...