AUTHORIZED MANUSCRIPT of 17 POEMS, [1915-1916]; booklet in-12 (15.8 x 10.7 cm) of 21 leaves written on the front (plus one blank f.), soft binding of black embossed Basane origin, gold edges; navy blue morocco case (notebook covers slightly rubbed, spine of case discolored).
Precious notebook containing seventeen of André's first poems
Breton, given to Paul Éluard.
The label of the papermaker at the head of the notebook, Papeterie Pottin Georges
MEYNIEu, Nantes, proves that it was bought and written between July 1915 and November 1916, the dates of Breton's stay in Nantes as a military nurse. On these lined sheets of paper, André Breton transcribed his poems with great care, with a fine pen in blue ink, except for the last one added later in purple ink (according to sources, this poem would date from June 1916, and is the latest in this collection).
Of these seventeen autograph poems, in verse or prose, seven were collected in 1919 in André Breton's first collection, Mont de piété; four were published in journals; and six were never published during Breton's lifetime.
This precious notebook remained unknown to the publishers of André Breton's Complete Works in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. It is the most complete transcription available for these early poems, the oldest of which date back to 1913, and this notebook gives some unknown details and variants on their genesis. The fact that
Breton has put a selection of his early poems on the Internet may appear to be a first attempt at collecting them. The manuscripts cited in the edition of the Pléiade are so according to other copies, in particular for the six poems classified in the "Inédits I" by Marguerite Bonnet, who grouped together the poems published in reviews in the "Alentours I" of her edition, to which we refer.
When his last owner, Gwenn-Aël Bolloré, communicated to him in 1950 this notebook that he had acquired from Henri Matarasso, Breton told him that he had forgotten the existence of the portrait of Marie Laurencin. In these early verses, he wrote to her, "I do not recognize myself without concern" (Mémoires parallèles, p. 62).
The notebook contains the following poems:
Châsse (Inédits I, p. 34): "Like a golden shrine or holy relics" . This sonnet dates from August 1913, according to an untitled copy; the title remained unknown to La Pléiade.
Le Saxe fin (Alentours I, p. 19): "Le Saxe fin répète un minuet vieillot" . It has 17 alexandrines; an amputated version of the first 7 verses was published in the review La Phalange (n° 93, 20 March 1914, with
Rieuse et Hommage); it is the very first publication of Breton.
The verses deleted in La Phalange (which La Pléiade gives as a variant from a copy dated February 1914) constitute the "key" to this Mallarméan reverie.
Rieuse (Mont de piété, p. 6): "Rieuse and so perhaps imprudently laurelled" . This sonnet bears in the notebook a dedication "to Paul
Valéry", taken up in the review La Phalange (n° 93, March 20, 1914), but deleted in the 1919 collection. In March 1914, Breton sent the poem to Valéry, who appreciated its "fine euphony"; this exchange opened their relationship. Breton, who himself dates the poem to 1913, saw it in 1962 as nothing more than a "sonnet all in volutes". La Pléiade lists four other copies, dated February or March 1914.
Hommage (Alentours I, p. 19-20): "Rais de soleil ou paille blanche" (Sun rays or white straw) .
This sonnet, also published in the magazine La Phalange (No. 93, March 20, 1914), is a tribute to the poet Francis Viélé-Griffin.
D'or vert (Mont de piété, p. 6): "D'or vert les raisins mûrs et mes futiles vœux" (Ripe grapes and my futile wishes)... This poem of four quatrains, which must date from the beginning of 1914, first appeared in Les Écrits nouveaux (No. 9, July 1918), without the epigraph that appears here (and on two of the three known copies): "Sculptée aux fins du rêve / Jean Royère".
Un lotus (Inédits I, p. 40): "To say, to see this hand on the floating blue ether"... A copy of this sonnet was sent to Paul Valéry on May 4, 1914, untitled; the title remained unknown to La Pléiade.
Camaïeu (Inédits I, p. 41): "Less daylight at the windows than tulle" .
This poem of five quatrains "probably dates from the beginning of 1914 (Mr. Bonnet, who lists only one copy). The last stanza will be reused by Breton, in a version "dislocated in the manner of an opera aria", in the "Pièce fausse" published in 1920 in n° 7 of Dada, and collected in 1923 in Clair de terre.
Hymn (Mont de piété, p. 8): "Hymn, barely of a water dying on the sand" . This poem of 21 verses first appeared in
Les Solstices (No. 2, July 1917), with the date "August 1914", taken up in Mont de piété, but which does not appear in the notebook.
Study for a portrait (Alentours I, p. 19-20): "Unconsciously, while undressing, Anne imagined that she was escaping" . This prose poem occupies 3 pages of the notebook.