Jacques de Lacretelle wrote an introduction to Gallimard's spring catalogue of March 1925: Mélanges sur l’amour et les livres, terminés par un envoi. Two editions of this short text on love and books appeared in the same year, both in limited editions. In The Hague, collector Jean Gondrexon had six copies printed for himself and his friends by famous Dutch publisher A.A.M. Stols, and shortly afterwards, a second separate printing of 35 copies was published by Gallimard on blue Rives paper. The text subsequently appeared in the collection of essays Trébuchet (1926), and Lacrettelle finally published a definitive (abbreviated) version of his essay in 1934 in Les aveux étudiés.
De Lacretelle was a well known author in 1925: he made his début in 1920 with La vie inquiète de Jean Hermelin, and he won the Prix Femina in 1922 for his novel Silbermann, about a Jewish intellectual. He befriended Marcel Proust and Jacques Rivière, and became a member of the Académie française in 1936. His success as a writer between World War I and World War II was due to his psychological novels, of which Albert Thibaudet has said that they approximate the work of Proust and Gide, as Flaubert would rewrite them. An example would be the cycle Les hauts ponts (1932-1935) about a woman who tries to get back her ancestral home, at which she ultimately succeeds, if only for a short time. She is then forced to sell it again to repay the debts her son has made.
An atypical Frenchman
The author hailed from a family of writers. Charles de Lacretelle (1766-1855) retired to the area around Mâcon after an industrious life, where the poet Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) was his neighbour. His bastard son would later join the two families together. De Lacretelle's own father was a consul, and the young Lacretelle therefore did much more travelling than his contemporaries: when he was eight years old, for instance, the family moved to Alexandria. His father died in 1898. Jacques de Lacretelle was a sickly child who grew up to be an atypical Frenchman of above-average height, with an aversion to Christianity. His mother passed on her interest in nature to him. The family moved in literary circles (descendants of Victor Hugo). He was educated to pursue a financial career, but preferred to travel around through Europe. After meeting with Proust, he started work on his first novel.
He was an avid reader throughout his life, and he wrote various essays about authors (for example in L'heure qui change in 1947). The autobiographical character of his short article about his love for books is deceptive. They seem like notes from a diary. The diary as a literary form was a modern genre at the time, with which André Gide was also experimenting. De Lacretelle mixed up fiction and truth, turning old and new notes into a fictitious diary. His article about the love of books, Mélanges sur l’amour et les livres terminés par un envoi, is a clear example of genre dilution: it is both and essay and a biography. Theses, opinions, feelings and memories alternate, while skipping lightly across the border between memoir and fantasy.
De Lacretelle calls the world oflarge-paper copies of books on Dutch, Chinese and Japanese paper a 'luxurious geography'. When he was young, he says, he collected the books of Albert Samain, Georges Rodenbach and Arthur Rimbaud (which might be true). He dreams that a live-in servant owns a copy of Pierre Loti's Azivadé, which happens to be the only desideratum for his own library, and that he goes out to look for that book and encounters the servant in a compromising situation (true or false?). He 'remembers' having to sell his beautiful books one by one when he was sixteen to buy gifts for his many mistresses (which he never had…).
|Description:||Mélanges sur l'amour et les livres, terminés par un envoi / [Jacques de Lacretelle]. - [Paris] : Gallimard, . - 6 p. ; 26 cm|
|1st edition:||The Hague: [Gondrexon], 1925|
|This copy:||Number 20 of 35 on Rives Bleu Pervenche|
|Note:||With autograph dedication by the author to Louis Koopman|
|With a letter from the author to Louis Koopman and a letter from the author to Caffin (bookshop)|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm A 178|
- Douglas Alden: Jacques de Lacretelle. An intellectual itinerary. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1958
- Jacques de Lacretelle: L’heure qui change. Genève: Éditions du Milieu du Monde, 1941
Upper and lower cover of binding
Autograph dedication by Jacques de Lacretelle to Louis Koopman and Anny Antoine
Jacques de Lacretelle's visiting card