Hugo, Flaubert: 19th century French writers' letters to be auctioned in Paris

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Letters from great French writers of the 19th century such as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, George Sand, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine, will be auctioned tomorrow, Thursday 9 June.

The 345 lots belong to the collection of a former academic and literature lover, Jean-Luc Mercié, and are being put on sale by the Cornette de Saint-Cyr auction house.

A letter from Hugo, for example, written from Brussels in 1866 to a journalist and admirer, Auguste Vacquerie, is a plea against the death penalty, which was to be reintroduced on the island of Jersey.

"Everywhere freedom is denied. Everywhere the ideal is insulted. Everywhere reaction flourishes," ("Partout la liberté est reniée. Partout l'idéal est insulté. Partout la réaction prospère"), laments the author of 'Les Misérables', in this missive expected to fetch between 8,000 and 10,000 euros.

Flaubert on 'Madame Bovary'

Four letters from Flaubert to Louise Colet written between 1846 and 1853 are expected to go for up to 15,000 euros each. One of them refers to the writing of Madame Bovary. "No lyricism, no reflections, no personality of the author. It will be sad to read," he promises his former lover.

There is also a letter from George Sand is addressed to Flaubert in 1868 (6,000-8,000 euros), in which she complains that he lives a cloistered life. "You, a raging troubadour, I suspect you enjoy your profession more than anything else in the world," she notes.

Surrealism

The twentieth century and especially surrealism are well represented in the collection. A collage by André Breton entitled Équipe fantôme is expecte to go for between10,000 and15,000 euros, as is a book in English about Salvador Dali with a dedication drawn by the Spanish artist.

The most expensive item (40,000 to 50,000 euros) is an original edition of Julien Gracq's novel Le Rivage des Syrtes, with a letter from the author to Jean-Luc Mercié, which the auction house says is "a truly unpublished page".

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