Autograph letter signed to Auguste POULET-MALASSIS, dated September 27, 1860 6:1/2 a.m., 2 pages in-8 in black ink on a double sheet of wove paper. Address and stamp on the back of the last sheet.
"My dear friend,
I have hardly put my letter in the post, the one you will receive tomorrow morning on Friday, when I remembered an observation I had forgotten to make to you: why, when my signature is considered at
Alençon to be responsible for at least 1500 francs, not yet paid, do you present it for a value of 2000, at least, 2900, at the most?
While we have Gélis, in Paris, with whom your signature is highly regarded? Is this coquetry towards Gélis?
You do understand, don't you? That it is not timidity on my part; but, since we are obliged to play the comedy for six months more, for nine months perhaps, it must be played with all possible verisimilitude.
In a word, you are doing the shuttle badly.
What torment this periodic anxiety is, which regularly falls off at the end of six weeks!
I am resolved to get it over with, and I am seriously putting all my courage at your service. But this letter will probably reach you too late.
I commend myself to you for the 920 francs. I presume you understand the importance of it. I will leave you, if you want to keep them for a few hours, 300 francs, until I have received the 500 francs from Grandguillot.
In order to cope with his perpetual financial difficulties, Baudelaire had developed a technique with his publisher Poulet-Malassis that was of dubious honesty: the publisher, who enjoyed a certain credit, provided the poet with bills of exchange that the latter could discount.
These notes, which were similar to bad cheques, were passed from hand to hand, hence the name "navette" used in their correspondence.
All these notes gave rise to protests (a statement by a bailiff that a bill of exchange had not been paid when due) and to significant costs.
Set up in 1856, this system, in 1860, was beginning to run out of steam, the main discounters refusing to grant credit to Malassis.
One of the last was the banker Léon Gélis, from the firm Gélis-Didiot & Cie. Baudelaire urged his friend, who was beginning to tire, not to give up: "since we are obliged to play the comedy for another six months, for nine months perhaps, we must play it with all possible verisimilitude".
Gélis, was not a loser in the affair, since all these unpaid tickets caused additional expenses, charged to the poet. Baudelaire and
Malassis were no match for the system, and two years later the publisher was imprisoned for debts and forced to flee to Belgium.
Autograph letter signed to Léon GÉLIS, dated Paris, May 2, 1861.
2 pages in-8, in black ink, on a double sheet of laid paper on the letterhead of Gélis-Didot et Cie. (On the reverse side of the last sheet, a sketch (plan of a house) in graphite.
Here are the thirty francs which complete the payment of the first note of
Calonne, and which I had the mistake of forgetting.
There is tomorrow a quotation for the last two notes; I will not go, being supported by your gracious promise.
You asked me what I definitely wanted to do: I want to come and see you at the end of each month and deposit with you any sum, 50, 100, 200, etc. The extreme latitude I am requesting from you is due to the absolute irregularity of my income. - But a new month will never begin without my visiting you and depositing money with you.
Please be so kind as to forward this letter to your bailiff with a note from you.
Regarding the seizure of my collection of drawings, I would like to tell you that there are a great many which did not belong to me and which were simply entrusted to me for literary work.
Finally, I shall leave all the notes here until the last moment, and I would ask you to make an effort to obtain from M. de Calonne the reimbursement of expenses and interest.
Ch. Baudelaire 22, rue d'Amsterdam"
Alphonse de Calonne was the director of La Revue contemporaine, in which Baudelaire published several critical articles. Relatively complacent towards the poet, he sometimes took part in the "navettes", these small fraudulent operations set up by Baudelaire and Malassis.
The publisher provided the writer with bills of convenience, which passed through the hands of his friends Asselineau, Monselet or even Hetzel, before ending up discounted at various bankers in the capital. Gélis was one of them.
Calonne had to pay three bills for Baudelaire, the last two of which were to be