Precious working manuscript of Jean Cocteau's first book, illustrated with drawings.
Jean Cocteau's first book was published in February 1909 by the Société d'Éditions. Following the 92 poems, composed between 1906 (Cocteau was then sixteen years old) and 1908, the collection ended with a "one-act fantasy", Bric-à-Brac, which is not included here. On April 4, 1908, a matinee organized by the actor De Max had revealed the name of the young Cocteau to the Tout-Paris, where Laurent
Tailhade had greeted the young poet: "This bitter conception, this pessimism of the teenager who is frightened and solicited by the pain of living, gives Cocteau's poems a very personal accent, a distinction in the melancholy that is extremely remarkable"; one must add the fantasy, in this collection placed under the sign of the Thousand and One Nights.
The autograph manuscript includes 59 poems, some in several states, in black or violet ink, some written on sheets of strong vellum paper, some in first draft on sheets of school notebook. One notes numerous erasures and corrections, and variants with the final text. Some poems are copied from another hand (probably his friends René Rocher or Jacques Renaud, here noted R).
It includes 3 title pages (the first one dated 1907, the two others 1909), then the text "To explain the title", of which one will quote the conclusion: "I wandered in the dark life with the marvelous lamp. Young coMme Aladin I have, walking with a fearful step, seen jewels, fruits, lights and darkness - and, the heart loaded with illusions, I have cried in front of the difficulty to bring them to the light to offer them to the incredulous world".
The collection is ordered in six parts.
I. The marble steps - "Then Aladdin ran down the marble steps"...
The lie (copy R); A basin ("to Henri de Régnier", Lucie Delarue-Mardrus in the edition.); Conte; La catastrophe; Dimanche;
La soirée douce; Adoration; L'orgue (title added by De Max); Nocturne (2 versions);
Souvenir de l'Ermitage (copy R); [Calme] (in 3 stanzas, the last one crossed out on the copy
R attached) ; Une très jolie toile de l'école Watteau ; Sur la mort d'une belle dame (2 versions) ; [Les vers] ; Portrait (plus copy R) ;
Les six muses de ma bibliothèque (2 versions, the 2nd dedicated to Maurice Rostand) ; Chopin's third ballad "after Auberey
Beardsley"; Isola Madre; Symphony in Pink in Verona (on the back, pencil sketch of a poem about Venice); Promenade (plus copy R); [Fresco] (on the back, pencil draft of a text on Venice; plus copy
R); The Pendant (plus copy R); In the Manner of an Epitaph Venice; In Memory of an Autumn Evening in the Eaden Garden; The Desirous;
The Madwoman; The Unconscious; The Fearful.
II. The bronze pedestal - "And he saw on the bronze pedestal the lighted lamp"...
Offrande ; Le Renard ; Le Satyre ; Psyché ("à René Rocher") ; Le Faune ; L'Âme du Bois (2 versions, the 1st unpublished as a sonnet, the 2nd untitled, plus copy R titled).
III. The Nightmares - "and the sorcerer ran to the fire which was not yet extinguished and he threw into it a little of the incense powder which he had on him while muttering a magic formula"... Les carillons mélancoliques (plus copy R); La Vengeance (id.); Quasimodo; Le vieux monsieur à l'orgue (plus copy R); La cendre (id.).
IV. The miraculous orchard with drawing (on the back another drawing with a pen, caricature of a full-length man with long moustaches and a boater, perhaps a caricature of Barrès) - "And Aladin, the poor man, did not know that the fruits with unknown colors were opals, aventurines, cymophanes, tourmalines, peridots, jayets and crysoprases"... Le Secret (2 versions) ; Le bon mouvement (28 May 1907) ;
Le Rêve ; Tes yeux (2 versions ; on the back of the 2nd one, a bill in pencil to a friend : "Go and see Max, it seems that he complains that you don't go there - but above all, don't say that you see me all the time, because he would be furious to know that I come to Paris without passing through the rue Caumartin"...)
V. The cellar - "And he saw himself buried alive between the four walls of the cellar full of black and horror, in spite of all the gold that it contained. And he sobbed for a long time, overwhelmed by his pain"...
Les Façades (3 versions; on the back of the 3rd, draft of another poem, Le Basset, unpublished);
Despérance; Prométhée (crossed out dedication to Péladan, plus copy R); Eros; Les Bruits (plus copy R); Les mauvais conseillers.
VI Silence... - "At this moment of his story
Schahrazade saw appearing the morning and, discreet, was silent". Le crépuscule (2 versions) ; Le Soir "à Madame Bréval" ; Symphonie nocturne (2 versions) ; Les grands soirs tristes (2 v