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Signed book, First edition

Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de SADE Les antiquaires. Manuscrit autographe complet et unique.

Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de SADE

Les antiquaires. Manuscrit autographe complet et unique.

S.n. , s.l. août 1808, in-8 (17,5x21,5cm), (40f.) (3f. bl.), broché sous chemise et étui.


SADE Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de
Les Antiquaires. [The Antiquarians] Unique complete autograph manuscript [Charenton asylum] August 1808, in-8: 175 x 215 mm
(6 7/8 x 8 7/16 ”), (40 f.) (3f bl.), original wrappers
The complete original manuscript of one of Sade's first works, ruled in pencil throughout, comprising 40 leaves written recto and verso. This manuscript, like the other extant items from the Marquis, was dictated to a scribe and corrected by Sade himself.
Contemporary green paper wrappers with a small lack to middle of spine. Ink title, partly erased, to upper cover: 9/ Net et corrigé en août 1808 – bon brouillon. Les Antiquaires. Comédie en prose en 1 acte [Copied and corrected August 1808 – a good draft. The Antiquaries. A prose comedy in 1 Act]. This title is repeated on the verso of the upper cover.
Numerous manuscript corrections, annotations and deletions in Sade's hand, principally adding blocking, and rich in both stage and acting directions.
Written in 1776 and re-copied at Charenton in 1808, and most likely augmented at the time with various topical references – notably including an allusion to Napoleon, “of whom he was hoping, in vain, to receive permission to leave the asylum at Charenton as a free man” (p.94) – Les Antiquaires is one of the first theatrical pieces written by the Marquis and therefore one of his first literary works overall, written eight years before the Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond [Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man].
Though the precise dating of these pieces is made difficult due to the lack of the original manuscripts, several clues have allowed bibliographers to date the initial composition of this piece to 1776, possibly with a corrected version during the Revolution and a few final changes at the time of this last edit, which is today the only extant manuscript of this play.
These clues include the status of the Jewish and English characters, the style of the dialogues, and Sade's correspondence with theatres; the strongest clue being biographical in nature.
Les Antiquaires can essentially be considered the true “theatrical version” of Sade's Voyage en Italie with which it shows a sustained intertextuality.
The play is about an antiquary – in the 18th century sense of the term, which is to say a learned devotee of Classical culture – who wants to marry off his daughter to a friend with the same passion, who nonetheless finds a way of convincing him to let her marry her young lover.
Whether it be in the learned dialogues of the antiquaries or in their eccentric parody by the young lover imitating them, Sade draws upon his own experience and observations from his travels, which he expands or twists, according to the viewpoint of his various characters. Hence, the description of Mount Etna by the lover – Delcour – is a parody of Sade's detailed description of the Pietra Malla volcano, and the made-up “subterranean tunnel linking Etna to America” is directly inspired by the tunnel of the Crypta Neapolitana, described by Sade in his Voyage. The Marquis would reach back to this same experience of volcanoes in one of the most famous scenes in his Histoire de Juliette.
Barely returned from his latest grand tour and almost at the same time as writing his passionate and detailed account of the experience, Sade was thus also writing a satirical version of his own work (until his problems with the military authorities). The work is at the same time a social critique of pointless erudition and a self-mockery of his own passion for history and of his “zeal to see everything, his insatiable curiosity” (cf. Maurice Lever, preface to Voyage en Italie).
This virulent satire is paradoxically twinned with a very erudite display of the author's knowledge of the latest architectural discoveries and the major contemporary questions in the field.
This was, in fact, the element criticized by the two heads of theatres to whom Sade sent the play for consideration, most likely during 1791 or 1792: “The work is well-written. It shows the author's spirit and depth of knowledge, but it's too serious, too scientific” (Théâtre du Palais-Royal); “Less display of knowledge, more ridicule...would be needed to stage Les Antiquaires. The author, who shows himself very learned, is bound to come round to this idea himself” (Théâtre de Bondi).
Though it seems that the version critiqued above was only an initial iteration and that Sade took into account these comments and corrected the faults in the surviving work, it would appear that the critiques arose from a failure to understand what makes this piece special.
For, despite a very traditional structure of an inter-generational conflict pitting an obtuse, obsessive, and naïve father against a quixotic and free-spirited youth, the play does not come down one way or the other in judgment and the older characters are not, in the end, fooled by the tricks and stratagems of the young couple, who themselves end up conceding their elders a certain amount of authority and respect for their knowledge.
As the play is heavily inspired by Molière, it is as a worthy heir of Diderot's that Sade presents this new battle between the Ancients and the Moderns, which is to say the antiquary versus the philosopher, as described by Jean Seznec in his Essais sur Diderot et l'Antiquité [Essays on Diderot and Antiquity].
D'Alembert, in his preliminary discourse in the Encyclopedia, takes a definite position on this issue: “That is why, being of unequal merit, a Scholar is far less useful than a Philosopher.” Diderot, more restrained, lists in the article on “erudition” the boons and limits of the two intellectual positions. It's clearly this heritage with which the young Sade claims communion, and his play shows “the paradoxes of this debate with an irresistible satirical virtuosity” (S. Dangeville). The author defines his position in the battle between the antiquaries and the philosophers through the figure of Delcourt: “Eh mais vraiment il me serait difficile de passer pour un [savant]. J'ai pu acquérir toutes les connaissances d'un homme de mon état, sans néanmoins avoir étudié les sciences que Monsieur votre Père et ses amis cultivent depuis si longtemps.” [“Ah, but really, it would be difficult to call myself a scholar. I've managed to pick up all the knowledge fit for a man of my station without ever having studied the sciences that your noble father and his friends have been cultivating so long.”]
The response of the maid, Cornaline, demonstrates on her part a conscious freedom when faced with the erudition that seems both to herald and outline the atypical philosophy and perversion of the values of the future author of the 120 Days of Sodom: “Fussiez-vous vous-même aussi profond qu'eux, je ne veux pas que vous le paraissiez; battez la campagne, faites des anachronismes, petit à petit on se méfiera de vous, on soupçonnera du mystère et de là même naitre et l'instant de vous dévoiler et la nécessité de ne plus feindre.” [“If you yourself were as profound as they, I would not have you seem it; daydreaming, stuck in anachronisms, one would soon start to mistrust you, suspecting you of some secret and thus a need to unmask yourself and no longer have to feign something you are not.”]
This analogy of excess to the point of disbelief, still limited in 1776 to the field of knowledge, could very well have been the basis for a philosophy that would develop during the apocalyptic upheavals, of a need to “unmask [ourselves] and no longer have to feign something [we] are not”.
This first literary exploit, whose importance Gilbert Lely played down, in actual fact shows an author who is far more experienced than he seems at first sight. Certainly, as Sylvie Dangeville points out, Les Antiquaires clearly belongs to the young Marquis' ‘apprenticeship' in writing for the theatre. She cites by way of example the very powerful influence of the Fourberies de Scapin, the Malade Imaginaire and the Femmes Savantes on the action of Les Antiquaires.
Nonetheless, let us not forget that Sade drew only very slightly on the dramatic structure of these plays, and much more heavily – to excess, once again! – on the comic potential of situations.
In presenting to the audience characters hidden in sacks and beaten, lovers springing up out of crates about to be burned and predatory women (“Un loup dans mon enfance se jeta sur moi et depuis lors j'entre quelque fois dans des accès de fureur; je crois que je vous dévorerais, Monsieur [A wolf attacked me in my youth and since then I occasionally have fits of fury; I think I will eat you up, Monsieur].”), Sade is already and entirely Sade.
Provenance: family archives.

30 000 €

Réf : 58602

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