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Estimate: $ 1,500 - $ 2,500
PAUL VERLAINE (1844-1896)
Mes Prisons. Paris: Léon Vanier, 1893. [iv], 81,  pp. 8vo, sewn pamphlet in printed wrappers bound into contemporary 3/4 morocco over marbled boards, by P. Hauttecoeur, gilt rules and title to spine; marbled endpapers, ribbon marker; light wear to spine ends and corners, moderate rubbing along joints; moderate toning to interior, slightly heavier near edges of margins, small binder's ticket to head of front wrapper, later exhibition or auction slip (of Galerie Georges Giroux) tipped to front endleaf, presentation inscription to Edmond Picard from Verlaine to front free endpaper.
First Edition. The inscription reads: "à Monsieur Edmond Picard/ hommage affectueux/ P. Verlaine." Mes Prisons is an account of the various prisons endured by the great poet, beginning with the school "dungeon" where he was sent as a child for an incorrect Latin conjugation through several incarcerations for disturbing the peace as an adult. Most of this book is concerned with his two-year sentence to Mons prison (of which he served 18 months) for the murder of Arthur Rimbaud, his lover, in Brussels, on July 12, 1873. Verlaine discusses the shooting and the trial, his life in prison afterwards and the various psychic prisons he has since occupied.
Picard (1836-1924) was Verlaine's lawyer in the Rimbaud affair and one of the poet's closest friends. Also a distinguished journalist, playwright and patron of the arts, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature five times. A lecture Verlaine delivered on his prison experiences in Picard's home was the basis of Mes Prisons. This lecture was arranged by Octave Maus, a Belgian art critic, writer and lawyer. His invitation to Verlaine asked for a presentation that would "have a little bearing on the law.... [I]t might be interesting to hear your account of your judicial dealings in Belgium.... My Prisons by Paul Verlaine-what an alluring title for a lecture" (cited in Richardson). This presentation was a notable event. According to Petitfils, it was attended by all of Belgium's most important writers. Richardson, Verlaine 303. Petitfils, Verlaine 398-403.