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Barrès, Maurice
Un homme libre,



Maurice Barrès, Un Homme libre, 1889.

Rare first edition of this “beautiful novel, this masterpiece of irony” (P. Bourget)
of which no large papers were printed.

It is enhanced with an autographed dedication by the author “To Master Edmond de Goncourt…”
and with an autographed letter signed by Barrès.

From the collections of Edmond de Goncourt and Lucien Graux, with ex-libris.


Barrès, Maurice. Un homme libre.
Paris, Perrin et Cie, 1889.

12mo [184 x 120 mm] of (2) ll., 297 pp., (1) l.

Glazed red calico à la bradel, lettering piece in red morocco, yellow covers preserved, untrimmed. Contemporary binding by Pierson, official binder of the frères Goncourt.

Rare first edition of this “beautiful novel, this masterpiece of irony” (P. Bourget) by Maurice Barrès, of which no large papers were printed.

It is enriched with an autographed dedication signed by the author “Au Maître Edmond de Goncourt, Respectueux hommage Maurice Barrès”.

Grangerized copy containing an autographed letter signed by Barrès and dated October 8th [1889] mounted on a guard. The letter is addressed to the countess de Loynes, who held a prestigious literary salon.

Barrès informs her of his election as an MP of Nancy. He thanks Jules Lemaitre, the countess’ lover, for his article in “Un Homme libre”.

Archetype of the socialite of the Second Empire, the countess de Loynes first had as a protector Marc Fournier, the manager of the théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin. She later frequented the prince Jérôme Napoléon, the Emperor’s cousin, who set her up near the Champs-Élysées. She held one of the most sought-after literary salons in Paris. Here gathered Renan, Sainte-Beuve, Théophile Gautier ; and later Clémenceau, Alexandre Dumas fils, Daudet, Barrès, Paul Bourget, Marcel Proust and Georges Bizet. Gustave Flaubert fell hopelessly in love with her.

In “Un homme libre”, the hero, wanting to see the world without losing himself, decides to leave Paris with his friend Simon and to go to Jersey. He understands that, in order for him to really be himself, he needs to live in an exceptional manner and experience intense emotions. His contacts with nature, the solitude of his austere retreats and his meditations on the spiritual exercises of saint Ignace de Loyola make him feel the universe’s pulse. The hero, who keeps a journal, always expresses himself in the first person. This novel often sounds like a confession.

“Here, the author reveals himself a fine psychologist and defends a somewhat paradoxical form of individualism, in search of new or rare sensations ; he begins his war on skeptical dilettantism which will oppose him to Anatole France. Barrès is looking for faith : he finds more of an attitude and his hero’s return to reality corresponds with the launching of Barrès’ political career ; in 1888 he had, in fact, already professed his allegiance to the general Boulanger, but it’s the year Un Homme libre was published that he was elected to Parliament for the first time” (Dictionnaire des Œuvres).

“What is so appealing in Barrès, is his complexity, his depth: he simultaneously juggles literary preoccupations and political servitudes, wants to plant roots but also dreams of elsewhere, of a poetical Orient, is metaphysically desperate but also very supportive of Catholicism, is a French nationalist greatly influenced by Germany, and aspires to a classical order while being intensely loyal to his romantic masters. His most vigorous trait is probably his dull clairvoyance, which he tried to transform into action, into energy, almost in the form of a cult. It is something that links him to Stendhal but also makes him the father figure of the writers of heroism, asceticism and death, like Montherlant, Drieu La Rochelle and Malraux” (Michel Mourre).

Precious untrimmed copy, preserved in its contemporary binding by Pierson, official binder of the frères Goncourt.

Provenance: Collection of Edmond de Goncourt (catalogue 1897, n°140) and Lucien Graux (catalogue I, 1956, n°24), with ex-libris.



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