Lot 4006: ALS in French, signed "Dumas," six pages, 8.25 x 10.5, no date but circa 1861–1864. A 'letter to the editor' intended for publication in La Lombardia, a newspaper that had printed anonymous accusations of plagiarism against Dumas inspired by the critic Francesco de Sanctis. The first page is headed "La Correspondance de La Lombardia," and introduces the forthcoming letter, with Dumas first describing on his own newspaper, L'Independant, as "an unusual newspaper that takes more pleasure in printing articles that attack it rather than those that praise it." He continues, in part (translated): "But since our literary and political life is a matter of public record, we defy calumnies and have no fear of gossip and accusations. Here is the piece I promised you:
Would you have believed, dear readers, that there was so much rancor in ex Minister of Public Instruction Mr. de Sanctis's heart that he can't forgive us for having pointed out one of his mistakes. Had we known the subject would cause him so much pain, we wouldn't have mentioned it at all. Mr. de Sanctis is one of those honest critics who writes articles about people nobody's interested in and who, instead of producing, dissects, pen in hand, the works of creators. His business harms nobody, not even those he dissects—unaware that they were the subject of an anatomical article.
But what a spectacle here! Mr. De Sanctis doesn't bother to defend himself but gets a friend to do it. We invite Mr. De Sanctis to read La Fontaine's fable Les amis maladroits [The Clumsy Friends]. De Sanctis' friend is anonymous of course. And the friend discovers that it's not me (everybody knows and talks about that)—it's not me—but Mr. Pierangelo Fiorentino who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo.
What do you say to that—that's some piece of news, isn't it! There's a man who wrote Montecristo, a novel read around the world in every country and published in a million copies in all formats. And that man was so kind-hearted as to give away or sell the novel to another man without ever claiming either honors or profits—and to keep that sale secret the way the priests of San Gennaro keep the secret of the liquefaction of the blood [as described in Dumas's 1864 novel La San-Felice].
Yes, my dear correspondent of La Lombardia—It's more than calumny. It's absurdity—And whom do you choose…a compatriot…to whom do you attribute this disgraceful deal—a countryman—whom are you accusing of villainy, an infamy without precedent in the History of Literature—a compatriot—Pierangelo Fiorentino.
Yes Sir, I attack the Neapolitans or rather Naples every day. But God forbid my throwing garbage like that in the face of its dirtiest no good bum.
And he is the only man of talent you have, the only one who stands for Southern European intelligence in Paris. He's a man who rivaled our greatest stylists, Janin, Theophile Gautier, Saint-Victor as a master of the French language. That's the man you accuse of having sold his pen in 1845—Montecristo dates from then—more than his pen—his genius—sold to another man for a few hundred ecus—for three or four 1,000 franc notes—for a wretched sum. In 1845 that man earned 15,000 or 20,000 francs.
And on the other hand, who was the author who bought Montecristo from a man—who had never written—who wasn't writing—who will never write a Novel because his talents don't lie in that area—an author who at that time had already written five or six hundred volumes, who's written 5 or 600 others since then. An author who has written 60 Dramas—Les Mousquetaires [The Three Musketeers], Vingt ans apres [Twenty Years After], Harmental [The Conspirators], La Reine de Margot [Queen Margot], La Dame de Monsoreau [Chicot the Jester], Les Quarante cinq [The Forty-Five Guardsmen], Le Chevalier de Bragelonne [The Vicomte of Bragelonne], La Guerre des Femmes [The Women's War], Henry III, Antony, Angele, Christine, Catherine Howard—In truth, Mr. Correspondent, Sir, you have made a bad choice as to the seller and an even worse one as to the buyer.
And that buyer, not the author of Montecristo, is supposed to have written 1,000 or 1,100 works apart from Montecristo.
Accordingly, the seller, by chance, is supposed to have written a novel, one single novel—and he's supposed to have sold it—and the novel earned the buyer 200,000 to 300,000 francs—and the seller allegedly said nothing…took no legal action—never claimed his share—he's supposed to have remained the purchaser's friend and continued to praise him in reviews. Finally, allegedly, he was satisfied to have written only one single novel in his life, the one he sold.
Well then, Mr. Correspondent of La Lombardia, it's very simple. Mr. Fiorentino exists. Mr. Fiorentino is a writer, a good writer…Fortunately for him, he didn't seize his pen from the man who provides pens for De Sanctis. Fiorentino's pen is from the Eagle that soars above Literature in Paris. Fiorentino is your compatriot.
Write to him. 'Mr. Fiorentino in Paris.' He'll get the letter. Don't worry about that. Enjoin him upon his honor to tell you the truth. And if Mr. Fiorentino tells you anything else. Anything other than: 'I became acquainted with Montecristo like the rest of Paris, when it appeared in Le Journal des Debats. Before its appearance I wasn't familiar with a word.'
Hit me with the reply, Mr. Correspondent, and I won't defend myself. I'm not in the habit of that. People know that."
In fine condition, with a small area of paper loss on first page affecting nothing. Throughout this letter Dumas refers to himself as the supposed 'buyer,' versus the so-called author and 'seller' of the manuscript, Pier Angelo Fiorentino. The rumors of spurious authorship were fueled by journalist Eugene de Mirecourt's assertion in 1845 that Dumas ran a 'fiction factory,' as it would be impossible for a single man to write so much; Dumas sued Mirecourt for libel and won. It was true, however, that Dumas relied on collaborators to enable his prolific output and Fiorentino was one of these writers. A wonderful, impassioned letter by Dumas written in defense of his most famous work.
RR Auction's Mario Puzo Archive And Literary Rarities Auction 470
Thursday, 18th February 2016
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