Lot 382: Dutch-born dancer (1876–1917), née Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, whose renown as a performer was permanently overshadowed by her activities as an Axis spy during World War I, which led to her execution by firing squad at the age of 41. Very rare war-dated ALS in French, signed vertically "Marguerite Zelle MacLeod," eight pages on two sets of adjoining sheets, 5.5 x 7, Grand Hotel, Paris letterhead, August 20, . Letter to "Monsieur Pettipied" telling him about her life, her friends, and Paris. In full (translated): "Here I am already almost two months on a trip and it is May I have not yet given you any news. It was a little your fault, because one day, that I had come to the consulate for these inevitable papers, you had greeted me a little abruptly. Maybe were you annoyed, or a little bothered, be it I thought, that it would be wiser of me not to come disturb you unnecessarily and here is the reason for which I left without telling you goodbye. Good enough if I misjudged and if you wish, I will always be happy to write you from time to time.
Here I am in Paris and as you can see staying at the Gd Hotel it is not what there is best but it is centralized and I have too many fittings to do to be living further away. I have the great pleasure up to now to have my friends alive, even so they are at the front since the first day of war and on front lines. When they are on leave I am all I can be for them, as a woman, and when they are not, I am the 'pen friend.' At first I was making fun of 'pen friends' because some are ridiculous, but deep down there is something of very kind, of very French; and there, I became one also, we care for them with these thirty thousand things that an officer needs and that he cannot procure for himself and then letters, letters with words of love such I would never dare tell them and I know that during long nights I am in their mind, as they are in mine.
And, you never can guess who often take the place of their thoughts? My great Marguerite's friend who has always remained my confidant for a long time, the one that I forget each time the one that I am always happy to see again. I had dinner again with him last night, but very briefly, because he had night duty at the Ministry.
The atmosphere in Paris is always Parisian, there is the unexpected and they have the smile, not knowing why. One feel as being graceful amiable, because they are toward us. I am seriously thinking of coming back to live here, but I dare not speak about it to the Baron v d C. [Cappellen] I know that I would cause him grief so I wait."
In fine condition, with a small red pencil notation to first page as well as a small spot of soiling. Provenance: Bonhams, 2011.
Living as a kept woman under the care of the wealthy Colonel Baron Van Der Capellen of the Dutch Army at the start of World War I, Mata Hari grew restless with her relatively quiet life in The Hague and pined for the attention of her recently declined career. Traveling freely as a citizen of the neutral Netherlands, she resumed many of the intimate relationships she had built during her heyday as a courtesan, connecting with high-ranking military officers and politicians throughout Europe. She made her temporary home at the luxurious Grand Hotel in Paris, earning a generous living—up to a thousand francs a night—caring for her 'friends' on and off the battlefield. An incredibly scarce war-dated letter, written in the midst of the international liaisons that would result in the espionage charges that led to her execution the following year.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 453
Sunday, 17th May 2015
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