Colette (Colette Willy), son oeuvre.

Paris, Éditions de La Nouvelle Revue Critique, 1923.

8vo, pp. 64; paper browned, chips to outer margins of half-title and title with neat repairs; contemporary red half morocco with marbled sides, spine lettered directly in gilt; the original printed wrappers bound in; annotations in Willy’s hand to 17 pp. in ink, with underlining and marginal marks to a further 11 pp.; pencil ownership inscription Pierre Varenne (‘Annotations manuscrites de Willy – P.V.’) to front free endpaper; small postcard (c. 130 x 85 mm) from Willy to Varenne loosely inserted, dated 1928, upper left corner trimmed.


US $1132€1049

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First edition of this critical work on Colette (1873–1954), the French pioneer of autobiographical fiction best known for her Claudine novels, annotated by her ex-husband, Willy.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette and the author, publisher, and music critic Willy (i.e. Henri Gauthier-Villars, 1859–1931) married in 1893.

Though Willy played a pivotal role in introducing the twenty-year-old Colette to the likes of Proust, Gide, Debussy, and Ravel in Paris, their marriage was short-lived and highly turbulent: Willy is thought to have locked Colette in her room to speed the production of her celebrated Claudine series between 1900 and 1903, initially publishing them under his own name and retaining the royalties; the couple separated in 1906 and divorced in 1910.

Willy’s annotations begin on the half-title (‘Réfuter les mensonges…’) and continue with frequent comments in the margins, underlinings, and markings in the text, writing ‘faux’ beside a passage describing Colette’s childhood and describing the authors as ‘ces 2 idiotes’ (p. 13) and ‘quels daims!’ (p. 18) for criticising the writing of the Claudine quartet, further noting that the writer Rachilde rated Claudine en ménage as ‘le mieux écrit de la série’.

Provenance: With the ownership inscription of Willy’s friend, secretary, and collaborator Pierre Varenne (i.e. Pierre Georges Battendier). Loosely inserted is a manuscript postcard from Willy, with his photograph, to Varenne; dated 1928, Willy begins ‘Cher Pierrot…’ and signs ‘Truly yours, Willy’; Varenne has underlined mention of his own name on p. 33.

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