Beloeil [Auguste Poulet-Malassis: 1867]. 75pp.
A collection of witty and scandalous anonymous verse by the seventh Prince de Ligne, a soldier-diplomat, belle-lettrist, and notorious seducer. His subjects range from sharp reminiscences of court and military life to a lament on the difficulty of rhyming the French for “buggerer”. Despite his history of fathering numerous illegitimate children, the Prince exalts male companionship and sexuality: for example, the first poem is an ode to the virtues of masturbation, while the second is an assault on an old colonel who prevented the Prince from going on break with his young fellow officers, and the fourth is an epitaph for someone “whose ass suffered diseases that his cock escaped” and who “prayed at the brothel but got a hard-on in church.” A brief note by the Prince introduces each poem, and occasional editorial footnotes are scattered throughout. His poems are followed by a supplement from the filthy 1728 satire Histoire du prince Apprius by Pierre-François Godard de Beauchamp; an editor’s note informs us that it was read in secret by the Prince de Ligne in his adolescence. The satire’s original preface has been transposed to the end by the editor, providing this publication’s title, which, given the contents, might be better translated as Ass-backwards.
This book was published in 1867 by Poulet-Malassis, a friend of Baudelaire, from one of two then-surviving exemplars of the final volume of the Prince’s light verse, privately printed ca. 1782. An interesting editorial foreword justifies its publication “for the sake of bibliophiles and learned men” while excusing the scandalous content as the kind of youthful vices “to which the entire history of polite society attests.” The colophon notes the original book was printed “without title, author, place, or date”, but in this re-edition, the still-anonymous author’s identity is only thinly disguised: Beloeil, the given place of publication, is the ancient manor of the House of Ligne. Published in an edition of 70, of which this is one of 16 on Hollande with wide margins. An exceptionally rare survival: only one institutional copy appears on WorldCat, held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. (Thanks to Connor Wood for the description).
Réf. Vercruysse 213. - Launay, "Impressions, publications, écrits d'Auguste Poulet
Malassis", Bulletin du bibliophile, 1982, II, pp. 185-208 (cit. p. 190, n° 330). - BGL III:1094
-1095. - Pia 1224. - Pas dans Drujon. - Prov. Comte Sosthène de la Rochefoucauld (note
dactylogr.). - Baron de Spandl (vente Simonson, Brux., 8-04-1978, n° 6. Very good in 3/4 morocco boards, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, half-title has a corner missing, light wear to edges. Laid in is a 1 p. typed note indicating the book was purchased in 1951 from the Comte Sosthene de la Rochefoucauld.