Droll Tales 18

Mervyn Peake’s publishers entitle the 8th Tale of the second Decade of Balsac’s collection of comic stories”The Sermon of the Merry Incumbent of Meudon”. Those of Gustave Doré favour “……the Merry Vicar…..”, while those of Jean de Bosschère “…..old Vicar…..”

Given that Balzac puts this tale in the mouth of his forerunner François Rabelais whom he introduces with an elegantly poetic description of his age (“The worthy man had then as near as may be counted seventy hatchings of the swallows….”, perhaps Covici Friede of New York have chosen the most accurate heading.

Balzac has the French Renaissance satirist recount a story in which the protagonists are various varieties of rodent lusting after a beautiful shrew, good food, and wine.

Peake depicts the heroine atop a mound of grain with rats and mice attempting to eat their way to her.

Doré features mice and men;

whereas de Bosschère favours human flesh.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/except that the second Decade is published by New York’s Covici, Friede in 1929. It is America’s first edition thus and is a limited copy. The illustrations are not protected by tissue but the book’s condition is good and covered by a cellophane wrapper. 


    1. I think this is variable, Merril. Doré has a much wider canvas than the others; Peake captures the essence with simple lines; de Bosschère has elegance but imposes his own stamp. Thanks very much for making me think about it.

  1. That mouse illustration is oddly disquieting, perhaps as it conveys predatory hunger in a variety of ways. What a talent to be able to convey that with pen and paint.

    1. Indeed, Sherry. But not bad for 150 years old in the case of Doré. Thanks very much.

  2. Oh, gosh! and Ew! on the swarmy pack of rodenty mischief murine! 😉 HA! A group of rodents can be called a mischief.
    (((HUGS))) 🙂
    “Two mice are eating a movie film roll at a cinema when one says to the other: this movie is good, but the book was better!”

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