Droll Tales 8

“Brother-in-Arms” was not provided with an illustration by Mervyn Peake in my Folio Society Edition.

The slightly altered translations in my other two editions are given alongside the names or the respective artists.

This work describes the story of two inseparable knighthood friends who are parted when one goes off to war and the other is left as protector of the former’s wife. In the author’s lively language we are introduced to the enticing temptations resulting from this and to the guardian’s strenuous sacrificial efforts to resist.

These are the illustrations of Gustave Doré (The Brother-in-Arms);

and these of Jean de Bosschère (The Brothers in Arms).

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

Droll Tales 7

“The Maid of Thilhouse”, as entitled by the first two publishers featured below, becomes “The Virgin of Thilhouse” to the third.

This is the story a far older wealthy man who sought to purchase a sixteen year old bride with bribery and property; this rather backfired on him. A short piece nevertheless packed with witty prose.

Here is Mervyn Peake’s illustration.

These are those of Gustave Doré;

and this one by Jean de Bosschère.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

Droll Tales 6

The sixth tale in the first Decade of Honoré de Balzac’s scurrilous set is, in The Folio Society’s edition illustrated by

Mervyn Peake, entitled The Constable of France’s Wife.

In the author’s witty, humorous, robust prose packed with wordplay and innuendo, we have a story of seduction, deceit, and mistaken identity, which somewhat backfires on the perpetrators.

The High Constable’s Wife is the title translation given by the publishers of Gustave Doré’s earlier pictures;

and of those from Jean de Bosschère.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

Droll Tales 5

The fifth tale in the first Decade of these stories by Honoré de Balzac is entitled variously as respectively accompanying each of the featured illustrators.

In profusely romping prose presented with humorous wit, similes and metaphors galore the author makes us privy to a right royal extended poo joke of a king known for his loose, licentious, living and propensity for practical pranks.

Mervyn Peake. The Diversions of King Louis XI.

Gustave Doré. The Merrie Jests of King Louis the Eleventh.

Jean de Bosschère. The Merrie Diversions of King Louis the Eleventh.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

Droll Tales 4 Old Nick’s Heir

The fourth story in Balzac’s first Decade of his Droll Tales is a classic one of wit deciding which of three potential legatees would inherit a wealthy sum.

The clerical protagonist has earned his money in sinful ways disguised as innocent activities with plentiful double entendre and metaphor.

There is no illustration in The Folio Society Edition featured with the title as Old Nick’s Heir.

The Devil’s Heir is the title chosen by the publisher of

Doré’s pictures;

The Devil’s Lodging is the choice of the publisher of

those of Jean de Bosschère.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

Droll Tales 3

The wind and the rain returned for the best part of the day which I spent on more reading of Balzac.

The third story of the second Decade of his Droll Tales, with the slightly varying titles shown beside the relevant name of the illustrators shown below, is a short tale of a marriage arranged for money; how the beautiful daughter turned it to her advantage; and the ultimate outcome. Further details of the publications are given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/

King’s Darling. Mervyn Peake;

The King’s Sweetheart. Gustave Doré;

The King’s Mistress. Jean de Bosschère.

This evening we dined on roast lamb; roast pork with crisp crackling; roast parsnips and potatoes, including softer sweet ones; firm broccoli and crunchy carrots, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

Droll Tales 2

Wild, wet, and windy weather persisted, producing dispiriting gloom throughout the day.

I therefore continued the sequence begun with https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/ wherein more details of the three publications featured here is given.

The second of the first Decade of stories is entitled “Venial Sin” by the Folio Society, and “The Venial Sin” by the other two. It deals with the nature of degrees of sin as believed by the Catholic Church, which was the dominant religion of the times. The determiner therefore becomes quite significant if we are considering the importance of a particular Venial Sin or the general nature of such an offence. Venial signifies a crime of a lesser nature and therefore not condemning the offender to the loss of divine grace and an eternity in Hell.

Fornication and adultery were definitely seen as Mortal Sins. Especially when they were themselves guilty the clergy in particular went to great lengths in apologetics to find a way of permitting such misdeeds as venial and therefore excusable after the service of a suitable penance. Not knowing what was happening, or occurring by accident were helpful vindications.

In 1968 The Dubliners dealt with the predicament in which this Balzac story’s young lady found herself. I couldn’t find an available video of that version of the 19th century ballad that Jackie remembers singing in the Girl Guides, although she professes not to have understood it at the time.

Balzac describes the genuine love between his protagonists and accompanying wishes each to please the other considering their differing needs with fluid prose and vivid descriptions of people, country, and location. A certain amount of subterfuge was inevitably employed. I will not go into the detail save to say that a debatable resolution is sought over a period of years.

This is Mervyn Peake’s of 1961

followed by Gustave Doré’s of 1874

and the more risqué offerings of Jean de Bosschère from 1926.

This evening we all dined on three prawn preparations – spicy, tempura, and breaded – on a bed of Jackie’s tasty egg fried rice topped by a thick omelette; with Becky’s tuna pasta salad. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden, our daughter drank Diet Pepsi, and I started another bottle of the Côtes du Rhône.

Droll Tales 1

Taking control of my computer screen from Thailand this morning, James Peacock worked on some of the problems that have arisen from my new site. He resolved some issues and made notes to work on about others. I celebrated with this post in which, for example, readers should be able to enlarge images.

The second of her books that Elizabeth gave me as part of her library culling was

This 1961 edition, bound in stout boards seemingly representing a clasp preserving the contents, carries an offer of free books for introductions.

The work is divided into three Decades, each of ten stories, which I will take separately, for reasons which will become apparent.

Since Balzac, in order to convey a marvellous picture of French life and manners in the sixteenth century, decided to write in the country’s ancient language, he has presented the translator wishing to render the stories into modern English. Imagine translating Shakespeare or even Chaucer into modern French.

I have chosen to return to my two other versions of these “Contes Drolatiques”, and present the work of other artists in company with Mervyn Peake’s quirky illustrations.

“She filled with Greek wine one of the goblets and offered it to her love”

The first story, given as “Beautiful Imperia” by Alec Brown, and as “The Fair Imperia” by each of the other translators, is a typically scurrilous tale involving competition from various members of the wayward religious hierarchy for access to the delights of a superior bawdy wench. The writer’s exuberant and unrestrained descriptive prose carries us along at a fair rate. As is my wont, I will not attempt to rival Balzac in spoiling detail.

My earliest version of the tales is dated 1874, just 37 years after first publication by Gosselin of Paris, and the first in English. At some point the volume has been skilfully rebound, but the pages are clear and undamaged.

The book is lavishly illustrated by the renowned Gustav Doré. When enlarged, these pages will give examples of the prose, although the translator is not credited.

According to the flyleaf my next version of the first Decade once belonged to Gwyneth Ressich of Manila. It is No. 2,335 of a limited edition of 3,000 copies. Alongside the title page and frontispiece above is the embossed design by the artist pictured on the front board.

The Belgian-born Jean de Bosschère (1878-1953) was heavily influenced by Aubrey Beardsley. His full page illustrations are protected by tipped-in tissue.

This evening we all dined on succulent roast lamb; crisp Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and parsnips; firm Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and carrots; and meaty gravy, with which I drank more of the Côtes du Rhône.

A Temptation

Much of my day was devoted to this post on ‘The First Temptation of Saint Anthony’. I flagged up this book by Gustave Flaubert which I finished reading yesterday as today’s subject.

I am indebted to https://st-anthony-the-great.org.uk/st-anthony-the-great/

from which, in order to set the scene for this work I have gleaned the following extracts:

‘St. Anthony the Great or Antony the Great  was a Christian saint from Egypt’ whose biography was written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

He was ‘the first known ascetic going into the wilderness (about A.D. 270–271), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown. Accounts of Anthony enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Libyan Desert inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature.’

‘Anthony was born in Coma (or Koma) near Herakleopolis Magna in Lower Egypt in 251 to wealthy landowner parents. When he was about 18 years old, his parents died and left him with the care of his unmarried sister. Shortly thereafter, he decided to follow the words of Jesus, who had said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me.”,[Mt 19:21] which is part of the Evangelical counsels. Taking these words quite literally, Anthony gave away some of the family estate to his neighbors, sold the remaining property, donated the funds thus raised to the poor, placed his sister with a group of Christian virgins, a sort of proto-monastery of nuns, and himself became the disciple of a local hermit.’  ‘Saint Anthony decided to follow [the hermitic] tradition and headed out into the alkaline Nitrian Desert region. Here he remained for some 13 years.’

‘There are various legends associating him with pigs: one is that for a time he worked as a swineherd.’

‘According to Athanasius, the devil fought St. Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women, which he overcame by the power of prayer, providing a theme for Christian art. After that, he moved to a tomb, where he resided and closed the door on himself, depending on some local villagers who brought him food. When the devil perceived his ascetic life and his intense worship, he was envious and beat him mercilessly, leaving him unconscious. When his friends from the local village came to visit him and found him in this condition, they carried him to a church.’

‘After he recovered, he made a second effort and went back into the desert. There he lived strictly enclosed in an old abandoned Roman fort for some twenty years……  The devil again resumed his war against Saint Anthony, only this time the phantoms were in the form of wild beasts, wolves, lions, snakes and scorpions. They appeared as if they were about to attack him or cut him into pieces.’

There is more detailed information on the quoted website.

My copy of the John Lane The Bodley Head edition of 1924, limited to 3,000, is number 1,433. It was given to me 1n 1976 as a farewell present from a Social Work student on completion of her placement.

Unusually, I will begin by complimenting the translator René Francis on his exemplary rendition of the flowing, descriptive, prose which, although I have not read the original, I recognise as the hallmark of the great French novelist whose ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘L’Education Sentimentale’ I have read in his own tongue.

The title ‘The First……..’ indicated that this is the author’s initial, and considered most successful, version of his dramatic tale. This is explained in E. B. Osborn’s lengthy and scholarly introduction. The manuscript was completed in 1848. Flaubert suppressed a number of fragments when the work was first published in 1856. He struggled with conflicts about it until a second version, from which, the life itself is acknowledged to have been expunged. The Bodley Head publication follows the early manuscript and, along with useful notes, includes appendices of the eliminated sections.

It is most likely that Flaubert is using the story of the ascetic saint as a vehicle for his own conflicts. The luscious, stylised, illustrations of Jean de Bosschere indicate a rather more explicit imagination than that which the writer has allowed himself.

At regular intervals throughout the volume we have colour plates protected by clear tissue;

other full page images are produced in black and white,

as are the smaller ones embellishing the text. As usual I have reproduced these whole pages.

This evening we dined on lean ham baked in a nest of bright orange butternut squash and a trio of differently coloured baby carrots; roasted potatoes in onions; piquant cauliflower cheese; and tender runner beans, with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Carinena El Zimbado Garnacha Syrah 2017.