[Paris]: [September, 1898]. 4" x 5" approx. card, letterpress printed on recto, with black borders on both recto and verso, the latter otherwise blank. Mild wear at edges. Near fine. Item #22097
Stark and haunting card of mourning from the September 10th, 1898 funeral of Stephane Mallarmé. Mallarmé had died two days earlier after a gruesome coughing fit in front of his doctor and horrified family. A similar episode days before had so shaken the poet that he wrote the infamous letter found after his death instructing his family (some of the same family listed on this card) to destroy his archive (“Brûlez, par conséquent: il n’y a pas là d’héritage littéraire, mes pauvres enfants”).
His funeral was an intimate affair: "On a brilliantly hot Sunday afternoon, guests began to arrive. [They] made their way down into the small garden path where his coffin has been placed [...] in the shade of the chestnut tree which Genevieve [his daughter] had planted when she was a young girl. Famous writers and artists rubbed shoulders with local peasants [...] Once all the guests had assembled, the funeral cortege made its way first to the little church in the neighboring village [...] Then, after a simple ceremony, Mallarmé was buried next to his son Anatole in a little cemetary close by [...] Henri Roujon made an emotional speech [...] Paul Valery [...] was too upset to speak" (Millan, A THROW OF THE DICE: The Life of Stephane Mallarme, p. 318-19).
Given the small scale of the service, we cannot imagine many of these cards were printed, with even fewer surviving. Indeed, our research suggests it is unrecorded. Rare, important, and in many ways revealing: Mallarmé’s name is conspicuously (and appropriately) absent from the card, which lists, on five lines, only the family members he left behind (including his wife Marie, daughter Genevieve, and cousin and longtime family confidant Melanie Laurent). In this regard, a poignantly Mallarméan document that echoes his own influential poetics of elision, obscurity, and ambiguity — the very poetics that gave birth to Modernism.