Flaubert admired Balzac. He undertook in 1851 a great romantic and psychological novel. The tragic theme will shock the bourgeoisie of the Second Empire: the expectation for worldly life of a young provincial woman gradually and inevitably leads to her suicide. After five years of work, Madame Bovary appears as a feuilleton (series) in La Revue de Paris from October to December 1856.
The censors do not like it, and a lawsuit is filed in February 1857 for "outrage à la morale publique et religieuse et aux bonnes moeurs" (insulting public and religious morals and lifestyle), an accusation that a contrario demonstrates the literary innovation of the young writer.
Flaubert and La Revue de Paris are acquitted and the first edition of the book is published in two tomes (parts) in 1857. Some deluxe copies are printed on strong vellum. One of them, probably the most precious of all, is estimated € 400K for sale by Pierre Bergé et Associés in collaboration with Sotheby's France in Paris (Drouot) on December 11, lot 84.
This copy was inscribed by Flaubert to Victor Hugo who is only referred as le Maître. Flaubert admires Hugo's literary breath while admitting that he also has weaknesses. Hugo is in Guernsey from where he throws a critical eye on the regime of Napoléon III, and he is thus a symbol of hope for the revival of French literature.
The book was bound in a single volume by Chambolle-Duru, certainly on commission by Victor Hugo. It now contains also two manuscripts added by a later owner: a letter by Flaubert to Schlesinger just after his acquittal where the writer expresses his disgust at the unwanted scandal that he had caused, and four autograph pages for Madame Bovary characterized by a high density of erasures, additions and remorses typical of his complex process of creativity.
SOLD for € 368K before fees