Les Fêtes roulantes, by CAYLUS, Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières de Grimoire…

Bacchus as a blank... a chapter comprising punctuation
CAYLUS, Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières de Grimoire de Pestel de Levis, comte de (1695-1765).

Les Fêtes roulantes, et les regrets des petites rues. 1741

First Edition. 12mo (175 x 90 mm), pp. 78, text browned and stained throughout, the title-page and final leaf pasted at gutter to the endpapers, in old but not contemporary leather backed boards with marbled endpapers: not an attractive copy.

A rather disappointing copy of one of the scarcest of the eleven known oeuvres badines to come out of the ‘Société du Bout-du-Banc’, the literary dining society of the actress Mademoiselle Quinault. Set up in 1741, the society counted among its members Madame de Graffigny, Moncrif, Duclos, Crébillon fils, Madame du Châtelet, Marivaux, Maurepas and Voisenon. Towering above them all and dominating the society’s legendary dinners and organic compositions was the multi-talented figure of ‘Blaise’, or the Comte de Caylus. The most well-known of the group’s publications are Les Etrennes de la Saint-Jean, Les Ecosseuses ou les Œufs de Pâques (often published together) and Recueil de ces Messieurs but they were also responsible for the collaborative authorship of Le Loup Galleux, Histoire de Guilleaume, Quelques aventures curieuses et galantes des bals de bois, Cinq contes de fées, Les Manteaux, Mémoires de l’Académie des colporteurs and (probably) Le Pot-pouri. Each of the works was published separately and anonymously between 1738 and 1748, with a fictitious or, as here, non-existent imprint. Much later, they were assembled into a collection and published under Caylus’ name as Oeuvres badines, 1787, with a few minor alterations.
Les Fêtes roulantes was inspired by the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin and Maria Josepha of Saxony on 9th February 1747 and by the celebrations that were put on throughout the capital. The first chapter, ‘Le Char de la Gloire’, compares the festivities with those of the Dauphin’s first marriage, in February 1745, to the Infanta Maria Teresa who had died in July 1746 after giving birth to their only child. Caylus manages to include a deft bit of self-promotion in the ‘one little oversight’ of the organisers of that first wedding, for not having commissioned some author to record these earlier festivities, which would have saved everyone seeing ‘some miserable authors celebrating the subject with works such as Les Bals de Bois’ - Caylus’ own work, of course, the title a play on words referring to the ‘Bal des Ifs’ (Ball of the Yew Trees) the extravagant Versailles party held during the celebrations, where the King and his friends were disguised as trimmed yew trees.
The title of the present work, ‘the rolling parties’, refers to the massive carnival floats that paraded the streets of Paris during the celebrations for the dauphin’s second marriage. Following a brief introduction, the work is divided into six sections or chapters, five ‘chariots’ and one short story, ‘Histoire de la Princesse Lacune’ (pp. 50-58). The five ‘chars de parade’ are ‘Char de la Gloire’, ‘le Char de l’Hymen’, ‘le Vaisseau de la Ville’, ‘le Char de Cerès’, ‘le Char de Bacchus’ and ‘Sixiéme Char Qui n’a pas paru; Par un Auteur qui ne paroître jamais’. The work concludes with three songs and a table of contents.
Particularly interesting is the chapter related to Bacchus’s chariot, which is represented in its entirety by punctuation and covers ten pages: eight full pages of punctuation (but for page numbers), and two part-pages. A note at the end of the chapter explains that one of their authors, charged with the description of the Bacchus float, thought he could get rid of it by sending a blank (‘a cru s'en debarasser en hous envoyant une lacune’). Angry that one of their number should take mistake a blank for nothing - ‘qui croit qu’une lacune n’est rien’ - this becomes the cue for the inclusion of the ‘Histoire de la Princesse Lacune’ (pp. 50-58).

OCLC lists BL, Bodleian, Swedish Royal Library, Mannheim, Newberry and Wisconsin.

Cioranescu 16264; Jones p. 94.

Keywords: Continental Books
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