- Documents Stéphane Mallarmé, Nouvelle Série III
2003 was an exceptional year in the world of Mallarmé studies. It saw the publication of the much-awaited second (and final) volume of Bertrand Marchal's new Pléiade edition of the poet's complete works, containing his prose compositions. It also saw the appearance of the third volume in Gordon Millan's new series of Documents, containing what he terms Mallarmé's "Proses expérimentales," namely the Préface à Vathek, the prose poems, and Variations sur un sujet. In the five years between the publication of Marchal's two volumes, Millan's editorial work on Mallarmé's prose had more than filled the gap, and his series established itself as a reliable source of up-to-date and extremely detailed information. His stated aim: "de fournir aux spécialistes et aux chercheurs un outil de travail qui leur permettra de suivre jusque dans le moindre détail l'élaboration des textes mallarméens depuis le moment de leur conception jusqu'à l'état le plus évolué, en passant par tous les états intermédiaires, imprimés ou manuscrits, connus à l'heure actuelle" makes of this a genetic critic's dream come true, as the detail and diligence shown in tracing the various and varied states of Mallarmé's texts is admirable. Never have there been such excellent editions available to researcher and student alike.
The Préface à Vathek is a piece Mallarmé wrote to introduce an edition of William Beckford's Oriental tale. Millan follows the Perrin edition of 1893, giving variants as footnotes (as he does throughout this book). In addition, in the notes, he gives variants from an edition of the preface annotated by Mallarmé himself, and reproduces an "avertissement" written for the preface, complete with its manuscript variants, both documents kept in private collections. Millan quotes helpfully from the correspondence to show that negotiations on the piece began between Mallarmé and the publisher Adolphe Labitte in the summer of 1875. Millan follows in detail Mallarmé's plans for producing a "popular" edition of Vathek, and reproduces details of a "maquette" which he suggests is a draft for a new preface that Mallarmé sent to Perrin in 1891, although when the time came for the new edition in 1893, Mallarmé fell back on his 1876 preface in slightly shortened form.
The middle section comprises 13 prose poems grouped together by Mallarmé in Divagations, despite their very different origins and dates, under the title Anecdotes ou poèmes. Millan gives full details of where each poem has appeared before, and follows the text of Divagations (1897), giving variants as footnotes, and quoting from Mallarmé's correspondence where relevant. In places he defers to volume one of Marchal's Pléiade edition for the sake of thoroughness in his investigation of variants. After these poems Millan transcribes one page "[Fragment]" from a photocopy of a now-lost manuscript from the Bonniot collection. This is a puzzling addition to the prose poem section, as the piece clearly bears some relation to Mallarmé's metaphysical tale Igitur, and is probably best grouped with the Igitur drafts, or at least with the roughly contemporary "Notes sur le langage" (as it is in Marchal's volume one).
The Variations sur un sujet are a series of articles collected by Mallarmé under this [End Page 191] general title for the Revue Blanche between February and November 1895, with a further one appearing in September 1896. Millan has added to these some other texts that Mallarmé himself had grouped with the above in 1896 when preparing his volume Divagations. It is the text of this latter collection (1897) that is followed here. Millan's aim is for the reader to be able to follow the whole detailed development of these pieces, though at times this involves returning to earlier volumes in the series, for instance in the case of "Vers et musique en France" and "Crise de vers," which require us to return to both volumes I and II for comparison...