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  • Petites œuvres meslées suivies de Recueil de vers de Monsieur d'Ayre
  • Gilles Banderier
Agrippa d'Aubigné . Petites œuvres meslées suivies de Recueil de vers de Monsieur d'Ayre. Vol. 1, Œuvres complètes. Textes de la Renaissance 79. Ed. Véronique Ferrer. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2004. 622 pp. index. illus. gloss. bibl. €63. ISBN: 2-7453-0988-9.

A second edition of Agrippa d'Aubigné's complete works is in progress. The former was printed from 1873 to 1892 under the supervision of two estimable scholars, Eugène Réaume and François de Caussade. They — or their publisher — entitled the six-volume set Œuvres complètes and this adjective was, if not merely a lie, at least a sizeable misrepresentation of truth. This edition contained indeed texts whose attribution to d'Aubigné has been since indignantly rejected (for instance, the Création, a clumsy imitation of Du Bartas's Sepmaine, or the Divorce satyrique), but also failed to include well-known works, like the immense Histoire Universelle. Moreover, since the completion of the Réaume and Caussade edition, a harvest of hitherto unknown or forgotten texts has been brought to light. D'Aubigné's historical chronicle will also be missing in the new series of Œuvres complètes, printed by Champion, partly because an excellent (and recent) critical edition already exists (Geneva, Droz, 1981–2000), partly because — according to our modern standards — it is too huge a book to be printed twice in a quarter of a century. So the reader will unfortunately have to wait for a third collection of "complete works" to finally find on his shelves d'Aubigné's complete works.

It is of course rather early to pass fair critical judgment on the whole collection to come, but one thing is already sure: it will not be a chronological edition. As the late Marie Stuart may have said, "in my beginning is my end," for the first volume of the new complete works is devoted to d'Aubigné's last collection of prose and poetry, printed if not posthumously, at least a few months or weeks only before his death. The Petites Œuvres meslées are in many respects his swan song and may be regarded as summing up his poetical or theological obsessions. Véronique Ferrer's [End Page 620] edition comes from a thèse de doctorat defended in January 1999. We do not receive in the introductory pages any explanation as to why its publication was delayed during half a decade, in a time when the requirements of scientific or scholarly communication call for results to be quickly made public. Horace's "nonumque prematur in annum" is always a wise piece of advice; nevertheless, Ferrer has obviously not taken advantage of these five years of delay to improve her edition: the bibliography was not updated (except for Ferrer's own publications), the presentation of footnotes is sometimes tediously repetitive, and the editor seems to ignore even the rudiments of physical bibliography, in so far as she mistook title page for flyleaf (16). With or without the help of collating machines, she has not compared the few remaining copies of these Petites Œuvres meslées (the copy of the Public Library of Besançon, shelfmark 206.065, must be added to her list), in spite of the fact that this comparison may have provided valuable elements of analysis, for the book was printed, if not directly under d'Aubigné's eyes, at least under the control of his heirs, and corrections during the process of printing cannot be excluded without a close and careful examination. Ferrer's commentaries are not devoid of approximations (Geneva is not the capital of Switzerland, as stated on 440) and she also seems to ignore that some pieces of poetry were printed during d'Aubigné's lifetime, so the variants provided by anthologies are not taken into account in the critical apparatus (F. Lachèvre, Bibliographie des recueils collectifs de poésies publiés de 1597 à 1700, Paris, 1901–05, t. I, p. 154–156). For the sake of scholarship, the 115-page long introduction is more accurate when dealing with the...


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