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  • Notes on a New Volume of Fauvemann's Nachlass
  • Paul Grimstad (bio)

No doubt many readers associate the name Jean-Pierre Fauvemann with the collection of love sonnets one anonymous Times reviewer called the "Song of Songs of symboliste verse" and a New Jersey appellate judge called "pure pornography." The editors of this ninth volume of Fauvemann's complete works (the second devoted to his posthumous papers) have given it the title Miscellanies, and it is indeed a mixed bag. In addition to a version of the collection referred to above—Lussi Lussuriosi (1941)—with its censored fifth section restored, this latest volume includes Fauvemann's speculative essay on faith and skepticism The Game of Christ; patent applications for two kinds of musical automata; a draft of the never published detective novel The Adventure of the Crystal Tiara; scattered correspondence including six unanswered letters to Fauvemann from Gertrude Stein; and two hundred acrostics composed on the word

CHRISTABEL. Among the most intriguing items in the volume may be found in an appendix—a facsimile reproduction of four pages from the August 1915 issue of the "little magazine" Others, on which are written, in the twenty-something Fauvemann's neat, curiously square-ish hand, marginal commentary on Wallace Stevens's poem "Peter Quince at the Clavier." It is the aim of this brief notice to point out some peculiar features of that commentary.

The editors have set the transcribed comments in boxes arranged around the poem, as in certain editions of the Talmud. Where Stevens has:

Here in this room, desiring youThinking of your blue-shadowed silk,Is music.

Fauvemann adds:

l.6-8: 'blue shadows' = 'Mercury Mouth' & the Missionary Hat Company, accidental self-administering of mercury, discoloration of the lips and sexual delirium; [illegible] the 'music' of female orgasm; endless, wave-like

Fauvemann's note anticipates nearly exactly a line from a song composed some fifty years later: "With your mercury mouth from the missionary times" (Bob Dylan, "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," from Blonde on Blonde, 1966). That this is not some fluke of patterning, or a cryptographic mania of the Shakespeare-is-Bacon sort, seems beyond dispute when we consider Fauvemann's next marginal note. For Stevens's

The basses of the being throbIn witching chords, and their thin bloodPulse pizzicato of Hosanna.

Fauvemann comments:

l.11-13: S. hears Hosanna Choir for first time at the Canoe Club in Hartford (June 1956) gypsy hymns and "matchbook songs;" why "pizzicato?" her effect on the bloodless elders; the twang of lust; venomous flowers & the "plucking" of the hymen; intercourse between girls & gods

The comments here are even more closely in sync with the Dylan song: "Into your eyes where the moonlight swims / And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns." Again Fauvemann seems to imagine lyrics written some eleven years after his own death. Doubtless it has occurred to some readers that Dylan might have seen Fauvemann's notes himself and borrowed from them. But the editors make it clear in their notes that the issue of Others had not been moved from storage contained which, in the weeks following Fauvemann's death, was taken to his sister's home in Lille (also in the box were the patent applications and about a third of the correspondence). It is unlikely to say the least that the teenaged Dylan—or indeed anyone other than Fauvemann's sister Mathilde—would have seen it.

The next set of comments diverge somewhat from the Stevens-Dylan pattern.

She searchedthe touch of springsand foundconcealed imaginings

To this Fauvemann adds:

l.18-21 S. sacrifices everything to a rage for symmetry; the hidden "springs" of self-arousal become the wood wedges used by carpenters; i.e., "doom's electric moccasin"

While the final phrase may seem another prescient anticipation of a Dylan song (it sounds like it could have come from "Desolation Row") it is in fact from Emily Dickinson's "There came a wind like a bugle" (f1618), and there is of course no mystery there as Fauvemann devoted a short study to Dickinson (Slant, New Directions, 1944)

The last of Fauvemann's comments on...


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