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Lot 192
Six autograph letters signed ("Marcel Proust"), five to Thérèse Fould née Ephrussi ("Chère madame" or "Madame") and one to her husband Léon Fould ("Cher Monsieur"), no place or date [Paris, 1905?]
24 June 2021, 11:00 BST
London, Knightsbridge

Sold for £9,562.50 inc. premium

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Six autograph letters signed ("Marcel Proust"), five to Thérèse Fould née Ephrussi ("Chère madame" or "Madame") and one to her husband Léon Fould ("Cher Monsieur"), all written on mourning paper, three of the letters to Thérèse discussing his recuperation and desire to leave Paris, against his doctor's advice, for a trip to the mountains or the sea ("Vous je suppose que vous irez à Chantilly... mais Fontainebleau m'a autrefois si mal réussi que je crains a priori les forets. J'ai pourtant très bien respiré à Vallière"), thanking her for her great kindness, apologising that another bout of flu has prevented him from going out, and mentioning a conversation with her son, Proust's friend Eugène (who, despite a misunderstanding over an invitation "a été délicieux d'esprit et de gentillesse"), which, along with a decision to pop out for half an hour ("Malheureusement cette sortie m'a réussi aussi mal que possible"), meant it was to late to visit her; the other two letters to Thérèse, presumably following the death of her other son Robert, sending his heart-felt condolences ("La pensée de votre douleur m'affole, me martyrise. Je ne pense a vous qu'avec un effroi anxieux"), hoping that God will also give Eugène, his sister Elisabeth and Monsieur Fould "la force de résister a cette immense angoisse", and asking Thérèse to encourage Eugène to write to him; the letter to Monsieur Fould (dated "Mardi soir"), thanking him for his visit and kindness, asking him to send his apologies to Thérèse ("en ce moment je suis bien incapable d'ecrire"), hoping that the Ephrussi family are coping ("Madame Marie... le pauvre Ignace Ephrussi... Charles Ephrussi lui aussi a perdu sa mère"), and hoping that Robert "est maintenant tout à fait rétabli", 20 pages, on bifolia, one on thinner paper, a few creases, 8vo, no place or date [Paris, 1905?]


UNPUBLISHED LETTERS FROM PROUST AT A TIME OF LOSS FOR THE AUTHOR AND HIS CLOSE FRIENDS. In this group of six letters from Thérèse and Leon Fould, the author shows himself to be consumed with grief and concern for the health and wellbeing of his friends, whist also displaying his usual tendencies for hypochondria and perhaps a form of agoraphobia.

Thérèse Bacha Prascovie Fould (1851-1911), née Ephrussi ran a thriving literary salon which Proust frequented from around the turn of the century. A well-known figure, she had sat for Renoir in 1880 and the resulting portrait was sold at auction last year for just under £500,000. Proust corresponded regularly with her, and the library at Royaumont has a copy of the author's first published work, the 1904 translation of Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens, which he inscribed to "Madame Léon Fould. Respectueux hommage d'un ami".

Thérèse's marriage to Léon Fould (1839–1924) was one of several unions between well known banking dynasties of the period. Léon had lived through the Commune in the revolutionary Paris of 1870, and the couple had three children including Eugene, who became a close friend of Proust, and Robert, who died in October 1905, a month after the author's own mother, at the tender age of 22. This period of shared grief tightened the bonds between them, and either or both of the deaths would account for the use of mourning paper.

Thérèse was the half-sister of Charles Ephrussi, who was a well-known art historian, collector and editor (1849–1905), and one of the inspirations for the character of Swann. Like Thérèse, he was painted by Renoir, appearing as the man in the top hat talking to Proust in Le déjeuner des canotiers.

Provenance: Thérèse Fould (1851-1911), née Ephrussi; her son Eugène Fould (1876–1929) and his wife Mitzi Springer; their daughter Therese Fould-Springer (1908-1953); and thence by descent to the author David Pryce-Jones. Eugène and Mitzi Fould-Springer presented 20 of their Proust letters to the Bibliotheque Nationale, but retained the present series, which remain unpublished in Philip Kolb, Correspondance de Marcel Proust.

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