"I am so alone and so far": Jules Massenet and his family

Massenet, Jules, French composer (1842-1912). Collection of 5 autograph letters signed, 2 monogrammed autograph letters, and 1 autograph letter.

Brussels, Paris, Vevey, and no place, January-September 1890.

8vo and 12mo. Altogether 20 pp. on bifolia and one single leaf. With 8 autograph envelopes. In French.


A series of letters written to his daughter Juliette (1868-1935) and her husband Léon Alloend-Bessand. Massenet was travelling extensively in 1890 and spent several months in Bruxelles, probably for the reprise of his opera "Esclarmonde" in September 1890 at La Monnaie, with Sibyl Sanderson. While it was rumoured that Massenet had an affair with Sanderson and the American soprano does indeed play a role in his letters, the correspondence also bears witness to Massenet's profound longing for his wife and his solitude due to the physical distance from his family. It is unclear whether his wife Louise, better known as Ninon, who at the time suffered from an eye disease, was actively avoiding contact with him, but the letters imply that Massenet was unable to communicate with her over extended periods of time.

The earliest of four letters from January to April 1890 must have been written in Paris and are mostly of a practical nature. Massenet inquires whether his daughter wants to go to the Ball of the Paris Opera on 1 February and later informs her that he has cancelled his reservation for a box because Sibyl Sanderson had fallen ill. In a letter datable to March, Massenet inquires whether his son-in-law has winter clothes for his hairdresser. On 4 April 1890, he expresses his gratitude and affection towards his daughter without mentioning the context: "I am very touched by your attentiveness - I'm lucky to know that I'm loved and respected. I send you all my warmest thanks and to both of you my affections", signing with "papa" along with his signature.

On 4 August 1890 Massenet wrote Juliette from Vevey, announcing the completion of his opera "Le Mage", particularly the orchestration of the first act. Alluding to Sibyl Sanderson, who was supposed to sing the lead in a "Manon" reprise, Massenet writes: "The ladies hold your memory very dear and 'Manon' is very amiable but very spoiled - The true 'Manon' has already worked for 3 acts and that is very promising". He closes with his "blissful solitude" and the information that he could not write to his wife as he does not know the address.

Massenet's perception of his solitude takes a turn in Bruxelles. On 24 August, he writes about his warm welcome at La Monnaie, but mostly about his wife: "I am constantly thinking about your mother who suffers with her eyes ... this is a constant preoccupation for me because I suppose that she must be sad, not being able really to enjoy her voyage - I wish I received news from morning to evening". On 29 August, he complains about not having received a word from his wife and describes his longing for his family. He wants true peace "because the quiet after the theatre is solitude and that's empty - she is with the family and I am alone in my hotel room". In a more practical vein, Massenet announces the reprise of "Esclarmonde" for 6 September. Two days before the premiere, Massenet again inquires about his wife and the state of her eyes, as he has not received "a single detail in 5 weeks", and he implores his dauther: "write me - I am so alone and so far and so desperate for Paris". He also announces concerts in Ostend and Antwerp following the Brussels premiere.

Well preserved. With occesional stains and collector's notes in pencil.

Stock Code: BN#57044 Tag: