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Collection of letters and other material by and about Robert de Montesquiou, comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Provenance Information

Material concerning Robert de Montesquiou

Letters written or received by Robert de Montesquiou

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Collection of letters and other material by and about Robert de Montesquiou, comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, 1892-1940 | Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Collection Overview

Title: Collection of letters and other material by and about Robert de Montesquiou, comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, 1892-1940Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1892 - 1919

ID: 01/02/02/POST-1650 MS 0653

Primary Creator: Montesquiou-Fezensac, Robert, comte de (1855-1921)

Extent: 0.21 Linear Feet


The collection is arranged in three series:

1. Provenance Information, 1940

-Contains information concerning the purchase of the Montesquiou collection by John Meyer of Chicago

2. Material concerning Robert de Montesquiou, ca. 1939

-Contains typescripts of information about Robert de Montesquiou and an amateur photograph of the Comte

3. Letters written or received by Robert de Montesquiou, ca. 1892-1919

-Contains correspondence, chiefly letters written by Robert de Montesquiou to various correspondents. Many letters are to unknown recipients and/or undated. Letters are organized alphabetically by correspondent (if known), with unknown correspondents filed at the end of the series.

Languages: French

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection consists of a selection of letters and messages (sometimes including envelopes) written or received by Robert de Montesquiou, comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921). Primary correspondents include Charles Meunier, Emile Berr, and Pierre Dauze. It also includes typescripts concerning Montesquiou's life and family, an amateur photograph of the Comte, and information concerning the letters' acquisition in 1940 by John Meyer of Chicago.

Some letters include identifying wrappers from a previous auction.

Biographical Note

Robert de Montesquiou, born March 7, 1855, to Thierry, Comte de Montesquiou-Fezensac, and his wife Pauline (nee Duroux), descended from one of the oldest aristocratic families in France, and proudly counted among his distant ancestors Charles de Batz-Castelmore d'Artagnan, whose life was dramatized by Alexandre Dumas in Les Trois Mousquetaires. Montesquiou was raised against the backdrop of the busy life of the most fashionable Parisian salons, and with tout Paris--the French high society that inhabited the Faubourg Saint Germain--as his playmates. Society life inculcated a keen aesthetic sense in the count, and he grew to prize luxury, exoticism, refinement, and good taste. Throughout France's "Belle Epoque" Montesquiou gained a reputation as a dandy, literary snob, tastemaker, and critic, and was known to style himself "Professor of Beauty" and "Prince of Decadence." His circle at times included such artistic, literary, and celebrity figures as Maurice Barres, Sarah Bernhardt, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Alphonse Daudet, Gabriel Faure, Edmond de Goncourt, Stephane Mallarme, and Edouard Manet, as well as--most notably--Marcel Proust.

Everything about Montesquiou's life and appearance, from his attire, accessories, and furnishings to his gestures and his choice of paper and pen when writing, was carefully crafted and specifically selected in order to present the appearance of an effortless dandyism. In addition to surrounding himself with writers, Montesquiou was himself a poet, and published several volumes of his own work, including Les Chauves-souris, clairs-obscurs, Le Chef des odeurs suaves, and Les Hortensias bleus. His poetry was not particularly well received by critics, but is notable for its intricate aesthetic presentation: Les Chauves-souris was sent to his close friends in a small box wrapped in silk, and with a dust jacket designed by Whistler featuring a cloud of bats. Montesquiou even produced his own stationary with his by then signature "bat" emblem.

Besides his own literary output, Montesquiou is notable in literary history for the access that he provided to French society circles for writers such as Proust, and for the enduring (and often satirical) portraits and caricatures of him that emerged in the writings of more notable authors. Just as Montesquiou's ancestor served as an inspiration for Dumas, the Count himself was the model for des Esseintes in Joris-Karl Huysmans' A Rebors (published 1884) and for the Baron de Charlus in Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (published 1913-1927). Proust--who also based the character of the Duchesse de Guermantes on Montesquiou's cousin, Elisabeth, Countess Greffulhe--probably offended Montesquiou with his interpretation, and a rift grew between the two men. Montesquiou died of kidney failure on December 11, 1921, less than one year before Proust's death. His memoirs, Les Pas effaces, were published posthumously.

Administrative Information

Repository: Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions:

The RBML reproductions policies can be found here:


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study scholarship or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgement, fulfillment of the order would damage materials or involve violation of copyright law.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Provenance Information, 1940],
[Series 2: Material concerning Robert de Montesquiou, ca. 1939],
[Series 3: Letters written or received by Robert de Montesquiou, ca. 1892 - 1919],