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  • Author or Editor: Michel Brix x
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It is a well-known fact that Gérard de Nerval showed a great interest in Jean Antoine Watteau, and especially in the picture of “Le Pèlerinage à l’île de Cythère”. This picture evokes the nostalgia for a lost world where the arcadian happiness pervaded: that’s also the subject of the novel Sylvie . Nerval, who situates his Arcadia in the Valois, claims to be the heir of Watteau. This article endeavours to examine the connection between Nerval and Watteau, a relationship which does not only concerns Sylvie , but also Les Faux Saulniers and Voyage en Orient .

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Gérard de Nerval travelled to Holland twice: in September 1844 and in May 1852. Specialists maintain that an undated letter to Théophile Thoré stems from Nerval's second trip (in 1852). Written in Paris, this letter indicates that the author is about to rejoin his friend Arsene Houssaye in Brussels and asks Thoré to recommend some art galleries in Holland. At the time, Théophile Thoré was in fact a well-known art critic. In May 1852, however, he was living in exile in London. Nerval had been travelling alone at the time. Given that we know that he went to Holland with Arsene Houssaye just once, in 1844, it appears that the letter to Thoré should be dated the first two weeks of September 1844.

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The dedication “À J. G. F.” appears twice in Baudelaire’s work. As a heading to Paradis artificiels (1860) the first time; and a second time in the 1861 edition of Les Fleurs du Mal , where the poem entitled “L’Héautontimorouménos” is addressed to this mysterious person. Up until now, these initials have guarded their secret. To whom do they belong? To this day, no mention has ever been made by critics that those initials match the forenames of a famous contemporary of the author, a doctor twice mentioned by Baudelaire, the alienist (psychiatrist) Jules Gabriel François Baillarger.

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