Austen in Austria and Persuasion in Parma : the imperial collection of Marie-Louise, second wife of Napoleon

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

Marie-Louise of Austria (according to French and German Wikipedias), Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (according to English Wikipedia), Marie Louise,‏ Empress, consort of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French,‏ 1791-1847‏ (according to the Library of Congress), or simply Marie-Louise, in the new book of selections from her journal in the UL, Adieu à l’empereur : journal de voyage de Marie-Louise / édition, introduction et commenatire par Charles-Éloi Vial (C204.d.1687). Her marriage to Napoleon from 1810-1814 was a politically inspired one, and followed his marriage to Josephine. Their marriage ended upon his exile, when she became duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastella. Marie-Louise remarried upon Napoleon’s death, and eventually lived until 1847.

Adieu à l’empereur contains some of Marie-Louise’s journal entries and a selection of letters between her and Napoleon. By all accounts a very well educated woman, Marie-Louise is primarily represented in the University Library as the subject of popular histories (for example: The women Napoleon loved by Tighe Hopkins, 1910, 454.c.91.5), diaries and letters (The private diaries of the Empress Marie-Louise, wife of Napoleon I with introduction and commentary by Frédéric Masson, 1922, 568.d.92.4; and Correspondance de Marie Louise, 1799-1847 : lettres intimes et inédites à la comtesse de Colloredo et à Mlle de Poutet, depuis 1810 comtesse de Crenneville, 1887, RB.26.38), and as the recipient of letters (Lettres inédites à Marie-Louise : écrites de 1810 à 1814 by Napoleon, in a volume of 1935, at 456.c.93.590). To a certain extent, her education is attributable to improving her marriageability: for instance, she was fluent in German (her native language), French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.

La famille-Elliot

La famille Elliot, Keynes.K.2.15

The University Library, as part of the collection of Geoffrey Keynes, is also fortunate enough to have some books from the library of Marie-Louise as a consequence of Keynes’ interest in Jane Austen. There are copies of Persuasion (known in French as La famille Elliot) from 1821 (Keynes.K.2.15-16), and two editions of Raison et sensibilité from 1815 (Keynes.K.2.20-23) and 1828 (Keynes.K.2.17-19). All were translated by Isabelle de Montolieu, a novelist and translator from Lausanne. These were bound for the Empress as part of the ‘Oeuvres de Me Montolieu’, with her name and not Austen’s on the spine. A new edition of the English translation of Montolieu’s most famous novel, Caroline of Lichtfield, was re-released in 2014 (725:24.c.201.20). The earliest French edition of that work in the UL dates from 1786 (Hib.7.786.49-50), with an English edition appearing within a decade (Hib.7.795.57-58).

Title page and frontispiece, Raison et sensibilité

Title page and frontispiece, Raison et sensibilité – Keynes.K.2.17

This small collection of Jane Austen books gives the UL a personal connection to Napoleon’s second wife. It seems that Geoffrey Keynes bought them at auction in the early 1930s, when bookseller Martin Breslauer was forced to sell books from Marie-Louise’s library in order to fund his family’s escape from Germany. A far greater part of this former library (approximately 400 books) was sold to André de Coppet, who gave them to Princeton University Library. Using only the catalogue, it is difficult to determine which books in Princeton are from this collection, but a targeted search turns up about 120 books that are probably also from Marie-Louise’s library. Many other books from the collection have similar bindings to those in the UL: they are bound in red morocco, and bear the crowned monogram “ML”. Unfortunately, we do not have the announcement of the sale in the UL, however there are copies in the BL, Oxford, St. Andrews, the V&A and the Warburg Institute.

More information about early editions of Sense and sensibility in the UL, as well as the Keynes collection of Austen work, can be found in an earlier blog post from the Special collections department.

Josh Hutchinson

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