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L'interview du Roi Louis II de Bavière par Lew Vanderpool est un faux écrit par un escroc

Publié le 28 septembre 2017 par Luc Roger @munichandco

L'interview du Roi Louis II de Bavière  par Lew Vanderpool est un faux écrit par un escroc

Le document de Lew Vanderpool

THE adjustment of the estates of three of my French ancestors, who died in Rouen about eight years ago, necessitated my going to Bavaria. As the three deaths, being almost simultaneous, resulted in unprecedented complications, it was manifest, from the very first, that audience must be had with the Bavarian king. So, in leaving France, I bore with me, to Ludwig, a letter of introduction from M. Gambetta, which fully explained my mission and requested the king to facilitate my endeavors as far as possible. Arriving in Munich, I sent my letter to his royal highness, expecting of course, to be turned over to the tender mercies of some deputy, after his usual custom. To my surprise, Gambetta's letter resulted in my being requested to wait upon the king at the royal palace the next morning at six o'clock. Punctual to the second, I was shown into a beautifully-decorated sitting-room, where the monarch joined me after a brief delay.

To others he may have always been brusque, morose, and taciturn, but no one could have been more affable and gracious than he was that morning. He examined my papers with the most courteous interest, and weighed the whole matter with as much thoughtful consideration as if it had been something of vital concern to him. Waiving several Bavarian customs, for my convenience, and setting me straight in every possible direction, he was about ending the interview, when be suddenly caught sight of something which prolonged my audience with him, for two of the most delightful hours whic were ever owed to royal clemency. Leaving France, as I did, a day earlier than I had intended, in my haste I accidentally packed with my legal documents the proof-sheets of a paper which I had been writing for Figaro on Edgar Allan Poe. The proofs were left unnoticed with the other papers until the whole package was opened and spread out on the king's table. Until then his manner had been quite and gentle, almost to effeminacy ; but the moment he saw Poe's name be became all eagerness and animation. His magnificent eyes lit up, his lips quivered, his cheeks glowed, and his whole face was beaming and radiant.

" Is it a personal account of him ?" he asked;. "Did you know Poe? Of course you did not, though: you are too young. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am. For a moment I thought I was in the presence of someone who had actually known that most wonderful of all writers, and who could, accordingly tell me something definite and authentic about his inner life. To me he was the greatest ever born,-greatest in every particular. But, like many rare gems, he was fated to have his brilliancy tarnished and marred by constant clashings and chafings against common stone. How he must have suffered under the coarse, mean indignities which the world heaped on him ! And what harsh, heartless things were said of him when death had dulled the sharpness of his trenchant pen! You will better understand my enthusiasm when I tell you that I would sacrify my right to my royal crown to have him on earth for a single hour, if in that hour he would unbosom to me those rare and exquisite thoughts and feelings which so manifestly were the major part of his life."

His voice softened into a low monotone-almost a wail-as he approached the end of his sentence, and his head kept settling forward until his chin rested upon his breast. He kept this attitude, in dead silence, for several minutes, his face wearing an expression of the most intense sorrow. Suddenly arousing himself, he glanced at me in startled surprise, as if he had for the moment forgotten my presence. Then his eyes beamed pleasantly, and he laughed-clear, merry, ringing laugh-at being caught in a day-dream.

"Will you be good enough to let me read, what you have written?" he asked. "I see that it is in French, the only language I know except my own."

I handed him the proofs, and watched him as be read them. As the paper was chatty and gossipy, rather than critical, he seemed to enjoy it.

"I see by this that you, also, are fond of Poe," he said, handing the proofs back to me; "and so I will tell you of a little fancy which I have cherished ever since I first began reading the works of your great fellow-American. At first, because of my respect for his genius and greatness, the lightest thought of what I am going to tell you would make my cheeks bum with shame at my presumption. After a time, I would occasionally write out my fancy, only to burn it, always, as soon as finished. Eventually I confided it to two trusted and valued friends; and now, in some unaccountably strange way, moved, perhaps, by the sympathy born of our common interest in Poe, I am going to take you into my confidence in this particular, stranger though you are. What I have to say is this : I believe, for reasons which I will give you, that there is a distinct parallel between Poe's nature and mine. Do not be misled by assuming that I mean more than I have said. I but compared our natures: beyond that the parallel does not hold. Poe had both genius and greatness. I have neither. He had, also, force and strength, so much of both that he could defy the world, sensitive and shrinking as be was. That I never can do. Not that I am a coward, as the word is generally understood, because pain and death can neither shake nor terrify me. Yet any contact with the world hurts me. The same as Poe's, my nature is abnormally sensitive. Injuries wound me so deeply that I cannot resent them : they crush me, and I have no doubt that in time they will destroy me. Even the laceration my heart received from indignities which I suffered as a child are still uneffaceable. A sharp or prying glance from the eyes of a stranger, even though he be only same coarse peasant, will annoy me for hours; and a newspaper criticism occasions me endless torture and misery. The impressionable part of me seems to be as sensitive as a photographer's plate : everything with which I come in contact stamps me indelibly with its proportions. My impulses, it can be no egotism to say, are generous and kindly; yet I never, in my whole life, have done an act of charity that the recipient did not in some way make me regret it. People disappoint me; life disappoints me. I meet some man with a fine face and fine manner, and believe in the sincerity of his smile. Just as I begin to feel certain of his lasting love and fidelity, I detect him in some act of treachery, or overhear him calling me a fool, or worse."

Arising, he began to walk slowly up and down the room.

"Apparently," he continued, after a brief silence, "there is no place in the economy of life except for one kind of man. If one would be respected, he must be coarse, harsh, and phlegmatic. Let him be anything else, and friends and foes alike unite in declaring him eccentric. Much as I despise the gross, sensual creatures who wear the form and receive the appellation of man, I sometimes regret that I am not more like them, and, so, more at ease. They plunge into excesses with no more concern than a duck feels in plunging into a lake. With me the thought, or rather the dread, that I may some day so far forget myself as to debase and degrade myself, according to the common custom of man, is in itself sufficient cause for the most excruciating torture. When I look upon men as they average and see the perfect nonchalance with which they commit this, that, or the other abuse from which I would recoil with utter repugnance, I wonder if, after all, they are not really to be envied. My condition is as much of a puzzle to me as it possibly can be to you. Logically, there is no reason for it. My father and mother were neither abnormally sensitive nor excessively moral. So far as I am able to ascertain, they regarded things in life very much as every one else does. It was the same, I believe, with the parents of Poe. Things he has written prove to me that he felt the same disgust for whatever demoralizes that I have always felt, only he saw how the world would behave towards him if he did not seem in sanction and approve of its rottenness. I do not blame him. His way was wisest. Deceit is best in such a case, if it can only be assumed. With his sensitiveness were associated force and defiance,-two traits which I seriously lack. Perhaps, though, he could endure the world more easily than I can, because his childhood was less dreadful than mine. All through my infancy things were done which stung and wounded me. Not that I was treated more harshly than children commonly are, but because my nature was so unlike that of children in general that the things which never disturbed them were offensive to me. I soon learned that companionship meant pain, and that I could never know or feel anything like content unless I held myself aloof from every one. This, for a man, is hard enough to do; for a child it is next to impossible. I was forced to subject myself to the will of harsh, unfeeling teachers, and to the society of those who, scarcely more than animals themselves, accredited me with no instincts finer than their own. Most of the studies thrust upon me seemed dull, stupid, and worthless : because they so jarred upon me that my understanding faculties were dulled and blunted with pain, I was declared half-witted. For hours I would sit and dream beautiful day-dreams; and that won for me similar epithets. It is a misfortune to be organized as I am; yet I am what I am because a stronger will and power than mine made me so. In that lie my sole solace and comfort for having lived at all. If my reading and observation have not been in the wrong direction, much of the phenomenon which is called insanity is really over-sensitiveness. It is often hinted, and sometimes openly declared, that I am a madman. Perhaps I am; but I doubt it. Insanity may be self-hiding. An insane man may be the only person on earth who is not aware of his insanity. Of course I, for such reasons, may not be able to comprehend my own mental condition, except in an exaggerated and unnatural way. But I believe myself a rational being. That, though, may be proof of my insanity. Yet I doubt if any insane person could study and analyze himself as I have done and still do. I am simply out of tune with the majority of my race. I do not enter into man's common pleasures, because they disgust me and would destroy me. Society hurts me, and I keep out of it. Women court me, and for my safety I avoid them. Were I a poet, I should be praised for saying these things in verse; but the gift of utterance is not mine, and so I am sneered at; scorned, and called a madman. Will God, when he summons me, adjudge me the same?"

With tearful eyes, he pressed my hand, smiled, and left the room. The learned doctors have already declared Ludwig of Bavaria insane, and kindlier judgment from those who loved him would very likely be counted wasted sympathy by the world.

Analyse du texte de Vanderpool

Lew Vanderpool date son voyage en Europe d'au plus tôt huit ans avant sa publication ("terminus ad quem"): des questions d'héritage, dit-il, l'amènent à voyager en France puis en Bavière. La publication de l'article datant d'une période située entre juillet et décembre 1886 nous fournissent le "terminus a quo". La supposée rencontre entre le journaliste et le roi aurait donc eu lieu entre 1878 et 1886.

La mort du Roi le 13 juin 1886 précède en tout cas la publication de l'article de Vanderpool, ce qui est à souligner car si cet article est un faux inventé de toutes pièces, le Roi n'était plus là pour en infirmer la véracité. D'autre part, si le document date de 1882, pourquoi alors ne pas l'avoir publié tout aussitôt? Une interview du Roi de Bavière dont tout le monde savait qu'il s'isolait et ne voulait recevoir personne relevait de l'exploit journalistique et aurait constitué un événement médiatique exceptionnel.

La mort de Léon Gambetta le 31 décembre 1882 est un autre élément d'analyse. En novembre 1881, Gambetta devient président du Conseil et reçoit le portefeuile des affaires étrangères. Si la lettre de recommandation de l'homme politique français a existé, elle a dû être rédigée avant le 30 janvier 1882, date de la chute du gouvernement qui tombe suite au projet de réforme constitutionnelle introduit par Gambetta. Il se retire alors de la vie politique et. malade, asthmatique et diabétique, il se retire dans sa maison de Sèvres.

Vanderpool prétend avoir obtenu une audience royale sur base d'une lettre de recommandation de Gambetta qu'il a fait remettre au Souverain. Cette affirmation est bien singulière pour qui connaît les idées politiques antinomiques de Gambetta et celles du Roi Louis II. Le Roi a pour idéal la monarchie absolue du Roi-Soleil et se sent fort à l'étroit dans ses habits de monarque constitutionnel. Gambetta, franc-maçon anti-clérical, républicain, démocrate farouche, l'homme qui de toutes ses forces s'était opposé au second Empire (il en avait provoqué la chute) et aux monarchistes, a de plus toujours paru aux yeux des Allemands comme la personnification de l'idée de guerre de revanche, suite à la guerre franco-allemande de 1870-1871. La question à se poser est aussi de savoir comment un journaliste tout à fait inconnu en Europe est parvenu à faire parvenir une lettre de recommandation au Roi et à éveiller son intérêt au point qu'il lui accorde un entretien.

L'idée même que le Roi ait pu recevoir un journaliste paraît tout à fait incongrue. Les journalistes allemands eux-mêmes n'avaient pas bonne presse auprès du Souverain, notamment après les campagnes de presse de 1865 contre Richard Wagner, le compositeur ami du Roi. La presse avait alors dénoncé les dépenses somptuaires émargeant de la cassette royale, et le projet de construire un théâtre wagnérien sur les bords de l'Isar avait soulevé un tollé. En dehors de Vanderpool, Louis II n'a jamais accordé d'interview. A une époque où Louis II fuyait le monde et particulièrement ses propres ministres, aurait-il soudain changé d'attitude et ouvert son coeur au premier journaliste venu?

L'apparition soudaine sur la table du Roi des épreuves d'articles consacrés à Edgar Allan Poe, que Vanderpoole destinait au Figaro et qu'il avait de manière fort insouciante mêlé à ses documents de créance sur la table du roi, laisse songeur. Elle fait penser au deus ex machina d'une pièce de théâtre populaire. Et si cela même était, on ne trouve aucune trace de ces articles dans le Figaro, et ce quotidien ne fait jamais mention du nom de Lew Vanderpool (2).

Le Roi, aux dires de Vanderpool, était un grand admirateur d'Edgar Allan Poe. Cela relève du possible. August Scheibe avait traduit Le Double assassinat dans la rue Morgue, et on trouve une traduction de Des Unheimliche Geschichten in deutscher Bearbeitung nach A.B. Edwards und Edgar Allan Poe von A. von Winterfeld . Louis II pratiquait fort bien la langue française et aurait pu lire les Histoires extraordinaires dans la traduction française de Charles Baudelaire parue en 1857.

Les parallèles en forme de confession établis par le Roi entre sa propre personnalité et celle de Poe ne manquent pas d'étonner, spécialement les commentaires que le souverain émet sur sa propre folie. Le Roi aurait-il pu tenir des propos aussi directs et aussi intimes lors d'une première rencontre avec un parfait étranger muni de si curieuses lettres de recommandation?

Enfin, le nom de Vanderpool n'apparaît jamais dans la presse munichoise de l'époque sous rubrique.(3)

Vanderpool, un faussaire avéré

Jusqu'ici, nous n'avons avancé qu'un faisceau de présomptions. Mais le coup de grâce qui disqualifie l'interview de Vanderpool vient de la presse française et américaine de 1887. Cette année-là, un an après la publication du supposé entretien accordé par le Roi Louis II, Lew Vanderpool est attaqué en justice pour escroquerie littéraire par le Cosmopolitan Magazine de New York. Voici l'article qu'y consacre le quotidien parisien Le Temps dans son édition du 9 octobre 1887, un article qui commente longuement l'arrestation de Lew Vanderpoole à Oyster Bay (Long-Island, Etats-Unis) suite à la plainte de l'éditeur du Cosmopolitan Magazine qui l'accusait d'escroquerie. En voici l'extrait :

(Dépêches Havas et renseignements particuliers)

On vient d'arrêter à Oyster-Bay (Long-Island) un nommé Vanderpoole, accusé d'avoir vendu à M. Smith, éditeur du Cosmopolitan Magazine, revue qui se publie à New-York, un prétendu manuscrit de George Sand.

Voici comment M. Smith raconte les incidents qui ont motivé cette arrestation:

Il y a un mois environ, Vanderpoole, dont j'avais accepté des manuscrits à diverses occasions et qui s'était présenté à moi comme étant, avec un M. L'Amercaux, du Figaro de Paris, l'exécuteur testamentaire de George Sand, m'a offert en vente un prétendu manuscrit d'une œuvre inédite de ce grand romancier français, intitulée la Princesse de Nourmahal. Vanderpoole, ayant immédiatement besoin de quelque argent, m'a supplié de lui prendre le manuscrit et de lui donner un premier acompte de 100 dollars. Je lui ai dit de me donner d'abord la preuve de l'authenticité du manuscrit, et, peu après, il m'apportait une lettre de M. Redpath, de la North-American Review, dans laquelle celui-ci déclarait que M. L'Amercaux, du Figaro, lui avait assuré que le manuscrit qui était en la possession de Vanderpoole était authentique. M. Redpath ajoutait qu'il avait la plus grande confiance en Vanderpoole.

J'achetai le manuscrit pour mille dollars, payables par acomptes, et le lendemain, Vanderpoole m'en ayant livré une partie traduite en anglais, je lui fis un premier versement de cent dollars. Je dois dire que la Princesse de Nourmahal est un des plus beaux romans que j'aie jamais lus et qu'il dénote, chez son auteur, un grand talent littéraire. Mais mes soupçons ont été éveillés par un article de l'Argus d'Albany dénonçant Vanderpoole comme se vantant d'être l'auteur d'un ouvrage qui avait été écrit en réalité par le révérend Hughes.

Vanderpoole m'ayant dit qu'il avait été le correspondant du Figaro pendant la guerre russo-turque, j'ai télégraphié à ce journal pour demander si c'était exact. On m'a répondu qu'on ne connaissait rien de M. Vanderpoole. J'allai trouver M. Redpath, et il m'avoua alors qu'il connaissait fort peu Vanderpoole et qu'il n'était pas.familier avec l'écriture de Mme Sand. Mais un de ses amis, M. Thorndyke, qui connaissait l'écriture du grand romancier français, lui avait dit que le manuscrit montré par Vanderpoole était authentique. D'autre part, Vanderpoole étant venu me voir sur ces entrefaites je l'ai confondu avec les preuves de son imposture et, comme il cherchait à se dérober, je l'ai fait arrêter.

La même information se retrouve en France sous la forme d'un court entrefilet dans L'Intransigeant du 10 octobre 1887, ainsi que, aux Etats-Unis, dans un article du Chicago Tribune du 9 octobre:

The examination of Lew Vanderpoole was held today at Oyster Bay on the charge of having obtained money by false representations from the publishers of the Cosmopolitan. Mr. Vanderpoole has represented himself as the literary executor of George Sand, and has offered manuscripts of alleged translations of what he claimed to be her posthumous works to various magazines. For the one in question, the translation of "Princess Nourmahal," he had been given 120 dollars on accounts when it was discovered work . It was held at the examination that, as Vanderpoole was not a resideut of New York City, where the translation occurred, he could not be held by the proceedings at Oyster Bay, and he was discharged. (5)

Comme on peut le lire, les autorités de Oyster Bay ne purent cependant pas maintenir Vanderpoole en détention en raison d'un problème de prodécure, Vanderpoole n'étant pas un résident de New York City, le lieu où la transaction avait eu lieu. [...]

Il est piquant de constater que Vanderpool recourt au même procédé d'un prétendu héritage : dans l'interview de Louis II, il prétend se trouver en France et en Bavière suite aux décès de trois de ses ancêtres français; ici il se pose en exécuteur testamentaire de George Sand. Dans un cas comme dans l'autre, il se présente également comme collaborateur du Figaro. Mais voilà, l'éditeur du Cosmopolitan a télégraphié à la rédaction du Figaro, qui a répondu qu'il ne connaît pas de Vanderpool, ce que la technique contemporaine confirme aujourd'hui. D'autre part, on ne trouve pas trace de cette Princesse Nourmahal dans la liste des oeuvres de George Sand.

Ce seul fait du mensonge sur la collaboration avec Figaro permet de mettre en doute l'authenticité de l'ensemble de l'interview du Roi Louis II. On ne peut qu'en conclure que Vanderpool était un faussaire, qui n'a jamais rencontré Louis II et qui n'a fort probablement jamais mis les pieds à Munich.

(1) Lew Vanderpool, Ludwig of Bavaria, a personal reminiscence in LIPPINCOTT'S MONTHLY MAGAZINE, A popular journal of general literature, science and politics. Volume XXXVIII-July to december 1886, Philadelphia, J.B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY- 1886.

(2) La Bibliothèque nationale de France dispose de tous les exemplaires du Figaro. Le moteur de recherche de son site en ligne Gallica ne livre aucune page du Figaro contenant le nom de Lew Vanderpool.

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