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Jeanne de Flandreysy
excerpts from “the poets I have known”:
To keep these image archives a frame worthy of them, which kept them in order, but also in fervor and beauty, Jeanne de Flandreysy after having bought the Palais du Roure, in the heart of Avignon, where the popes have seventy years reigned by the Spirit, restored the hotel, which threatened to ruin, of the noble family of Baroncelli. It has purified its ancestors, removed the disparate additions, restored everything to its original balance.

In this framework thus restored in beauty, she knew how to bring together books, paintings, etchings, charcoals, souvenirs, engravings, autograph letters of great poets and in particular of Mistral who, thanks to her, will one day add to all her glories that of great letter-writer. Of this immense work, only Posterity will be able to give Praise to this Our Lady of the Latin archives.

Dear Roure, whose real face I have seen, year after year! I hear the saws cutting stones or wood, hammers driving nails and dowels, I see the walls adorned with prestigious drawings, moving memories, shadows pass through the rooms, enveloped in their meditations, Henri de Groux, Louis le Cardonnel, Emile Espérandieu and so many others, poets, scholars, artists, all bringing something of themselves, but also carrying something, advice, comfort, a talisman, the spiritual benefit of this rigor, of this demanding discipline and of this enthusiasm too, “flame in crystal”, in the words of Louis le Cardonnel, ordered fire which illuminates without burning, when so many others burn without illuminating.

It was in Roure that Jeanne de Flandreysy extracted gravel and mud from history, carried along by the great Gallo-Roman river, the gold flakes that it shines in our eyes.

Jeanne de Flandreysy
Now is the time to talk about this lovely and noble woman, who has so often been overlooked and even slandered. It’s not to Cardonnel that I got to know her, but to Mistral. I had gone to Maillane, and I was still full of these beautiful memories, when one day at the Ecole Normale I was called to the parlor, and I found myself in front of a lovely young woman, accompanied by a older lady, whom she introduced to me as her mother, Mme Mellier. This young woman had just signed with the literary pseudonym of Jeanne de Flandreysy a book she had written on “Venus of Arles and the Muséum Arlaten” then in the brilliance of its novelty. She immediately told me that Mistral had informed her of my presence in Paris and that, a fervent Mistralian she had wanted to meet me. I was touched, moved, charmed.

After forty years, I still see this scene, where in the gray day of this university visiting room which smelled of waxed wood, I rediscovered the Light and the perfume of Provence while contemplating the delicate face, the beautiful eyes, the flexible neck of that unexpected muse, listening to her musical voice talk about everything I loved. 

She invited me to come and see her in her apartment in rue de Chaillot, very nicely decorated with Provencal souvenirs. She then had very fine literary connections, wrote to Le Figaro, and through her Provençal works ensured the literary secretariat of Jules Charles-Roux, deputy of Marseille and president of the Transatlantic Company, who, very attached to his native country, devoted a series to her. sumptuous works, illustrated by photography, drawing and watercolor and for which Madame de Flandreysy gathered documents through museums in Provence, France and even abroad. From my rather melancholy Normal School, I therefore found myself in the midst of the effervescence of Provence, entering this environment, where I had a lot to learn.

Mme de Flandreysy, in fact, daughter of M. Etienne Mellier, archivist-librarian of the Archaeological Society of Drôme, had a real heritage of intellectual research, a very lively intelligence, an exquisite taste and an obstinate courage in the task. A poet herself, she wrote very pretty verses which she gathered too late at the whim of her friends, of whom she always thought more than herself.

It was only after the war of 1914-1918 that I renewed this friendship, which was never to be eclipsed. Madame de Flandreysy had acquired there in 1917 the hotel of Baroncelli in Avignon, she had undertaken to restore this admirable house, to house the iconographic collections and the archives there only after 15 years of collaboration with Jules Charles-Roux, who came to die in 1917, remained his property, to give them a framework worthy of them and to receive there all the intellectual elite, which was interested in Provence, Felibrige, Dante, Petrarch, the Popes of Avignon, to Roman Gaul, to everything that was to make the Palais du Roure (as the Hotel des Baroncelli was commonly called), in 25 years of work a luminous center of mistralism and Latinity.

First floor
room with fireplace

First floor
west wing
dining room

I have seen this work develop day by day during these 25 years, where Madame de Flandreysy sacrificed all the successes and all the joys that her personal charm, her real beauty, her strong and subtle intelligence could have given her; I can attest to that, and I am happy to do so. One day we will be able to write the complete history of this precious foundation; I limit myself here to evoking it broadly. In the early years I remember those awakenings to the sound of the saw, which cut the blocks of stone, of joyfully handled hammers, this cheerful work rhythm, which in the clear Avignon mornings underlined the desire to restore the old house in its very frame.

First floor – living room

And then the interior work to tear down artificial partitions, restore the reception rooms to their original state, while leaving the private corners, the low and almost secret rooms on the second floor. In this finally arranged setting I remember the arrival of beautiful and dear memories, the furniture of Font-Ségugne, the press, the Seguin printing house where Mirèio was composed, the harmonium of Stuart Mill, up there in the attic, hoisted With great difficulty, the coach of Maillane that Mistral took so often, which carried his mail and brought it to him for 60 years and which was going to perish, when it was bought and saved by Mme de Flandreysy. I see the cases full of letters from Mistral, the manuscripts of the Olivades, the Memoirs, these innumerable photographs of monuments, statues, tombs, paintings, medallions, landscapes, which comment on the history of Provence, that of Petrarch and Dante, the numerous and rare books which relate to it.

In truth Jeanne de Flandreysy entered Roure, as one enters into religion and when one thinks of her one repeats these beautiful verses that Le Cardonnel applied to another great literate lady:

You evoke the days of ancient Italy,
A princess and Platonic abbess

Now, coming almost to the end of her task, she offered her work to the city of Avignon. Poet for having written some elegant and noble verses, Mme de Flandreysy was even more so and above all for having erected before us this stone poem, full of noble and charming evocations, all rustling with the bells she loved so much and so piously assembled, all illuminated with Provençal memories.

Louis Le Cardonnel said to him jokingly “You are the archivist of Eternity“.

In his youth, Mistral had sung it in this truly flattering quatrain:

The pouësio is uno idèo
That dins azur vèn trélusi,
A cop se noumara Mirèio,
Another Jano de Flandreysy cop.
Poetry is an idea
which in the azure comes to shine
We call her once Mireille
Another time Jeanne de Flandreysy.

Finally, beyond all the friendly tributes, Folco de Baroncelli had dedicated to him from his first steps in the Camargue a fiery poem, in which the violence and ardor of his feelings were clearly marked, which were not to be denied for 40 years.

I also see the sometimes foreign, but always interesting hosts of this enchanted old house, passing guests, whom it would take too long to list, and permanent guests and among those at
first row Folco de Baroncelli, who found himself there at home. Henry de Groux with his wife and daughter Elisabeth, who stayed there for two years, and left many memories of their stay in the form of large-scale drawings and paintings evoking Dante and Petrarch, as also contemporaries, Nolhac, Emile Espérandieu. I see Henry de Groux again with his enigmatic face of a somewhat disturbing ecclesiastic, his sensual eyes drowned in dreams, his long flat hair topped with a large felt, his clergyman frock coat, his bangle with golden apple, his politeness refined, its brilliant charcoal which fixed in a few strokes, with a careless air, on the paper the soul of its model, such as the model was astonished and sometimes frightened by such a revelation. Beside him I see his wife, mystic of Flanders, and his daughter with the appearance of a gypsy, who in the art of engraving had measured herself against the eagles she had observed in the Zoological Garden of Antwerp, ” the young girl who paints eagles ”, as the poet Emile Sicard had called it.

Now, as I evoke these hosts at Roure and as I see in my mind over the course of these twenty-five years not only the days of great literary receptions, but the daily life of the residence, I once again measure the courage, stubbornness, the strength it took for this woman to carry out this work, in the midst of jealousy, incomprehension, skeptical smiles. In truth, she entered the Roure, as one enters into religion and when one thinks of her one repeats those beautiful verses which Cardonnel applied to another great literate lady: “You evoke in the days of ancient Italy, An abbess princess and Platonic. 

Emile ripert
Roure Palace May 27, 1927

Jeanne de Flandreysy: Woman of letters, is passionate with her father, Étienne Mellier, for History and the Arts. In 1918, it bought the Palais du Roure (Avignon) from the Baroncelli family to establish a center of Mediterranean culture.


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