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Émile Zola and Henry Céard Papers

Biographical note

Émile Zola (1840-1902), French novelist, critic, and political activist, was the most prominent French novelist of the late 19th century. He was noted for his theories of naturalism, which he developed in Le Roman expérimental (1880) and Les Romanciers naturalistes (1881), and which underlie his monumental twenty-novel series Les Rougon-Macquart. In this series of novels, Zola relates the story of the various generations of a single family; his detailed descriptions of the characters of the family Rougon-Macquart represent hereditary factors as primary determinants of behavior. The correspondence between Émile Zola and Henry Céard (Series 1 in this inventory, 1879-1889) covers the most productive years of Zola's career as a writer. Later on Zola and Céard distanced themselves from each other. In 1898, Zola took the defense of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish soldier who had been wrongly convicted of treason. Zola came to his defense through the open letter, J'accuse, in which he unveils the perjury of French government and military figures. Although his stand against injustice led him to seek exile in England for one year, Dreyfus eventually received a new trial and was exonerated of all charges.

Henry Céard (1851-1924) was a writer and literary critic. He was a close friend of Émile Zola and his wife until 1888. An avid reader, Céard often visited the Zolas at Médan, sharing his readings and contributing ideas to the topics Zola was researching for his novels. Zola, in turn, influenced Céard who adopted the naturalist theory and methodology. Céard held various administrative positions at the Ministry of War, at the Préfecture de la Seine, and at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Paris. He contributed to the anthology Soirées de Médan with the novel La Saignée in which he relates an episode of the Siege of Paris. His is best known for the novel Une belle journée (1881). He wrote some theater plays which received a mix reception: an adaptation of Renée Mauperin originally written by the brothers Goncourt (1886), Tout pour l'honneur (1887), Les Résignés (1889), and La Pêche (1890).

Albert Salvan (1904-2001) served on the Brown faculty from 1939 until 1972. His research interest in Zola was supported by strong print and manuscript collections assembled by the Library during his tenure. His dissertation on Zola, Zola aux États-Unis .., Providence, R.I., Brown University, 1943, was published as volume VIII in the series, Brown University Studies. He edited and annotated the 78 letters from Émile Zola to Henry Céard which comprise Series 1. These letters were published by Brown University Press in 1959 as volume XXII of the series, Brown University Studies. In 1961, as a supplement to this volume, Brown University Press published Salvan's annotated edition of 22 additional messages from Zola to Céard which had been discovered by the Zola scholar, Henri Mitterand, among papers belonging to Dr. Jacques Émile-Zola. Later Salvan co-edited volume III of the ten-volume edition of Zola's correspondence published between 1978 and 1995.