BOYER, Michel.
PROVINCIAL ELEGIES
BOYER, Michel. Poème élégiaque sur la mort d’une épouse justement regrettée, dédié à ses chers enfants …
Le Mans. Fleuriot, Imprimeur …  1845.
[Bound with:] Second poème élégiaque sur la mort d’une épouse justement regrettée, Anne-Victoire Biou, épouse de Michel Boyer … Le Mans, Gallienne, Imprimeur … 1850.

2 works bound together, apparently as issued, 8vo (207 × 133 mm), pp. 16; 15, [1]; funereal wood engravings within the text; an attractive copy in the original printed wrappers, contemporary ink attribution to the front cover.

First editions: two provincially-printed elegies by a septuagenarian poet on the death of his wife (aged 53), evidently devastated by her loss and shocked that his much younger spouse should have predeceased him. In them, he records the precise location and time of her death, and includes an engraving of her tombstone.

Boyer (1768–1858) was not known as a poet, although would ultimately become a prolific writer on other topics, principally music and rhetoric. The son of a baker, he began playing the organ as a young boy and worked as an organist at various churches, including a spell at Le Mans Cathedral. Little is known of his politics, but in 1794 Boyer was arrested and transported to Paris where he was accused, with others from Le Mans, of conspiring to dissolve the national representation and destroy the republican government through incitement to civil war. Boyer appeared before the Revolutionary Court and underwent interrogation. He was acquitted, but remained with his family in Paris, where he stayed for almost a decade working as a jobbing organist, teaching, and writing music. During this time he produced a collection of sonatas dedicated to Philippe Delamain, a blind seven-year-old student of his (1796), and he would go on to produce several treatises on musical education and rhetoric. Returning to Le Mans, where he would live out his days, he continued to teach and, into old age, to act as an expert for church organ maintenance and restoration.

By far the most emotive of his written works, his elegies to Anne-Victoire are strikingly modern in tone. Rather than the detachment of muted grief which usually characterises threnodies of this period, Boyer addresses his wife directly; he is unable to comprehend her death, ironically asserting that he is unable either to speak or write. Indeed, although the second poem was penned five years after her death, he continues to address her, and wonders why others are able to carry on with life when he is unable to move on without her. This second elegy does close on a happier note, with Boyer’s ‘Couplets’ on the marriage of his daughter, although the accompanying engraving continues the melancholy theme with its depiction of an angel in a graveyard.

WorldCat records copies at the Bibliothèque nationale only.
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