Collection ID: LMC 1015
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Collection context


Métra, François, -1786
The Alströmer mss., 1779-1784 and 1865, consists of a series of French newsletters addressed in a number of instances to naturalist Clas Alströmer, 1736-1794, of Gothembourg, Sweden.
1 Box (1 standard)
French , German .
Preferred citation:

[Item], Alströmer mss., Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.


Biographical / Historical:

The originator of the newsletters is believed to be François Métra, 1714-1786, said to have been a banker and at one time a correspondent of the King of Prussia, who got into trouble and fled to Holland where he compiled his "correspondence" from materials supplied to him from Paris, according to the Oxford Companion to French Literature (1959). He was associated in this work with Guillaume Imbert de Bordeaux, Alexandre Balthasar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, and others.

Baron Clas Alströmer, 1736-1794, was a businessman and botanist who studied under Carl Linnaeus. He was appointed to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1768. In 1770, he worked with his father-in-law (Nicolaus Sahlgren, former director of the Swedish East India Company) to establish a lucrative trading company. His estate was home to many naturalist collections, including botanical gardens and herbariums.

Scope and Content:

The Alströmer mss., 1779-1784 and 1865, consists of a series of newsletters in French addressed in a number of instances to Clas Alströmer of Gothembourg, Sweden. There are no newsletters for the year 1783 in the Alströmer mss. The newsletters were published on a weekly basis from Neuwied, 1775-1793, as Correspondance littéraire secrète in 19 volumes. They were re-issued in part in London as Correspondance secrète, politique & littéraire in 1787-1790 in 18 volumes (Skatline Reprints, Genève, 1967. Main DC136 .A2 C8 1967). A Paris edition came out in 1793.

A substantial number of the newsletters in the Alströmer mss. are published in Métra's Correspondance, particularly those from Versailles, but none of the newsletters from Paris in 1784 are included in the London edition of 1787-1790. There is significant variation in the paragraphs of the printed London edition and the holograph newsletters in the Alströmer mss.

A discussion of Métra's Correspondance occurs in Melchior Grimm avec un appendice sur la correspondance secrète de Métra by Edmond Henri Adolph Scherer, Paris, Calman Levy, 1887, pages 459-478 (Main DC137 .G8 S3).

In 1866 there appeared Correspondance secrète inedite sur Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette la cour et la ville de 1777 à 1792 with a preface by Mathurin Francois Adolphe de Lescure in two volumes at Paris, Henri Plon (Lilly DC136 .A2 L62). These newsletters are also from Métra's Correspondance but published from holograph copies found in the library at St. Petersburg, formerly in two Polish collections designated as Doubrowski and Varsovie. One hundred ten of the newsletters in the Alströmer mss. are published in the Lescure volumes.

In 1884 the 178 newsletters of the Alströmer mss. were published separately as Lettres de M. de Kageneck au Baron Alströmer de 1779 à 1784 (Lilly DC137.5 .M6 L65) with a preface by Louis Antoine Leouzon Le Duc in Paris, G. Charpentier. (These too are from Métra's Correspondance.) Written in many hands, 81 of the newsletters are addressed to "Monsieur Baron Alströmer, Conseiller de Commerce, Directeur de la Compagnie des Indes & Chevalier de l'ordre royal Suevois de Wasa à Gothembourg." Baron Alströmer has been identified as Clas Alströmer, 1736-1794, businessman and botanist.

Six of the newsletters have appended unpublished personal notes written in German and addressed to Patrick: 1781, Oct. 30; 1782, Jan. 27, Mar. 28 (from Copenhagen), May 1, July 2 and 8. A seventh newsletter, 1782, Sept. 9, has an unpublished appended note in French written from Frankfort. Patrick has been tentatively identified as the brother of Claes Alströmer, also a businessman and music patron, who lived from 1733 to 1804. The personal note appended to the newsletter of 1782, July 30, mentions Johan, a third Alströmer brother, 1742-1788, industrialist.

Another unpublished personal note about "l'irrégularité des postes" is appended to the newsletter of 1779, Nov. 20 and signed L Chambellan. Chambellan is mentioned in the personal note appended to 1782, Mar. 28, and the newsletter of 1782, May 6, bears a wax seal stamped L C. Leouzon Le Duc notes two of the above Chambellan references on page ix of his preface.

Sixty-two of the newsletters bear red or black wax seals, three with the motto, In Valore Virtus, which have been identified by Leouzon Le Duc as bearing the Kageneck family crest. The family member may have been Jacques Bruno de Kageneck, born in 1734, who became acquainted with Alströmer during the latter's sojourn in France.

The newsletters (with a total of 669 pages) have been characterized as gossipy accounts from the courts of Europe, with both musical and literary references such as Puccini and Voltaire. Events reported include the American Revolution with the names of Benjamin Franklin, Paul Jones, Lafayette and Washington. An alphabetical name index is published in Volume II of the Lescure edition.

Accompanying the Alströmer mss. are two letters in French from historians about the newsletters. In [18]65 on October 24 [Mathieu] A[uguste] Geffroy, 1820-1895, wrote a four page letter, 13cm., with embossed initials A G, to an unidentified recipient. He is returning the Alströmer documents and thinks that they are worthless since he recalls having seen many such hand-written gazettes, especially at Skokloster in Sweden.

In an undated one page letter, 27.5cm., And[re] Fryxell, 1795-1881, Swedish historian, writes to "Votre Excellence" that there is no condition attached to the presentation of these historical documents.

Other related materials include two early accountings of the number of newsletters in the collection, and a note in the hand (verified in a statement from the dealer) of Hughes Marie Henri Fournier, 1821-1898, French diplomat to Stockholm between 1866-1872, which says that the Alströmer newsletters were given to him by Fryxell.

A survey of the problem of the Métra Correspondance may be found in J. Viktor Johansson, Sur la Correspondance littéraire secrète, Goteborg and Paris, 1960 (Main PG273 .J67).

Acquisition information:
Purchase: 1982

This collection is arranged following original order.

Physical location:
Lilly - Stacks



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[Item], Alströmer mss., Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

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