Un été à la campagne: correspondance de deux jeunes parisiennes, recueillie par un auteur à la mode (A Summer in the Countryside: The Correspondence of Two Young Parisiennes, Collected by a Fashionable Author) was understandably a very popular story for publishers wishing to commission a series of erotic illustrations.

The text consists of the correspondence between Adèle and Albertine, adolescent school friends who are looking forward to the summer holidays in the French countryside with their respective families. They are also thinking rather a lot about sex. The book is written as a series of forty-one letters, describing in detail how their experiences of intimacy develop over the long hot months.

The text is by Antoine Gustave Droz (1832–95), artist and author best known for his series of sketches of the intimacies of family life, published in the La Vie Parisienne and issued in book form in 1866 as Monsieur, Madame et Bébé. He was an early advocate of marriage as an equal partnership, and intimacy as an integral aspect of a truly loving relationship. He urged women to follow their hearts and marry a man of their own age: ‘A husband who is stately and a little bald is all right, but a young husband who loves you and drinks out of your glass without ceremony is better. Let him, if he ruffles your dress a little and places a kiss on your neck as he passes. Let him, if he undresses you after the ball, laughing like a fool. You have fine spiritual qualities, it is true, but your body is not bad either, and when one loves, one loves completely.’

No publisher’s name is given for this edition, supposedly published ‘in Mityléne’ (Mytilene, the capital of the Greek island of Lesbos), though almost certainly by Georges Briffaut in Paris, who used ‘Mityléne’ in other editions. For this set of plates van Maële uses his pseudonym A. van Troizem.

In 1901 a private press English translation of Un été à la campagne was published in Paris, which you can read here, and an online French text can be found here.

We are grateful to Steve Mullins of the Olympia Press website (www.parisolympiapress.com) for these illustrations.