Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Alstromer mss., 1779-1784 and 1865, are a series of newsletters in French addressed in a number of instances to Baron Alstromer of Gothembourg, Sweden. (There are no newsletters for the year 1783 in the Alstromer mss.)

The originator of the newsletters is considered to have been Francois Metra, 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 Reyniere, and others. The newsletters were published on a weekly basis from Neuwied, 1775-1793, as Correspondance litteraire secrete in 19 volumes. They were re-issued in part in London as Correspondance secrete, politique & litteraire in 1787-1790 in 18 volumes (Skatline Reprints, Geneve, 1967. Main DC136 .A2 C8 1967). A Paris edition came out in 1793.

A substantial number of the newsletters in the Alstromer mss. are published in Metra'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 Alstromer mss.

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

In 1866 appeared Correspondance secrete inedite sur Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette la cour et la ville de 1777 a 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 Metra'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 Alstromer mss. are published in the Lescure volumes.

In 1884 the 178 newsletters of the Alstromer mss. were published separately as Lettres de M. de Kageneck au Baron Alstromer de 1779 a 1784 (Lilly DC137.5 .M6 L65) with a preface by Louis Antoine Leouzon Le Duc in Paris, G. Charpentier. (These too are from Metra's Correspondance.) Written in many hands, 81 of the newsletters are addressed to "Monsieur Baron Alstromer, Conseiller de Commerce, Directeur de la Compagnie des Indes & Chevalier de l'ordre royal Suevois de Wasa a Gothembourg." Baron Alstromer has been identified as Claes Alstromer, 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 Alstromer, also a businessman and music patron, who lived from 1722 to 1804. The personal note appended to the newsletter of 1782, July 30, mentions Johan, a third Alstromer brother, 1742-1788, industrialist.

Another unpublished personal note about "l'irreguliarite des poste" 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 Alstromer 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 Alstromer 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 Alstromer 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 Alstromer newsletters were given to him by Fryxell.

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

Collection size: 184 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.