Toulouse-Lautrec’s hardcover school notebook from circa 1876, when he was about 12 years old, featuring the letters “T L” affixed to the front cover, 6.75 x 8.5, totaling 87 pages written in Latin in Lautrec’s hand, as well as his ownership signature on the first page, “H. de T. Lautrec.” Although he adds “Fables d’Esope” beneath his name, the passages cover a vast array of topics typical of a 19th-century child’s education, including summaries of events in classical history, moral reflections, religious lessons, and philosophical musings. Each piece is about a page long and headed with a brief title. Brief translated excerpts follow:
The notebook begins with a passage entitled “Men’s Firmest Defense Is in Piety,” in part: “O Lord, blessed are they who have put their hope in You! For when desolation invades their spirits, oppressed with the burden of affairs, they flee to You, and then, forgetting their sorrows, they draw strength and peace of mind from their source. You shelter them in a paternal embrace and spread before them the sacred light of faith…O most sweet, nourishing religion and most holy faith, who can live without you.” Lautrec was raised by his devoutly religious and overbearing mother, and began his formal schooling in 1872 at the prestigious Lycee Fontanes in Paris, but withdrew in 1875 due to his poor health. His mother’s presence in his life at this time is certainly discernible in his writings on religion and philosophy in this notebook.