Gezelle's enormous collection of papers ended up with his family. The archives withstood quite some ordeals such as a world war. Read the fascinating story.
After his death Gezelle left behind an impressive collection of papers: poetry manuscripts, letters, philological notes and many other documents ... His cousin Caesar Gezelle (1875-1939) became the desperate heir. During the war he abondoned the collection, hoping for its destruction. The conscientious priest Lodewijk De Wolf saved it from the rubble and returned it to its owner. The war left its marks, as is shown by the bullet impacts on some of the books. Listen to Caesar's story.
“No one will envy the pleasure those papers brought. And during the war, when my house and courtyard were hit by Prussian air strikes I was secretly joyful when I thought I was relieved of that burden of keeping those papers. Divine Providence decided otherwise: it gave a stubborn and faithful friend [Dr. Lodewijk de Wolf of Bruges], the insight and the courage, to try his utmost to save those papers that were hidden in my cellar, and he saved them endangering his own life.”
“- and the abandoned manuscripts came, like a thunderstorm from the North, following me and finding me, in three large, heavy boxes, to Versailles, to my refuge.”
Turning virtue into necessity, Caesar Gezelle began to write about his famous uncle. He used the Gezelle papers and his own memories. In scientific circles these publications were received rather critically. Because of this, the embittered Caesar Gezelle refused to grant further access to the archives. Nephew Stijn Streuvels testifies:
“With his light-hearted mind and his ambitious character, it felt as being stabbed in the heart and he encountered one disappointment after another. [The Gezelle biographer] Walgrave became his arch enemy and he never succeeded in getting hold of one shred of the Guido Gezelle papers.”
In the run-up to the 1930 anniversary year, Caesar Gezelle decided to release the archives after all. He gradually transferred the pieces to the newly established Gezelle Museum (1926). This was due to his nephew Stijn Streuvels. The last pieces of the family archives ended up in the Gezelle Museum after the death of Caesar Gezelle in 1939.
Paul Allossery (1875-1943) was the first curator of the Gezelle Museum. He further expanded Gezelle's legacy over the years. Many family members, former students, acquaintances and sympathizers donated their “Gezelliana”. Other pieces were purchased. As a result, the Gezelle Archives were considerably larger than what Gezelle left to his family after his death.
Allossery also arranged and classified the Archives. He made numerous notes on the documents. A larger classification followed in view of the anniversary year 1930, when the anniversary edition of Guido Gezelle's Full Works started.
In 1971 the City of Bruges became the new owner of the Guido Gezelle Archives. The Archives are now kept in the Public Library of Bruges. The Main Library of Bruges owes its name to Gezelle's magazine Biekorf (Beehive). Its heritage department preserves manuscripts and ancient prints in addition to the Gezelle Archives. The library pursues an active acquisition policy and was able to considerably expand the Gezelle Archives with valuable pieces and collections.