Valéry, Paul

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Valéry, Paul

Paul Valéry (pōl välārē´), 1871–1945, French poet and critic. A follower of the symbolists, Valéry was one of the greatest French poets of the 20th cent. He was encouraged by Pierry Loüys and by Mallarmé to publish a few poems in several small reviews, but he soon turned from poetry to prose with La Soirée avec M. Teste (1896; tr. An Evening with Mr. Teste, 1925). In 1912, Gide and other admirers urged him to publish a collection of his early poems. A brief valedictory to poetry, which he had planned to add to the collection, grew into his masterpiece, La Jeune Parque (1917). It is a long and somewhat obscure poem, which, together with Le Cimetière marin (1920; tr. The Graveyard by the Sea, 1932), offers the best example of Valéry's poetics. In 1920 appeared Odes and Album de vers anciens, followed in 1922 by Charmes. His prose works include five collections of essays, all called Variété (1924–44; partial tr. Variety, 1927, 1938), and four dialogues on subjects ranging from the arts to mathematics and the sciences. He succeeded Anatole France in the French Academy in 1925. Between the world wars Valéry was a member of the Committee of Letters and Arts of the League of Nations, serving as its president in the 1930s. Valéry held the chair of poetry at the Collège de France. A recipient of many honors, he was accorded a state funeral at his death. Publication (in English) of a projected 15-volume edition of The Collected Works of Paul Valéry, edited by Jackson Mathews, was begun in 1956.

See studies by H. A. Grubbs (1968), W. N. Ince (2d ed. 1970), and C. M. Crow (1972); bibliography by A. J. Arnold (1970).

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