A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98)

Born in Paris, the son of a government official. Lived with his grandparents for a year after the death of his mother in 1847. Sent to boarding-school and afterwards to lycées where his academic performance was unexceptional. Composed a considerable amount of juvenilia in the years 1854-60, much of it under the influence of Victor Hugo. Profoundly distressed by the death of his sister in 1857. Decisively influenced by Baudelaire, whom he read for the first time in 1861. Married a woman of German extraction in London in 1863, where he had gone to learn English, primarily (as he told Verlaine) in order to read Poe in the original. Began the composition of the works by which he is remembered whilst teaching English at lycées in Tournon, Besançon and Avignon from 1863 to 1870, when he was in an almost unrelieved condition of spiritual torment. Returned to Paris in 1871 to teach English at the Lycée Condorcet and Collège Rollin until five years before his death. In 1874 moved to an apartment in the rue de Rome, which after 1880 became famous for the Tuesday night gatherings held there, the meeting-place for all those interested in Symbolism. His poems were privately printed in 1887; he became notorious for his obscurity on the publication in 1892 of a selection of his verse and prose. Invited in 1894 on the strength of his Parisian fame to lecture in Oxford and Cambridge, where the audience found him largely incomprehensible. Little is known of his personal life, and his liaison with Méry Laurent, whom he first met at Manet's studio in 1881, does not appear to have left its mark on his poetry, except in the case of one of his famous ' Fan' poems. Died in his summer retreat at Valvins of a long

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