A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview
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Tristan Corbière (1845-75)

Born Édouard-Joachim Corbiére near Morlaix in Brittany, the son of a sea-captain who published Poems and novels. Suffered from rheumatism as a child and from tuberculosis from the age of fifteen. A celebrated eccentric and practical joker in the Roscoff of his young manhood, where he fell in love with the Italian actress mistress of a French Count, who removed her to Paris in 1871. Himself moved to Paris in early 1872, where he spent much of his time with the Count and his mistress. Returned to Brittany, where his father paid for the printing of his solitary collection of poems Les Amours Jaunes ( 1873), which was completely ignored by the public. Became gravely ill in Paris, and was taken home by his mother to Morlaix, where he died a few months before his father. Discovered by Verlaine in 1883, who included him in Les pontes maudits ( 1884), and later by the young T. S. Eliot. Much admired by the Surrealists, but still an equivocal figure for the majority of the French literary establishment. A recurrent minor presence in Anglo-American literature where he tends, however, to be overshadowed, by the equally shortlived and equally unconventional Jules Laforgue.

Corbière's life and work conform so exactly to the received idea of the poète maudit or 'cursed' Poet that it seems natural to regard him as a kind of archetype defining an otherwise superfluous, or at best inexact, descriptive term. It was not until nine years after his death, in 1884, that Corbière was rescued from oblivion and assured of something resembling a posterity by Paul Verlaine, who included an essay on him

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A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets
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