Paul Valery and the Civilized Mind

Paul Valery and the Civilized Mind

Paul Valery and the Civilized Mind

Paul Valery and the Civilized Mind

Excerpt

'Je ne sais aimer quelque personne sans me la rendre si présente à l'esprit qu'elle en devient fort différente de soi-même.' Le Retour do Hollande in Var. II, p. 33

WHAT Valéry said of his own treatment of Descartes doubtless applies equally to my treatment, in this book, of Valéry himself. His published writings will allow (and have indeed already allowed) of a variety of interpretations, any one of which is bound to reflect in great part the predispositions of its author. And my reason for undertaking this work was mainly that Valéry had helped me, more than most other authors I had read, to arrive at a clear realization of my own outlook. Just as the figure of Leonardo was necessary in order that Valéry should form his conception of the 'universal man', so the achievement of Valéry has enabled me, as few others could have done, to clarify my notions of the civilized mind. To some of his commentators he has appeared in a different light from this; but the difference is as much between them and me as between supposedly conflicting features of Valéry's own literary personality.

For which and other reasons I have not thought it necessary to seek, in other sources than Valéry's score of published volumes, for evidences of his thought overlooked by previous writers. I have not attempted to thrust myself on Mme Valéry in the street now called by her husband's name in order to learn of some ipse dixit which should contradict a comment I was desirous of refuting. I have not approached M. Julien Monod for permission to delve into the archives valériennes of which he is said to be the custodian and which are supposed to contain material for many more miscellany-volumes of the type of Mélange and Tel Quel. I have preferred to base my speculations chiefly on what Valéry . . .

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