Remy de Gourmont

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Remy de Gourmont

Remy de Gourmont (April 4, 1858 – September 27, 1915) was a French Symbolist poet, novelist, and influential critic. He was widely read in his era, and an important influence on Blaise Cendrars. The spelling Rémy de Gourmont is incorrect, albeit common and used by Ezra Pound in translations of his work.


De Gourmont was born at Bazoches-au-Houlme, Orne, into a publishing family from Cotentin. He was the son of Count Auguste-Marie de Gourmont and his countess, born Mathilde de Montfort. In 1866 he moved to a manor close to Villedieu[disambiguation needed] near La Manche. He studied law at Caen, and was awarded a bachelor's degree in law in 1879; upon his graduation he moved to Paris.

In 1881, de Gourmont was employed by the Bibliothèque nationale. He began to write for general circulation periodicals such as Le Monde and Le Contemporain. He took an interest in ancient literature, following the footsteps of Gustave Kahn. During this period, he also met Berthe Courrière, model for, and heir of, the sculptor Auguste Clésinger, with whom he formed a lifelong attachment, he and Berthe living together for the rest of their lives.

De Gourmont also began a literary alliance with Joris-Karl Huysmans, to whom he dedicated his prose work Le Latin mystique (Mystical Latin). In 1889 de Gourmont became one of the founders of the Mercure de France, which became a rallying point of the Symbolist movement.[1] Between 1893 and 1894 he was the co-editor, along with Alfred Jarry, of L'Ymagier, a magazine dedicated to symbolist wood carvings. In 1891 he published a polemic called Le joujou patriotisme (Patriotism, a toy) in which he argued that France and Germany shared an aesthetic culture and urged a rapprochement between the two countries, contrary to the wishes of nationalists in the French government. This political essay led to his losing his job at the Bibliothèque nationale, despite Octave Mirbeau's chronicles.

During this same period, de Gourmont was stricken with lupus vulgaris.[2] Disfigured by this illness, he largely retired from public view appearing only at the offices of the Mercure de France. In 1910, de Gourmont met Natalie Clifford Barney, to whom he dedicated his Lettres à l'Amazone (Letters to the Amazon).

De Gourmont's health continued to decline and he began to suffer from locomotor ataxia and be increasingly unable to walk. He was deeply depressed by the outbreak of World War I and died in Paris of cerebral congestion in 1915. Berthe Courrière was his sole heir, inheriting a substantial body of unpublished work which she sent to his brother Jean de Gourmont, and dying within the year. De Gourmont is buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery.


His poetic works include Litanies de la rose (1892), Les Saintes du paradis (1898), and Divertissements (1912). His anthology Hieroglyphes of (1894), contains his experiments with the possibilities of sound and rhythm.[3] plunge from perhaps ironic piety to equally ironic blasphemy; they reflect, more than anything else, his interest in medieval Latin literature, and his works led to a fad for late Latin literature among authors like Joris-Karl Huysmans. He was also a literary critic and essayist of great importance, most notably his Le Probleme du Style[4] which was a source book for many of the ideas that inspired the literary developments in both England and France[5] and was also admired by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound in that capacity. In 1922 Aldous Huxley translated de Gourmont's novel 'A Virgin Heart'.[6] Pound observed in 1915 that the English Imagist poetic movement derived from the French Symbolistes,[7] Eliot describing de Gourmant as the 'critical conscience of his generation'[8]

Selected works[edit]


  • Sixtine, roman de la vie cérébrale
  • Lettres à l'Amazone
  • Le Latin mystique
  • Le joujou patriotisme
  • Le Livre des masques
  • Esthétique de la langue française
  • Physique de l'amour
  • Une Nuit au Luxembourg (English translation online 'A Night in the Luxembourg' translated by Arthur Ransome, 1912)


  • Litanies de la rose
  • Les Saintes du paradis
  • Divertissements
  • Les feuilles mortes


Que tes mains soient bénies, car elles sont impures!
Elles ont des péchés cachés à toutes les jointures;
Leur peau blanche s'est trempée dans l'odeur âpre des caresses
Secrètes, parmi l'ombre blanche où rampent les caresses,
Et l'opale prisonnière qui se meurt à ton doigt,
C'est le dernier soupir de Jésus sur la croix.
---Oraisons mauvaises


  1. ^ Burne Glen, Remy de Gourmont: His Ideas and Influence in England and America, Carbondale, USA 1963
  2. ^ Denkinger, Marc (December 1937). "Remy de Gourmont Critique". PMLA 52 (4): 1148. JSTOR 458509.  Denkinger refers to the disease as "lupus tuberculeux", apparently lupus vulgaris, which is a form of tuberculosis of the skin, unrelated to systemic lupus erythematosus, the disease now commonly known as lupus.
  3. ^ Burne Glen, Remy de Gourmont:His Ideas & Influence in England & America, Carbondale, USA 1963
  4. ^ Remy de Gourmont,Le Probleme du Style, Paris 1900
  5. ^ Read, Herbert The Tenth Muse, New York, 1958
  6. ^ A Virgin Heart (translator Aldous Huxley) Musson Books, Toronto 1922
  7. ^ de Gourmant, Remy, La France, 1915
  8. ^ Eliot, T. S., Preface to The Sacred Wood, London 1928

Further reading[edit]

  • Burne Glen S., Remy de Gourmont-His Ideas and Influence in England & America, Carbondale, USA 1963

External links[edit]