Paul Léautaud (18 January 1872 – 22 February 1956) was a French writer and theater critic for Mercure de France, signing his often caustic reviews with the pseudonym Maurice Boissard.
He was born in Paris, and abandoned by his mother soon after birth. His father, Firmin Léautaud, who begrudgingly brought him up, was a prompter at the Comédie-Française, and because of him Paul first became familiar with the world of the theater.
As others viewed him
According to Nancy Mitford in The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh (p. 251), Leautaud was an eccentric literary critic and diarist who said he loved cats and dogs more than people, lived on nothing but potatoes and cheese for eight years, and never travelled further than Calais.
- He was mean, slanderous, and cruel; he could also display generosity and great delicacy in his judgments. Even at his most caustic there was a simplicity, an absence of vanity, rare in a writer. He talked about death and love, authors and actors, Paris and poetry, without rambling, without moralizing, without a trace of bitterness for having fallen on hard times. He was sustained, without knowing it, by the French refusal to accept poverty as a sign of failure in an artist. Léautaud, at rock bottom, still had his credentials. His monumental diary "Journal Littéraire", which he kept for over 50 years, can without exaggeration be described as the greatest study of character ever written. (p. 143)
- He would not stand for any form of grandiloquence where writing was concerned, and words such as "inspiration" were shot down rapidly: "When I see my father dying and write about his death I am not inspired, I am describing." Asked why he had been at his dreadful father's deathbed at all, he said, "It was only curiosity. Cu-ri-o-si-té." (p. 145)
- He hated the pompous Comédie Française delivery and thought nothing of bawling objections in the middle of a classical tirade. If no notice was taken of his protest, he simply went to sleep. When he admired a play he put off writing about it because he wanted to take time and thought. As a result the best productions were never mentioned. Often he wrote about something else entirely (his most quoted non-review is about the death of a dog called Span) with one dismissive sentence for play and author. (p. 146-7)
- He had been with Mercure de France for most of his adult life. Only once had he ever thought of going, and that was in 1936, when Georges Duhamel became director and committed several sacrilegious acts: he got rid of the gas lamps and had the offices wired for electric light; he installed one telephone, ordered one typewriter and hired one female secretary. Léautaud, who preferred candlelight to any other, was bothered by the reforms: "Why change something that suits me?" (p. 147-8)
- During a radio interview he remarked that he had always wanted a pair of checked trousers. A young boy immediately wrote that his father, a tailor, would be glad to make them for nothing. Léautaud took it as an insult and snapped, on the air, "Do these people imagine I go around bare-arsed?" (p. 148)
- He wanted to say before he died, "I regret everything," words, he said, "that will sum up my life." The last thing he did say before dying in his sleep was, "Foutez-moi la paix," ["Leave me the hell alone."] which was more typical. (p. 151)
- 1900 : Poètes d'Aujourd'hui [1880-1900], morceaux choisis accompagnés de notices biographiques et d'un essai de bibliographie, with Adolphe van Bever, Mercure de France :
- Original edition (1900):
- Henri Barbusse - Henri Bataille - Tristan Corbière - André Fontainas - Paul Fort - René Ghil - Fernand Gregh - Charles Guérin - André-Ferdinand Hérold - Francis Jammes - Gustave Kahn - Jules Laforgue - Raymond de la Tailhède - Pierre Louÿs - Maurice Maeterlinck - Maurice Magre - Stéphane Mallarmé - Camille Mauclair - Stuart Merrill - Robert de Montesquiou - Jean Moréas - Pierre Quillard - Henri de Régnier - Adolphe Retté - Jean-Arthur Rimbaud - Georges Rodenbach - Albert Samain - Emmanuel Signoret - Laurent Tailhade - Paul Valéry - Émile Verhaeren - Paul Verlaine - Francis Vielé-Griffin
- Poets in the second edition (1908)
- Volume I : Henri Barbusse, Henri Bataille, Tristan Corbière, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Émile Despax, Max Elskamp, André Fontainas, Paul Fort, René Ghil, Remy de Gourmont, Fernand Gregh, Charles Guérin, A.-F. Hérold, Gérard d'Houville, Francis Jammes, Gustave Kahn, Jules Laforgue, Léo Larguier, Raymond de La Tailhède, Louis Le Cardonnel, Sébastien-Charles Leconte, Grégoire Le Roy, Jean Lorrain, Pierre Louÿs, Maurice Maeterlinck, Maurice Magre, Stéphane Mallarmé
- Volume II : Camille Mauclair, Stuart Merrill, Éphraïm Mikhaël - Albert Mockel, Robert de Montesquiou, Jean Moréas, Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles, Pierre Quillard, Ernest Raynaud, Henri de Régnier, Adolphe Retté, Jean-Arthur Rimbaud, Georges Rodenbach, Paul-Napoléon Roinard, Saint-Pol Roux, Albert Samain, Fernand Séverin, Emmanuel Signoret, Paul Souchon, Henri Spiess, Laurent Tailhade, Paul Valéry, Charles Van Lerberghe, Emile Verhaeren, Paul Verlaine, Francis Vielé-Griffin
- Poets in the third edition (1929):
- Volume I : Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Barbusse, Henry Bataille, André Castagnou, Jean Cocteau, Tristan Corbière, Guy-Charles Cros, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Tristan Derème, Charles Derennes, Emile Despax, Léon Deubel, Alfred Droin, Georges Duhamel, Édouard Dujardin, Max Elskamp, Fagus, André Fontainas, Paul Fort, René Ghil, Remy de Gourmont, Fernand Gregh, Charles Guérin.
- Volume II : A.-Ferdinand Hérold, Gérard d'Houville, Francis Jammes, Gustave Kahn, Tristan Klingsor, Jules Laforgue, Léo Larguier, Raymond de La Tailhède, Philéas Lebesgue, Louis Le Cardonnel, Sébastien-Charles Leconte, Grégoire Le Roy, Jean Lorrain, Pierre Louÿs, Maurice Maeterlinck, Maurice Magre, Stéphane Mallarmé, Louis Mandrin, Camille Mauclair, Stuart Merrill, Ephraïm Mikhaël, Albert Mockel, Robert de Montesquiou, Jean Moréas, Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles.
- Volume III : François Porché, Pierre Quillard, Ernest Raynaud, Henri de Régnier, Adolphe Retté, Arthur Rimbaud, Georges Rodenbach, P.-N. Roinard, Jules Romains, Saint-Pol-Roux, André Salmon, Albert Samain, Cécile Sauvage, Fernand Séverin, Emmanuel Signoret, Paul Souchon, Henri Spiess, André Spire, Laurent Tailhade, Touny-Léris, Paul Valéry, Charles Van Lerberghe, Emile Verhaeren, Paul Verlaine, Francis Vielé-Griffin.
- 1903 : Le Petit Ami, Société du Mercure de France
- 1926 : Le Théâtre de Maurice Boissard : 1907-1923
- 1928 : Passe-Temps, Mercure de France
- 1942 : Notes retrouvées (Imprimerie de Jacques Haumont, Paris) : « Lundi 25 août 1941. En triant de vieux papiers, je retrouve une série de notes que j'avais bien oubliées. Je ne sais plus si je les ai utilisées, ni si elles se trouvent à leur place dans mon "Journal". Je les regroupe ici par ordre de dates (de 1927 à 1934). »
- 1943 : Le Théâtre de Maurice Boissard - 1907-1923 - avec un supplément
- 1945 : Marly-le-Roy et environs, Éditions du Bélier
- 1951 : Entretiens avec Robert Mallet, Gallimard
- 1954 à 1966 : Journal littéraire 19 volumes
- 1956 : In Memoriam
- 1956 : Lettres à ma mère, Mercure de France
- 1956 : Le Fléau. Journal particulier 1917-1930, Mercure de France
- 1958 : Amours
- 1958 : Le Théâtre de Maurice Boissard : 1915-1941 (tome 2)
- 1959 : Bestiaire, Grasset
- 1963 : Poésies
- 1964 : Le Petit ouvrage inachevé
- 1966 : Lettres à Marie Dormoy, Éditions Albin Michel, réimprimé en 1988.
- 1968 : Journal littéraire, Choix par Pascal Pia et Maurice Guyot
- 1986 : Journal particulier 1933, présenté par Edith Silve, Mercure de France
- 2001 : Correspondance de Paul Léautaud. Tome 1, 1878-1928 recueillie par Marie Dormoy
- 2001 : Correspondance de Paul Léautaud. Tome 2, 1929-1956 recueillie par Marie Dormoy
- 2004 : Chronique poétique, Éditions Sigalla
- 2012 : Journal particulier 1935, présenté par Edith Silve, Mercure de France
- Further reading
- Journal of a Man of Letters, translated by G.Sainsbury, Chatto & Windus 1960.
- Lost Illusions: Paul Leautaud and his World by James Harding, Allen & Unwin, 1974.
- All of these quotes come from the March 28, 2012 entry on the blog Andrew Rickard: Quotations, Translations, and Timonism.
- This anthology, originally in only one volume, was reissued in a two-volume revised edition in 1908 and in a three-volume revised edition in 1929. 
- Graphie du prénom telle qu'imprimée dans 2 premières éditions.
- Published as a serial in 1902 in the Mercure de France review.