The Life of Villiers de l'Isle-Adam by A W Raitt - review by James Harding

James Harding

Poète Maudit

The Life of Villiers de l'Isle-Adam


Clarendon Press 452pp illus £25 order from our bookshop

The late Pascal Pia was a writer who'd known everyone and seen everything. Among his memories was that of a decrepit journalist, a familiar dogsbody in newspaper offices of the nineteen-thirties, who’d arrive by the last tube train to scribble reports of boxing matches for the early editions. This was Rodolphe Darzens, one-time poet and last surviving friend of Villiers de l’ Isle-Adam. Darzens was the guardian of Villiers’ papers, and, though reduced by poverty to menial reporting jobs, never dreamed of raising much-needed cash by selling his old comrade’s manuscripts – which says something for the loyalty Villiers could inspire.

Fervent Breton, ardent Catholic, thorough aristocrat, Villiers would have been a poète maudit in whatever century he happened to have found himself. Vastly proud of his ancient ancestry, he loathed the age in which he lived and mocked it with brilliant sarcasm. Yet this haughty nobleman, this would-be candidate for

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