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About this poet

Born on March 18, 1842 in Paris, Etienne (Stéphane) Mallarmé was the son of Numa Mallarmé, a civil servant, and Elisabeth Desmolins.

Mallarmé did not follow his father's or grandfather's path of civil servitude, instead excelling at languages and writing often, influenced by poets Victor Hugo and Charles Baudelaire. Mallarmé received his baccalaureate in 1860 and went on to publish his first poem "Placet" in the French magazine Le Papillon in 1862. He pursued further studies in London to improve his knowledge of English. In 1863, he married German governess Christina "Maria" Gerhard and obtained his certificate for teaching English. He and Maria traveled to Tournon where he taught in a provincial secondary school. In 1864, Maria gave birth to their daughter, Genevieve. Mallarmé's teaching career took him to Besancon, Avignon, and back to Paris again until he retired in 1893.

One of Mallarmé's most well-known poems, L'Aprés Midi D'un Faun (The Afternoon of a Faun) (1865), inspired Debussy's tone poem (1894) of the same name and was illustrated by Edouard Manet. Among his other works are Hérodiade (1896) and Toast Funèbre (A Funeral Toast), which was written in memory of the author Théopile Gautier. Mallarmé's later works include the experimental poem Un Coup de Dés (1914), published posthumously.

Besides his own writings, Mallarmé was well-known for his Tuesday evening salons at his home on the Rue de Rome in Paris. These gatherings were a hub of Parisian intellectual life and attracted the likes of writers André Gide, Paul Valéry, Oscar Wilde, Paul Verlaine, Rainer Maria Rilke, and W.B. Yeats, the painters Renoir, Monet, Degas, Redon, and Whistler, and the sculptor Rodin, among others. Those who attended became known as Les Mardistes, derived from the French word for Tuesday.

In the 1880s, Mallarmé was at the center of a group of French writers including Andre Gide, Paul Valéry and Marcel Proust. Mallarmé referred to their group as The Decadents, a comment on their bohemian lifestyles. He and Valéry, following Baudelaire, would later become known as two of the leaders of the Symbolist movement in poetry. While French poetry had traditionally held fairly strict conventions of rhyme, meter and theme, Mallarmé and his contemporaries departed from these traditions, employing condensed figures and unorthodox syntax. Mallarmé's work was often termed as difficult or obscure. His later works, including Un Coup de Des, explored the relationship between content and form, between the text and the arrangement of words and spaces on the page.

Mallarmé died in Valvin, Vulaines-sur-Seine on September 9, 1898, before finishing what he called his "Grande Oeuvre."

A Selected Bibliography

French translation of The Raven, (with illustrations by Edouard Manet) by Edgar Allan Poe (1875)
L'après-midi d'un faune (1876)
Les Mots anglais (1878)
Les Dieux antiques (1879)
Divagations (1897)
Un Coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1897)
Poésies (1899) (posthumous)

Reminiscence

Stéphane Mallarmé, 1842 - 1898

Orphan, I was wandering in black and with an eye vacant of family: at the quincunx, the tents of a fair were unfolded; did I experience the future and that I would take this form? I loved the odor of the vagabonds, and was drawn toward them, forgetting my comrades. No cry of a chorus clamoring through the canvas rift, nor distant tirade, the drama requiring the holy hour of the footlights, I wanted to speak with an urchin too unsteady in his wavering to figure forth among his people, in a nightcap cut like Dante's hood—who was already returning to himself, in the guise of a slice of bread and soft cheese, the snow of mountain peaks, the lily, or some other whiteness constitutive of internal wings: I would have begged him to admit me to his superior meal, which was quickly shared with some illustrious older boy who had sprung up against a nearby tent and was engaged in feats of strength and banalities consistent with the day. Naked, he pirouetted in what seemed to me the surprising nimbleness of his tights and moreover began: "Your parents? — I have none. — Go on, if you knew what a farce that is, a father...even the other week when he was off his soup, he still made faces as funny as ever, when the boss was flinging out smacks and kicks. My dear fellow!" and triumphantly raising a leg toward me with glorious ease, "Papa astounds us"; then, biting into the little one's chaste meal: "Your mama, maybe you don't have one, maybe you're alone? Mine eats rope and everyone claps his hands. you have no idea what funny people parents are, how they make you laugh." The show was heating up, he left: myself, I sighed, suddenly dismayed at not having parents.

From Collected Poems (University of California Press, 1994) by Stéphane Mallarmé. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

From Collected Poems (University of California Press, 1994) by Stéphane Mallarmé. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé

Born on March 18, 1842 in Paris, Etienne (Stéphane) Mallarmé was

by this poet

poem
child sprung from
the two of us — showing
us our ideal, the way
— ours! father
and mother who
       sadly existing
survive him as
the two extremes —
badly coupled in him
and sundered
— from whence hi death — o-
bliterating this little child "self"
poem
     NOTHING




              of the memorable crisis
                       or might
                                  the event        have been accomplished in view of all results  null