PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
The PN Review Prize 2017 - Coming Soon
ENGLISH PEN: time to join!
English PEN relies on the support of its members and subscribers. read more
Most Read... Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Sasha DugdaleJoy
(PN Review 227)
Matías Serra Bradfordinterviews Roger Langley The Long Question of Poetry: A Quiz for R.F. Langley
(PN Review 199)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Celebrating Tom Raworth: a feature supplement Jane Draycott's Michaux Mimi Khalvati's Sonnets Andrew Latimer talks to Alex Wong, anti-ironist John Clegg's gives us a six

This report is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

Villiers Comes to Town David Arkell
One of the many splendid asides in Flaubert's Parrot concerned the visit to London of Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. But since Julian Barnes devoted a mere eight lines to the episode we may perhaps be excused here for giving it a little more body. After all, nothing should be skimped in connection with that great aristocrat of letters, the Comte de Villiers.

Here, then, is the story, as told (page 42) by Barnes:


Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, chronically poor yet crazily practical, came over in search of an heiress. A Parisian marriage-broker had kitted him out for the expedition with a fur overcoat, a repeating alarm watch and a new set of false teeth, all to be paid for when the writer landed the heiress's dowry. But Villiers, tirelessly accident-prone, botched the wooing. The heiress rejected him, the broker turned up to reclaim the coat and watch, and the discarded suitor was left adrift in London, full of teeth but penniless.


There were points about this that either puzzled or intrigued me. What was a repeating alarm watch? Why had the marriage-broker shown such compassion in leaving Villiers his teeth? It was clearly a case for the BM - or British Library as we are learning to call it.

My first enlightenment was about the watch: a repeater is a watch that strikes again the previous hour at the touch of a spring. The value of this to Villiers was obvious: ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image