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This report is taken from PN Review 27, Volume 9 Number 1, September - October 1982.

Poets at Play David Arkell

Welcomed into the bosom of the French Academy on 30 May 1895, the Parnassian poet José-Maria de Heredia (Les Trophées) was perhaps even better known for his three beautiful daughters: Hélène, Marie and Louise, of whom the most beautiful was Marie. Thanks to the revelations of a French magazine we have heard much of Marie lately.

The Heredia family was of Cuban origin, which gave the girls a dark and piquant charm that Paris found irresistible. But Marie was as witty and intelligent as she was beautiful. While still in her teens she was a regular contributor of poems to the Revue des Deux Mondes under the intriguing pen-name of * * *; and a month after her father became Academician she formed her own academy-the Académie Canaque or Canaquadémie-for admission to which candidates were required only to make 'grimaces artistiques'. Yet the membership was hardly less brilliant than that of the real Academy, including as it did the young Paul Valéry and (as perpetual secretary) a certain Marcel Proust.

Marie had, of course, many suitors, of which the front-runners were two up-and-coming poets: Henri de Régnier (Tel qu'en songe) and Pierre Louÿs (Les Chansons de Bilitis). Both could be described as dandies but, while Henri was rich and aloof (his nickname was the English 'Stick'), Pierre was relatively poor and much more likeable: he had been widely recognized as 'mon grand ami Hubert' in Gide's brilliant Paludes, published earlier that year.

Henri ...


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