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This report is taken from PN Review 23, Volume 8 Number 3, January - February 1982.

Monsieur Valéry's Job in the City David Arkell
T. S. Eliot's City bank may have gone beyond recall (see PNR 15) but there is still time to put a plaque on 15 St Swithin's Lane, where Paul Valéry worked for a while.

It was on 30 March 1896 that the poet left Paris for London on a mysterious mission. Describing it thirty years later (in English decidedly better than Mallarmé's) he said: 'I was then leading a strange life.' (He was 24 years old but had already written La Soirée avec Monsieur Teste.) 'I lived waiting for I do not know what incident to turn up and change my life. My trunk was always at the foot of my bed as a symbol of the departure I was ready to take upon the slightest token by Fate. I held myself in readiness to obey any call or external intervention giving me the signal to transform this stagnant life. I was therefore ready to go when, about the beginning of ' 96, I received a letter from London. A post, about which no particulars were given, was offered me there in a letter signed with an unknown name. I had to decide at once, wire my reply the same day . . . '

So, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday 31 March, he arrived at Victoria, and a cab conveyed him to 12 Burleigh Mansions, Charing Cross Road. There he met a man who worked for Cecil Rhodes (and perhaps also for French Intelligence). 'I was ...

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