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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

LEAH'S LAST WORDS JULES LAFORGUE, Oeuvres Complétes, tome 2: Textes établis et annotes par Maryke de Courten, Jean-Louis Debauve, Pierre-Olivier Walzer, avec la collaboration de David Arkell (Editions L'Age d'Homme, Lausanne) £46.00

This is the second volume of the three-volume Collected Works, the first part having appeared in 1986. The intervening years have seen two of the four original editors disappear from view: Pascal Pia sadly died, while Daniel Grojnowski left of his own volition. Debauve and Walzer are still happily with us, and so is the publisher Vladimir Dimitrijevic. (As a minor participant I am lost in wonder at the tireless scholarship and self-abnegation that have brought the enterprise thus far.

The present volume is especially moving in that it records the poet's last days, with a touching spotlight on relations between Laforgue's English wife Leah Lee and his friend Teodor de Wyzewa.

It is summer (early August, 1887) and Jules is sweltering in his fifth-floor Paris flat, looked after by the wife he married only last December in London. They are almost penniless. Most of their friends have left the town on holiday, including even the faithful Teodor. But the latter, before leaving, arranged for the couple to be supplied with regular 100 fr. money-orders purporting to come from a mysterious Pole called Rzewuski. (Laforgue sees through this wheeze but is too tired to protest. Indeed his TB takes its inevitable course and he dies on 20 August.)

Laforgue's last book, Moralités Legendaires, is published in the autumn but, almost simultaneously, Leah finds that she herself is suffering from TB. She is sent from England to a nursing home in Mentone and, on ...

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