Gourmont, Remy de, 1858-1915, French critic and novelist, leading critical apologist for the symbolists. Although his views were seemingly contradictory, he was consistent in opposing traditionalism and defending new literary departures. He was long a contributor to the Mercure de France. His novels, stories, and plays, always analytic in their character study, include Les Chevaux de Diomède (1897, tr. The Horses of Diomedes, 1923) and Un Cɶur virginal (1907, tr. A Virgin Heart, 1921). He is known for his linguistic studies, including Le Problème du style (1902), as well as for the critical collection Promenades littéraires (7 vol., 1904-28).
Remy de Gourmont (April 4, 1858 - September 27, 1915) was a French Symbolist poet, novelist, and influential critic. He was widely read in his era, and an important influence on Blaise Cendrars.

(The spelling Rémy de Gourmont is incorrect, although very common and used by Ezra Pound in translations of his work.)


De Gourmont came from a publishing family from Cotentin. He was the son of count Auguste-Marie de Gourmont and his countess, born Mathilde de Montfort. In 1866 he moved to a manor close to Villedieu near La Manche. He studied law at Caen, and was awarded a bachelor's degree in law in 1879; upon his graduation he moved to Paris.

In 1881, de Gourmont was employed by the Bibliothèque Nationale. He began to write for general circulation periodicals such as Le Monde and Le Contemporain. He took an interest in ancient literature, following the footsteps of Gustave Kahn. During this period, he also met Berthe Courrière, model and heir of the sculptor Auguste Clésinger, which whom he struck a lifelong attachment. The two lived together for the rest of their lives.

De Gourmont also began a literary alliance with Joris-Karl Huysmans, to whom he dedicated his prose work le Latin mystique ("Mystical Latin"). In 1889 de Gourmont became one of the founders of the Mercure de France. In 1891 he published a political polemic called Le Joujou Patriotisme ("Patriotism - a toy") which argued that France and Germany shared an aesthetic culture and urged a rapprochement between the two countries, contrary to the wishes of nationalists in the French government. The fallout from this political essay led to his losing his job at the Bibliothèque Nationale, in despite of Octave Mirbeau's chronicles.

During this same period, de Gourmont was stricken with the disease lupus vulgaris. Disfigured by this illness, he largely retired from public view, appearing only at the offices of the Mercure de France. In 1910, de Gourmont met Natalie Clifford Barney, to whom he dedicated his Lettres à l'Amazone ("Letters to the Amazon").

However, de Gourmont's health continued to decline during this period, and he began to suffer from locomotor ataxia and be increasingly unable to walk. He was deeply depressed by the outbreak of World War I as well, and died of cerebral congestion in 1915. Berthe Courrière was his sole heir; she inherited a substantial body of unpublished work from him, which she sent to his brother Jean de Gourmont; she died within a year of his death. De Gourmont is buried in Père-Lachaise.


His poetic works include Litanies de la rose (1892), Les Saintes du paradis (1898), and Divertissements (1912). His poems plunge from perhaps ironic piety to equally ironic blasphemy; they reflect, more than anything else, his interest in mediæval Latin literature, and his works led to a fad for late Latin literature among authors like Joris-Karl Huysmans. He was also a literary critic of great importance, and was admired by T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound in that capacity.

Selected works


  • Sixtine, roman de la vie cérébrale
  • Lettres à l'Amazone
  • Le latin mystique
  • Le joujou patriotisme
  • Le Livre des masques
  • Esthétique de la langue française
  • Physique de l'amour


  • Litanies de la rose
  • Les Saintes du paradis
  • Divertissements
  • Les feuilles mortes


Que tes mains soient bénies, car elles sont impures!
Elles ont des péchés cachés à toutes les jointures;
Leur peau blanche s'est trempée dans l'odeur âpre des caresses
Secrètes, parmi l'ombre blanche où rampent les caresses,
Et l'opale prisonnière qui se meurt à ton doigt,
C'est le dernier soupir de Jésus sur la croix.

---Oraisons mauvaises


External links

  • Selected poems by Remy de Gourmont (in French): http://poesie.webnet.fr/auteurs/gourmont.html
  • Les amateurs de Remy de Gourmont (site is in French): http://www.remydegourmont.org/
  • Works by Remy de Gourmont at Project Gutenberg

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