Bloy, Léon Henri Marc

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Novelist and pamphleteer; b. Périgueux, France, July 11, 1846; d. Bourg-la-Reine, Nov. 3, 1917. Bloy was of French-Spanish parentage and was imbued at an early age with anticlericalism in the Masonic atmosphere of his home. When he moved to Paris, he fell under the influence of the novelist Barbey d'Aurevilly, and soon, as a young and passionate disciple, he joined a coterie of writers who gathered around Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and Huysmans. An obscure mystical experience restored his Catholic faith, of which he claimed to be one of the last loyal defenders. His piety was both humble and haughty, and the violence of his literary language created a void around him. "I travel before my exiled thoughts on a great pillar of silence," he said bitterly. In 1890 he married the convert daughter of a Danish professor. His subsequent life was spent with his family in work and poverty, for his writings won only a limited number of readers. Only after his death did his work become somewhat more widely known.

Bloy was romantic, sometimes mystical, and sometimes truculent. At times he wrote of the purest regions of the love of God and of exultant hope. He had a firm pen, and although his style was sometimes grandiose, it could also be sneering or grave; but he was always original. His temperament drew him to extreme positions. He was not interested in politics, social questions, or science, but he did not hesitate to castigate those he judged inferior to their tasks: the rich, the writers, the priests. His books reveal the need he felt for sanctity, and a horror of spiritual mediocrity. As different and remote as he was from pÉguy, from Francis Jammes, and from claudel, Bloy nevertheless is included with them in the company of writers who rejuvenated French Catholic literature at the beginning of the 20th century. Besides his two novels, Le Désespéré (1887) and La Femme Pauvre (1890), he wrote his Journal (18921917), edited in four volumes with notes by his biographer, Joseph Bollery. His other works are Le Sang du Pauvre (1909), Le Salut par les Juifs (1892), and Le Pélerin de l'Absolu (1914).

Bibliography: j. bollery, Léon Bloy, 3 v. (Paris 1953) contains some unedited documents. m. j. lory, La Pensée religieuse de Léon Bloy (Paris 1951). r. maritain, Adventures in Grace, tr. j. kernan (New York 1945). h. colleye, L'âme de Léon Bloy (Paris 1930). p. termier, Introduction à Léon Bloy (Paris 1930). p. arrou, Les Logis de Léon Bloy (Paris 1946). a. bÉguin, Léon Bloy: A Study in Impatience, tr. e. m. riley (New York 1947).

[p. arrou]