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Mendès, Catulle


MENDÈS, CATULLE (1841–1909), French poet. Mendès was born in Bordeaux. His father was a banker of Sephardi origin and his mother a Catholic. At the age of 18 he went to Paris, where in 1861 he founded La Revue fantaisiste – the first of several journals issued by the French Parnassian poets. It stressed their anti-utilitarianism and their devotion to art. He also contributed to the serialized anthology Le Parnasse contemporain (1866–76), which he later described in La Légende du Parnasse contemporain (1884). A versatile, "decadent" poet, Mendès had a prolific output – some 150 volumes over four decades. They include verse collections – Poésies (3 vols., 1892), Poésies nouvelles (1893), and Choix de poésies (1925); neo-Romantic plays such as La Femme de Tabarin (1887), Médée (1898), and La Reine Fiammette (1899); and several novels, notably Monstres parisiens (1882), Les Folies amoureuses (1877), and Zohar (1886). Mendès also wrote short stories; a study of Richard *Wagner, of whose music he was the French champion; and, in collaboration with the lyric poet Ephraïm *Mikhaël, the dramatic poem Briséis (1899). The Rapport sur le mouvement poétique français 1867–1900 (1902) reveals considerable critical insight. Mendès, who married the daughter of the poet Théophile Gautier (1811–1872), was killed in a railroad accident.


A. Bertrand, Catulle Mendès, biographie critique (1908); A. Schaffer, Parnassus in France (1929), 46–71; M. Souriau, Histoire du Parnasse (1929); J.F. Herlihy, Catulle Mendès, critique dramatique et musical (1936).

[Sidney D. Braun]

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