Schwob, Marcel

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SCHWOB, MARCEL (1867–1905), French scholar, essayist, and biographer. Schwob was born in Chaville, near Paris. He began his career as a journalist, but spent much time on medieval and philological studies. His erudition is evident in all his writing, particularly his studies of François Villon, and most notably in Spicilège (1896). His writing is pure, rich, and varied. Coeur double (1891) and Le Roi au masque d'or (1893) are tales based on legend and history and La Croisade des enfants (1896) on medieval narrative. His outstanding Vies imaginaires (1896) is a collection of the lives of princesses, poets, pirates, and murderers, based on scholarly texts and bringing history dramatically to life. His philosophic and poetic impact is achieved sometimes by fantasy, sometimes by an ethereal, dreamlike atmosphere. Thus his novel Le Livre de Monelle (1894) is full of frail, unhappy little girls, reminiscent of Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande (1892). He was a friend of Oscar Wilde, who dedicated Salome to him.

Schwob's other works include Etude sur l'argot français (1889); Mimes (1894), a book of verse; La Lampe de Psyché (1903); and translations from Shakespeare and Defoe. For the last ten years of his life Schwob suffered from an incurable disease. His collected works appeared in ten volumes (1927–30).


P. Champion, Marcel Schwob et son temps (1927); H. Clouard, Histoire de la littérature française du symbolisme à nos jours, 1 (1952), 139–40.

[Denise R. Goitein]