Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Friendship with the Stoic Guillaume Du Vair brought François Malherbe in contact with the writings of Livy and Seneca, some of which he began to translate as early as the turn of the seventeenth century. The first of these efforts was published in 1617, and most of the rest posthumously. These translations are of little if any interest to the modern reader. Of greater import are his numerous letters to many of the major literary figures of his time; some of these were anthologized as early as 1625, although most of them did not see print until 1645; of particular interest to students of the history of ideas are his letters to Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc, perhaps the most universally learned man of the era. His commentaries on contemporary poems and plays—marginalia published posthumously—are essential to an understanding of the poet’s doctrine, but they must be taken with a grain of salt: Sallies of a very temperamental man, they are always excessive, and perhaps were intended more to draw attention to the ambitious Malherbe than to detract from the work of his colleagues (although unpublished, these commentaries were widely circulated).