Rémy de Gourmont (goor-mohn) represents a type of literary figure not uncommon in the nineteenth century, the detached observer of life. As a celebrated poet he contributed to the Imagist movement of the early twentieth century. A prolific novelist and short-story writer, he exhibited a lifelong fascination for the scientific study of sexuality, and these theoretical dramas offer an aesthetic contrast between intellectual heroes and the women who captivate them.
After having been educated in Caen, a northern seaport near the English Channel, Gourmont went to Paris in 1883. That same year he assumed the position of assistant librarian at the Bibliothèque Nationale; he remained in this position until 1891, when he was dismissed for writing a seemingly unpatriotic, pro-German article in the Mercure de France, a periodical that he founded in collaboration with several other writers associated with the Symbolist movement, among them Joris-Karl Huysmans, Henri de Régnier, and Alfred Vallette.
The book that perhaps displays Gourmont’s critical abilities at their fullest is The Book of Masks, a study of the accomplishments and individuality of the Symbolist poets. This work was followed by Épilogues, a set of essays on contemporary life published in the Mercure de France. One of the most valuable achievements of Gourmont’s career was the identification of such seminal figures of the late nineteenth century...
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