Issue 24: Peter Manson

Extract from a letter by Paul Valéry to his brother Jules Valéry (1898)

I have just barely started to pull myself together again after this event which is one of the greatest sorrows of my life and an irreparable loss for me.

Nothing will give back to me this friendship with a unique man, the epitome of the most daring thought, the most modest life, and of the most pure, most incomparable honour.  The tenderness which he sometimes showed towards me is, and always will be, for me, the only external reason I could admit for valuing myself a little.

I found his coffin in the garden next to the Seine upon which his little boat was still floating.  His daughter fell into my arms, recalling to me the sentiments of her father with regard to me.  It is an immense blow for her, she had sacrificed everything to her father, the best chances of marriage, etc.

The people arrived; there were a lot of people there for Valvins, and even enough.

I had had a beautiful wreath made by Augustin, which I brought with me.

Fortunately, apart from Mendès, there were few literary undertakers.

The Church was very far off, then the cemetery in an admirable position, absolutely analogous to that of his house.

There, Roujon, who, like everyone, was dressed in country clothes (except for myself who had come from Paris – almost all like cyclists or in Summer clothing) spoke very simply and very well all in all – since he said the important thing – the assurance that the two women would be cared for.

Then I was led forcibly to the graveside and obliged to speak.

I stammered a few words with neither sense nor sequence, I was so choked up.  I returned to Paris with Héredia and Régnier.

“Le Temps” attributes to me two sentences which I don't remember at all?  In the end I am indifferent to all that.

Mallarmé has died of a strange accident, for such it must be called.

Since Monday he had a slightly sore throat.  The doctor came to see him on Friday and he felt much better and wanted to get up.  While he was speaking with the doctor, he stood up, grabbed at him, and fell dead, asphyxiated by a sudden spasm of the glottis, which had no direct relation to his indisposition.  It is, it appears, an extremely rare case in pathology.

Peter Manson lives in Glasgow.  His books include Adjunct: an Undigest, Poems of Frank Rupture and (as translator) Stéphane Mallarmé: The Poems in Verse. More at

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