Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 8: Leonardo, Poe, Mallarme

Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 8: Leonardo, Poe, Mallarme

Malcolm Cowley
James R. Lawler
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 463
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 8: Leonardo, Poe, Mallarme
    Book Description:

    Valéry's essays on Leonardo, Poe, Mallarmé, and with these the "Teste Cycle," were that part of his work most central to his thought. The extensive selection included from his Notebooks is evidence of his enduring interest in these figures. The essays are, in fact, the only work with marginal glosses, Valéry's notations showing how he went back, amending and amplifying his original ideas.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7310-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    • Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci [1894]
      (pp. 3-63)

      What a man leaves after him are the dreams that his name inspires and the works that make his name a symbol of admiration, hate, or indifference. We think of how he thought, and we are able to find within his works a kind of thinking derived from ourselves that we attribute to him; we can refashion this thought in the image of our own. It is easy to picture to ourselves an ordinary man; his motives and elementary reactions can be supplied quite simply from our own memories. The commonplace acts that form the surface of his life and...

    • Note and Digression [1919]
      (pp. 64-109)

      I must apologize for having chosen such an ambitious and truly misleading title asIntroduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci.When I attached it to this brief study, I had no idea of imposing on the reader. But twentyfive years have passed since I put it there, and now, looked at with a colder eye, it seems a bit strong. So the pretentious title could be toned down. As for the text... but I shouldn’t even dream of writing it today.Impossible!common sense would exclaim. When the game of chess played between knowledge and being has reached...

    • Leonardo and the Philosophers [1929]
      (pp. 110-158)

      Invoking Leonardo da Vinci almost at the beginning of your career, you have set his name at the head of a treatise and meditation on pure aesthetics. Many philosophers have finished (and even perished) in this field of speculation. Nothing could be nobler than your undertaking, or more venturesome.

      With remarkable precision and subtlety you have examined some of the most delicate points in the endless researches that aim to render the Beautiful more or less intelligible and to give us reasons for being moved by it to a superior degree.

      But you arc venturing into still more dangerous territory...

  5. POE
    • On Poe’s Eureka
      (pp. 161-176)

      I was twenty and believed in the might ofhuman thought. I found it a strange torment to be, and not to be. At times I felt I had infinite forces within me. They collapsed when faced with problems, and the weakness of my effective powers filled me with despair. I was moody, quick, tolerant in appearance, fundamentally hard, extreme in contempt, absolute in admiration, easy to impress, impossible to convince. I had faith in a few ideas that had come to me; I took their conformity with my nature, which had given them birth, to be a sure sign of...

    • Some Fragments from Poe’s Marginalia
      (pp. 177-192)

      I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general. Where what I have to note is too much to be included within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to a slip of paper, and deposit it between the leaves; taking care to sccure it by an imperceptible portion of gum-tragacanth paste.

      All this may be whim; it may be not only...

    • The Place of Baudelaire
      (pp. 193-212)

      Baudelaire’s fame is now at its height.

      The small volume ofLes Fleurs du mal,containing less than three hundred pages, stands as high in literary esteem as the most celebrated and imposing works. It has been translated into most European languages: this is a fact on which I shall dwell for a moment since it is, I believe, without parallel in the history of French literature.

      French poets are generally little known and appreciated abroad. We are more readily given the advantage in prose; but poetic power is sparingly and reluctantly allowed us.

      The order and the kind of...

    • The Existence of Symbolism
      (pp. 215-239)

      The mere name ofSymbolismis already an enigma for many, as if it had been chosen expressly to torment the minds of mortals. I have known persons who attributed an imaginary depth to the little wordsymbol;they meditated on it day after day in the hope of defining its mysterious resonance. But a word is a bottomless pit.

      Those without literary leanings were not the only ones to be puzzled by these innocent syllables. Scholars, artists, and philosophers have sometimes revealed the same embarrassment. But as for the men who were given and still bear the proud title...

    • Letter about Mallarmé
      (pp. 240-253)

      You think that a study of Mallarmé, even one as reverent, searching, and full of love as you have planned and carried out, should nevertheless open with a few pages in another hand than yours, and you have asked me to write these.

      But what can I say on the threshold of this book that the book itself does not say, or that I have not said before, or that everyone has not said? What can I say that is not difficult for me to explain without going into minute details, and at length, without making it too abstract and...

    • Stéphane Mallarmé
      (pp. 254-271)

      The life and destiny of Stephane Mallarmé and the growth of his fame present one of the most felicitous conjunctures in the history of the mind. For those who study the spiritual universe, the drama of the intellectual life here provides an episode that is strictlyunique.

      A man leads an existence of the humblest; he is enslaved by work which bores him, but he continues to carry it out regularly and honorably until it terminates on his retirement. On the other hand, he produces a few rare writings that are difficult to read; so rare and so difficult that...

    • I Would Sometimes Say to Stephane Mallarmé. . . .
      (pp. 272-293)

      I would sometimes say to Stéphane Mallarmé:

      “Some blame you and others ridicule you. You arouse irritation and pity. Any journalist can easily amuse the world at your expense, and your friends shake their heads.

      “But do you know, do you feel, that in every French city there is a nameless young man who would let himself be hacked to pieces for your poems and yourself?

      “You are his pride, his mystery, his vice. He withdraws from everyone into his undivided love for an intimacy with your work, work so hard to find, to understand, to defend....”

      I had in...

    • Mallarmé
      (pp. 294-298)

      Of necessity the most exalted project must also be the most difficult to conceive with precision, to undertake, and above all constantly to pursue.

      The most difficult project to conceive, to undertake, and above all constantly to pursue in the arts, and especially poetry, is tosubmit the production of a work to the conscious willwithout this strict condition, deliberately adopted, being allowed to harm the essential qualities, the charms and the grace, which must be effectively carried by any work of art that aims to lead men’s minds to the delights of the mind.

      Stcphane Mallarme was the...

    • A Kind of Preface
      (pp. 299-306)

      A manuscript collection of exercises intended for use in schools, which has recently been discovered and bought by the Bibliotheque Nationale, may serve as the occasion for a few reflections since it is signed by Mallarme.

      In atotally organizedState—one, that is to say, which decreed, imposed, and from moment to moment maintained economic equality—what would be the chance of survival of a man whose talents and intellectual passion could be applied to nothing but the production of works that are wholly useless to life?

      If everything had an exact value, if each man could only exchange...

    • Concerning A Throw of the Dice A Letter to the Editor of Les Marges
      (pp. 307-316)
      Paul Valéry

      A friend who must bear me a grudge showed me the current issue of Les Marges. “There!” he said. I followed his index finger and read, in an articledevoted to poetry,that “Mallarme, after choosing a tried and tested artist as executor of his will, has seen—if the dead can still see—that this poet is repeating the exploits of Jean-Baptiste Rousseau.”

      “Well?” he said.

      “Well,” I answered, “that definition excludes me. ‘A tried and tested artist’—it could not be said that I have suffered many more trials or can be certified as having much more skill...

    • Literary Reminiscences
      (pp. 317-324)

      Mallarmé, whom you have perhaps read, or at least tried to read, is, as you know, a rather difficult author. I shall not talk about his work now; I shall merely say a few words about his personality. He was the most delightful, the most affable, the most courteous man one could imagine. You were received, when you went to visit him, by a man of very modest height with a noble face, a serious and gentle expres sion, and admirable eyes. His welcome was exquisitely graceful, almost that of another age. He had as it were reconstructed his social...

    • Last Visit to Mallarmé
      (pp. 325-328)

      I first began to see a great deal of Mallarme at a time when literature was almost the least of my concerns. Reading and writing were a trial to me, and I confess that some of this feeling persists in me to this day. The new preoccupations that seldom left me were self-awareness pursued for its own sake, the clarification of that awareness, and the effort to form a clear picture of my existence. This secret affliction estranges one from literature, even though it originates from there.

      Meanwhile, in my inner system of values, Mallarmé was the figure that represented...

    • Stéphane Mallarmé
      (pp. 329-332)

      A telegram from his daughter, on September 9,1898, told me of the death of Mallarmé.

      The news to me was like one of those thunderbolts that strike to one’s depths and even destroy the power of speech. They leave our appearance unchanged and a visible sort of life goes on, but within there is an abyss.

      I no longer dared listen to myself, for I felt those intolerable few words waiting for me. From that day there have been certain subjects for reflection that I have truly ceased to consider. I had often thought of discussing them with Mallarme; they...

    (pp. 333-398)
    (pp. 399-430)
  9. NOTES
    (pp. 431-450)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 451-464)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 465-465)