Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 11: Occasions

Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 11: Occasions

Roger Shattuck
Frederick Brown
With an Introduction by Roger Shattuck
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    Collected Works of Paul Valery, Volume 11: Occasions
    Book Description:

    This collection of Valéry's occasional pieces-speeches, interviews, articles-shows him very much as the public figure, the first in demand when an "occasion" needed a prominent person. Included are his speech before the French Academy on his reception into that body; his address welcoming Marshal Petain to membership in the French Academy; a witty and appealing commencement address to the young ladies of a private school; memorial addresses honoring Emile Verhaeren and Henri Bremond; an article on the "Future of Literature," and an incisive piece on the eponymous heroine of Racine'sPhèdre.

    Because Valéry spoke on many current educational and social problems in France,Occasionswill be of considerable interest to students of modern European history as well as to those concerned with French literature and drama.

    Originally published in 1970.

    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: 978-1-4008-7262-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Inscriptions for the Palais de Chaillot
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Paul Valéry: Sportsman and Barbarian
    (pp. ix-xxx)
    Roger Shattuck

    When a man becomes a public institution, he has either abdicated his personality and privacy or arranged his “back shop” so securely that no one can disturb him. In the case of Paul Valéry it all happened swiftly just as he was entering his fifties. He appears to have thrived on prominence.

    The death in February, 1922, of Édouard Lebey, the cultivated businessman for whom he had worked as “private secretary” for twenty years, coincided with the events that established Valéry’s literary fame. A few months earlier, over three thousand readers of the literary reviewConnaissancehad named him the...

  5. I
    • Reception Address to the French Academy
      (pp. 3-37)


      The very first words one addresses to the Academy always have a special ring of truth. It is quite remarkable that a speech dictated by custom, a formal acknowledgment which could easily succumb to well-turned, empty compliments, should invariably induce in the speaker the selfsame feeling he utters, a state of pure and perfect sincerity. At this singular point in one’s existence, when for a moment one stands facing this Company before becoming a part of it, all our reasons for being modest, which are so frequently torpid and submerged, come forcefully alive. We are moved to appraise ourselves...

    • In Honor of Émile Verhaeren
      (pp. 38-46)


      I have been asked by the French Academy to act on its behalf in paying homage to the glorious memory of Émile Verhacren.

      We welcome this occasion to greet Belgium’s Royal Academy of French Language and Literature, represented here by our eminent colleague, M. Henry Carton de Wiart. A scant few days have passed since the mortal remains of the Poet were interred in the village of his birth, Saint-Amand, on the banks of Flanders’ great river, in accordance with Verhaeren’s own wishes. He felt almost filial affection for the Escaut, a tenderness so great that in one of...

    • Reply to Marshal Pétain’s Reception Address to the French Academy
      (pp. 47-83)


      Upon the death of the great Foch, there was no doubt whatever either among the public or ourselves as to who ought here to take the place of such a leader.

      In our own minds you were already elected before you could even have thought of presenting yourself to us as a candidate.

      Your immense services to France; merits of the most substantial order crowned with the highest dignities; the confidence you inspired in the troops, and that of the nation which has kept you at the head of its forces in times of peace, all this pointed you...

    • Commencement Address to the Legion of Honor’s School for Girls at Saint-Denis
      (pp. 84-93)

      Young ladies,

      When our Chancellor paid me the honor of asking me to preside at this ceremony, I, as a member of the Legion, could only bow before the authority of his high office. Still, the prospect troubled me deeply. I began to feel as timid as a young girl.

      I know of course that girls are by no means so timid as people say, or perhaps as people would sometimes like. I have noticed that what little timidity remains in the world is scarcely to be met with except among members of the Institute, particularly when they have to...

    • On Henri Bremond
      (pp. 94-101)


      The French Academy has been unable until now to pay Henri Bremond the public tribute it owes him, for he died far from Paris in a region of the Pyrenees he loved, and was buried in the noble Provençal city of his birth.

      But it was the reverent thought of his faithful companion, whose lodgings adjoined his own, that the ancient house in which our admirable colleague had lived many years of his ardently studious life—between the venerable bulk of the cathedral and the literary monument he was building with scrupulous devotion—should bear a commemorative inscription, something...

    • Report on the Montyon Awards for Virtue
      (pp. 102-128)


      I must admit to being so innocent of the subject I am to discuss before you today that I cannot resist quoting a once-celebrated witticism and applying it to the present context.

      Monsieur de Talleyrand, our famous compeer in the moral sciences, on being asked whether he believed in the Bible, answered that he had two invincible reasons for so doing: “In the first place,” he said, “because I am Bishop of Autun; and, in the second, because I cannot make head nor tail of it.”

      I do not mean to imply by this that I understand nothing about...

    • Address to the Congress of Surgeons
      (pp. 129-148)


      I am here in this deservedly celebrated amphitheater because a few of you are my friends and the rest of you are ready to be indulgent. I feel not only the strangeness of being here at all but also alarm and embarrassment at having to address you.

      To begin with, of course, I have a few simple duties to perform, as agreeable as they are obvious. My opening gives me no qualms.

      First of all I wish to thank you for the honor you have done me; the ritual nature of those thanks in no way detracts from their...

  6. II
    • The Future of Literature
      (pp. 151-157)

      I do not know whether what we call literature is to have a future, nor whether the extraordinary transformation of human life and of the mind’s ways of communicating with other minds will permit any further development of books, nor whether the resources of language will continue to be used to stimulate men’s thinking. Perhaps language will be replaced by other ways of reaching people’s sensibility and intelligence? We may already wonder whether a vast, purely oral literature will not very shortly replace the written literature familiar to us. I allude to radio broadcasting, which now is spreading to all...

    • The Centenary of Photography
      (pp. 158-167)

      The Academy, invited to take part in this ceremony marking the centenary of a truly French invention, indeed one of the most admirable to emerge in the course of the nineteenth century, could not fail to pay its own respects to our great compatriots who hit on the principle of photography and were the first to fix an image of visible objects by employing the very light those objccts reflect.

      We, however, are a Society devoted particularly to the cult of Letters, which at first glance show no obvious affinity to photography, nor do they appear to be more affected...

    • A Personal View of Science
      (pp. 168-179)

      At my own risk I mean to set down here what I make ofSciencein its present state, and where it seems to be going.

      If history were a systematic discipline that followed a clear policy about the relative importance of the events it records, it would teach us, I believe, that the most far-reaching development in the period 1789 to 1815, thedevelopment most laden with consequences affecting our own lives, is probably not the great traditional drama of history constituted by the Revolution and the Empire. One can speak of the importance of an event only in...

    • My Theaters
      (pp. 180-184)

      I rarely go to the theater and almost never to the films. This is not a credo, nor a matter of principle. It is merely a fact, the result of my peculiar sloth combined with some indifference to pleasures arranged on a fixed day at a fixed hour for large gatherings. Pleasure must have an element of improvisation and invention. No doubt films have much that is praiseworthy, but they make me feel that they are doing the work of invention instead of me, and in spite of me. In this sense they verge on dream, but dream oddly infiltrated...

    • On Phèdre as a Woman
      (pp. 185-195)

      After readingPhèdre, or seeing the theater curtain fall, I am left with the idea of a certain woman, a sense of the beauty of the verse; a future reserve resides in me in these durable effects and values.

      The mind resumes its normal course, which is a riotous stream of sensations and thoughts, but unknowingly it has selected from the work the elements that it will henceforth treasure among its supply of ultimate standards and criteria of beauty. It never fails to single out, unconsciously, these elements from the pretexts and combination of happenings which had to be contrived...

    • At The Lamoureux Concert in 1893
      (pp. 196-201)

      Am I realy permitted to speak here—disarranging the music stands, irrupting in the midst of the marvelous strings, the suave woodwinds, the all-powerful brass, not as a singer, but simply to make myself heard in a voice neither tuneful nor harmonious, and with no guidance from M. Wolff’s baton? I confess it moves me deeply to find myself, alone of my kind, in this essentially enchanted forest, whose ramifications of sound can respond with such tenderness or violence to the breath of genius.

      How am I to justify being made to break the spell in this way? I feel...

    • On Suicide
      (pp. 202-205)

      Of the people who commit suicide, some do violence to themselves; others, on the contrary, merely give in to themselves and appear to follow some unknown and fatal line of destiny.

      The first are victims of circumstance; the second victims of their own nature, and all the rewards of their outward lot will not turn them from that shortest of paths.

      One can imagine a third kind of suicide. Some men look at life so coldly and guard their freedom of action so jealously that they are not willing to allow the uncertainties of health and external events to determine...

    • Music Hall Poets
      (pp. 206-209)
      M.-H. Berger

      I should like to ask your opinion, Monsieur, about certain poets who are trying to reach a wider public, and about the contact possible between poetry and the general public.

      Poetry is addressed to the individual. It has neither a general nor a particular public.

      A few poets are doing poetry numbers in the music halls—Francis Carco, Robert Honnert….

      Do you say “poetry number,” like “waltz number”?

      Yes, of course.

      I believe poetry is based on a particular sensation, something like a belief. It cannot amount to much unless it aims, well, I won’t say at our innermost being,...

    • Pure Intellect
      (pp. 210-216)
      André Lang

      I would be hard pressed to describe the room in which he received me, for his presence and his speech draw one into a circle with no way out, which one doesn’t wish to leave. Within this circle, where a storyteller’s imagination would suffocate for lack of air and space, Paul Valéry, marvelously at ease, finds all the scope and nourishment he needs for his mind. Not only does he have room to move about, but enough to receive and to entertain anyone who desires or is privileged to visit him in his domain, which is the domain of pure...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 219-238)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 241-247)