Catulle Mendès  

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"Among modern novelists who deal with the subject of sexual perversion in French are most pre-eminently; Catulle Mendès, Peladan, Lemonnier, Dubut de la Forest (" L'Homme de joie"), Huysmans ("La bas"), Zola. "--Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) by Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing

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Catulle Mendès (1841 – 1909) was a French writer known for books such as Méphistophéla (1889) by Catulle Mendès.



Of Jewish extraction, he was born at Bordeaux. He early established himself in Paris, attaining speedy notoriety by the publication in the Revue fantaisiste (1861) of his Roman d'une nuit, for which he was condemned to a month's imprisonment and a fine of 500 francs. He was allied with the Parnassians from the beginning of the movement, and displayed extraordinary metrical skill in his first volume of poems, Philoméla (1863). In later volumes, his critics have noted that the elegant verse is distinguished rather by dexterous imitation of different writers than by any marked originality. The versatility and fecundity of Mendes' talent is shown in a series of his critical and dramatic writings, including several libretti, and of novels and short stories. His short stories continue the French tradition of the licentious conte.

In 1866 he married Judith Gautier, the younger daughter of the poet Théophile Gautier. They later separated. On the 8th of February 1909, early in the morning, his dead body was discovered in the railway tunnel of Saint Germain. He had left Paris by the midnight train on the 7th, and it is supposed that, thinking he had arrived at the station, he had opened the door of his compartment while still in the tunnel.


Collections of poetry

  • Philoméla (1863)
  • Poésies, première série (1876), which includes much of his earlier verse
  • Soirs moroses, Contes épiques, Philoméla, etc; Poésies (7 vols., 1885), a new edition largely augmented
  • Les Poésies de Catulle Mendès (3 vols., 1892)
  • La Grive des vignes (1895)

For theatre

  • La Part du roi (1872), a one-act verse comedy
  • Les Frères d'armes (1873), drama
  • Justice (1877), in three acts, characterized by a hostile critic as a hymn in praise of suicide
  • Le Capitaine Fracasse (1878), libretto of a light opera, based on Théophile Gautiers novel
  • Gwendoline (1886) and Briseis (1897), for the music of Chabrier
  • La Femme de Tabarin (1887)
  • Isoline (1888), for the music of Messager
  • Médée (1898), in three acts and in verse
  • La Reine Fiammette (1898), a conte dramatique in six acts and in verse, the scene of which is laid in the Italy of the Renaissance
  • Le Cygne (1899), for the music of Lecocq
  • La Carmélite (1902), for the music of Reynaldo Hahn
  • Le Fils de l'étoile (1904), the hero of which is Bar-Cochebas, the Syrian pseudo-Messiah, for the music of Camille Erlanger
  • Scarron (1905)
  • Ariane (1906) and Bacchus (1909), for the music of Massenet
  • Glatigny (1906)

Critical works

  • Richard Wagner (1886)
  • L'Art au théâtre (3 vols; 1896-1900), a series of dramatic criticisms reprinted from newspapers
  • a report addressed to the minister of public instruction and of the fine arts on Le Mouvement poétique francais de 1867 à 1900 (new ed., 1903), which includes a bibliographical and critical dictionary of the French poets of the 19th century.


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