About the Author
Remy de Gourmont
1858 – 1915
Remy de Gourmont was a French Symbolist poet, novelist, and influential critic. He was widely read in his era, and an important influence on Blaise Cendrars and Georges Bataille.
Gourmont was born at Bazoches-au-Houlme, Orne, into a publishing family from Cotentin. He was the son of Count Auguste-Marie de Gourmont and his countess, born Mathilde de Montfort. In 1866 he moved to a manor close to Villedieu near La Manche. He studied law at Caen, and was awarded a bachelor’s degree in law in 1879; upon his graduation he moved to Paris.
In 1881, Gourmont was employed by the Bibliothèque nationale. He began to write for general circulation periodicals such as Le Monde and Le Contemporain. He took an interest in ancient literature, following the footsteps of Gustave Kahn. During this period, he also met Berthe Courrière, model for, and heir of, the sculptor Auguste Clésinger, with whom he formed a lifelong attachment, he and Berthe living together for the rest of their lives.
Gourmont also began a literary alliance with Joris-Karl Huysmans, to whom he dedicated his prose work Le Latin mystique (Mystical Latin). In 1889 Gourmont became one of the founders of the Mercure de France, which became a rallying point of the Symbolist movement. Between 1893 and 1894 he was the co-editor, along with Alfred Jarry, of L’Ymagier, a magazine dedicated to symbolist wood carvings. In 1891 he published a polemic called Le Joujou Patriotisme (Patriotism, a toy) in which he argued that France and Germany shared an aesthetic culture and urged a rapprochement between the two countries, contrary to the wishes of nationalists in the French government. This political essay led to his losing his job at the Bibliothèque Nationale, despite Octave Mirbeau’s chronicles.
During this same period, Gourmont was stricken with lupus vulgaris. Disfigured by this illness, he largely retired from public view appearing only at the offices of the Mercure de France. In 1910, Gourmont met Natalie Clifford Barney, to whom he dedicated his Lettres à l’Amazone (Letters to the Amazon).
Gourmont’s health continued to decline and he began to suffer from locomotor ataxia and be increasingly unable to walk. He was deeply depressed by the outbreak of World War I and died in Paris of cerebral congestion in 1915. Berthe Courrière was his sole heir, inheriting a substantial body of unpublished work which she sent to his brother Jean de Gourmont, and dying within the year. Gourmont is buried in Père-Lachaise Cemetery.