Paul Valéry was an essayist, intellectual, journalist, philosopher, Symbolist poet, fiction writer and polymath who was born 142 years ago today.
Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was born 30 October, 1871 to a Corsican father and Genoese-Istrian mother in Sète (or Cette) -- a small town in Occitania. There he attended school at Collège de Sète before the family moved to nearby Montpellier, where in 1889 he began studying law. At the same time he began writing Symbolist poetry, some of which was published in La Revue maritime de Marseille. Symbolism was in many ways a response to Realism -- particularly inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire. It particularly flourished in Belgium, France, and Russia.
In 1890, after completing his law studies, Valéry met Belgium-born poet Pierre Louÿs. Louÿs introduced him to the writer André Gide, who in turn introduced him to France’s preeminent Symbolist poet – Stéphane Mallarmé, whose “L'Après-midi d'un faune” inspired Claude Debussy’s wonderful symphonic poem of the same name (composed in 1894).