Catulle Mendès

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Catulle Mendès
Portrait of Catulle Mendes.jpg
Born(1841-05-22)22 May 1841
Bordeaux, France
Died8 February 1909(1909-02-08) (aged 67)
Saint Germain, France
Literary movement Parnassianism
Spouse Judith Gautier
Jeanne Nette
Partner Augusta Holmès

Catulle Mendès (22 May 1841 – 8 February 1909) was a French poet and man of letters.


Early life and career

Of Portuguese Jewish extraction, Mendès was born in Bordeaux. [1] After childhood and adolescence in Toulouse, he arrived in Paris in 1859 and quickly became one of the protégés of the poet Théophile Gautier. He promptly attained notoriety with the publication in the La 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 Parnassianism from the beginning of the movement and displayed extraordinary metrical skill in his first volume of poems, Philoméla (1863). His critics have noted that the elegant verse of his later volumes is distinguished rather by dexterous imitation of different writers than by any marked originality. The versatility and fecundity of Mendès' talent is shown in his critical and dramatic writings, including several libretti, and in his novels and short stories. His short stories continue the French tradition of the licentious conte.

Personal life

A portrait of Mendes' daughters, Huguette, Claudine, and Helyonne, by Auguste Renoir, 1888, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art The Daughters of Catulle Mendes, Huguette (1871-1964), Claudine (1876-1937), and Helyonne (1879-1955).jpg
A portrait of Mendès' daughters, Huguette, Claudine, and Helyonne, by Auguste Renoir, 1888, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1866, Mendès married Judith Gautier, the younger daughter of his mentor Théophile. They soon separated, and in 1869 he began cohabiting with the composer Augusta Holmès with whom he had five children, including: [2]

The couple parted in 1886, and he later married the poet Jeanne Nette, who was to be his last companion. [3]


Early on the morning of 8 February 1909, the body of Mendès 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, although some biographers have suggested suicide. His body was interred at the Montparnasse Cemetery. [3]


Collections of poetry

For theatre

Sarah Bernhardt as St. Theresa in La Vierge d'Avila (1906) Bernhardt-La-Vierge-d'Avila-1906.jpg
Sarah Bernhardt as St. Theresa in La Vierge d'Avila (1906)

In the same year, Catulle Mendes wrote in Le Figaro that it was after reading the book of Gobineau "Les Religions et les Philosophies dans d´Asie centrale" that he had the idea to write a drama about the first woman disciple of the Báb: the persan erudite and illustrious poet Tahéreh (Táhirih) [4]

Critical works

Le NU au SALON , 1900 (published in 1901). The cover image is of a painting by Jules Scalbert, gravure de Louis Geisler [fr].
Le NU au SALON, 1900 (published in 1901). The cover image is of a painting by Jules Scalbert, gravure de Louis Geisler  [ fr ].


Books in English

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  1. "Mendès, Catulle". Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  2. "Auguste Renoir | The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, Huguette (1871–1964), Claudine (1876–1937), and Helyonne (1879–1955) | The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art . Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  3. 1 2 "Biografía de Catulle Mendès". Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  4. "À La Hauteur" Isma Forghani ISBN   978-2-343-17990-2 l´Harmattan