Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valery was a popular French poet, essayist, and philosopher. Paul showed great interest in numerous fields and is therefore often characterized as a polymath. He enrolled in the poetic school of symbolism of 19th century and also served as its last representative. All his life, he used to write his observations on creative process in his personal notebooks. Apart from poetry and fiction, his works also contained a large number of essays and aphorisms based on art, history, letters, music, and current events. Some of his most famous works are “La Jeune Parque.” “De Vers Anciens,” “Charmes Ou Poèmes” and "Le Cimetière marin.” With these marvelous collections, Valery was remarked as an outstanding poet in France of that time. Upon establishing a name for himself, Valery grabbed the position of an eminent public figure, writing several essays and taking deep interest in political issues too.
Paul Valery Childhood & Early Life
Paul Valery was born on October 30, 1871 in Sète, a town on the Mediterranean coast of the Hérault to a Corsican father and Genoese-Istrian mother. He was brought up in Montpellier which was a nearby urban center. Initially, Valery received a traditional Roman Catholic education and later got admitted in the university to study law. He stayed in Paris for a large portion of his life. In Paris, briefly he was a part of the Stéphane Mallarmé’s circle. Some of his earliest publication came in the mid-twenties but were not largely recognized. A fateful incident in 1892 wherein Valery underwent an existential crisis, made a huge impact on his writing career. Eventually, Valery stopped writing for twenty long years. It was in 1917 that he came out hugely with the publication of “La Jeune Parque”. This masterpiece was astonishingly musical containing 512 alexandrine lines in rhyming couplets. Paul took four years to finish it. This work instantly showered fame on him. Accompanied by “Le Cimetière marin” and “L'Ebauche d'un serpent”, the work is frequently regarded as one of the greatest poems of 20th century.
Paul did not even take writing as his full-time career until 1920. He pursued the same after Edouard Lebey, a former chief executive of the Havas news agency passed away suffering from Parkinson's disease for whom he used to work as a private secretary. Therefore till this time, he earned his livelihood at the Ministry of War prior to accepting a comparably-flexible post of an assistant to the increasingly-impaired Lebey. Paul served this job for a long twenty years. In 1925, after he got selected to the Académie française, Valery turned into an active public speaker. He journeyed Europe and gave various lectures on the cultural and social problems. Additionally, he took up several official posts eagerly proposed to him by an admiring French nation. Paul also represented his nation on many cultural issues at the League of Nations and participated in numerous of its committees. He established the Collège International de Cannes, which was a private institution with subjects like French language and civilization in 1931. The college is running successfully even today and offers many professional courses for both native speakers and for foreign students.
In 1932, he presented the keynote address at the German national celebration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This proved as a good choice, as Valery shared Goethe's imagination with science. Apart from his active life being a part of theAcadémie française, Valery also enrolled as a member of the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, and of the Front national des Ecrivains. He also became chief executive of the later known University of Nice in 1937. Valery was also the first owner of the Chair of Poetics at the Collège de France.WhileWorld War II was going on, the “Vichy regime” bared him of many of these jobs and distinctions as he quietly denied working with Vichy and the German occupation, but Paul did not stop, all through these distressed years, to publish and continued to be an agile participant in the cultural life of France, specifically as the member of the Académie française. Paul was also a juror with Florence Meyer Blumenthal in rewarding the Prix Blumenthal, an honor presented between 1919-1954 to young painters, sculptors, decorators, engravers, writers, and musicians of France.
Paul Valery got married toJeannie Gobillard in 1900. She was a friend of Stéphane Mallarmé's family, who was also a niece of Berthe Morisot, a painter. There celebration doubled the bride's cousin, Morisot's daughter, Julie Manet, also married the painter Ernest Rouart same day. Paul and Jeannie together had three children namely Claude, Agathe, and François.
Paul died onJuly 20, 1945 in Paris. He was interred in the cemetery of his native town, Sète.