BIOGRAPHY VILLIERS DE L’ISLE-ADAM – A French man of letters greatly influenced by the writings of Edgar Poe, Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam is a major figure in the Symbolist movement alongside Stéphane Mallarmé.
Short biography of Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam – Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam was born in Saint-Brieuc on November 7, 1838 into a noble family. He studied in Brittany before going to Paris. He frequented the artists of the time, in particular those from the Parnassus movement, and at the same time met Charles Baudelaire. Thanks to the latter, he discovered the work of Edgar Allan Poe. He drew from it, as in Hegel’s work, a large part of his literary inspiration. He is also close to the writer Gustave Flaubert and the poet Stephane Mallarme. A great realist who leans towards mysticism, Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam first published poems, then plays. He enjoyed late success, some fifty years after his death, with the rediscovery of several collections of short stories. In particular its Cruel tales (1883) where he mixes the fantastic with the lugubrious. Joining with his friend Mallarmé in the Symbolist movement, he also influenced surrealist writers like André Breton. He died in Paris on August 18, 1889, without special recognition.
Published in 1883, the Cruel tales form a compilation of 28 short stories, the majority of which were written and published in newspapers previously. In this collection, Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam deals with many aspects which are dear to him. Social satire, the macabre, the fantastic are recurring themes. The influence of Edgar Allan Poe’s work is felt. Among the most famous short stories we can cite Vera (published in 1874), where a grieving nobleman deludes himself into believing that his deceased wife is still alive. Or The unknown, in which an earl falls in love with a deaf young woman, but her handicap is an obstacle to considering a sincere relationship. This short story was adapted for the cinema in 1966 in a short film directed by Claude Weisz. A new collection intended to be a spiritual follow-up was published in 1888 under the name New cruel tales.
Throughout his life, Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam was a prolific author in various fields. He first tried his hand at poetry with two collections of poems, Two poetry essays and First poems, published in 1858 and 1859 respectively. Seeing that his work did not have the expected success, he decided to embark on the writing of a novel centered on an ambitious woman in an Italy plagued by internal quarrels. Isis will be published in 1862. At the same time, Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam devotes himself to writing plays. The most famous, a bourgeois drama entitled The revolt, will be performed for the first time in 1870. Several of his pieces were adapted after his death, for example Axel in 1890 or again The Pretender in 1965. His last novel, The future Eve (1886), is an important work inasmuch as it greatly influenced science fiction, with the addition of the introduction of an android into the narrative.
But Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam remains above all known for his collections of short stories and tales, which tackle themes ranging from social satire to the supernatural. Most of this news was first published in newspapers, sometimes several years ago. Outside of Cruel tales (1883) and New cruel tales (1888), we can cite Supreme love (1886), The Tribulat Bonhomet (1887) and Unusual Stories (1888). Other collections were published posthumously, such as Among passers-by in 1890 or the Relics in 1954. The most recent, the New Relics, appeared in 1968, almost 80 years after the death of Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam.
- November 7, 1838: Birth of Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam
- Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam was born on November 7, 1838 in Brittany in Saint-Brieuc. He is the only son of the Marquis Joseph-Toussaint-Charles de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and of Marie-Françoise Le Nepvou by Carfort-Daniel de Kérinou. The latter divorces her husband five years after the birth of their son. The young Mathias (his real first name, only used by his family) grew up under the tutelage of his godmother, Marie-Félicie Daniel de Kérinou. He spent his schooling in various establishments, such as the Saint-François-Xavier college (Vannes) or the Ambroise Paré high school (Laval) before moving to Paris with his father in 1855.
- August 18, 1889: Death of Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam
- Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam died on August 18, 1889 in Paris as a result of digestive cancer, probably of the stomach. He was fifty years old. He leaves behind a son, Victor-Philippe-Auguste, born January 11, 1881, and his widow, Marie Brégeras Dantine. To provide for the needs of his late friend’s family, Stéphane Mallarmé organizes a fundraiser for a while. His body was first buried in the Batignolles cemetery in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, but he was finally buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in 1901, alongside his son who died of tuberculosis.