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Stéphane Mallarmé 1842- 1898

Stéphane (Etienne) Mallarmé was born the son of a minor official in a registration office in Paris. His mother died when Stéphane was only 5 years old, however, and his father remarried in the following year.

Mallarmé briefly attended school at Auteuil followed by schooling at Sens. His younger sister died aged 13 in 1857. He graduated with Baccalaureate in 1860; and, in 1862, sought practical English language experience briefly in London where, in the following year, he married Christina Maria Gerhard, a German governess, who had accompanied him to London from Sens. His father died in the year following his return to France and Stéphane was appointed to his first employment as English teacher at Tournon.

His daughter, Genevieve, was born in 1864 by which time he had made the acquaintance of several literary figures and leading artists having published several works of poetry.

In 1866, Mallarme moved briefly to Besançon followed by a teaching appointment in Avignon which proved detrimental to his poetic output. The family moved to Paris in 1871 when his son, Anatole was born who, however, died in 1879.

He gathered numerous literary figures to Tuesday evening meetings at his Paris home (from 1875 Rue de Rome). They included Manet in 1874 who illustrated his L'après-midi d'un faune for publication in 1876; and, having now published numerous works, Mallarme became better known to the public. Furthermore, he was selected by his fellow artistes to write eulogies upon the deaths of Gautier and Verlaine.

He died in Valvins, now Vulaines-sur-Seine, near Fontainebleau, in 1898 from an infection of the larynx.

Mallarme is recognised as one of the most influential French poets of the 19th century and a leading symbolist. His style departed from the strict metre and rhyme that had characterized the works of his forerunners in favour of expressing ideas rather than substance. He often adopted a difficult syntax, obscure even to native French readers, that was, perhaps, influenced by the deaths that overshadowed his life. Some of his works have been set to music by Debussy and Ravel amongst others.