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Correspondance Vielé-Griffin—Ghéon. Édition critique établie par Catherine Boschian-Campaner . Paris, Champion, 2004. Hb €50.00.

In 1896, the twenty-one-year-old Henri Ghéon wrote an enthusiastic article in L'Ermitage in praise of Francis Vielé-Griffin's collection of poems, Chansons à l'ombre. This provoked a grateful response from Vielé-Griffin in the form of a letter in which he expressed his delight in finding that in Ghéon, 'l'interlocuteur virtuel des heures lyriques s'incarne, comme ce fut ma foi' (p. 45). These expressions of mutual esteem led to a correspondence and friendship between the two men that continued until Vielé-Griffin's death in 1937. Catherine Boschian-Campaner's edition of this correspondence includes a substantial introduction, which begins by outlining the careers of the two men and goes on to trace the development of their relationship, as portrayed in the letters. Background information about some of the main events and issues referred to in the correspondence throws light on certain references in the letters that might otherwise be obscure. Comments in the Introduction and in footnotes to the letters themselves fill in details of the decline of the relationship between Gide and both Ghéon and Vielé-Griffin, a deterioration that is evident in the letters. The figure of Gide looms large throughout them, as the object of both admiration and irritation for the correspondents, and Boschian-Campaner suggests in the Introduction that the relative neglect into which Ghéon's œuvre has fallen can partly be ascribed to Gide's publicly expressed refusal to acknowledge any merit in the work Ghéon produced after his conversion to Catholicism at the age of forty. The letters themselves reveal a relationship in constant development, both from a personal and artistic point of [End Page 406] view. After initial assurances of mutual admiration, regular meetings make the bond between the two men a more personal one. The letters then range from discussions of Vielé-Griffin's succession of new cars to more intimate professions of friendship and support, particularly in those written during the First World War, when Ghéon served as an army doctor. The dominant concerns of the letters are, however, literary. As well as discussing their own work in progress, both men comment on the contemporary literary scene in Paris, making this correspondence useful not only for what it can reveal regarding Vielé-Griffin and Ghéon themselves, but also for its details of French literary activity at the time. The frequent discussions concerning vers libre bring up various issues concerning its acceptance and adoption, and Ghéon's comments linking vers libre to possible communication to a wider audience are illuminating in relation both to his own work and to the wider context of contemporary perceptions of this form. This clear and comprehensive edition includes an extensive bibliography and indexes of people and works referred to in the Introduction and the letters. Although the proofreading leaves a little to be desired, this book is an excellent point of reference for the study of Vielé-Griffin, Ghéon and the literary climate in which they worked.

Jenny Higgins
University of Cambridge

Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-10
Open Access
No
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