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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Catulle Mendès (1841–1909)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE WRITINGS of Catulle Mendès are representative of the cameo-art in literature. His little stories and sketches are of a dainty and polished workmanship, and of minute, complex design. The French faculty of attaining perfection in miniature is his to a high degree. He was born in Bordeaux, and in 1860 he began writing for the reviews. His short tales are written with exquisite nonchalance of style; but underneath their graceful lightness there are not wanting signs of a deep insight into human nature, and into life’s little ironies. The pretty stories, so delicately constructed, hint of a more serious intention in their framing than merely to amuse. ‘The Mirror’ might be read to nursery children and to an audience of sages with equal pertinence. The ‘Man of Letters’ condenses the experience of a thousand weary writers into a few paragraphs. In the pastoral of vagabond Philip and the little white goat with gilded horns, there is all the fragrance of the country and of a wandering outdoor life. ‘Charity Rewarded’ embodies the unique quality of Mendès in its perfection. He was able to put a world of meaning into a phrase, as when he writes that the pretty lasses and handsome lads did not see the beggar at the roadside because they were occupied “with singing and with love.” Sometimes he put a landscape into a sentence, as when Philip in the country hears “noon rung out from a slender steeple.”  1
  Mendès was a poet as well as a writer of stories. It should be said, however, that much that he produced in later years did not represented his higher gifts. Catulle Mendès died on February 8, 1909.  2
 
 
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