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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Théodore de Banville (1823–1891)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THÉODORE FAULLAIN DE BANVILLE is best known as a very skillful maker of polished artificial verse. His poetry stands high; but it is the poetry not of nature, but of elegant society. His muse, as W. E. Henley says, is always in evening dress. References to the classic poets are woven into all of his descriptions of nature. He is distinguished, scholarly, full of taste, and brilliant in execution; never failing in propriety, and never reaching inspiration. As an artist in words and cadences he has few superiors. These qualities are partly acquired, and partly the result of birth. Born in 1823, the son of a naval officer, from his earliest years he devoted himself to literature. His birthplace, Moulins, an old provincial town on the banks of the Allier, where he spent a happy childhood, made little impression on him. Still almost a child he went to Paris, where he led a life without events,—without even a marriage or an election to the Academy; he died March 13th, 1891. His place was among the society people and the artists; the painter Courbet and the writers Mürger, Baudelaire, and Gautier were among his closest friends. He first attracted attention in 1848 by the publication of a volume of verse, ‘The Caryatids.’ In 1857 came another, ‘Odes Funambulesque,’ and later another series under the same title, the two together containing his best work in verse. Here he stands highest; though he wrote also many plays, one of which, ‘Gringoire,’ has been acted in various translations. ‘The Wife of Socrates’ also holds the stage. Like his other work, his drama is artificial, refined, and skillful. He presents a marked instance of the artist working for art’s sake. During the latter years of his life he wrote mostly prose, and he has left many well-drawn portraits of his contemporaries, in addition to several books of criticism, with much color and charm, but little definiteness. He was always vague, for facts did not interest him; but he had the power of making his remote, unreal world attractive, and among the writers of the school of Gautier he stands among the first.  1
 
 
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