Texts about Huysmans
Contemporary profiles and interviews
‘Huÿsmans (Joris-Karl).’ An entry in the Petit Bottin des Lettres et des Arts, published anonymously in 1886 by Félix Fénéon et al, this humourous portrait — which is longer than the one dedicated to Emile Zola — shows the extent to which Huysmans was becoming a recognisable literary figure in his own right.
‘J.-K. Huysmans.’ An interview with Jules Huret which was pubished in the collection Enquête sur l’évolution littéraire: conversations avec MM. Renan, de Goncourt, Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Huysmans, Anatole France, Maurice Barrès... etc. in 1891.
‘En memoire de J.-K. Huysmans.’ An early memoir by Myriam Harry about her relationship with Huysmans, published a year after the author’s death in the Revue de Paris, 15 May 1908. There are a number of discrepancies between it and her later memoir, Trois ombres (1932), and it is clear that she never saw Huysmans before he died as she claims in the latter. Among other things, she also claims that she sent Huysmans a copy of Petites épouses while he was at Ligugé and that he wrote back to her from there. However, by the time her book was published in April 1902, Huysmans had already been back in Paris six months, so could not possibly have read the book at Ligugé or corresponded with her from there. The details she gives of her first meeting with Huysmans are chronologically impossible — the picture of her which she claims Huysmans had in his drawer was only published in April 1904 — so the whole episode is fabricated. Added to which she falsfied information in at least one of the letters she reproduces, leading one to conclude that for purposes of self-aggrandisment she invented a number of the stories that have now come to be accepted as true by many in Huysmansian circles.
‘Une lettre inédite de J.-K. Huysmans et un Souvenir Anniversaire.’ Published in the Revue du Temps Présent of 2 April 1910, this is another early memoir in which Harry makes no mention of seeing Huysmans just before he died, showing that the version she later gave, most notably in Trois ombres (1932), was completely fabricated.
‘La « petite fille de Jérusalem ».’ Published in Le Temps on 11 December 1913, this profile of Harry touches on her reminiscences of Huysmans. Here she again repeats stories that are chronologically impossible.
Le tendre cantique de Siona. This early version of Myriam Harry's novel contains a fictionalised account of her friendship with Huysmans, here depicted under the name of J.-P. Mirmans. Although this version contains many of the events that would feature in her official memoir Trois ombres, ten years later, it differs in that it claims that the Huysmans figure fell in love with the Harry figure (Siona) and tried to seduce her.
Le tendre cantique de Siona. This revised version of Harry's novel was published a year later by Fayard. So few copies of the book are in circulation that it is possible it was withdrawn, as the subject matter cannot but have been damaging to Harry's family, implying as it does that Harry would have had an affair with Huymans and would have preferred him over her present husband had circumstances been different. Once again, there is little secondary evidence to back up any of Harry's claims, which are in any case couched in the form of fiction, so the book should not be relied on as a 'true' account of events. Lucien Descaves published a scathing review of the novel in Le Journal of 8 mai 1922. To read it click here
‘J.-K. Huysmans et Soeur Scolastica.’ Myriam Harry's account of Huysmans' friendship with a young woman who went into holy orders. The article, published in Le Temps of 27 June 1932, contains a number of errors and should not be relied on.
Trois ombres. This is the fullest account that Myriam Harry gives of her friendship with Huysmans. It has been used numerous times in many biographies and studies of Huysmans, but unfortunately almost no one has cross-checked the things that Harry claims against contemporary sources or tried to verify the chronolgy she offers. Many of the most striking claims she makes turn out to be of dubious authenticity, if not downright fabrications, so the stories and anecdotes the book contains should be treated with caution. In this version, for example, she says that she came back to Paris from Tunisia before Huysmans died, in time for one last, emotionally charged meeting with him. This, however, is a completely fabricated anecdote: by her own account of 1908 she didn't return to Paris until after Huysmans' death, and this is corroborated by the fact that in April 1907, just a month before Huysmans died, Le Temps reported that Harry had sent them a letter from Carthage describing a theatrical performance there, and the first reference to Harry being seen at a fashionable soirée in Paris after her trip to Tunisia dates from the end of May 1907.
‘Le sous-chef J.-K. Huysmans.’ Although it contains an informative account of Huysmans’ work at the Ministry of the Interior, it is marred by a number of factual errors. It was written by Martial de Pradel de Lamase and published in Mercure de France, 15 October, 1933.
‘Avec J.-K. Huysmans.’ Nouvelles Littéraires, 5 February 1948. An account of Myriam Harry’s encounters with Huysmans written for the anniversary of the latter’s birth. Like much of what Harry has written about Huysmans the anecdotes it contains should be treated with caution.
‘Réveil d'ombres’ Les Oeuvres Libres, November 1950. This account of Myriam Harry's encounters with Huysmans is a partially re-edited version of that which appeared in Trois ombres (1932). Even though based on already published material, the content and dates of the letters included here are at times at variance with those in the earlier book. For its reliability see notes above.
‘J. K. Huysmans.’ This article by Arthur Symons, which appeared in the Fortnightly Review in 1892, is an interesting analysis of Huysmans’ career as a writer, though much of the discussion actually centres around A Rebours.
‘The Decadent Movement in Literature.’ This seminal article by Arthur Symons, which appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1893, attempts to give a broad definition to the Decadent movement and the writers associated with it.
‘J.-K. Huysmans.’ An appreciation by Roger Marx, published in La République française on 12 September 1893, in L'Artiste in October 1893, and later collected in Maîtres d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1914.
‘La Conversion de M. Huysmans.’ A good example of the kind of negative reaction Huysmans' conversion initially provoked from some of those inside the Church. This article, which focuses on En Route, first appeared in the Abbé Delfour's La Religion des Contemporains published in 1895 and was reworked in a later edition of 1903.
‘J.-K. Huysmans.’ A short essay by Remy de Gourmont on Huysmans’ conversion, first published in Le Livres des Masques: Portraits symbolistes in 1896. An English translation by Jack Lewis was published in 1921 by John Luce & Company under the title, The Book of Masks.
‘Joris Karl Huysmans.’ An assessment of Huysmans’ work up to and including La Cathédrale, of which it includes a pre-publication extract, by Gabriel Mourey. It appeared in the Fortnightly Review 1 March 1897.
‘Sur M. Huysmans et sur la religion, l'art, le symbolique, le Diable, et Christine de Stommeln.’ An in-depth analysis of Huysmans and Catholic literature by Remy de Gourmont, published in the Revue Blanche, No. 116, 1 April 1898.
Affirmations. This essay by Havelock Ellis was published in 1898 by Walter Scott. Among other essays on Zola, Nietzsche, Casanova and St. Francis, is this fascinating analysis of Huysmans’ development as a writer. A slightly tamer version of this essay was used as an introduction to the early American editions of Against the Grain.
Studies in Foreign Literature. This is a chapter taken from Virginia Crawford’s collection of essays on European writers, published in 1899 by Duckworth. In many respects it is an extended review of La Cathédrale, but it also analyses Huysmans’ conversion and its relation to his writing.
‘J.-K. Huysmans.’ Published in Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's Le Roman contemporain in 1902, this is essentially a reprint of his famous review of A rebours which first appeared in Le Constitutionnel in 1884.
Six Masters in Disillusion. This essay by Algar Thorold, which was first published in the Albany Review in 1907 and later included in a book Thorold published in 1909 with the above title, is an analysis of Huysmans work and its relation to Naturalism.
‘The Later Huysmans.’ This is the amended chapter from the 1908 edition of Arthur Symons’ The Symbolist Movement in Literature. It includes some minor changes to bring the essay on Huysmans, who had died in 1907, up to date.
J.-K. Huysmans et le Satanisme. This study by Joanny Bricaud was published in the Revue du Temps Présent on 25 June 1908. When Bricaud adapted it for his book-length study published five years later, some material in the essay was excluded, presumably for legal reasons.
‘Huysmans et la Cuisine.’ A short essay from Remy de Gourmont’s Promenades littéraires, Quatrième serie, 1912. It had previously appeared in the Paris-Journal on 9 September 1910, and in Mercure de France on 1 October 1910.
J.-K. Huysmans et le Satanisme. This study by Joanny Bricaud was published by Chacornac in 1912. It is a fascinating account of Huysmans’ relations with the occult, centring chiefly on the antagonisms between two occult factions, with Huysmans, Boullan and Bois on one side, and Guaita, Wirth and the Rosicrucians on the other.
Huysmans Occultiste et Magicien. This is Joanny Bricaud’s second book on Huysmans and was published by Chacornac in 1913. It includes a ’Notice sur les Hosties Magiques qui servirent à Huysmans pour combattre les énvoûtements’.
Great Penitents. This is a chapter devoted to Huysmans, taken from Reverend Hugh Francis Blunt’s book on celebrated converts to Catholicism. It was published by Macmillan in 1921. Although it is interesting as a record of how Huysmans was seen at the time by a particular group of people, it is not to be trusted as a piece of critical writing, being full of the most basic errors of fact.
‘Huysmans et Przybyszewski.’ An interesting comparison between Huysmans and the neglected Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Written by Maxime Herman it was published in Le Monde Slave in March 1935.