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September 1996

Two poems by Jules Laforgue

by Louis Simpson

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887) was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, on August 16, the second son of Charles and Pauline Lacolley Laforgue. The poet’s father was a native of Tarbes, France; Jules’s mother was the daughter of a French bootmaker and former legionnaire.

As a young man, Jules studied philosophy and rhetoric. His first poems appeared in little magazines in Tarbes and Toulouse. One was a “Song of Death,” the other a dialogue between a son and his father about having to choose an occupation. Laforgue submitted poems and stories to Paul Bourget for criticism and worked as an assistant to Charles Ephrussi, an art historian and editor. On the recommendation of Bourget and Ephrussi he was appointed “reader” to the Empress Augusta of Germany and traveled with the court to Berlin.

In later years, Laforgue traveled on his own to see exhibitions of paintings and wrote & ...

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Louis Simpson is working on a new book of poems. He lives in Stony Brook, New York.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 September 1996, on page 81

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