George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections

by Michel Brunet (Volume editor) Fabienne Gaspari (Volume editor) Mary Pierse (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection X, 296 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 69


The formative influences of Paris and France on the Anglo-Irish writer George Moore (1852–1933) cannot be underestimated. While the years Moore spent in Paris in the 1870s were seminal for his artistic awakening and development, the associations and friendships he formed in French literary and artistic circles exerted an enduring influence on his creative career. Moore maintained close ties with France throughout his life and his numerous contacts extended to social, musical and cultural spheres. He introduced the Impressionists to a British audience and his importation of French literary innovation into the English novel was remarkable.
Exploring Moore’s early years in Paris and his ongoing engagement with the experimental modernity of his French models, these essays offer new insights into this cosmopolitan writer’s work. Moore emerges as a turn-of-the-century European artist whose eclectic writings reflect the complex evolution of literature from Naturalism to Modernism through Symbolism and Decadence.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • part I Moore’s ‘Belle Époque’ Paris
  • Isabelle Enaud-Lechien - Moore-Degas-Paris: Exchanges, Reminiscences and Intersecting Arts
  • Justine Picchereddu - ‘An Art-Tortured Soul’: Authority in Confessions of a Young Man
  • Brendan Fleming - The Leaving of Paris: Some Contrasts and Parallels between George Moore and James Joyce
  • Part II Aesthetic Ventures
  • Fabienne Gaspari - The Symphony of the Senses: Baudelaire, Huysmans and Moore
  • Melanie Grundmann - ‘The Great Purifying Influence’: Théophile Gautier and George Moore
  • Stoddard Martin - Wilde and Moore: Décadents
  • Part III On Women: Building Filiations
  • Kathryn Laing - George Moore and F. Mabel Robinson: Parisian Contexts and the Woman Artist
  • Akemi Yoshida - Is Evelyn Innes (1898) a Literary Daughter of George Sand’s Consuelo (1843)?
  • María Elena Jaime de Pablos - Melancholia and the Feminine in ‘Priscilla and Emily Lofft’
  • Part IV Politics, Polemics and Dissent
  • Pierre Joannon - ‘Picturesque Aspects of a Primitive Country and Barbarous People’: Ireland 1886–1887, As Viewed by George Moore and Contemporary French Publicists
  • Adrian Frazier - George Moore, Maud Gonne and the Dreyfus Affair
  • Rachel Flynn - George Moore’s Early Voice of ‘Liberal Catholic Dissent’: Parnell and His Island and Confessions of a Young Man
  • Part V Albert Nobbs in the Cinema and Behind the Scenes
  • Elizabeth Grubgeld - ‘The Little Red-Haired Boy, George Moore’: Moore, Benmussa, Garcia and the Masculine Voices of Albert Nobbs
  • Interview with Elizabeth Bourgine Conducted by Michel Brunet
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Publication of this collection would not have been possible without the invaluable support received from CALHISTE Équipe d’Accueil 4343, and the Conseil Scientifique of the University of Valenciennes, and from the CRPHL at the University of Pau. Those institutions also provided funding assistance for the conference ‘George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections’ (2013), as did the Ireland Fund of France. The editors very gratefully acknowledge that important aid. Sincere thanks are also due to the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and to the Irish Embassy in Paris and Ambassador Rory Montgomery.

It is true to say that publication would not have been achieved without the input of Professor Jean-Charles Herbin, former director of the CALHISTE, for his initial interest in and subsequent support for the project and of Professor Fabienne Dabrigeon (University of Lille) for her expertise at every stage.

We are also deeply grateful to Elizabeth Bourgine for her gracious involvement.

Above all, the editors are indebted to the book’s chapter writers, to the series editor and to the commissioning editor – their courtesy and patience are sincerely and warmly acknowledged.

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The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in publications devoted to the writings and artistic career of Anglo-Irish writer George Moore. Many of the latest compilations – both monographs and edited collections of critical essays – result from the succession of international conferences held in different European countries. The escalating interest in Moore’s unparalleled body of work has produced stimulating assessments, novel critical approaches and innovative perspectives. It is now a new era for Moore studies, a time very far removed in years and enlightenment from the moment of John Montague’s 1951 dogmatic verdict on Moorian accomplishment and fate: ‘If we naturally judge the importance of a writer for a later generation by the number of critical studies or articles on his work that appear, or the number of casual copies to be found on public library shelves, then George Moore is well forgotten, as his contemporaries, Yeats, Thomas Hardy and James are not.’1 Scores of ‘casual copies’ may not line up along public library shelves – one is tempted to add not as yet2 – but the flurry of critical studies over the last decades is clear evidence of the wealth residing in the Moore oeuvre and of the resultant desire to do justice to the quality and diversity of his literary achievement. Engagement with the texts produces solid ground from which to counter the all-too-frequent habit of dismissing him as a protean author without any definite literary identity or consistent formal or stylistic hallmarks. Au contraire (as Beckett would say), the multifarious forays Moore made into experimental writing retrospectively mark him out as a harbinger of modernist expression in many respects. The twenty-first century is now discovering the deep ← 1 | 2 → relevance and significance of his work and its utter pertinence for this age and its contemporary readership.

Such major scholarly studies as Elizabeth Grubgeld’s ground-breaking analysis of autobiographical writing in Moore3 and Adrian Frazier’s seminal biography4 have mapped the route towards substantiated reappraisal and enduring recognition of Moore’s oeuvre. Moreover, they have paved the way for Moore conferences at academic institutions and for the subsequent publication of their proceedings.5 Just as these previous scholarly examinations have focused on opening up new perspectives on particular aspects of Moore’s achievements, whether through thematic orientation or specific critical angles adopted, this collection will seek to explore Moore’s connections with Paris and France at large. Such a wide-lens approach allows investigation of the complex nexus of interactions at work both within and without his writings while also accommodating diversity of attitude and methodology without attempting exhaustive or all-embracing examination of a subject. Some studies that treated of George Moore’s privileged relationship with France have already emerged in volumes, book-chapters and journal articles, and they have included putative or documented lineage of form, genre and theme from French literary history. Despite the ← 2 | 3 → author’s artful blend of fact and fiction in Confessions of a Young Man, that book has, more often than not, been scrutinised as much as a self-contained work deserving critical attention as a source of information on Moore’s nascent literary career under the influence of French luminaries. As early as his 1957 full-length study George Moore et la France,6 Georges-Paul Collet attempted to provide a comprehensive overview of Moore’s special connection with France. However, Collet wrote from an exclusively continental point of view; he relied upon, and made much of, the biographical and documentary dimension. In contrast, this present collection ushers in newer critical approaches from international experts and it calls forth innovative theoretical paradigms; it places Moore’s oeuvre in an expanded framework that is based on a wide range of analytical methods and reading strategies, ones that are informed by cultural and literary scholarship as well as by political and historical studies.

The formative influences of Paris and France on George Moore, Mayo landlord and literary innovator, cannot be under-estimated. In 1873, when he turned twenty-one, he left for Paris to become a painter and soon found himself amidst the invigorating ferment of French artistic experiments then being carried out by the major artists of the period, whether by Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, or by Naturalist authors such as Émile Zola, Joris-Karl Huysmans and Paul Alexis. He was introduced into the artistic circles of Parisian café society where he was to serve his apprenticeship. Not unlike Robert Browning who, when asked in his old age whether he had been to Oxford or Cambridge, declared: ‘Italy was my university’,7 George Moore wrote in a somewhat provocative way in Confessions of a Young Man: ‘I did not go to either Oxford or Cambridge, but I went to the “Nouvelle Athènes”’.8 The Nouvelle Athènes café, situated on the Place Pigalle, was a seedbed ← 3 | 4 → of avant-garde culture and a place to meet prominent artistic figures who stood up to the Establishment and were busily engaged in rebellion against academic art and prevalent literary canons. No doubt Moore found this popular Parisian meeting place for avant-garde artists to be stimulating and influential in terms of his intellectual pursuits – and decisive as to his prospective calling. To his dismay, he came to the crushing realisation – although any gloom was soon to be dispelled – that he had little talent for painting and decided to turn to writing. Moore’s artistic apostasy was not altogether negative: his familiarity with the visual arts was to stand him in good stead when he embarked on his career as an art critic a few years later. In the meantime, he immersed himself in French literature, feverishly reading the texts of Balzac, Flaubert and Gautier (a sometime painter himself). This intensive study was undoubtedly facilitated by his reasonable command of the French language, a level acquired in the course of his prolonged sojourn in the capital.

While the years Moore spent in Paris in the 1870s were seminal for his artistic awakening and development, the associations and friendships he formed in French literary and artistic circles exerted an enduring influence on his creative career. Moore maintained close ties with France throughout his life and his numerous contacts extended to social, musical and cultural spheres. Influences did not operate unilaterally though and Moore increasingly acted as an artistic go-between or broker, plying his services between France and Britain. He introduced the Impressionists to a British audience through a series of articles for the Spectator, the Magazine of Art and The Speaker; in addition, he did so imaginatively, through his first work of ‘painterly’ fiction, A Modern Lover. When he wrote a new preface to introduce American readers to Confessions of a Young Man in 1917, he claimed to have been a visionary or precursor in presenting the Impressionist painters as early as 1888, in the first English edition of that text: ‘The first eulogies written in England, I might almost say in any language, of Manet, Degas, Whistler, Monet, Pissarro, are in this book of Confessions, and whosoever reads will find himself unable to deny that time vindicated all of them’.9 He ← 4 | 5 → was also the first to publish critical essays on such French poètes maudits as Verlaine and Rimbaud. Last but not least, his importation of French literary innovation into the English novel was also remarkable since it meant a decisive break from the canons of the Victorian novel. Moore’s French connections would have important implications for the development of the English novel and modernist writing in Britain.

In this volume, the scene of George Moore’s French connections will be set by proffering a panoramic view of some aesthetic trends and social influences that contributed to shaping Moore’s artistic education. As far as the visual arts are concerned, the roll call is truly astonishing since it includes Degas, Manet and Monet. But if the visual stimuli were central to the writer’s development, they were underpinned by some important literary inspirations and influences and the names of Baudelaire, Huysmans, Zola and Théophile Gautier are among the sources surveyed, absorbed and modified by Moore. In the Irish context, Moore, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats were contemporaries and acquaintances, yet their diverse literary routes owe as much to rivalry as to their innately disparate reactions to the modern and the traditional, and yet the Parisian experiences of each intertwine. The highly charged political and social atmospheres of France and Ireland at the fin de siècle both interconnect and form a backdrop to the artistic environments. Unsurprisingly, the triad of religion, sex and politics looms large and its manifestations exude the racial, class and gender prejudices of the period. Notably, Moore’s tolerant attitudes, propped up by the French example and the cultural capital of his ancestral heritage, conflict with Victorian mores and conservative patterns of life and literature. His feminist, nationalist and liberal stances are remarkable for the period but even more noteworthy since they achieve a relevance that has not diminished with the passing of a century.

The volume comprises five distinct parts: ‘Moore’s “Belle Époque” Paris’; ‘Aesthetic Ventures’; ‘On Women: Building Filiations’; ‘Politics, Polemics and Dissent’; and ‘Albert Nobbs in the Cinema and Behind the Scenes’. However, rather than suggesting clear-cut divisions, the successive sections and chapters, despite their specific areas of interest, somehow complement one another, never losing sight of the overriding rationale of the collection. Thus are woven together various strands and enlightening ← 5 | 6 → correspondences are established across the volume as a whole. This process of textual conversation proves to be particularly relevant and stimulating whenever the essays touch on such nodal topics as art, gender, religion, politics and the pervasive, potentially problematic issue of influences in literary studies at large.

The first section of the volume, entitled ‘Moore’s “Belle Époque” Paris’, treats his exhilarating time in the capital between 1873 and 1880. It refers to the way in which, opting for a bohemian education conducted in the studios and cafés in the Montmartre district, he manoeuvred his way to become acquainted with the leading figures of new French art. Manet, who had initiated Impressionism was the first to catch his attention, but Degas also proved to be an influential master and his theories of art were to leave an enduring imprint on the young Moore, as the art historian Isabelle Enaud-Lechien demonstrates in the opening chapter. Her essay, ‘Moore-Degas-Paris: Exchanges, Reminiscences and Intersecting Arts’, shows how Degas was both an inspiration and a model in Moore’s fiction and art criticism. Moore was determined to gain recognition for the qualities of that artist who was deeply involved in the so-called ‘Impressionist’ exhibitions – even though the painter of dancers deplored and denied any Impressionist label. Retracing the origins of their relationship which began during Moore’s first Parisian sojourn, Enaud-Lechien focuses on Moore’s study, ‘Degas: The Painter of Modern Life’ (1890), and concludes that Moore and Degas had elective and aesthetic affinities and that ‘whether with pen or with brush both contributed to establishing firm and long-lasting images that characterised the epoch’.

Moore provided vivid depictions of the artistic milieu of the period as he told the story of his Parisian years (1873–80) in Confessions of a Young Man (1888). However, that first piece of autobiographic work is not to be regarded as a mere private journal. As Justine Picchereddu argues in ‘“An Art-Tortured Soul”: Authority in Confessions of a Young Man’, autobiographical writing by Moore also proves to be a self-constituting discursive act. Using notions and concepts developed by the French discourse analyst Dominique Maingueneau, Picchereddu sets out to demonstrate that Confessions produces a ‘scenography’, serving Moore’s covert purpose of constructing an image or ‘ethos’ of Moore, the author, confirming him ← 6 | 7 → as a legitimised writer, and imparting ‘authority’ to the discourse that his autobiographical work develops. Brendan Fleming accords equal emphasis to the significance and importance of the French capital for Moore’s writings. He does so in a compelling comparative study of its impact on Moore and Joyce, for whom ‘the Parisian experience’ had direct artistic and personal relevance: ‘Both followed the path of self-imposed exile and then experienced an enforced return’. Fleming’s chapter, ‘The Leaving of Paris: Some Contrasts and Parallels between George Moore and James Joyce’, argues for its particular consequence in terms of circumstances surrounding the publications of their respective works, Moore’s first French edition of Confessions and Joyce’s Ulysses. This essay shows how the subsequent critical reputations of both men were informed by this Parisian dimension over the years and how their different respective responses to Parisian avant-garde contributed to the wider emergence of modernist writing.

The second part of the volume shifts emphasis from Moore’s Parisian life experience and artistic awakening to an analysis of his ‘aesthetic ventures’ into literature. Each of the three chapters shows how Moore carried out his literary experiments in the wake of French authors who had taken the lead in key aesthetic movements. As is borne out by the numerous literary references in Confessions and in his private letters, Moore was well read in French literature and this direct textual exposure could not but impact upon his artistic development. While he sought instruction and tutelage from the contemporary authors with whom he consorted in Montmartre café society, he also availed himself of trailblazing guidance in all the aesthetic tenets that had been expounded by French poets and novelists in the early part of the nineteenth century. Fabienne Gaspari’s chapter, ‘The Symphony of the Senses: Baudelaire, Huysmans and Moore’, focuses on synaesthesia in Moore’s fiction and art criticism and on its link both with Baudelaire’s theory of ‘les correspondances’ and with Huysmans’s À Rebours. Her examination involves a study of the stylistic modes and effects of synaesthesia and also of the aesthetic motives behind its exploitation. The search for the ‘total’ work of art which unites several art forms also implies the inscribing of physical experience in language: synaesthesia involves the five senses and works on the parallels and affinities between them, thereby enabling the writer to create new modes of feelings through new modes ← 7 | 8 → of verbal expression. Gaspari sets out to present the origins and function of synaesthesia, and then points out sources such as Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Cabaner, before examining the experiments of Huysmans and of his character des Esseintes in À Rebours. She then deftly analyses Moore’s own version of correspondences, translated into ‘garlicky andantes’ in A Drama in Muslin, and becoming transformed in Modern Painting into a concern with the music of painting.

For her part, in ‘“The Great Purifying Influence”: Théophile Gautier and George Moore’ Melanie Grundmann argues that Gautier’s novel, Mademoiselle de Maupin, must also be numbered among the decisive French influences in Moore’s artistic development and intellectual pursuits. Discovering Gautier’s novel came as something akin to a shock to Moore, but reading its famous preface, in particular, undoubtedly had a galvanising effect on the young Irish author. It represented an aesthetic manifesto that propounded the theory of art for art’s sake, a tenet to which Moore readily subscribed, since it offered him a rejuvenated view of art, as divorced from moral and social concerns. But there was more to it than that. Fully grasping the import of its polemic nature in the literary civil war that was waged in Gautier’s time over the vexed question of morality and art, Moore instantly drew a comparison with the contemporary situation of literature in England and identified his bête noire: it was the de facto censorship by the circulating libraries of so-called ‘degrading literature’. Grundmann convincingly points to similarities between Gautier’s preface and Moore’s pamphlet, Literature at Nurse or, Circulating Morals, and shows that the subversive development and ambition of naturalism echoed, in many respects, the struggle of French romanticism for freedom of expression.

In his chapter, ‘Wilde and Moore: Décadents’, Stoddard Martin opens a rewarding seam in Moore scholarship by simultaneously exploring the complex connections between Moore and Wilde, which coalesce and interact around the publication of Huysmans’s ‘decadent’ novel, À Rebours, in 1884. While this French novel exercised an indubitable influence on Wilde, as is amply evidenced in his Picture of Dorian Gray, it also caught Moore’s attention and attracted him to write in the same alluring vein. Moore’s portrait of himself in Confessions certainly owes a debt to des Esseintes, ← 8 | 9 → so do those of John Norton in A Mere Accident and Mike Fletcher in the eponymous novel. However, as Martin subtly remarks, Moore’s work ‘is a novel about decadence, not of it’. This reading is critically well grounded: the plot-driven organisation of Moore’s novel clearly abides by the canons of traditional narrative forms and its style is ‘bogged down by a baggage of Victorian Englishness’. Further investigating the impact of Huysmans’s novel on the two Irish authors and exploring the paradigms of the ‘triptych’ they make up, Martin claims that Huysmans’s legacy proved to be a further cause of rupture between Moore and Wilde as the two of them vied for public recognition as worthy representatives of décadence in literary London.

The third section of the book, entitled ‘On Women: Building Filiations’, continues to touch on the question of overt or covert French sources of inspiration, but as apprehended through the lens of modern feminist, ethical and psychoanalytic theories. In ‘George Moore and F. Mabel Robinson: Parisian Contexts and the Woman Artist’, Kathryn Laing explores various facets of the heated debate about women, art and the often-subversive figure of the woman artist at the turn of the century, as they emerge in Moore’s fiction. Establishing enlightening parallels between his works and those of his female Irish contemporaries, F. Mabel Robinson and Hannah Lynch, who happened to be equally familiar with his Paris artistic landscape, Laing proffers an insight into the vibrant and ongoing late nineteenth-century dialogue about the status of woman, not as a model but as an artist in her own right. Interestingly, the study brings to light Moore’s residual ambivalences about the subject. His fictional female artists, such as Mildred Lawson in Celibates, are often doomed to failure. While Moore definitively evinced an interest in women’s issues, his engagement with the New Woman cause and, in particular, with the woman-as-artist issue, seemed to indicate some indecision concerning the topic.


X, 296
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
George Moore Paris French artists Impressionism Symbolism Decadence late nineteenth century experimentation and innovation Joyce Wilde Flaubert Degas
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. X, 296 pp., 1 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Michel Brunet (Volume editor) Fabienne Gaspari (Volume editor) Mary Pierse (Volume editor)

Michel Brunet is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis. His main areas of research lie in Irish literature, with a particular focus on Anglo-Irish writing. He has published on George Moore and on contemporary Irish fiction. Fabienne Gaspari is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Pau, where she teaches nineteenth-century British literature. She is the author of «Morsels for the gods»: l’écriture du visage dans la littérature britannique (1839–1900) (2012). She has published widely on nineteenth-century authors, including George Moore. Mary Pierse is the editor of Irish Feminisms, 1810–1930, Vols I–V (2009) and has published widely on the writings of George Moore. She has taught courses on Victorian literature and feminism at University College Cork and is a board member of the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies, Dublin.


Title: George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections
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