February 24, 2012

When de Maupassant met Swinburne


Algernon Swinburne

At the wonderful Public Domain Review, Julian Barnes tells the story of when Guy de Maupassant met Algernon Swinburne, over lunch at the Normandy home of a man Swinburne was visiting named Powell.

Actually, there were three lunches. Here’s how the second one went:

Maupassant accepted a second invitation to lunch a few days later. This passed more peacefully, since the intrusive monkey was now dead, hanged from a tree by the young servant. Powell had ordered a huge block of granite for its tomb. At the end of the meal the two visionaries gave the Frenchman some liquor which nearly knocked him out; taking fright, he fled back to his hotel.

And there was still one lunch to go ….

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.