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Michel Brunet, Fabienne Gaspari and Mary Pierse, eds., George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections

Coll. Reimagining Ireland. Vol. 69, Bern: Peter Lang, 2015, x + 286 p. ISBN 978-3-0343-1973-7
Nathalie Saudo-Welby
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Michel Brunet, Fabienne Gaspari and Mary Pierse, eds., George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections. Coll. Reimagining Ireland. Vol. 69, Bern: Peter Lang, 2015, x + 286 p. ISBN 978-3-0343-1973-7

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  • 1 George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man, Susan Dick, ed. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1972, 102. Q (...)

1The flourishing of Moore scholarship over the past ten years has demonstrated Moore’s literary importance and his place in the nascent modernist movement. The editors of the present collection inscribe the essays within the previous research, and argue that a reappraisal of Moore’s French connections is needed. The book documents the years Moore spent in Paris between 1873 and 1880, as well as the lines of French influences within his works. It illustrates Moore’s declaration in Confessions of a Young Man (1886) that he never went ‘to either Oxford or Cambridge, but [he] went to the Nouvelle Athènes [café]’1. ‘Moore’s practice’, the editors write, ‘was to avail himself of successive French artistic trends, absorb them and creatively respond to their stimuli, but only to outgrow and discard them when he recognized their limitations and when they failed to slake his thirst for artistic appropriateness and experimentation.’ (13) The works which come up the most in the collection are his Confessions and another autobiographical piece, Parnell and his Island, translated from Moore’s Lettres sur l’Irlande (1886).

2In an essay translated by Mary Pierse, Isabelle Enaud-Lechien focuses on what Moore considered to be his best article, an essay on ‘Degas: The Painter of Modern Life’, written in 1890 and reprinted several times in his career. Moore notes Degas’s original focus on feminine intimacy and his exploration of a variety of media. Notwithstanding Moore’s praise, Degas fell out with him for having given the public a glimpse of his private world, treating Moore as a vulgar journalist.

3Justine Picchereddu examines how Moore’s self-fashioning in his autobiography helped build up his position as a literary man among artists. For the uprooted Moore, the process of self-writing involves denying former British influences and operating a series of displacements: from Ireland to France, from Irish to French, from middle-class origins to bohemianism, and from tradition to modernism. Paradoxically, this self-construction also allowed him to be recognized as a British writer.

4Brendan Fleming examines the similarities between Joyce’s and Moore’s careers through the lens of their ‘formative experiences of expatriation and return’ (57). He concludes that ‘Paris was the site of Moore’s relentless self-reinventions in a way which is different from Joyce as their crucial engagement with the city occurred at such different stages in their careers’ (68).

5Fabienne Gaspari’s essay on synaesthesia in Baudelaire, Huysmans and Moore provides a clear exposition of late-nineteenth-century practices as well as their pathologization as a symptom of literary degeneration. Several cases of transfers between the different senses in Moore’s works are examined. Of particular interest is the section on the ways in which synaesthesia became part of Moore’s critical engagement with the painters of his time, as he transposed his perception of their works into musical appreciation.

6Melanie Grundmann builds upon Moore’s declaration that what he admired in naturalism was precisely the qualities that ‘had won the victory for the romantic school forty years before’ (Confessions). Grundmann makes a parallel reading of two texts which share a common stance against middle-class respectability and its grip over fiction: George Moore’s famous pamphlet ‘Literature at Nurse or Circulating Morals’ and Théophile Gautier’s preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835-36).

7Stoddard Martin exposes the working of French influences on Moore and Wilde and their ‘common hyper-attention to fashions of the moment’ (116). His essay suggests openings into the connections between Huysman’s À Rebours (1884), Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and Moore’s Mike Fletcher (1889).

8Starting with an exposition of the figures of the woman model and artist in Moore’s works about Paris and, in Moore’s words, the ‘sense of sex’ they conveyed to the place, Kathryn Laing examines how women Irish contemporaries living in Paris ‘wrote back’, with a special focus on the artist, translator and novelist F. Mabel Robinson. The essay concentrates particularly on the ‘often-subversive figure of the woman artist’ (133) in Moore’s ‘Mildred Lawson’ (1922) and Robinson’s Disenchantment (1890).

9Akemi Yoshida’s essay proposes a comparative analysis of two novels with a diva as a central character: Moore’s Evelyn Innes (1898) and George Sand’s Consuelo (c. 1843). After tracing the similarities between the two novels, she argues that Moore produced a rare, sympathetic depiction of female genius by a male novelist.

10Maria Elene Jaime de Pablos focuses on the interesting story of ‘Priscilla and Emily Lofft’ (1922), two twin sisters who share a fascination for a poisonous French book, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Priscilla bears the psychosomatic signs of her psychological dilemmas, as she learns how Emma’s life-choices clash with her own, and she dies the death of the oversensitive reader. Emily is moved to exile, where she engages in a process of ‘self-realisation’.

11Pierre Joannon provides an interesting presentation of essays on the Irish Question by George Moore, Philip Daryl and Edmond de Mandat-Grancey, ‘a detached Artist, a fierce left-winger and a staunch conservative’ (192). He provides insights into George Moore’s love-hate relationship towards Ireland, contrasting Moore’s negative outlook with Mandat-Grancey’s sceptical views and Daryl’s optimistic ones.

12Adrian Frazier offers a pellucid and gripping account of the Dreyfus affair, and exposes George Moore’s involvement in it through the luncheon organized by Jacques-Emile Blanche with Maurice Barrès, as well as Moore’s support of Emile Zola. He draws the symbolic value of the Dreyfus affair and its political implications for Moore and Maud Gonne.

13Rachel Flynn devotes her essay to Moore’s complex negotiation of his Irish identity within ‘Liberal Catholic Dissent’ (E. Nolan) in his early works. She also contextualizes Moore’s complex relationship to Catholicism within the French Liberal Catholic movement and the French Catholic literary revival, with its ‘decadent-turned-devout writers’ (240).

14Elizabeth Grubgeld discusses Simone Benmussa’s 1977 stage adaptation of Pierre Leyris’s translation of Moore’s novella ‘Albert Nobbs’ (Celibate Lives, 1927) and Rodrigo Garcia’s 2011 film adaptation of the same play. She focuses on the rendering of the multivoicedness, ‘framing devices’ and different meta-narrative levels of Moore’s original text, as well as on the feminist import of these adaptations, concluding that Benmussa’s production is centered on ‘the question of who controls the ordering of a woman’s life’ (259), whereas Garcia’s film redirects the story towards issues of sexual identity.

15Michel Brunet has transcribed the interview he conducted in 2013 with Elizabeth Bourgine, the actress who played Albert in the second production of Simone Benmussa’s La Vie Singulière d’Albert Nobbs at the Théâtre du Rond Point (1989). Bourgine explains how she negotiated Benmussa’s requirements for her to be youthful and not to bring anything ‘sexual’ into the part, for it would spoil it all (270).

16This well-edited book provides a fine and detailed illustration of Moore’s instruction at that ‘real French academy, the café’ (Confessions). A must-read for Moore scholars and scholars researching Irish literature, it contains a wealth of information on his literary relationships with French contemporaries. The book will also be useful to researchers working on the fin-de-siècle period, and crucial to those working on gender in contemporary drama. The amount of references to previous scholarship on Moore, including self-references, is to be credited, although it may occasionally cause the reader to lose sight of the direction of the argument and of the specific question of French influences. The reader might sometimes be sceptical or critical in the cases in which the wording of the essays is centered on Moore himself, rather than on specific works. The collection represents in-depth research and considerable personal commitment to Moore’s literary heritage.

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1 George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man, Susan Dick, ed. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1972, 102. Quoted on p. 3, 36.

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Nathalie Saudo-Welby, « Michel Brunet, Fabienne Gaspari and Mary Pierse, eds., George Moore’s Paris and his Ongoing French Connections »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 85 Printemps | 2017, mis en ligne le 18 mai 2017, consulté le 15 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Nathalie Saudo-Welby

Université d’Amiens

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