Letter to a journalist

Falaise [possibly summer 1907]  

 Dear Sir,

   The question that you want to ask me presents, depending on which way you look at it, either an immortal effigy or an ephemeral date. The effigy is the self-same worried face of the human spirit. From time immemorial, even in matters of feeling such as poetry, reason has sought certainty: "Who is the best poet?" From time immemorial lovers blending things of mystery with their desires asked each other: "Who is your favorite poet?" The flirt who imitates love asks for more of it at the table. And your question resembles those we read printed in the margins of albums where everyone has written a reply in their own hand: "Who is your favorite poet?"
   But because of the form your question has taken, that of an "Enquiry", conducted by means of an "interview", to result in an "election" brings with it on its other side the date of these present times, the time of the increase in "methods of observation" and of the power of the "press" and of "universal suffrage" to those objects that they did not know until now.
   But we forget that in the world of poetic minds, if the great poet is king, it is not the people that elect their king, it is the poet who creates his people; that contrary to what takes place in Pluto's world, there the living are often governed by the dead; that in poetry as in the heavens extinct stars still shine; that the ray of light that illuminates us is often that of a star that has been spent for centuries.
   Let us not talk about the king, about elections, about the majority when it comes to poetry. These words will end up by inoculating us with the dangerous meaning that they contain, to be told that poetic excellence does not depend on the poet alone but also on the public. An error that places the goal of the poet outside of himself, in his success, in his "great literary position", an absurdity that is utterly contradictory to the completely spiritual reality of poetry.
   If there is a realm for poets it is not in this world...
   Please accept my dear sir the assurance of my most cordial best wishes,

   Marcel Proust.

   P.S. If poets really must give themselves a king, it would at least be more gracious, since their choice is not constrained by any "Constitution", that they give themselves a queen. In which case, first and foremost I would consider two poetesses, Comtesse Mathieu de Noailles whose beautiful verses we have read in M. de Montesquiou's Les Roseaux pensants and in the Revue de Paris, and Madame Henri de Régnier born out of the noble literary house of Heredia, a young princess of poetry whose marriage to Henri de Régnier is certainly no misalliance.
   Finally, and, with these words, perhaps I am asking for too much from the impartiality however well known of the "Press", if the king of poets must be the one who in this day and age conducts himself best as a citizen, my vote, and I am only speaking from personal opinion of course, moreover I am not talking about authors but poets, exclusively poets, would be for M. Maurice Bouchor.


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