I was very happy to see Thyme for Tea's post announcing that she be hosting once again an event devoted to all things related to Paris, Paris in July # 6. This will be my fourth year as a participant. You can participate in a lot of ways besides posting on literature related to Paris. Pretty much anything tied into Paris is very much welcome. There is a weekly link of participant posts and lots of special events.
So far I have posted on a short story by the great French master of the form, Guy de Maupassant and a short story set in Paris by Mavis Gallant.
Today I will post briefly about three works by George Moore (1852 born County Mayo, Ireland, 1933 died London). I have posted on several of his short stories and his excellent novel Esther Waters (1894) dealing with the great importance of horse trading and racing in Ireland. Moore is now I think mainly read by those very into Irish literature. He was influenced by the realism of Zola. His short stories in turn influenced James Joyce in Dubliners. Moore is considered by many to be the first modern Irish short story writer. Moore was from a very wealthy family and at 18 when his father died was free to do whatever he wanted. He wanted to be a painter and escape from what he felt was the repressive stifling atmosphere of Catholic Ireland. He had an image in his mind of Paris as the world capital of art and of course he dreamed of making love to the beautiful French women who worked as models for artists. So he went to Paris and did become an authority on French painters if not a successful painter.
Mildred Lawson is the lead work in Moore's 1925 collection of three long short stories, The Celibates. One of the grand themes of Irish literature concerns the sexual repression of the Catholic Church and the devastating impact this had on the lives of the Irish. An Irishman or woman who tells their family and friends they are going to Paris to study painting is seen as entering a world of license and sexual liberation. Mildred Larson is particularly interesting as it centers on a young woman of comfortable circumstances who goes to Paris to study painting. She is shocked at first my the nude artist models, including men, who pose for art classes. There is a lot of interesting material about art classes and the various students and teachers Mildred meets. The drama of the story is in her long term relationship with an Irishman who wants to marry her. (She cannot given her deep enculturation in the doctrines of the Catholic Church have sex outside of a marriage). If she does she will live out her days in a comfortable but unexciting in comparison to Paris life.
"In the Clay" and "The Way Back" are the opening and closing stories in George Moore's collection of short stories, The Untilled Field (1915). This collection directly influenced James Joyce and through it helped create the modern short story. A movie was recently made based on one of the stories, Alfred Nobbs.
"In the Clay" is about a young man who wants to become a sculptor. He is doing a statue of the Virgin Mary but he needs have a nude model to base his work upon. He tells a friend all clothed sculptures are based on nude models and then clothed. Of course there is an underlying sexual element to this in repressive Ireland and I think this was considered a shocking topic in 1915. These two stories are tied together. "In the Clay" is set in Ireland. A neophyte sculpturor has just completed his first major work, based on a nude model. The "first draft" of the work is done in clay. As the story closes the man funds his clay model smashed to pieces. The guilty parties are the three brothers of the model who view posing as a model as on a level with being a prostitute. He is driven to go to Paris by this episode. In "Tne Way Back" we meet the sculpture many years later, he is now a mature artist and a sophisticated man of the world. He encounters an artist friend from Paris and they talk about how their time in Paris shaped their lives.
Writers, painters, and lovers of the good life have been drawn to Paris for hundreds of years. Like no other city in the world it had special meaning in the art and literary world. In these three works by a very important Irish writer we can see a bit of the power of Paris.