1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Samain, Albert Victor

SAMAIN, ALBERT VICTOR (1858–1900), French poet, was born at Lille on the 4th of April 1858. He was educated at the lycée of that town, and on leaving it entered a bank as a clerk. He enjoyed no literary associations, and his talent developed slowly in solitude. About 1884 Samain went to Paris, having obtained a clerkship in the Préfecture de la Seine, which he held for most of his life. He presently began to send poems to the Mercure de France, and these attracted attention. In 1893 he allowed a friend to print his earliest volume of poems, Au Jardin de l'infante, in a very small edition. This led to the sudden recognition of his talent, and to applause from critics of widely different schools. In 1897 this book was reprinted in a more popular form, with the addition of a section entitled L'Urne penchée. Samain's second volume, Aux flancs du vase, appeared in 1898. His health began to fail and he withdrew to the country, where he died, in the neighbourhood of the village of Magny-les-Hameaux, on the 18th of August 1900. A third volume of his poems, Le Chariot d'or, appeared after his death, with a lyrical drama, Polyphème (1901), which was produced at the Théâtre de l'Œuvre in 1904. The fame of Samain rapidly advanced when he was dead, and the general public awakened to the fact that this isolated writer was a poet of rare originality. He cultivated a delicate, languid beauty of imagery and an exquisite sense of verbal melody without attempting any revolution in prosody or identifying himself with any theory. Samain had no great range of talent, nor was he ambitious of many effects. Samain's natural life was patiently spent in squalid conditions; he escaped from them into an imaginative world of the most exquisite refinement. He has been compared to Watteau and Schumann; in his own art he bore some resemblance to Charles Baudelaire, and to the English poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy.

See also R. Doumic, “Trois Poètes,” in the Revue des deux mondes (Oct. 1900); L. Bocquet, Albert Samain, sa vie, son œuvre (1905); and E. W. Gosse, French Profiles (1905).  (E. G.)