Contemporaries

AE, George Russell

After Moore left Dublin in 1911, AE wrote—‘For the last 2 Saturdays I have wandered about trying to find a way of spending my Saturday night, which for 7 years I spent with Moore. I think George Moore ought to be a generic title, like Pharoah, King of Egypt, and when one goes, another qualified person ought to take his place and fulfil his functions. Moore was so much alive all the time, and the Irish people who write whom I meet here are anaemic people, or if they are not anaemic they have prejudices and no ideas.’ (LETTERS FROM AE, 72)

Paul Alexis

French naturalist writer, and brilliant journalist who specialised in the  feuilleton. Alexis was Émile Zola’s best friend, but in the 1880s, he was also a bon ami of Moore. They collaborated on a play (Le Sycamore), and Alexis translated Moore’s fiction into French. Moore drew upon Alexis’s Madame Meuriot in writing Memoirs of My Dead Life, particularly ‘Ninon’s Table d’Hôte’. The connection between them was a live wire between the literatures of Paris and London. His own writings in French are worth renewed study.

Édouard Dujardin

One of Moore's bons amis, and like Blanche, a true friend. Creative editor of La Revue indépendante ​ and famously, the inventor of the ‘stream of consciousness.’ In a ‘rapprochement with old men’ in the late 1920s, James Joyce gave credit to Moore and Dujardin as his forerunners. Moore’s letters to Dujardin—covering some 40 years—are essential evidence in the history of modern European literature. Dujardin is the model for the biblical scholar in The Lake (1905), another pre-Joycean experiment in the ‘interior monologue.’ His work on the Hebrew sources of the New Testament got Moore started on what became The Brook Kerith (1916). 

Thomas Hardy

Moore & Hardy regarded one another with mutual contempt. Moore’s Esther Waters is angled as a ‘realist’ rejoinder to, or correction of, the romantic & gothic Tess of the D'Urbervilles. The last thing Hardy wrote just before dying was a satirical squib on Moore: ‘Heap dustbins on him,’ he prayed to posterity.

Henry James

Moore learned a lot about the art of fiction from a close study of The Portrait of a Lady in the early 1880s.  But after James declined to approve of Moore’s A Mummer's Wife (1885), they became hostile rivals. They had mutual friends among certain English aristocratic ladies who hosted literary weekends, and who learned they had to invite James & Moore separately, and never to mention the absent one’s name in the presence of the lionised guest. Moore took to calling James ‘The Eunuch’ because of his watery love-scenes.

Stéphane Mallarmé

Mallarmé was a great friend of Manet; he saw the painter almost every day, & became the lover of Manet’s muse, Méry Laurent. Mallarmé already knew the English poets of the 1870s—Rossetti, Swinburne, Arthur O’Shaughnessy, and Edmund Gosse. Jean Noël concludes that George Moore first met  Mallarmé in Jan or Feb 1876. Moore then became a regular at Mallarmé’s Tuesday ‘At-Homes’:  ‘…a few friends sitting round the hearth, the lamp on the table. I have met none whose conversation was more fruitful,’ but he found ‘L’Après Midi d’un Faune’ ‘absurdly obscure’ (Confessions of a Young Man). As a guiding light of La Revue indépendante,  Mallarmé personally kept abreast of Moore’s cross-national literary trade.

George Bernard Shaw

Moore, as a friend of Eleanor Marx, was a guest for the ‘at-home’ production of A Doll's House in 1885, with Edward Aveling and George Bernard Shaw in the cast. Shaw didn’t think it possible that Moore, a silly Mayo absentee landlord, could have written a book, much less a good one, but then A Mummer's Wife appeared, and Shaw confessed his admiration: ‘Imagine the industry of the man!’ Both men wrote for The Bat and The Hawk, and had common causes in promoting the works of Ibsen and Wagner. In 1923, Shaw observed with amusement that the three most indecent authors in contemporary letters were all Irishmen: Frank Harris, James Joyce, and George Moore.

James McNeill Whistler

It is possible that Moore met Whistler on a visit to Barthes’ Studio in 1874, where Whistler had been teaching, and Moore studied painting. In the mid-1880s, when Moore began writing art criticism, he had a great admiration for Whistler’s painting, and also for his writing. Whistler came to believe that all that Moore knew of art, he learned from Whistler’s  own 1885 ‘Ten O’Clock’ lecture, an attack on Wilde (JMW selected the audience, and reserved a seat for GM). After Moore published Modern Painting (1893), Whistler inscribed a gift copy of ‘The Ten O’Clock’ to Moore, ‘for furtive reading.’ Moore liked to repeat Degas’s mot, ‘Whistler, it requires your genius to save you from ridicule.’ ‘An absurd man in his vanities, he was’ (Avowals, 1919). Moore got dragged into the famous trial over Whistler’s refusal to give Sir William Eden the portrait of his wife, or to give back the fee he had taken for painting it (1895). Whistler went so far as to challenge Moore publicly to a duel.  Moore published his reply in the newspaper: ‘Your conduct grows daily more absurd.’

Oscar Wilde

Moore’s sister Nina recalled that when her brother was a young lad, Oscar and Willie Wilde would sail up with their parents from Sir William Wilde’s summer house near Lough Corrib, and the boys would play together. But years later, when both authors were trying to make a name for themselves in London, they were not pleased to see one another. Wilde was a prophet of artificiality; Moore, of the natural. Although Wilde was generally a kind person, ‘Moore was one of the few people upon whom Wilde exercised his wit in a way that was sometimes cruel’ (Vincent O’Sullivan, Aspects of Wilde).

W.B. Yeats

From 1895 to 1902, Moore and Yeats were the best of friends. Moore went to great lengths to sing the praises of the younger man; he was truly smitten. In the first version of Evelyn Innes, Yeats is the model for the young male love-interest. They began to fall out during their collaboration on the play Diarmuid and Grania: who was to have the final word? Yeats was also disconcerted by Moore’s (very temporary) enthusiasm for Irish language literature. Their split became public when Yeats inveigled AE, Lady Gregory, and Douglas Hyde into stealing Moore’s scenario to write Where There is Nothing. Thereafter, Yeats found himself frequently getting entangled in ‘a spider’s web of George Moore’s spinning.’ Moore turned Yeats into a (satirically treated) leading figure in Hail and Farewell (1911-14). Yeats waited for Moore to die in order to take his revenge, in Dramatis Personae.

Émile Zola

From Manet, Moore learned to admire Zola and soon idolised him. When Moore moved to London in the early 1880s, he undertook a translation of Therese Raquin (completed by publisher Henry Vizitelly’s son Ernest). Moore advertised himself as a ‘ricochet of Zola in England,’ its first naturalist novelist. But after A Mummer's Wife (1885), Moore—along with many French writers—rebelled against the ‘scientific’ and ‘journalistic’ novelist, who tried to organise his followers like subordinate military officers. Moore’s rebellion is on full display in Confessions of a Young Man. Yet there was a reconciliation at the time of the Dreyfus Case. When Zola fled under a disguise to England, and remained in hiding, Moore was one of the few he allowed to visit him. 

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