Friday, February 22, 2013

The Poetic Paris of Louise de Vilmorin

Remember those old movies in which a man courted a lady by reading poetry to her?  Well heaven help the man who tries to woo me with poetry, because I won't have a clue as to what he is reading to me.  You see, I have no aptitude whatsoever for poetry.  Although I always did well in English class, it was poetry that threw a wrench into things, eliciting a "Say what?" from me.

Fortunately, I recently found a collection of poems that I actually understand.  Written by novelist Louise de Vilmorin, seen above, and titled "Aux Quatre Coins de Paris" (translated to "Paris Poems"), these poems were published in Vogue magazine (the British edition, I believe) sometime in the 1930s.  They are gay, light-hearted, and stylish with their references to the Ritz and Maxim's and just the kind of poems with which to the end the week. Each brief poem was accompanied by a charming illustration, and I have included them below, each above its corresponding verse.

Perhaps these poetic nuggets might inspire you to try your hand at poetry. Personally, they make me want to check-in to the Ritz.

Ritz-Cambon Side
Descending these three steps
In elegant procession
Can make a great impression
While international chatter passes
Among the midday cocktail glasses

The Corridor of The Ritz
This is a funny street
No snow, or rain, or sleet
Thus say the poodles and the dachs
Whining for the jewelled collars
That cost too many dollars

The Flea Market
The Statue of Liberty only offers you a light
But I, by trade a dairy made, just might,
Tempt you with a bargain
Next Saturday
When I stray
From my Milky Way
To the Market of Fleas
So come and see me please

Reflected between the lamps
Set in the mirrors' glint
Are fashions for you to follow
Good sense to take the hint

Aux Quatre Coins de Paris by Louise de Vilmorin; translation by Peter Coats; Drawings by Maurice van Moppès


  1. charming and sweet! I was not aware of this authress. I will certainly find out more about her and read more of her poetry. Merci!

  2. Anonymous9:54 AM

    of course, i couldn't let this one pass by without commenting that louise de vilmorin was the woman duff cooper was practically living with, notwithstanding the fact that he was married to THE great beauty of her (and several other) generation(s) Lady Diana Cooper (nee Manners).

    and don't forget, he also had a long liaison with susan mary alsop, in fact, fathered her son. which he, the son, was never told about and only discovered when he was in his 30's. I have his book, he called it "my three fathers". I have duff's book too, he called his memoirs "old men forget". I also have his published diaries. men really are sex-mad, did you know? i was exhausted just reading it....

    come to think of it, I have diana cooper's memoir as well, she called hers....wait a minute, i just have to run downstairs and check - --as it happens, i DON't have her memoirs, i have a biography of her by Ziegler. But I did read her three volume autobiography, because the New Orleans public library owned it. What i wouldn't give to have those three volumes in my collection now....nobody else would want them. who besides me gives a fig about diana cooper anymore?

    and finally, diana's and duff's son wrote a fabulous memoir "trying to please" by john julius norwich (he uses the title as his last name - cheeky). he is still alive, if you can believe it, tho' he must be 150 by now. well, actually about 90.....he lives right next to regent's park. i looked it up.

    Valerie in Washington DC

    1. Valerie, Having recently read the Susan Mary Alsop biography, I too thought of the whole Duff Cooper affair. Actually, make that affairs! What a tangled web. It does make for interesting reading, though! I am familiar with the books to which you refer, but have yet to read them. I think that I should do so soon, though. Thank you for the comment!

    2. Valerie, the 3 volumes are worth tracking down in their original form.
      The endpapers include the trophy panels painted by Martin Battersby for
      the house at Chantilly, which ended up at Lady Diana's place in Little
      Venice, London. I suppose that John Julius Norwich has got those panels
      at this point in time?

    3. It is said that Duff Cooper obtained hard-to-get medicine for Louise's ill brother during the War, and he fell in love with her at a party at the Bolshevik Russian Embassy. Recently a fantastic book was published on that era, called "Paris: After the Liberation," it features much on Duff and Louise but has the insights of the personal letters of Duff Cooper, which are in the private collection of his granddaughter - she co-authored the book.

      There were lots of affairs in those days in Paris. The culture not have considered such things as offensive as perhaps American culture may do now.

  3. There are fewer than six degrees of separation high school french teacher was married to Louise de Vilmorin's cousin....She was not charming.

    1. Mary, Indeed it is a small world! de Vilmorin sounds frightening.

  4. I loved the comment from Valerie + I will find those books! thanks Valerie in Washington DC. I feel the same about poetry as you, but adored these. More Louise de Vilmorin please.

    1. Hi Peggy, I will hunt for more de Vilmorin poems!

  5. The Coopers were friends of Coco Chanel and Boy Capel- I wonder if Louise ever met Coco? Most likely she did!


    1. Dean, Interestingly enough, de Vilmorin collaborated on Chanel's autobiography, although supposedly it was rife with incorrect information and trumped up recollections.

    2. "Memoires de Coco" was the biography penned by Louise. Coco loved it at first but disavowed it and another later. At the time, she was working hard on her public image after it was severely damaged by her public alliances and loyalties during WWII.

  6. all the above are worth reading and I am pleased have them all but don't forget 'to marietta from Paris' where a lot of reading between the lines is needed.

    1. I have that book on my wish list thanks to you. The copies online tend to be quite expensive so I am doing some hunting to find an affordable copy!

  7. I'm with you, I never understood poetry. In my senior year in high school, on my final English exam we had to analyze a poem, my heart froze. I had no earthly idea.

    1. Exactly! No earthly idea. That was the way I felt about poetry in high school and college English classes. I never understood a word of it!

  8. Terrifying woman, Louise de Vilmorin.
    Have you seen the interview that is part of the Criterion DVD of the film "The Earrings of Madame de.."
    in which Louise denounces the film as rubbish? Never mind that most film historians considered it
    a masterpiece. Louise dismissed it outright.
    It was based on her slender novel, "Madame de", translated by none other than Duff Cooper.

    1. Toby, I have not yet seen the film but have been meaning to do so. It sounds like it is worth it for the interview alone!

  9. Louise de Vilmorin is featured in many books, including her own biography, "Je Suis Nee Inconsolable" (I was born inconsolable). She won the Medal of Honor in Literature from Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1955. That same day her first ex-husband, a second-generation international adventurer name Henry Leigh Hunt, for many years the largest land owner in Las Vegas, was appointed Honorary Consul of the Principality of Monaco by the Prince. Louise is featured recently in the book "Seductress" and is soon to be featured in a book about her mysterious first Husband. Louise and Henry lived in Las Vegas from 1925 until about 1933, when they returned to Paris.

    1. Jonathan, Thank you for this and other comments regarding Louise de Vilmorin. You obviously know a great deal about her, and I appreciate your comments, which help to flesh out who L de V really was.