The extensive correspondence between Maeterlinck (1862-1949) and his American friend and patron Florence Perkins comprises almost 140 unpublished letters. Written between 1915 and 1940, they shed new light on the life and work of the famous author. Writer of the plays Pelléas et Mélisande (Pellias and Melisande) and L'Oiseau bleu (The Blue Bird), Maeterlinck is the only Belgian writer to date to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The first contacts between Maeterlinck and Florence Perkins were probably professional, as the first letter (dated 30 November, 1915) deals with the rights for making a film of The Blue Bird and various financial issues. They met during Maeterlinck’s first trip to New York (end of 1919-1920).
These documents reveal precious information about the writer’s work during the later years of his career, and in particular the preparation for his philosophical works, including La Vie des Termites and La Vie des Fourmis (The Life of Termites and The Life of Ants, respectively), as well as his interest in astrophysics and his political ideas in the context of the rise of Nazism and the coming to power of Salazar in Portugal.
Maeterlinck also recounts his 1922 trip to New York, the publication of the memoirs of his ex-partner, the singer Georgette Leblanc, in 1931 and his resignation regarding his exile across the Atlantic in 1940.
The letters were able to be purchased at Christie’s, Paris, thanks to the Abbé Manoël de la Serna Fund, founded in homage to Charles-Antoine de la Serna (1752-1813). Maeterlinck’s letters have been entrusted to the Royal Library of Belgium, which already possesses numerous original manuscripts by Maeterlinck.