The county of Nice, and especially the city of Nice and the coast, constitute an exceptional meeting-place for writers, mainly in the XIX-th and XX-th centuries. Some were only passing on their trip to Italy but they were marked enough by the peculiarity or the beauty of the region to record their impressions in their personal diary, in a letter or in a book. It was the case of Charles de Brosses or Alexandre Dumas father who observed in 1840: " Nothing more charming that Nice on a beautiful autumn evening, when its sea, hardly wrinkled by the wind which comes from Barcelona or from Palma murmurs slowly " (Impressions of a journey. One year in Florence, Paris, 1851). Nice only constituted a stop for Jean Aicard, Georges Sand, Stendhal, Guy de Maupassant, François Coppée, Jean Moréas, the young Gustave Flaubert, Prosper Mérimée, faithful resident of Cannes and occasional guest of the County. In the XX-th century, Colette, Paul Eluard, André Breton, Sacha Guitry, Marcel Proust, Claude Farrère, Stefan Zweig, André Gide, Henry Miller, Apollinaire* (who lived the first fifteen years of hi life on the Riviera) and many other stopped.

Among the writers who stopped for a longer time, few appreciated summer. Summer visitor, Paul Arène who celebrated " this white Nice, as if asleep in the flavor of the eucalyptus " was an exception. The majority of the writers came from October till May. One of the most known precursors was the Scottish doctor Tobias Smolett who tried to restore his health in Nice during the two winters 1763-1765 and wrote the famous Letters of Nice in which he praised the region while criticizing the inhabitants. The German Jean Georges Sulzer who also came in Nice during the cold months of 1775-1776 to look after himself expressed the same opinion. On the other hand, the Frenchmen Delille and Dupaty showed themselves more indulgent. At the end of the XIX-th century and in the XX-th century, the craze became widespread. Many writers spent a large part of the winter on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In 1932, the critic Pierre Troyon observed: " Between Toulon and Vintimille, one would find, in winter, from November till May, half of the French literary world and also a part of the Anglo-Saxon literary world. This country of delights, casinos and pleasures has become lately a republic of the Muses (....) Taking one year with another, it was likely that one should see on the Riviera, for one to three weeks, half of the forty”. Henry Bordeaux got used to spending there every year some days in spring, as a proof “ The Calvary of Cimiez” (a novel published by H. Bordeaux in 1928, NDA) and did not disdain to send from Paris some articles to L’Éclaireur de Nice "( Revue des Deux Mondes, in April 1-st, 1932)

One would not know how to quote the names of all the winter holiday-makers, famous or forgotten by posterity. Théodore de Banville, very attached to the County, entitled one of his books The Sea of Nice. When Banville died in 1891, Catulle Mendès, regular winter holiday-maker, who was then in Nice, composed “the Laurel of La Turbie” in homage to his friend who had given the same title to one of his poems. René Boylève, a member of the French Academy, also a regular winter host, noted: " In Nice, spring lasts all year, except in summer which is really summer " (flower-decorated Easter). It was also when Europe covered itself with wintry weather that arrived in Nice sensitive Marie Bashkirtseff *, André Theuriet, member of the French Academy, who published Marie's diary, (she died in 1884), and wrote Flower of Nice, Victorien Sardou, Gustave Nadaud, the Pole Henrick Sienkiewicz, less famous for his “On the French Riviera”r than for his “Quo vadis”. Friedrich Nietzsche* spent in Nice all the winters from 1883 till 1888. In the XX-th century, Jean Cocteau made numerous stays with a preference for Villefranche and Cap-Ferrat. Paul Valéry was called in Nice for his functions of administrator of the “Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen”* (CUM).

Other intellectuals chose the French Riviera as a land of exile. It was the case of the revolutionary Herzen* who had to leave Russia and of Alphonse Karr* who, banned afterthe coup d'état of December 2, 1851, cultivated flowers in the district of Saint Philippe in Nice. After the Great War, the Spanish liberal Vicente Blasco Ibanez lived in the district of the Port where he wrote the Old man of the Promenade des Anglais, before settling in Menton. AntiNazi Germans, as Heinrich Mann, also stopped for more or less time in Nice. In 1940, Elsa Triolet and Louis Aragon who did not feel safe in the Northern zone settled down near the Museum Masséna, then in the Ponchettes; whereas Elsa wrote the white Horse, her husband composed a good part of Aurélien.

Certain writers lived all year round in the county of Nice. Louise Ackermann *, lived several decades in the district of La Lanterne where she wrote philosophic Poems, her” Thoughts of a solitary person” and the largest part of her diary, she died in Nice in 1890. Eccentric Jean Lorrain* spent the last years of his life, from 1900 till 1906, in the district of the Port. Gaston Leroux *, famous for his books “the Mystery of the yellow room” and “the Flavor of the lady in black”, withdrew in Nice in 1907 and died there twenty years later. Also died in Nice where they were living, in 1932 the dramatist Eugène Brieux and in 1949 Maurice Maeterlinck *, 1911 Nobel prize winner and luxurious host of the palace Orlamonde. Somerset Maugham *settled in Cap-Ferrat and died in Nice in 1965; Henri Bosco *, very attached to his pink House of Cimiez, died in 1976. Two writers, future members of the French Academy, lived In Nice and both, at different periods, taught in a boys' secondary school, Emile Gebhart in 1860-1861 and Jules Romains* from 1917 till 1919. The latter who liked strolling in the old town and the new districts, to Falicon, Laghet, Aspremont, placed in Nice the frame of “the Sweetness of life”, the volume XVIII of the “People of willingness”: " A bay which is worth that of Naples, in a simpler and bigger style; more beautiful, more varied hills, richer in details and in excitements than those of Florence; ten kilometres from place Masséna, from its cafés, from its arches, a village such as Aspremont that could be one of the wildest of Corsica or of the Balkans; forty kilometres from the Promenade des Anglais, from its young ladies, from its parasols, Peira-Cava, swamped with snow, surrounded by alpine tops and glaciers, and from where one can see, as from the Trophy of La Turbie, the sea shining far off and below " (The Sweetness of life, Paris, 1939).


Ralph SCHOR

 

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