Maurice Maeterlinck

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Maeterlinck, Maurice

(môrēs` mätĕrlăNk`), 1862–1949, Belgian author who wrote in French. After practicing law unsuccessfully for several years, he went to Paris in 1897. He had already been touched by the influence of the symbolistssymbolists,
in literature, a school originating in France toward the end of the 19th cent. in reaction to the naturalism and realism of the period. Designed to convey impressions by suggestion rather than by direct statement, symbolism found its first expression in poetry but
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 and the mystical thought of Novalis and Emerson; his eventual 60-odd volumes can be read as a symbolist manifesto. Their suggestion of universal mystery, their insistence on ennui and impending doom affected the mood of a whole generation before World War I. Maeterlinck was awarded the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature, but after 1920 his creative powers declined. His works include the short story "Le Massacre des innocents" (1886); the plays Les Aveugles (1891, tr. The Blind), Pelléas et Mélisande (1892), which inspired Debussy's opera (1902), Monna Vanna (1902), and L'Oiseau bleu (1909, tr. The Blue Bird), an allegorical fantasy for children that denies the reality of death; the essays La Vie des abeilles (1901, tr. The Life of the Bee) and L'Intelligence des fleurs (1907, tr. Life and Flowers); and poems.


See studies by A. Bailly (tr. 1974) and L. B. Konrad (1986).

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Maeterlinck, Maurice (1862–1949)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Maurice Maeterlinck was born in Ghent, Belgium, on August 29, 1862. He was educated at the Collège Sainte-Barbe and then at the university of Ghent. In 1887 he settled in Paris, France, but on the death of his father he returned to Ghent permanently.

In 1889, Maeterlinck published a volume of verse and also a play. Two more plays followed the next year and in 1891, he published Les Sept Princesses. He developed a strong leaning to mysticism which showed in many of his works. In 1898, he issued a monograph on the ethics of mysticism, titled La Sagesse et la destine. A number of his works demonstrate his fascination with psychical phenomena. He once commented, “The question of fraud and imposture are naturally the first that suggest themselves when we begin the study of these phenomena. But the slightest acquaintance with the life, habits and proceedings of the three or four leading mediums is enough to remove even the faintest shadow of suspicion.”

Maurice Maeterlinck wrote many essays and plays, and received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1911. He died near Nice, France, on May 6, 1949. Two of his books dealing with the paranormal are The Great Secret (1920) and The Unknown Guest (1914).


Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Maeterlinck, Maurice


Born Aug. 29, 1862, in Ghent; died May 5, 1949, in Nice, France. Belgian writer. He wrote in French.

Maeterlinck was the son of a notary. He studied law in Paris, settling permanently in France in 1896. Maeterlinck’s early idealistic symbolist views, set forth in his The Treasure of the Humble (1896), were a protest against bourgeois positivism and the lack of inspiration in naturalistic art. His poetry collection Hothouses was published in 1889; in 1896 he published the collection Twelve Songs (enlarged in 1900, Fifteen Songs).

The heroes of Maeterlinck’s early plays are victims of fate (the fairy tale Princess Maleine, 1889; the one-act plays The Intruder, 1890, and The Blind, 1890; the drama Pelleas and Melisande, 1892). His early drama relied on silence, allusions, and innuendo. The theme of the play The Death of Tintagiles (1894) is a rebellion against fate. In the fairy-tale plays Aglavaine and Selysette and Ariane and Bluebeard (both 1896), Maeterlinck’s heroes are no longer just victims but fighters as well.

Maeterlinck’s Wisdom and Destiny (1898) is a cycle of essays on knowledge and ethics. The Buried Temple (1902), written when the author was connected with socialist circles, is an appeal for creativity and social action. The drama Sister Beatrice (1900) was directed against asceticism and extolled the full-blooded life. The historical drama Monna Vanna (1902) deals with a heroic exploit in the name of the motherland. In his articles from these years, Maeterlinck spoke out against fatalism in life and art. The play The Miracle of St. Anthony (1903) is a fierce antibourgeois satire. In 1905 he wrote the fairy-tale play The Blue Bird, which is full of faith in man’s victory over the forces of nature, hunger, and war. It was first performed at the Moscow Art Theater on Sept. 30, 1908, and has been in that theater’s repertoire ever since.

During World War I, the publicist Maeterlinck denounced German militarism. The play Betrothal (1918) continued the story of one of the heroes of The Blue Bird. Maeterlinck’s later plays are less significant (The Burgo-master of Stilemonde and Salt of the Earth, 1919; Joan of Arc, 1945). The tragedy of Belgium, occupied by the Germans in 1914, and the crisis of Belgian Social Democracy alienated Maeterlinck from social problems. His treatises The Life of Space (1928) and Before the Great Silence (1937) were full of mysticism. He also wrote the philosophical nature books The Life of the Bee (1901), The Intelligence of the Flowers (1907), The Life of the Termite (1926), and The Life of the Ant (1930), in which his observations of nature are full of anthropomorphism.

Maeterlinck moved to the USA in 1940, returning to France in 1947. He wrote his memoirs, Blue Bubbles (Happy Memories) (1948). His humanist plays from the period of 1896–1918 have become part of the repertoire of world theater. Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in 1911.


Théâtre, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1918.
Théâtre inédit. Paris, 1959.
In Russian translation:
P’esy. Foreword by E. G. Etkind. Moscow, 1958.


Gorky, M. Sobr. soch., vol. 24. Moscow, 1953. Page 48.
Lunacharskii, A. V. O teatre i dramaturgii, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1958.
Andreev, L. G. “O dvukh znamenitykh bel’giitsakh.” In E. Verkharn, Stikhotvoreniia. Zori.
Maeterlinck, M. P’esy. Moscow, 1972.
Shkunaeva, I. D. Bel’giiskaia drama ot Meterlinka do nashikh dnei. Moscow, 1973.
Bodart, R. M. Maeterlinck. Paris, 1962.
Cassou, J., H. Clouard, P. Guiette, et al. M. Maeterlinck: 1862–1962. Under the direction of J. Hanse and R. Vivier. [Brussels, 1962.]


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