The Nobel Prize in Literature 1901
Born: 16 March 1839, Paris, France
Died: 7 September 1907, Châtenay, France
Residence at the time of the award: France
Prize motivation: “in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect”
Prize share: 1/1
Sully Prudhomme was born in Paris. After an eye disease forced him to discontinue engineering studies, he supported himself for a while as a lawyer. He had already begun writing poetry as a student, and his debut came in 1865. In time he became a respected poet, particularly through induction into the French Academy in 1881. As time passed, his health declined and he lived alone in his home in the southern suburbs of Paris, where he died in 1907. Prudhomme used the money from his Nobel Prize to establish a fund for publishing young French poets.
Sully Prudhomme belonged to the French Parnassian school, a group of poets that, in the tradition of Théophile Gauthier, wanted to write in a classic and formally elegant style. The movement got its name from La Parnasse Contemporain anthology. Prudhomme’s poetry combined a Parnassian regard for formal perfection with an interest in science and philosophy. According to the Swedish Academy, his elevated poetry fit in Alfred Nobel’s formulation about works in an ideal direction.