Decadence "became a proper noun with increasing currency sometime between about 1870 and 1880 and that shortly afterward it began to be applied as an adjective to details of personal behavior such as it had seldom been used to describe before. As a capitalized word it became a label only after the fact. Frenchmen of the period, the nonprofessionally intellectual or artistic at any rate, were not profoundly conscious of living in the 'French Decadence," however often the term was wielded by thinkers in love with categories" (Gilman, 95).

"In 1885, before the term had even taken full hold, some of the younger Decadents began to call themselves Symbolists, getting their cue, of course, from Mallarmé" (Gilman, 99).

Related Material


Gilman, Richard. Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet. N.Y.: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1979.

Last modified 5 December 2012