Mérimée and the Supernatural: Diversion or Obsession

Prosper Mérimée was noted for his rationalism and skepticism; yet he sustained a lifelong interest in the supernatural and used the subject in over half of his fictional works. It has been suggested that this seemingly unlikely predilection was for him merely a diversion. It appears, however, that it sprang from a source far deeper than is readily apparent. As his correspondence has disclosed, Mérimée was capable of much deeper sentiment than was previously suspected, and his letters reveal a variety of fears and a nervous, superstitious disposition that was constantly concealed from public view. Despite his repeated denials of credulity in supernatural forces, he could never deny the possibility that they might truly exist. Mérimée was indeed troubled by his superstitious fantasies, and his literary treatment of the fantastique was a natural outlet for the repressed anxiety he felt. Haunted by the idea of fate and the presence of the unknown, his use of the supernatural in literature constituted the tangible form he gave to his fears. The number, variety, and consistent use of Mérimée's fantastic creations and the confessions in his correspondence indicate, not a diversion, but a veritable obsession. (ASR)

Rosenthal, Alan S.
Volume 1973 Spring; 1(3): 138-54.