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This book challenges and replaces the existing view of Mallarme's mission to 're-possess' music on behalf of poetic language. Traditionally, this view focused on only the last fifteen years of the poet's life, and sprang from a belief in Mallarme's 'sudden awakening' to music during an all-Wagner concert in Paris, in 1885. Professor Heath Lees shows that Mallarme's early knowledge and experience of music was much greater than commentators have realized, and that the French poet actually began his writing career with the explicit aim of making music's performance-language of 'effect' the ground of his poetic expression. Integral to the argument is Mallarme's reaction to the work and ideas of Richard Wagner, whose impact on France came in two waves: the first broke during the tempestuous 1860s days of the Paris Tannhauser, while the second arrived in the mid-1880s, and gave birth to the Revue Wagnerienne.