British poet becomes 'immortal' as he's chosen to guard French language


Michael Edwards, 74, is the first Briton to achieve "immortality" by becoming a member of the hallowed institution the Académie Française.

This article is open access. Information protects us. I subscribe

A 74-year-old poet has become the first Briton to achieve "immortality" by becoming a member of the Académie Française, the hallowed institution famous for defending the French language from "Anglo-Saxon" invasion, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Michael Edwards is the first "immortal" - as the academy's 40 members are known – to be born in Britain and whose first language is English since Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, founded the body in 1635.

Its aim was to "fix the French language, giving it rules, rendering it pure and comprehensible by all".

Former luminaries include Voltaire, Victor Hugo, the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, and the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. Present members include the former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the former president of the European Parliament, Simone Veil.

A much-admired poet in both the French and English languages, Mr Edwards is a professor at the Collège de France, France's most prestigious academic institution.

A series of lectures he gave on "the genius of English poetry" was just re-broadcast on France Culture, the country's high-brow arts radio station.

A former holder of the chairs of English and French at Warwick University, he has lectured and written on Shakespeare in French and on Racine in English. He is married to a Frenchwoman and holds dual nationality.

This was his third attempt to join the immortals after two near misses as the famously finicky members failed to reach a majority. It would have been his last, as new membership rules bar new entrants over the age of 75, in an apparent attempt to spruce up what is sometimes mockingly called the world's most select old people's club.

Before his second, attempt, Mr Edwards had said: "To be elected would be the ultimate honour". "It would be the last tick in the box to prove that, after all these years, I have been accepted as being French, even though I may remain very proud to be British," he said.

Read more of this report from The Daily Telegraph.

No mobilization without confidence
No trust without truth
Support us