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Debussy, Claude

The Oxford Companion to English Literature
Dinah BirchDinah Birch

Debussy, Claude (1862–1918) French composer, 

two of whose Préludes for piano claim English inspiration—La Danse de Puck (Book 1, 1910) and Hommage à S. Pickwick (Book 2, 1913). The only English poet he set was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose ‘The Blessed Damozel’ provided the text for an early cantata, La Damoiselle élue (1888): a second, a translation by Pierre Louÿs of ‘Willowwood’ (1900), was never published. Debussy planned an opera from As You Like It, but shelved it in favour of Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). In 1890 he began a symphonic work on The Fall of the House of Usher (now lost), later writing three separate libretti for an opera on the subject, never developed beyond sketches. Debussy planned but did not complete another opera based on a Poe story, The Devil in the Belfry.