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The Biography of Manuel

Friday, April 11, 2008   |   Literature
The Biography of Manuel is a series of novels, essays and poetry by James Branch Cabell. It purports to trace the life, illusions and disillusions of Dom Manuel, Count of Poictesme (a fictional province of France), and of his physical and spiritual descendants through many generations. The series is more fully titled The Biography of the Life of Manuel, notwithstanding the implicit redundancy.

The conceit of the series is that the life (or at least the expectations) of Dom Manuel 'the Redeemer', which is the subject of the novel Figures of Earth, did not end in his death but was continued in his heirs. The life of each follows the same pattern.

Within the Biography of Manual are 3 attitudes adopted, illustrated, or blended into the many descendants of Manuel:
  • The Chivalrous attitude - view life as testing and they try to become admirable

  • The Gallant attitude - view life as a toy and they try to enjoy life while it lasted

  • The Poetic attitude - view life as raw material, and through the medium of art, try to create something more durable than life

"The comedy is always the same. In the first act the hero imagines a place where happiness exists. In the second he strives towards that goal. In the third he comes up short or what amounts to the same thing he achieves his goal only to find that happiness lies a little further down the road."


  1. BEYOND LIFE, Dizain des Demiurges
  2. FIGURES OF EARTH, A Comedy of Appearances
  3. THE SILVER STALLION, A Comedy of Redemption

    #4,5,6. THE WITCH-WOMAN. 1948. A long preface about the cycle
  4. THE MUSIC FROM BEHIND THE MOON, An Epitome
  5. THE WAY OF ECBEN, A Comedietta Involving a Gentleman
  6. THE WHITE ROBE, A Saint's Summary
  7. THE SOUL OF MILICENT. 1913; revised as DOMNEI, A Comedy of Woman-Worship
  8. CHIVALRY, Dizain des Reines
  9. JURGEN, A Comedy of Justice
  10. THE LINE OF LOVE, Dizain des Mariages
  11. THE HIGH PLACE, A Comedy of Disenchantment
  12. GALLANTRY, Dizain des FÍtes Galantes
  13. SOMETHING ABOUT EVE, A Comedy of Fig-leaves
  14. THE CERTAIN HOUR, Dizain des Poetes
  15. THE JEWEL MERCHANTS
  16. THE CORDS OF VANITY, A Comedy of Shirking
  17. FROM THE HIDDEN WAY, Dizain des Echos
  18. THE RIVET IN GRANDFATHER'S NECK, A Comedy of Limitations
  19. THE EAGLE'S SHADOW, A Comedy of Purse-Strings

    #20-21. THE CREAM OF THE JEST, THE LINEAGE OF LICHFIELD, Two Comedies of Evasion. 1930
  20. THE CREAM OF THE JEST, A Comedy of Evasions
  21. THE LINEAGE OF LICHFIELD, An Essay on Eugenics
  22. STRAWS AND PRAYER-BOOKS, Dizain des Diversions
  23. TOWNSEND OF LICHFIELD