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belles-lettres


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[bel-letr]

The French term for ‘fine writing’, originally used (as in ‘fine art’) to distinguish artistic literature from scientific or philosophical writing. Since the 19th century, though, the term has more often been used dismissively to denote a category of elegant essay-writing and lightweight literary chatter, of which much was published in Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Max Beerbohm's essays and Andrew Lang's Letters to Dead Authors (1896) are examples. An author of such elegant trifles is a belletrist. Adjective: belletristic.

Subjects: Literature.


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