Wallace Fowlie (1908–1998), professor of literature and translator from the French, published this book in 1966. On the evidence in GRAmazon, no one reads this book any longer, if anyone ever did. At 175 pages Jean Cocteau - The History of a Poet's Age cannot fulfill the promise of its title, indeed it is little more than an overview of Cocteau's (1889-1963) work and life, though Fowlie does offer some of the period atmosphere in Cocteau's Parisian circles. Cocteau knew everybody.
Fowlie writes "He [Cocteau] had passed through the one unavoidable event [death] after which both his detractors and admirers would have to decide whether he had been a clown or a poet," and this little book is Fowlie's plaidoyer in favor of the value of Cocteau's work and the passion for creation and generosity of the man. Occasionally, it tips over into panegyric, and it is not free of factual error (for example, he did not keep quite straight who did what in the creation of Parade).
But it is charmingly written, repeating some of the many anecdotes related so well by Cocteau in his writings(*), summarizing his principal works and providing some critical insight. Fowlie sees Cocteau's essays, films and theater, along with Les enfants terribles, as his most significant works.
Here is an apposite comment on Cocteau's style:
Rather than resolving riddles, Cocteau turned into the sphinx of his age. He writes as if he inhabits a zone where all is truth, where there is no need for argumentation, no need for weighing judgments, no need for even referring to disorder...
Fowlie ends the book with a detailed account of his sole meeting with Cocteau (in 1960), a tête-à-tête luncheon at the celebrated Le Véfour in the Palais-Royal,(**) where Cocteau and Colette dined so often that to the chairs of the table they always occupied were attached little plaques inscribed with their names.(***) I expect that this delightful glimpse into Cocteau's quotidian life can only be read here.
(*) Evidently there is a significant fund of such stories I was not aware of - a three volume journal called Le passé défini was published posthumously in 1983; I must find this.
(**) Now called Le Grand Véfour, where the entrées cost around 100 Euros; one can in this netted and webbed age take a virtual tour of the restaurant online
(***) Fowlie was one of Cocteau's principal translators and proponents in the USA, and they had communicated with each other frequently over the years.