Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve

Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve

Birth
Boulogne-sur-Mer, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Death 13 Oct 1869 (aged 64)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Plot Division 17, BIG cemetery.
Memorial ID 1235 · View Source
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Writer and Poet. He was born and educated in Boulogne. A talented but in no way brilliant youth, he studied medicine at the Collège Charlemagne in Paris, then continued his general education by attending the University of Paris and extension institutions. Her served at the St Louis Hospital, but began writing literary articles in 1824. In 1825 was drawn into journalism by his former teacher, Paul Dubois, editor of a new liberal periodical, Le Globe. In 1827 he came, by a review of Victor Hugo's Odes et Ballades, into close association with Hugo and his literary circle. In his first book, “Historical and Critical Description of French Poetry and Theatre in the Sixteenth Century”, published in 1828, he claimed a Renaissance ancestry for Hugo and others of his new friends. A visit to England in 1828 strengthened his taste for contemporary English poets. His visit to England may also account for the appearance of elements of the style of William Cowper and George Crabbe in volumes of his own poetry, “The Life, Poetry, and Thought of Joseph Delorme”, published in 1829, and “Les Consolations”, published in 1830. He associated with a group of reformers assembled around the ideas of Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon. According to them, the control of countries by feudal and military systems were to be replaced by one controlled by industry, and science rather than religion would guide society. When this group took over management of Le Globe in 1830, he drafted two manifestos espousing these ideas, and he retained a sympathy with the ideas of this group for many years. From 1831 he contributed articles to another new periodical, the Revue des Deux Mondes. He collected these articles in “Critiques et Portraits Littéraires”. In these writings, he developed a kind of critique of deeply researching and studying a well-known living writer to understand the mental attitudes of his subject. In the early 1830s he came to dislike the newly established regime of King Louis-Philippe, mostly due to its brutal handling of the riots of 1832. Because of this, he refused several government jobs, fearing that they might compromise him. His friendship with Victor Hugo, which had already begun to cool in 1830, was almost extinguished by the publication of his novel “Volupté” in 1834. In this book the hero Amaury’s hopeless love for the saintly and unapproachable Madame de Couaën reflects its author’s passion for Adèle Hugo. “Volupté” is a study of Amaury’s frustration, guilt, religious striving, and final renunciation of the flesh and the devil. A softening of his attitude toward Louis-Philippe’s regime coincided in 1836 with an invitation from the minister of education to accept an appointment as secretary of a government commission studying the nation’s literary heritage. In 1837 he accepted visiting professorship at the University of Lausanne to lecture on Port-Royal-des-Champs, the convent famous in the 17th century for advancing a highly controversial view of the doctrine of grace, loosely called Jansenism. For his lectures he produced “Histoire de Port-Royal”, which he revised over the next two decades. This book, his single most famous piece of writing, is an exhaustive history of the abbey. It not only influenced the method of such research, but also the philosophy of history and the history of esthetics. This monumental assemblage of scholarship, insights, and historical acumen covers the religious and literary history of France over half of the 17th century. On completing his year in Lausanne, he returned to Paris, and in 1840 he was appointed to a post in the French Institute’s Mazarine Library, a position he held until 1848. He continued regular essay writing, and he was elected to the French Academy in 1844. While continuing to produce intellectual “portraits” of his literary contemporaries, as further collected in “Portraits Contemporains”, he became a member of the circle presided over by the famous hostess Mademoiselle Récamier, and the writer and politician François-René de Chateaubriand. Later he would write an extensive study of that writer and his literary circle, entitled “Chateaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire Sous L’empire”. After the overthrow in 1848 of Louis-Philippe, he was accused in the republican press of accepting secret government funds for the repair of a chimney in his apartment, and he resigned his library appointment. He settled for a year at the University of Liège in Belgium as visiting professor, and carried out research on medieval French literature. After he returned to Paris in 1849, he was asked by the editor of the newspaper Le Constitutionnel to write a weekly article or essay on current literary topics, to appear every Monday. This was the start of the famous collection of studies that he named “Monday Chats”, after their day of publication. These critical and biographical essays appeared in various publications from 1849 to 1869. Their success was such that he began collecting them as “Causeries du Lundi”, and later added to it with “Nouveaux Lundis”. In his articles he wrote about French and other European authors. He welcomed the rise of Napoleon III’s regime in the early 1850s, and was rewarded by appointment to the chair of Latin at the Collège de France, a well-paid but largely nominal post. His first lectures there were interrupted by the demonstrations of radical students critical of his support of Napoleon III, however, and he resigned his duties. The intended lectures were published as “Étude sur Virgile”, a full-length study of Virgil. In 1858 he received a temporary teaching appointment in literature at the École Normale Supérieure, where he drew upon his 1848 researches to deliver a course on medieval French literature, but otherwise his whole later career was based on freelance essay writing. In 1865 he was made a senator by imperial decree. His addresses to the Senate were unpopular with his colleagues because of his liberal views, but two were important: that in support of public libraries and liberty of thought (1867) and that on liberty of education (1868). In December 1868 Le Moniteur, which had been independent, was reorganized and became a government organ. An article he wished to publish in the paper caused difficulties, and for the first time he was asked to correct and cut a sentence. He withdrew the article and offered it to Le Temps, for which he remained a contributor until his death. He was noted for applying historical frames of reference to contemporary writing, and one of his critical contentions was that, in order to understand an artist and his work, it was necessary to understand that artist's biography. His studies of French literature from the Renaissance to the 19th century made him one of the most-respected and most-powerful literary critics in 19th-century France.

Bio by: Pete Mohney


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1235
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (23 Dec 1804–13 Oct 1869), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1235, citing Cimetière de Montparnasse, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .