François-René de Chateaubriand
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
For his talent as much as his excesses, Chateaubriand may be considered the father of French Romanticism. His descriptions of Nature and his analysis of emotion made him the model for a generation of Romantic writers, not only in France but also abroad. For example, Lord Byron was deeply impressed by René. The young Victor Hugo scribbled in a notebook, "To be Chateaubriand or nothing." Even his enemies found it hard to avoid his influence. Stendhal, who despised him for political reasons, made use of his psychological analyses in his own book, De l'amour.
Chateaubriand was the first to define the vague des passions ("intimations of passion") which would become a commonplace of Romanticism: "One inhabits, with a full heart, an empty world" (Génie du Christianisme). His political thought and actions seem to offer numerous contradictions: he wanted to be the friend both of legitimist royalty and of freedom, alternately defending which of the two seemed most in danger: "I am a Bourbonist out of honour, a monarchist out of reason, and a republican out of taste and temperament". He was the first of a series of French men of letters (Lamartine, Victor Hugo, André Malraux) who tried to mix political and literary careers.
"We are convinced that the great writers have told their own story in their works", wrote Chateaubriand in Génie du christianisme,"one only truly describes one's own heart by attributing it to another, and the greater part of genius is composed of memories". This is certainly true of Chateaubriand himself. All his works have strong autobiographical elements, overt or disguised. Perhaps this is the reason why today Mémoires d'outre-tombe are regarded as his finest achievement.
- 1797: Essai sur les révolutions.
- 1801: Atala.
- 1802: René.
- 1802: Génie du christianisme.
- 1809: Les Martyrs.
- 1811: Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem. English translation by Shoberl, Frederick, 1814. Travels in Greece, Palestine, Egypt, and Barbary, during the years 1806 and 1807.
- 1814: "On Buonaparte and the Bourbons", in Blum, Christopher Olaf, editor and translator, 2004. Critics of the Enlightenment. Wilmington, DE: 3–42.
- 1820: Mémoires sur la vie et la mort du duc de Berry.
- 1826: Les Natchez.
- 1826: Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage.
- 1827: Voyage en Amérique.
- 1831: Études historiques.
- 1844: La Vie de Rancé.
- 1848–50. Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe.