Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly  

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"Two works in particular of Barbey d'Aurevilly's fired Des Esseintes' imagination: the Prêtre marié ("Married Priest") and the Diabolique. Others, such as l'Ensorcelé ("The Bewitched"), the Chevalier des Touches, Une vieille Maîtresse ("An Old Mistress"), were no doubt better balanced and more complete works, but they appealed less warmly to Des Esseintes, who was genuinely interested only in sickly books with health undermined and exasperated by fever. In these comparatively sane volumes Barbey d'Aurévilly was perpetually tacking to and fro between those two channels of Catholicism which eventually run into one,—mysticism and Sadism."--À rebours (1884) by Joris-Karl Huysmans

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Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (2 November 1808 – 23 April 1889), was a French novelist and short story writer. He specialised in a kind of mysterious tale that examines hidden motivation and hinted evil bordering (but never crossing into) the supernatural. He had a decisive influence on writers such as Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Henry James and Proust. His best-known collection is The She-Devils, which includes the cult classic Happiness in Crime and is still in print from Dedalus Books. Une vieille maîtresse (An Elderly Mistress, 1851) was adapted to cinema by French director Catherine Breillat: its English title is The Last Mistress.

He is variously lumped in with the Late French Romantics, The Decadents, Symbolists and is included in the Genealogy of the Cruel Tale and The Romantic Agony. He is considered a practitioner of the Fantastique and a dandy.


Praise and criticism

Paul Bourget describes him as a dreamer with an exquisite sense of vision, who sought and found in his work a refuge from the uncongenial world of the every day. Jules Lemaître, a less sympathetic critic, finds in the extraordinary crimes of his heroes and heroines, in his reactionary views, his dandyism and snobbery, an exaggerated Byronism.

Beloved of fin-de-siècle decadents, Barbey d'Aurevilly is a classic example of the manner of which the Romanticists were capable and to read him is to understand the discredit that fell upon that manner among the later Victorians. He held extreme Catholic views, yet wrote on the most risqué subjects (an apparent conflict more troubling to the English than to the French; Voltairiennisme would have been something else) he gave himself aristocratic airs and hinted at a mysterious past, though his parentage was entirely respectable and his youth humdrum and innocent.



Other fiction that is sometimes considered Symbolist is the cynical misanthropic (and especially, misogynistic) tales of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly.


He was born at Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (Manche) in Normandy. In the 1850s, Barbey d'Aurevilly became literary critic of Le Pays.

Inspired by the character and ambience of Valognes, he set his works against the social pattern of the aristocracy of Normandy. Although he himself did not write in Norman, he encouraged the revival of vernacular literature in his home region.

Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly died in Paris and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. In 1926 his remains were transferred to Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte's cemetery.

Selected works

His complete works are published in two volumes of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.


His complete works are published in two volumes of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade.

Happiness in Crime

See also

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