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Summary Article: Chateaubriand, François Auguste René, Vicomte de
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French writer. He was a founder of Romanticism. Having lived in exile from the French Revolution between 1794 and 1800, he wrote Atala (1801; based on his encounters with North American Indians), Le Génie du christianisme/The Genius of Christianity (1802) – a defence of the Christian faith in terms of social, cultural, and spiritual benefits – and the autobiographical René (1805).

He visited the USA in 1791 and, on his return to France, fought for the royalist side, which was defeated at Thionville in 1792. He lived in exile in England until 1800. When he returned to France, he held diplomatic appointments under Louis XVIII, becoming ambassador to Britain in 1822. He later wrote Mémoires d'outre-tombe/Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb (1848–50), an account, often imaginary, of his own life.

Atala showed a new, daring, and brilliant writer, a reformer both in prose and in poetry. In Le Génie du christianisme Chateaubriand did not attempt directly to prove Christianity as true, but wanted to show it to be beautiful and capable of inspiring far higher poetry than other mythology. His romanticism appears in a more concentrated form in René.

Other works include the Essai sur les révolutions/Essay on Revolutions (1797), a sceptical and despairing work; Les Martyrs/The Martyrs (1809), which harks back to Le Génie du christianisme; and L'Itinéraire de Paris à Jerusalem/The Route from Paris to Jerusalem (1811), after a pilgrimage to the city.

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Chateaubriand, François Auguste René, Vicomte de

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Chateaubriand, François Auguste

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