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Summary Article: Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin
from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


French writer and critic

Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, he was educated at the Collège Charlemagne in Paris, and then studied medicine (1824-27). Together with the philosopher Théodore Jouffroy (1796-1842), Charles Rémusat, Jean-Jacques Ampère (1800-64) and Prosper Mérimée, he was a contributor to the literary and political paper the Globe. In 1827 he published a review praising the Odes et Ballades of Victor Hugo, and the subsequent friendship with Hugo lasted until Sainte-Beuve's affair with Madame Hugo in 1834. In 1828 he published Tableau de la poésie française au seizième siècle ("Survey of 16th Century French Poetry"). After the Revolution of July 1830 he joined the staff of the National, the organ of extreme republicanism, and in 1835 he published his only novel, Volupté ("Voluptuousness"). He then lectured on the history of Port Royal at Lausanne (1837), and in book form these lectures contain some of his finest work. In 1840 he was appointed keeper of the Mazarin Library, and for the next eight years he wrote mainly for the Revue des deux mondes. In 1848 he became professor of French literature at Liège, where he gave lectures on Chateaubriand et son groupe littéraire (1851, "Chateaubriand and his Literary Set"). The following year he returned to Paris, where he wrote numerous articles for the Constitutionnel, and from 1869 for the Temps. In 1854, on his appointment by the emperor as professor of Latin poetry at the Collège de France, the students refused to listen to his lectures, and he was forced to resign the post. However, he was nominated a senator in 1865, and regained popularity by his spirited speeches in favour of liberty of thought. His many other literary works include Critiques et portraits littéraires (1836-39, "Literary Portraits and Critical Essays"), Portraits de femmes (1844, "Portraits of Women") and, published posthumously, M. de Talleyrand (1870) and Souvenirs et indiscrétions (1872, "Recollections and Indiscretions").

  • Billy, A, Sainte-Beuve et son temps (1952).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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