Biography of Charles-Augustin de Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869)

Poet, Narrator, essayist and French literary critic, born in Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) on December 23, 1804, and died in Paris on October 13, 1869. Author of a notable literary production which deals with, in terms of fiction, some of the most outstanding circumstances of his own sentimental journey, is remembered primarily for his lucid, documented, extensive, entertaining and brilliant essay work, which was revealed to be one of the best connoisseurs of the cultural tradition of their nation (and, in a very marked way(, the literary legacy of its predecessors).

Life and work

Born into a family belonging to the Catholic bourgeoisie, he had a sad and melancholy childhood beside her mother and her aunt, delivered in body and soul to the constant remembrance of the householder, who had died shortly before the arrival in the world of the small Charles-Augustin. At the age of fourteen, he settled with her mother in Paris, and began to frequent the classrooms of the prestigious Lycée Condorcet, where he showed special interest in the humanistic disciplines (and, very pointed way, by rhetoric and philosophy). By that time, he also began to experience a lively passion for literature, and was applied to the reading of the poetic works of Chateaubriand (1768-1848) and Lamartine (1790-1869), authors decisively oriented you towards training humanistic in which, however, there was also place for your living scientific curiosity - fundamentally, awakened by the discoveries of the naturalist Lamarck (1744-1829). These scientific concerns prompted him to undertake studies of medicine, career that never end, as the interest that raised him everything related to literary was.

So, still had not complied with the twenty years of age when he began to publish his first collaborations on the Rotary romantic Le Globe, where, from 1824, came to light several articles of history, philosophy and literary criticism, signed by the young Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. Born of that spirit romantic to that breathed in the writing of Le Globe, soon joined among the young artists and intellectuals diffusers of this current, which allowed him to learn, in 1827, to Victor Hugo (1802-1885) - who, with his historical drama Cromwell, released that same year, had become one of the most representative figures of the romanticism-. He was, at the time, at the famous "cenacles" organized by Charles Nodier (1780-1844), authentic fireplace where it was cooking the French romantic movement, which Sainte-Beuve showed some similar points in his conception of literature, of art and, in general, of human existence, although it did not never considered a romantic per se, since it also showed many reservations regarding certain moral and aesthetic ideas of its highest representatives.

This independence of intellectual, artistic and ethical criteria remained well clear in 1828, when a young Sainte-Beuve gave the press an impressive essay entitled Tableau historique et critique de la Poésie française et du Théâtre français au XVI siècle (historical and critical picture of poetry and the French Theatre from the 16th century), the work which not only ranked him among the great revelations of the contemporary criticism, but that also clinched him the cimeros positions of the French intelligentsia, which now would consider Sainte-Beuve as one of the main creators of opinion. To study the works of the Renaissance dramatists of the Pléiade, Sainte-Beuve found with penetrating lucidity numerous common traits among these writers of the century XVI and young romantic authors of his time, which, to some extent, remained originality and innovative to romanticism strength, since, at least in its French aspect, heir of the best literary tradition made him and gave him a proven historical justification; but, at the same time, to derive from such exquisite tradition, granting a "record of nobility" to a few authors and an aesthetic movement which, at the time, did not have great consideration by the official academic culture.

Friend intimate, in those final years of the Decade of the 1920s, of the aforementioned Victor Hugo, the still young Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve fell in love head over heels of Adele, the wife of the great writer of Besançon, at the time giving to press his first collection of poems, published under the title of Vie, poésies et Pensées de Joseph Delorme (life, poems and thoughts of Joseph Delorme1829). The following year he published his second book of poems, Consolations (consolations, 1830), in which contradictory feelings he professed toward the marriage formed by Adele and Victor-Marie, since, even though he was still admiring the famed writer, it disturbed the interest that to him seemed to start to show his wife remained patent. Soon after, Adele and Charles-Augustin recognized loving each other, causing the final rupture between the author of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Victor Hugo.

In the mid-1930s, coinciding with a second edition of his book of poems Consolations (1834), saw the light the first - and, ultimately, single - novel of Sainte-Beuve, entitled Volupté (voluptuousness, 1834). In it, the literary pretext of telling the tribulations of a restless, undecided and tormented spirit, displayed an extraordinary capacity of penetration into the psychology of the characters, which could then warn, applied to its own internal vicissitudes, in the posthumous Edition of intimate notes that was drafted under the title of month poisons (my poisons, 1926). Not difficult to appreciate, in the core concept of this novel, the footprint of the Socialist ideas of some thinkers reformists such as Pierre Leroux (1798-1863) and I-Robert de Lamennais (1782-1854), whose postulates had penetrated deep, at the time, the writer of Boulogne-sur-Mer; but basically all the narration is a long exercise in autobiographical exploration based on loving experience with Adele, i.e. a transposition to the prosístico genus of the same substance that formed his poetical volumes (especially, the entitled life, poems and thoughts of Joseph Delorme).

On the other hand, in the poetry books that had been published up to then - among which there is to say, next to the already mentioned in previous paragraphs, entitled Livre d'amour (love, 1834 book) and Pensées d' août (thoughts of August, 1837)-, carried a clear propensity to fantasize, a marked predilection for the abstract (or little precise) words, a conscious of uncertainties and vagueness gamea trend consistent towards the search for the sonority and musicality of the verse, and, as already is almost unnecessary to repeat, a permanent thematic recurrence focused on his love affair with the wife of Victor Hugo. This complex affair with Adele left, finally, a notable mark in all his literary production, manifest palmaria form in the aforementioned poetry book Livre d'amour - devoted entirely to the passion that joined to this woman - and the short novel by Madame de Pontivy (1837), in which is served as a literary fiction to address some of the details of that relationship.

But we should clarify as soon as possible that his success as a literary author (or, rather, as a creator of works of fiction within the narrative and poetic genres) was very limited, especially if compared to the prestige that reached as an essayist, critic and theoretician of literature, facet to which was devoted almost with exclusivity from 1837. It was, indeed, in that year, when Sainte-Beuve became a regular contributor to the Revue des Deux Mondes (magazine of the two worlds), where he soon attained great celebrity for his literary criticism, who opened the doors of the major literary and political salons of Paris. They met other figures of the French intelligentsia that would share a deep friendship, as the writer Amandine Lucie Aurore Dupin (1804-1876), best known for its men's pseudonym of George Sand.

Consecrated, therefore criticism and the study of artistic and cultural (especially of the literary) phenomena, he began to apply a critical method that had been developing since the mid-1930s, consisting of relating the work of a writer with his biographical circumstances, through a laborious process of research allowing to highlight the overlapping of life in the work at all times, and vice versa. It was, in short, first establish the coordinates historical, social and even biological they formerly the existence of an author, to be able to classify then within a few human categories (or "families of spirit") which, in turn, allowed the critic formulating a series of laws of supposedly universal validity. How easily detaches from all this, the method of Sainte-Beuve was indebted to patterns of work and research followed then by naturalists: postulated the need to observe and note made goals that occurred both in life and in the psychology of the writer, for he had the conviction that it was impossible to analyse in depth a work without having studied before the circumstances in which it had generated. That is why in almost all their criticisms - drawn, when it comes to the truth, without this schematic rigidity that presides over the formulation of the method - triumph, above all, the interest of the researcher for the life of the author, the conformation of a social, psychological portrait, and even biological writer who has produced the work analyzed. This excess of psychologism and historicist observation - that not eclipsed, however, brilliance and sharpness of his aesthetic judgments - gave rise to many critics of his work of criticism and essays, among which highlights the great Parisian Narrator Marcel Proust (1871-1922), who accused conformism Sainte-Beuve - where his method an author - is folded to issued by the historical and social circumstances in which it was located and inability to warn arose, front allegedly issued by Psychology, which was typical of the spirit of the artist.

In any case, the amplitude from observations collected by the critical production of Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve sets a splendid vision of an era and the main aesthetic and philosophical currents that fertilized it, as well as the image of a restless spirit characterized by its extraordinary analytical ability and their vast intellectual curiosity. Their first critical studies appeared collected in the collection entitled Critiques et portraits littéraires (criticism and literary portrait, 1832), which already consisted of five volumes in its Second Edition (1836-1839). In the middle of the next decade, these and other critical studies of Sainte-Beuve were published under the title - since then, final - Portraits littéraires (literary portraits, 1844), work which was soon joined by other collections of articles and essays yours as penetrating as the collected Portraits de femmes (portraits of women, 1844) and Portraits contemporaines (contemporary portraits1844). In addition, more than one decade appeared eleven volumes which produced the first edition of his famous Causeries du lundi (conversations on Monday, 1851-1862), so-called by collecting items that were published on a weekly basis, every Monday, at the Rotary of the time. A second edition of this work, composed of fifteen volumes, appeared between 1857 and 1872); and between 1863 and 1870 saw the light of the thirteen volumes of Nouveaux lundis (new Monday).

In 1837, coinciding with its expertise as literary critic in the pages of the Revue des Deux Mondes, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve had begun also to earn a living as a teacher of literature in Lausanne (1837-1838), from where he went again to Paris to continue teaching in the capital, at the time of initiating an ambitious investigation that should allow you to publish your masterpieceraised initially as a mere source of information of their university courses. It's his famous Histoire de Port-Royal (history of Port - Royal, 1840-1859), comprising five volumes that appeared over twenty years in its first edition, and then expanded to seven volumes (1867-1871). In this work, Sainte-Beuve offered their students - and, in general, anyone who was interested in the cultural past of the French nation - the approach to thinking and jansenist spirituality more lucid, detailed and rigorous of few had been published until then.

In 1840, year in which its intellectual merits were recognized him with his appointment as curator of the Bibliothèque Mazarine (one of the most prestigious cultural institutions of its time), also definitively broke with the aesthetic postulates of romanticism through the publication of Dix ans après en Littérature (ten years later in literature, 1840), a new trial in whichIn addition to showing his disagreement with the lines masterpieces of artistic and intellectual mainstream, made clear his personal conception of criticism and its methods. It is not surprising that this independence of criteria away you on many occasions of the consecrated figures from official culture, as well clear in the middle of the Decade of the 1940s, when more than seven shift of votes he needed to be elected a member of the Académie Française, after not having obtained the necessary votes to be admitted at a previous meeting was. Finally elected on March 14, 1844, was given the circumstance that was Victor Hugo - who was said to had voted on eleven occasions against his candidacy-responsible for the speech of welcome on the day of your income (27 February 1845), speech in which, for the first time in the history of the institution, there was not an only praise for the new academic.

The outbreak of the bourgeois revolution of 1848 made enough to Sainte-Beuve, a man home, methodical and ordered that desasosegaban tumults which, by then, were without solution of continuity in the streets of Paris. To flee this uneasiness and this uncertainty, he resigned from his advantageous position in the library Mazarina and left Paris to travel for a few months in various places in Europe. Soon found a new teacher since according to his intellectual stature, this time at the University of Liège, in which taught French literature during the academic year of 1848/49. It was in the wake of these lessons when he started to prepare, also as a source for their classes, new research from which would emerge another of his masterpieces, an essay entitled Chateaubriand et are groupe Littéraire sous l'empire (Chateaubriand and his literary group in times of the Empire, 1861).

On his return to Paris, it was definitively consecrated as one of the leading voices of his generation through those brilliant articles, published every Monday, then collected in the volumes mentioned above. His extraordinary capacity for the analysis of the literary news began to shine, weekly, in the Rotary Le Constitutionnel, where he published his collaborations from 1849 until 1852, then into the pages of Le Moniteur, where attended your appointment weekly readers, also from Monday to Monday, between 1852 and 1861. Meanwhile, it was displaying an intense and fruitful teaching activity - now Professor of Latin poetry, developed at that time in the classrooms of the College de France (1855), and, shortly afterwards, in the of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (1857-1861).

With the arrival of the new empire, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve proclaimed its adherence to this form of Government, and accepted the post of Senator which was awarded by Napoleón III (1808-1873) in 1865, when already he had reached sixty-year condition and it was respected as one of the great Patriarchs of the French intelligentsia of the second half of the 19th century. From this important position in the public life of their nation, also earned the admiration of the working class and popular sectors to vigorously defend some freedoms that he considered fundamental, as the press and the thought (that fought strongly in the Senate Chamber in 1868); and so took their political independence - as he had done previously with its particular design aesthetic-that without fear of possible consequences, he gave some speeches that came to provoke the anger of the emperor. It is quite possible that this had taken some coercive measures against the writer of Boulogne-sur-Mer, but death was ahead of him in the fall of 1869.

Aside from his literary and essay work, Sainte-Beuve left a large and intense collection of letters which constitute one of the most authoritative testimonials sources for the study of French social and cultural life of the era that had him live. Also, throughout much of his life was writing a series of prints personal and intimate notes that only in part, saw the light under the aforementioned title month poisons (my poisons, 1926).