Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869)
For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.
Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a French literary critic.
Personal and public life
He was born in Boulogne, educated there, and studied medicine at the Collège Charlemagne in Paris 1824–27. In 1828, he served in the St Louis Hospital. Beginning in 1824, he contributed literary articles, the Premier lundis of his collected Works, to the newspaper Globe, and in 1827 he came, by a review of Victor Hugo's Odes et Ballades, into close association with Hugo and the Cénacle, the literary circle that strove to define the ideas of the rising Romanticism and struggle against classical formalism. Sainte-Beuve became friendly with Hugo after publishing a favourable review of the author's work but later had an affair with Hugo's wife, Adèle Foucher, which resulted in their estrangement. Curiously, when Sainte-Beuve was made a member of the French Academy in 1845, the ceremonial duty of giving the reception speech fell upon Hugo.
Sainte-Beuve published collections of poems and the partly autobiographical novel Volupté in 1834. His articles and essays were collected the volumes Port-Royal and Portraits littéraires.
During the rebellions of 1848 in Europe, he lectured at Liège on Chateaubriand and his literary circle. He returned to Paris in 1849 and began his series of topical columns, Causeries du lundi 'Monday Chats' in the newspaper, Le Constitutionnel. When Louis Napoleon became Emperor, he made Sainte-Beuve professor of Latin poetry at the Collège de France, but anti-Imperialist students hissed him, and he resigned.
After several books of poetry and a couple of failed novels, Sainte-Beuve began to do literary research, of which the most important publication resulting is Port-Royal. He continued to contribute to La Revue contemporaine.
Port-Royal 1837–1859, probably Sainte-Beuve's masterpiece, is an exhaustive history of the Jansenist abbey of Port-Royal-des-Champs, near Paris. It not only influenced the historiography of religious belief, i.e., the method of such research, but also the philosophy of history and the history of esthetics.
He was made Senator in 1865, in which capacity he distinguished himself by his pleas for freedom of speech and of the press. According to Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly, "Sainte-Beuve was a clever man with the temper of a turkey!" In his last years, he was an acute sufferer and lived much in retirement.
One of Sainte-Beuve's critical contentions was that, in order to understand an artist and his work, it was necessary to understand that artist's biography. Marcel Proust took issue with this notion and repudiated it in a set of essays, Contre Sainte-Beuve "Against Sainte-Beuve". Proust developed the ideas first voiced in those essays in À la recherche du temps perdu In Search of Lost Time.
In 1880 Friedrich Nietzsche, though an avowed opponent of Sainte-Beuve, prompted the wife of his friend Franz Overbeck, Ida Overbeck, to translate the Causeries du lundi into German. Until then, Sainte-Beuve was never published in German despite his great importance in France, since it was considered representative of a French way of thinking detested in Germany. Ida Overbeck's translation appeared in 1880 under the title Die Menschen des XVIII. Jahrhunderts Men of the 18th Century. Nietzsche wrote to Ida Overbeck on August 18, 1880: "An hour ago I received the Die Menschen des XVIII. Jahrhunderts, It is just a marvellous book. I think I've cried." Ida Overbeck's translation is an important document of the cultural transfer between Germany and France in a period of strong tension, but it was largely ignored. It was not until 2014 that a critical and annotated edition of this translation appeared in print.
Sainte-Beuve died in Paris, aged 64.
- Tableau Historique et Critique de la Poésie Française et du Théâtre Français au XVIe Siècle 2 vols., 1828.
- Port-Royal 5 vols., 1840–1859.
- Portraits Littéraires 3 vols., 1844; 1876–78.
- Portraits Contemporains 5 vols., 1846; 1869–71.
- Portraits de Femmes 1844; 1870.
- Causeries du Lundi 16 vols., 1851–1881.
- Nouveaux Lundis 13 vols., 1863–1870.
- Premiers Lundis 3 vols., 1874–75.
- Étude sur Virgile 1857.
- Chateaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire 2 vols., 1860.
- Le Général Jomini 1869.
- Madame Desbordes-Valmore 1870.
- M. de Talleyrand 1870.
- P.-J. Proudhon 1872.
- Chroniques Parisiennes 1843–1845 & 1876.
- Les Cahiers de Sainte-Beuve 1876.
- Mes Poisons 1926.
- Volupté 1834.
- Madame de Pontivy 1839.
- Christel 1839.
- La Pendule 1880.
- Vie, Poésies et Pensées de Joseph Delorme 1829.
- Les Consolations 1830.
- Pensées d'août 1837.
- Livre d'Amour 1843.
- Poésies Complètes 1863.
- Poésies françaises d'une Italienne 1854 by Agathe-Sophie Sasserno, preface by Sainte-Beuve
In English translation
- Portraits of Celebrated Women 1868, trans., Harriet W. Preston.
- Memoirs of Madame Desbordes-Valmore 1873, trans., Harriet W. Preston.
- English Portraits 1875, a selection from Causeries du Lundi.
- Monday-chats 1877, trans., William Matthews
- Essays on Men and Women 1890, trans., William Matthews and Harriet W. Preston.
- Essays 1890, trans., Elizabeth Lee.
- Portraits of Men 1891, trans., Forsyth Edeveain.
- Portraits of Women 1891, trans., Helen Stott.
- Select Essays of Sainte-Beuve 1895, trans., Arthur John Butler.
- The Prince de Ligne 1899, trans., Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
- The Correspondence of Madame, Princess Palatine 1899, trans., Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
- The Essays of Sainte-Beuve 1901, ed., William Sharp.
- Memoirs and Letters of Cardinal de Bernis 1902, trans., Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
- Causeries du lundi 1909–11, 8 vols., trans., E.J. Trechmann.
- Volupté: The Sensual Man 1995, trans., Marilyn Gaddis Rose.
Matthew Arnold, The Critical Disciple Of Charles Augustin Sainte-beuve
Lettres Inédites de Sainte-Beuve A Charles Labit
Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve: French Men of Letters
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