French Literature Of The 19th Century:
The Romantic Novelists
Philosophers And Historians
Read More Articles About: French Literature Of The 19th Century
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
On turning now to the French historians, the work of Thierry firsts enlists the attention. History had been written by Dryasdusts in chronological style for generations. At best it gathered crude facts, made loose deductions, and wound up with moral comment. But what had been a wilderness Thierry's art turned into a garden. Stirred by the imaginative writings of Scott and other Romanticists, he was endowed with sufficient poetic gift to grace his own substantial work. He perceived that history is, if rightly seen, a splendid epic. Jacques Nicolas Augustin Thierry was born at Blois in 1795, went to Paris and passed under the influence of Saint-Simon, to whom he was secretary. He dreamt of international solidarity with national individuality, a view which gave tone to much of his subsequent work. But his chief service to progress consisted in his proving by research that the past cannot be understood without intimate acquaintance with ancient traditions and records, showing the racial character of the people. His "Lettres sur l'Histoire de France," published in 182o and revised in 1827, marks the new departure in the interpretation of history. His "History of the Norman Conquest of England" first appeared in 1825, and was much improved in the edition of 1840. Picturesque, brilliant and accurate, it was hailed with acclamation in England and Germany, as well as in France. But the dread calamity of blindness overtook him in 1830. Yet, aided by his wife, he persevered in his labors, publishing "Dix Ans d'Etudes Historiques" (Ten Years of Historic Studies) in 1834, and "Récits Merovingiens" (Merovingian Narratives) in 1840. He died in 1856. His younger brother, Amédée (1797-1873) was also an able historian, treating chiefly of Roman Gaul, but did not attain the same success. His most popular work is the "History of Attila" (1856). Under the Empire he was made a Senator.