French Literature Of The 19th Century:
The Romantic Novelists
Philosophers And Historians
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874), eminent as a statesman and historian, was born at Nimes, where his father, a Liberal and Protestant, was guillotined in the Revolution. The son was educated under his mother's care at Geneva, and studied law at Paris. There he began to write for the press, and in 1812 was made professor of modern history. He was a firm believer in constitutional monarchy and upheld that system against the democratic spirit of the age and the absolutism of the court. His important political services to his country must be passed by in this notice of his literary career. Besides editing many historical works, among which was Gibbon's "Rome," and translating Shakespeare, he published an impartial "History of the English Revolution, 1625-6o." His greatest work is the "History of Civilization in Europe," which was only the introduction to his "History of Civilization in France." They are both reckoned among the classics of modern history. The author's profound study of the history of France from the Tenth to the Fourteenth Century gave prominence to the growth of solidarity in the nation. The chief deficiency in the work is the author's prosaic plainness of thought and speech; he rejects enthusiasm and ornament and contents himself with arguments, dry in presentation, however cogent in force. Guizot rose to be prime minister under Louis Philippe, and fell with him in the Revolution of 1848. During the last twenty-six years of his life he was a philosophical spectator of human affairs. In his old age he wrote for his grandchildren a "History of France," which is thorough and attractive, and has proved immensely popular.