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French Literature Of The 19th Century:

 De Tocqueville

 Literature Under The Empire 1852-1870




 The Rise Of Realism

 Literature Under The Republic-1870-1899



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Literature Under The Empire 1852-1870

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

In the reign of Louis Philippe serious literature had been cultivated. Several of the leading statesmen, as Guizot and Thiers, had already won fame as historians, and political writers. But the overthrow of the Republic drove such men from power. The Empire, founded by violence, was opposed to serious discussion. Its aim was to amuse and entertain the people. Great writers like Hugo were banished. Some of less force of character were bribed by sinecures or lucrative places. Some, indifferent to political considerations, continued to devote them-selves to their chosen field of literature. In Paris the condition of affairs under the Empire was favorable to the development of light literature. It was an era of outward prosperity and pleasure. Novel-reading, and theater-going occupied the time of the populace. The dominant note was that of enjoyment, and everything was shaped and directed toward that. Familiar ideas were retold with new readings in plays and stories. Impressionism was cultivated; ingenious subtleties were discovered by those who catered for popular taste. Playwrights began to introduce moral problems or riddles into the drama. Song-writers expanded their light verses into treatises on society and conduct, the art of the singers adding zest to the effect. Music and the graphic arts used the same devices to catch public attention by infusing a more intellectual quality into the lightest performance. Naturally the minor novel multiplied a hundred fold in such favoring soil.

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