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French Literature Of The 19th Century:
 Glance At The Eighteenth Century


 Madame De Stael

 The Ideologists



 Beyle (stendhal)

 De Vigny

 Classicism And Romanticism


 Read More Articles About: French Literature Of The 19th Century

The Ideologists

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The new literature which was to signalize the new Century found its most telling expression in imaginative writings, that class of work which most directly touches the heart. But this spirit also animated the works of philosophers and religionists, whose conflicting contributions to the thought of the day, though sometimes resisting the rising tide, yet in the main added to its momentum. A certain class, who were known as Ideologists, bold pro-pounders of advanced ideas, argued in other literary forms than poetry and fiction. The most accessible and perhaps the most representative book of this class is Volney's "Ruins of Empires," as it has been called in English. Its dreamy meditations are not without lofty eloquence and poetical charm. The author, Constantin Francois Chasse-boeuf, Comte de Volney (1757-1820), was a traveler and moderate statesman, who was raised to the peerage and Senate by Napoleon, though he was not a servile partisan. The name of his chief work is in French, "Les Ruines, ou Meditation sur les Revolutions des Empires." It was published in 1791, but is mentioned here as being the representative of a class which continued into the present Century. He visited the United States, and wrote a book on its climate and soil. His last work was "Researches on Ancient History" (1814).

Among the general writers a notable figure is Hugues Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782-1854). As a priest and ardent champion of the church he was deeply distressed by the widening of the gulf between it and the people. With his poetical temperament he set himself to bridge that gulf with mutual concessions and thus unite theocracy and democracy in happy content. This ideal he sought to make practical. After a sojourn in England he published a work that made a startling and deep impression, "Essai sur l'Indifférence, en Matiére de Religion" (Essay on Indifference in Regard to Religion). The conservative party in the church sharply criticized the work, but this opposition moved him to more aggressive polemics, resulting in more ecclesiastical trouble. His paper L'Avenir ( The Dawn) had for its flamboyant motto "God and Liberty; the Pope and the People," and called upon the clergy to separate themselves from Kings and join with the working classes. But this programme was too radical and the paper was suppressed. Failing to broaden the church, Lamennais changed his tack and sought to spiritualize democracy. His "Paroles d'un Croyant" (Words of a Believer) is a singular but fascinating prose poem. He was derisively charged with flaunting the cross crowned with the red cap of Liberty, like Père Hyacinthe of the present day. Lamennais did valiant service in behalf of intellectual progress, mellowed by religious faith, but his church frowned him down, defied his not unfriendly attacks, and let him die outside its pale. In the history of literature he must be reckoned as one of the forces in the widespread Romantic movement.

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