French Literature Of The 19th Century:
Glance At The Eighteenth Century
Madame De Stael
Classicism And Romanticism
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The work of another writer belonging in part to this period has provoked considerable criticism. Some complain that he has not received full appreciation. Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) was one of those men of gloomy genius who prefer the proud isolation of their souls to the applause of crowds. He was a young soldier when the Empire fell, and composed poems in the somber year of Waterloo. His first book was published in 1822, and was followed by another in 1826. These poems are thought by some to have had influence on the works of Hugo and other Romanticists, while others regard de Vigny himself as an imitator. He certainly ceased writing poetry for many years, but he published in 1826 the novel "Cinq-Mars." Here, again, critics differ; some pronounce it one of the finest, as well as earliest, historical romances in the style of Sir Walter Scott. But other critics declare it deficient in dramatic quality and even void of interest. It had an excellent style, and received the favor of the Royalist party. De Vigny married an English lady, but the union proved unhappy, and he took refuge in gloomy philosophy. His knowledge of English served him in paraphrazing "Othello" and adapting "Shylock" from Shakespeare. His own drama, "Chatterton," when presented on the stage, shocked the audience by showing the hero's suicide. His strange book, "Stella," represents an invalid as relating to his physician the sad fate of three unfortunate poets Gilbert, Chatterton, and André Chénier. His last work, "Poëmes Philosophiques" was only partly published before his death. The poems abound in expressions of despondency, mingled with exhortations to stoical resignation.