Sometime in the late s, Chateaubriand had reverted to the Catholic faith of his childhood. He felt that France had lost its way during the Enlightenment period, when leading intellectuals, such as Voltaire , were hostile to traditional religion. In the work, Chateaubriand aims to prove "Christianity comes from God, because it is excellent". With that objective in mind, he is particularly interested in the artistic contributions of the Christian religion, comparing them with ancient and pagan civilizations. The principal theme of the book is that "only Christianity is able to explain progress in arts and letters". Chateaubriand accuses the writers of the eighteenth century of misunderstanding God.
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His youthful solitude and wild desire produced a suicide attempt with a hunting rifle, although the weapon failed to discharge. Chateaubriand was educated in Dol , Rennes and Dinan. For a time he could not make up his mind whether he wanted to be a naval officer or a priest, but at the age of seventeen, he decided on a military career and gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the French Army based at Navarre. Within two years, he had been promoted to the rank of captain.
When the French Revolution broke out, Chateaubriand was initially sympathetic, but as events in Paris became more violent he decided to journey to North America in He then says that a raid along the Ohio River , the Mississippi River , Louisiana and Florida took him back to Philadelphia , where he embarked on the Molly in November to go back to France.
His vivid, captivating descriptions of nature in the sparsely settled American Deep South were written in a style that was very innovative for the time and spearheaded what later became the Romantic movement in France. His military career came to an end when he was wounded at the Siege of Thionville , a major clash between Royalist troops of which Chateaubriand was a member and the French Revolutionary Army.
Half-dead, he was taken to Jersey and exiled to England, leaving his wife behind. Exile in London[ edit ] Chateaubriand spent most of his exile in extreme poverty in London, scraping a living offering French lessons and doing translation work, but a stay in Suffolk Bungay  proved to be more idyllic. Here Chateaubriand fell in love with a young English woman, Charlotte Ives, but the romance ended when he was forced to reveal he was already married.
During his time in Britain, Chateaubriand also became familiar with English literature. An attempt in 18th-century style to explain the French Revolution, it predated his subsequent, romantic style of writing and was largely ignored.
It also won him the favour of Napoleon Bonaparte , who was eager to win over the Catholic Church at the time. James McMillan argues that a Europe-wide Catholic Revival emerged from the change in intellectual climate from intellectually-oriented classicism to emotionally-based Romanticism. The revival was by no means confined to an intellectual elite, however, but was evident in the real, if uneven, rechristianisation of the French countryside. But the two men soon quarrelled and Chateaubriand was nominated as minister to Valais in Switzerland.
Chateaubriand was, after his resignation, completely dependent on his literary efforts. However, and quite unexpectedly, he received a large sum of money from the Russian Tsarina Elizabeth Alexeievna. She had seen him as a defender of Christianity and thus worthy of her royal support. The notes he made on his travels later formed part of a prose epic, Les Martyrs, set during the Roman persecution of early Christianity.
On his return to France at the end of , he published a severe criticism of Napoleon, comparing him to Nero and predicting the emergence of a new Tacitus. Napoleon famously threatened to have Chateaubriand sabred on the steps of the Tuileries Palace for it, but settled for merely banishing him from the city.
Under the Restoration[ edit ] Chateaubriand as a Peer of France Chateaubriand became a major figure in politics as well as literature.
At first he was a strong Royalist in the period up to His liberal phase lasted from to After that he was much less active. After the fall of Napoleon, Chateaubriand rallied to the Bourbons. On 30 March , he wrote a pamphlet against Napoleon, titled De Buonaparte et des Bourbons, of which thousands of copies were published. He lost his function of state minister, and joined the opposition, siding with the Ultra-royalist group supporting the future Charles X , and becoming one of the main writers of its mouthpiece, Le Conservateur.
He then served as ambassador to Prussia and the United Kingdom , and even rose to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs 28 December — 4 August It reflects his growing pessimism regarding the future. Although his contemporaries celebrated the present and future as an extension of the past, Chateaubriand and the new Romanticists abandoned this nostalgic outlook. Instead he foresaw chaos, discontinuity, and disaster.
His diaries and letters often focused on the upheavals he could see every day — abuses of power, excesses of daily life, and disasters yet to come. His melancholy tone suggested astonishment, surrender, betrayal, and bitterness. He became a harsh critic of the "bourgeois king" and the July Monarchy , and his planned volume on the arrest of the duchesse de Berry caused him to be unsuccessfully prosecuted.
Influence[ edit ] His descriptions of Nature and his analysis of emotion made him the model for a generation of Romantic writers, not only in France but also abroad. The young Victor Hugo scribbled in a notebook, "To be Chateaubriand or nothing. His political thought and actions seem to offer numerous contradictions: he wanted to be the friend both of legitimist royalty and of republicans, alternately defending whichever of the two seemed more in danger: "I am a Bourbonist out of honour, a monarchist out of reason, and a republican out of taste and temperament".
This is certainly true of Chateaubriand himself. All his works have strong autobiographical elements, overt or disguised. George Brandes , in , compared the works of Chateaubriand to those of Rousseau and others: The year was the first to produce a book bearing the imprint of the new era, a work small in size, but great in significance and mighty in the impression it made. Atala took the French public by storm in a way which no book had done since the days of Paul and Virginia.
It was a romance of the plains and mysterious forests of North America, with a strong, strange aroma of the untilled soil from which it sprang; it glowed with rich foreign colouring, and with the fiercer glow of consuming passion.
The genius of Christianity ; or, The spirit and beauty of the Christian religion
His youthful solitude and wild desire produced a suicide attempt with a hunting rifle, although the weapon failed to discharge. Chateaubriand was educated in Dol , Rennes and Dinan. For a time he could not make up his mind whether he wanted to be a naval officer or a priest, but at the age of seventeen, he decided on a military career and gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the French Army based at Navarre. Within two years, he had been promoted to the rank of captain. When the French Revolution broke out, Chateaubriand was initially sympathetic, but as events in Paris became more violent he decided to journey to North America in He then says that a raid along the Ohio River , the Mississippi River , Louisiana and Florida took him back to Philadelphia , where he embarked on the Molly in November to go back to France.
The genius of Christianity
It is , a year of insurrections. Marius has been battling against the National Guard at Les Halles. The republican rebels have gone down to defeat; the monarchy will stay in power; the guardsmen have broken into the tavern that serves as rebel headquarters; the massacre is about to begin. And Jean Valjean—who is present at the barricade only because he has discovered that his adopted daughter, Cosette, is in love with young Marius, and Marius has decided to sacrifice his life to the doomed revolution, and Jean Valjean, who detests the young man, will do anything for his daughter and therefore is determined to rescue the barricade fighter from his chosen martyrdom—what a plot! Jean Valjean pulls the grill back into place above his head. It respires.