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Stendhal

Stendhal Stendhal[1†]

Stendhal (1783–1842), born Marie-Henri Beyle, was a prominent 19th-century French writer celebrated for his pioneering realism. Notable works include "Le Rouge et le Noir" (1830) and "La Chartreuse de Parme" (1839). He was a Parisian dandy, renowned for his womanizing yet showed genuine empathy towards women, praised by Simone de Beauvoir. Stendhal's novels reflect his love for Italy, political convictions, and Bonapartist loyalty, depicting moral and philosophical dilemmas of his era[1†][2†][4†].

Early Years and Education

Marie-Henri Beyle, known as Stendhal, was born on January 23, 1783, in Grenoble, Dauphiné, Kingdom of France[1†][5†]. He was born into the family of the advocate and landowner Chérubin Beyle and his wife Henriette Gagnon[1†]. He had two sisters, Pauline, with whom he maintained a steady correspondence throughout the first decade of the 19th century, and Zenaide[1†][5†].

Stendhal was an unhappy child, disliking his “unimaginative” father and mourning his mother, whom he loved fervently, and who died in childbirth in 1790, when he was seven[1†]. His mother’s death had a lasting impact on young Henri, following which he couldn’t seem to connect with his father[1†][5†]. He spent “the happiest years of his life” at the Beyle country house in Claix near Grenoble[1†].

During the French Revolution that began in 1798, a governor was employed to look after Henri, who was extremely cold and authoritarian towards him[1†][5†]. Young Henri lost faith in religion as a result and became an atheist[1†][5†]. He studied at the Ecole Centrale de Grenoble and was extremely proficient in mathematics, drawing, and literature[1†][5†].

In 1799, he left Grenoble to take a competitive exam in Paris, but failed to give it. He was instead, appointed in the Ministry of War[1†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Stendhal’s career was as diverse and dynamic as his novels. He was named an auditor with the Conseil d’État on August 3, 1810, and thereafter took part in the French administration and in the Napoleonic wars in Italy[1†]. He travelled extensively in Germany and was part of Napoleon’s army in the 1812 invasion of Russia[1†]. Stendhal witnessed the burning of Moscow from just outside the city as well as the army’s winter retreat[1†]. He was appointed Commissioner of War Supplies and sent to Smolensk to prepare provisions for the returning army[1†]. He crossed the Berezina River by finding a usable ford rather than the overwhelmed pontoon bridge, which probably saved his life and those of his companions[1†]. He arrived in Paris in 1813, largely unaware of the general fiasco that the retreat had become[1†].

Stendhal became known, during the Russian campaign, for keeping his wits about him, and maintaining his “sang-froid and clear-headedness.” He also maintained his daily routine, shaving each day during the retreat from Moscow[1†]. After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan[1†]. In 1830, he was appointed as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia[1†].

Stendhal’s literary career was marked by his works of fiction. His finest novels are “Le Rouge et le Noir” (The Red and the Black, 1830) and “La Chartreuse de Parme” (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839)[1†][2†]. These works are highly regarded for the acute analysis of his characters’ psychology and considered one of the early and foremost practitioners of realism[1†][2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Stendhal’s most significant works are his novels, particularly “Le Rouge et le Noir” (The Red and the Black, 1830) and “La Chartreuse de Parme” (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839)[1†][6†][2†]. He also wrote a biography of Rossini, “Vie de Rossini” (1824), which is now more valued for its wide-ranging musical criticism than for its historical content[1†].

Stendhal’s novels are known for their acute analysis of their characters’ psychology and are considered pioneering works of realism[1†][6†][2†]. His personal philosophy, which he named “Beylisme” after his real family name, Beyle, stressed the importance of the “pursuit of happiness” by combining enthusiasm with rational skepticism, lucidity with willful surrender to lyric emotions[1†][6†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Stendhal’s works, particularly “Le Rouge et le Noir” (The Red and the Black), are considered significant contributions to French and European literature[7†]. His novels are known for their acute analysis of their characters’ psychology and are considered pioneering works of realism[7†][8†].

In “Le Rouge et le Noir”, Stendhal portrays post-reformation France in a lively, intelligent, and daring fashion[7†]. He intended the novel to be a ‘mirror of France in 1830’, reflecting the social and political landscape of the time[7†]. The novel is inseparable from its social context and is quite plainly about people: their vicissitudes, the achievement or failure of their ambitions, their relations with one another, and their characters[7†].

Stendhal’s characters are often driven by ulterior thoughts; they keep their real causes to themselves, and remain true only to their inauthenticity[7†]. At a later stage, those characters are dramatically shocked by the discovery that, in reality, their supposed drives were secondary as well; what they imagined that they scorned turned out to be their most cherished desire, while the fulfillment of their original wants proved barren and unsatisfying[7†].

The novel is fraught with incidents of apparent hypocrisy, such as M. de Beauvoisis’ rumor regarding Julien’s birth, the rules of conduct in the seminar of Besançon, and the entire behavior of M. Valenod[7†]. This critical portrayal of society may have contributed to Stendhal being underappreciated by his contemporaries[7†].

Stendhal’s works provide a unique perspective on the social and political changes that were taking place during his lifetime[7†][8†]. His personal philosophy, which he named “Beylisme” after his real family name, Beyle, stressed the importance of the “pursuit of happiness” by combining enthusiasm with rational skepticism, lucidity with willful surrender to lyric emotions[7†].

Personal Life

Stendhal, born as Marie-Henri Beyle, had a complex personal life. He was born into the family of the advocate and landowner Chérubin Beyle and his wife Henriette Gagnon[1†][5†]. He had two sisters – Pauline, with whom he maintained a steady correspondence throughout the first decade of the 19th century, and Zenaide[1†][5†]. His mother, whom he loved fervently, died in childbirth in 1790 when he was seven[1†]. This event had a lasting impact on young Henri[1†][5†].

Stendhal was known to be a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an obsessive womaniser[1†]. His genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books[1†]. Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex[1†]. She credited him for perceiving a woman as just a woman and simply a human being[1†].

After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan[1†]. In 1830, he was appointed as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia[1†]. During his time in Italy, he entered many love affairs[1†][9†]. His affair with Matilde Dembowski ended unhappily[1†][9†].

Stendhal’s personal life was greatly influenced by his experiences during the Napoleonic wars and his extensive travels in Germany and Italy[1†][5†]. These experiences played a psychologically and thematically determining role in his life and works[1†][5†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Stendhal, born as Marie-Henri Beyle, left an indelible mark on the literary world. His works, particularly “Le Rouge et le Noir” (The Red and the Black, 1830) and “La Chartreuse de Parme” (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839), are considered masterpieces of 19th-century literature[1†][2†]. His acute analysis of his characters’ psychology and his pioneering role in the realism movement have earned him a place among the most original and complex French writers of his time[1†][2†].

Stendhal’s life and works were greatly influenced by his experiences during the Napoleonic wars and his extensive travels in Germany and Italy[1†][2†]. These experiences played a psychologically and thematically determining role in his life and works[1†][2†]. His love for Italy, his political convictions, and the moral and philosophical dilemmas of his time are reflected in his novels[1†].

Despite his significant contributions to literature, Stendhal’s works were not fully appreciated during his lifetime[1†]. It was only in the later half of the 19th century that his novels began to be recognized for their literary merit[1†]. Today, Stendhal is celebrated for his innovative narrative techniques, his psychological insight, and his ability to create complex and believable characters[1†][2†].

Stendhal’s legacy continues to influence modern literature. His works have inspired numerous authors and his unique narrative style, known as “Beylism”, continues to be studied and admired[1†]. His novels, with their rich character development and exploration of human psychology, remain relevant and are still widely read today[1†][2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Stendhal [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Stendhal: French author [website] - link
  3. IMDb - Stendhal - Biography [website] - link
  4. IMDb - Stendhal [website] - link
  5. The Famous People - Stendhal Biography [website] - link
  6. Britannica - Stendhal - Novels, Essays, Biographies [website] - link
  7. A Gentleman's Library - The Red and the Black (Stendhal): An Analysis - [website] - link
  8. SparkNotes - The Red and the Black: Study Guide [website] - link
  9. Famous Authors - Stendhal [website] - link
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