Jean-François Champollion (23 December 1790 – 4 March 1832), a French scholar, deciphered the Rosetta Stone’s Egyptian hieroglyphs. British polymath Thomas Young (13 June 1773 – 10 May 1829) had translated the Demotic script and had made some progress deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, success evaded Young.
The stone, a rock stele, had been transported to the British Museum where it is still housed. The British had defeated the French at the above-mentioned Battle of the Nile, in 1801, led by the legendary Horatio Nelson. The Rosetta Stone was therefore a British acquisition.
Deciphering: phonetic or ideographic
A main obstacle to linguists deciphering a newly found language is whether or not the symbols of the language are phonetic (sounds) or ideographic (images). In the case of the Rosetta Stone, they were both phonetic and ideographic. The Egyptian hieroglyphs were also a paraphrase rather than a translation of the Ancient Greek script. His knowledge of Ancient Greek and progress in mastering Eastern languages helped Champollion decipher hieroglyphs. He published his results in 1822. Later in the decade, after visiting Egypt, Champollion published further findings.
Rosetta Stone (National Geographic)
The exotic has always fascinated artists and all manner of designers. Obelisks, not to be confused with Odalisques, were plentiful and were taken by ship to Europe, or, at times, made in Europe. I have often wondered whether or not Maelzel, who invented the modern metronome in 1815, was influenced by obelisks. Mechanical metronomes are shaped like elongated pyramids. The Washington Monument is an obelisk. Many are located in Rome, Italy. has (See List of obelisks in Rome, Wikipedia.)
The Lateran Obelisk, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The largest obelisk, the Lateran obelisk, is located in Rome. When it was transported from Alexandria to Rome, it weighed 455 tons and stood at 37.2 meters (122 feet) After its collapse, a higher obelisk was built: 45.7 meters (149.9 feet). The Lateran obelisk was made for the temple of Amun in Karnak. At the very top of the rebuilt obelisk stands a crucifix, which could explain the difference in height. Most Oriental obélisques were viewed as precious and pillaged. Obelisks had several destinations and smaller ones were used in the decorative arts. Many are engraved with names or very intricate bas-reliefs.
Obélisque de Paris, gravure (Photo credit: Le Point.fr)
Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) was a Romantic painter as well as a lithographer. Lithographs are copies and therefore more affordable than an original painting. Movement is a main characteristic of Delacroix paintings and it suggests passion. The Romantics expressed their sentiments. Such paintings as the Massacre at Chios and the Death of Sardanapalus convey despair. The Massacre at Chios depicts Greek survivors of a massacre awaiting to be taken as prisoners or slaves. The enslavement of prisoners was a common fate after a victory and they could remain captives for many years, if a ransom were not paid. Before committing suicide, having suffered a final defeat, Sardanapalus has eunuchs kill his concubines.
It is said, however, that in real life Delacroix controlled his passions: reason over passion. He was with near certainty an illegitimate son of the very famous Talleyrand, a Prince and, arguably, the most powerful man in France. He was Napoleon’s éminence griseand may have orchestrated his defeat at Waterloo.Talleyrand is also the man behind the Congress of Vienna (1815), an event foretelling of such partitioning as the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
As for Delacroix, the leader of the French Romantics, his father protected him discreetly and promoted his career. After Talleyrand’s death, Delacroix was the protégé of the Duke of Morny, Talleyrand’s grandson.
Delacroix early in his career (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I intended to show the art of several Orientalists, one of whom is Delacroix who actually travelled to the Near East. My favourite orientalist is Jean-Léon Gérôme, but there are gems among Horace Vernet’s paintings and the artwork of other Orientalists. Orientalism crossed the English Channel and grew into an inspiration to members of the Aesthetic Movement, next to Japonism. The Orient became affordable as a decorative art.
In 2011, art critic Julia Cartwright exclaimed:
“There are lovely things at every turn, Persian potteries, hangings of every variety, cabinets and rugs. I fell in love with a sunflower paper at fourpence ha’penny a yard.”
Love to everyone♥
Massacre at Chios, 1824
Death of Sardanapalus, 1827
Arab Saddling his Horse, 1855
Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable,1860
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The only rule to the Blogger Recognition award is to nominate colleages. However, if doing so is problematical, please accept this nomination for what it is, a Blogger Recognition Award. You need not acknowledge this nomination except by telling you received it.
In my post on Art in 19th-century England, I mentioned the Arts and Crafts movement, but realized that the Arts and Crafts movement had to be discussed separately. The Arts and Crafts movement grew into an international movement whose members and supporters valued the decorative arts and design. North American Mission style furniture, still a favourite in many homes, is considered an outgrowth of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The Arts and Crafts movement is sometimes viewed as a validation of the applied arts. In this regard, it has often been associated with William Blake‘s (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) rejection of the “Dark Satanic Mills,” of the industrial age, which it was to a large extent.
William Morris design adapted by Charles Fairfax, c. 1870 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Arts and Crafts movement, however, was also a precursor. It is one of the birthplaces of design and other applied arts. Moreover, because they rejected the industrial age, some members of the movement advocated socialism. Persons working in factories were looked upon as machines and made to work 60 hours a week in an unhealthy environment. Walter Crane (15 August 1845 – 14 March 1915), known mainly as a prolific illustrator, but also a member of the Arts and Crafts movement, was associated with the international Socialist movement and opposed this kind of abuse. William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a “socialist activist.” (See William Morris, Wikipedia.)
The Red House was built in Bexleyheath (London). Morris intended it to be his permanent home, but its location was not sufficiently central. Morris therefore moved his family to the more conveniently located Bloomsbury, where he established his company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (1861-1875), the future Morris & Co.
William Morris is not associated with Japonism, except indirectly. Walter Crane’s illustrations were Japonist, but Crane was an eclectic artist. He also designed tiles and wallpaper. As for William Morris, he epitomizes eclecticism, but he was, first and foremost, a medievalist. He and Sir Edward Burne-Jones met as students at Oxford University and were both attracted to medievalism.
Morris and Burne-Jones shared their interest in the Middle Ages with French author Victor Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) whose Hunchback of Notre-Dame or Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) is a favourite. Morris and Burne-Jones may in fact have been influenced by Victor Hugo. Medievalism was a characteristic of French Romanticism as was exoticism, such as orientalism.
Hugo’s Les Orientales(1829) is an example of orientalism. So are many of Jean-Léon Gérôme‘s (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) paintings, a few of which I have used in recent posts. Gérôme was an académicien at about the time académiciens started to fall into disrepute.
When I started rewriting this post, I looked up the entry “Daniel Rabel,” in Wikipedia to get information on the “grotesque” in 17th-century France. The grotesque is associated with the Middle Ages: Quasimodo (the hunchback), gargoyles, misericords, but it resurfaces. I have written posts on stage and costume designer Daniel Rabel‘s “grotesque” ballets de cour. These will be listed separately.
Allow me to finish The Red House. I had nearly forgotten writing about Daniel Rabel, but I remember the Red House.
Several pictures are featured in the above-featured video. Their content is consistent with a period of history we have discussed: the Napoleonic Era. The presentation is rapid, but the music sets the appropriate mood and rythm. This is an exceptional performance of three well-known Lieder by Schubert.
Interpretations of Schubert’s Lieder bring to mind German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (28 May 1925 – 18 May 2012). However, the performance at the top of this post, by English tenor Ian Bostridge OBE (born 25 December 1964), accompanied by pianist Julius Drake (born 5 April 1959), compares favorably with Fischer-Dieskau’s legendary renderings of Schubert.
Austrian composer Franz Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828), is an unequalled melodist whose life was too brief. Like Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix‘s friend, Schubert died at the early age of 32, but his legacy reflects a much longer life.
I hope you enjoy Bostridge’s interpretation of Schubert’s Lieder. It’s very touching. In fact, we are no longer walking on earth, but hearing the ineffable, or indicible. There are times when the spoken word does fall short of music.
Although knowing the words is not required, an English translation is available and it leads to translations to other languages. Just click on Du bist die Ruh. Copyrights do not allow me to insert the German text and its translation into this article.
Tags would be Ruh, Friede (peace), allein (alone), Lust and Schmerz (pleasure and pain), schließe and bei mir (close and next to me), Wohnung (dwelling), treiben (to drive), Brust and Herz (breast and heart), voll (full), füllen (to fill); ganz (entire).
Eugène Delacroix (13 August 1863) is one of the most accomplished artists associated with Romanticism. He was also one of the most prolific and versatile artists of the early nineteenth-century. Hence the breadth of his influence.
Delacroix is known mainly for his “Liberty Guiding the People” (1830), a painting that captures the “genius,” or essence, of Revolutions. However, although the video at the foot of this post presents “Liberty Guiding the People” and reveals a more intense Delacroix, I have assembled works that show other and, at times, seemingly simpler facets of Delacroix’s art.
The work featured at the top of this post is one of my favourites. It shows a drake, a Mandarin drake or mallard (canard mallard, canard colvert [green neck]).
Delacroix’s subject matter also consisted of flowers and studies of flowers, simple branches. Moreover, he travelled abroad seizing a less familiar beauty. The Romantics loved the exotic.
However, the art of this “Romantic” tends to override the notion of movements, which may of course be true of most great artists.
Photo credit: WikiArt.org (all images)
Please click on the lower part of each image to see its title. The pictures may be enlarged and viewed as a video (press escape to exit). I just discovered this WordPress feature.
Study of Flowers, 1845-1850
Two Branches with Leaves (pen, ink, watercolour)
House in a Grove (Bocage)
The Coast of Spain at Salabrena
Horse (Cheval) (watercolour)
For “The Cottage in a Grove,” 1838, Delacroix used a pen, chalk, and ink. “The Coast of Spain at Salabrena” is a watercolour, dated 1832. Delacroix’s “Study of Flowers” is a later work, executed between 1845 and 1850. “The Portrait of Turk in a Turban” (1826) was produced with pastels. For his magnificent tiger (below, 1830), Delacroix used a pencil and watercolours.
Portrait of a Turk in a Turban
Seated Arab in Tangier, 1832
Yet, we have Willibald von Gluck at the “clavecin” composing the score of his Armide (1831). This painting is a watercolour and “European.” A clavecin is a harpsichord. However, the instrument Gluck is using resembles my grandfather’s humble spinet, a type of harpsichord.
Willibald von Gluck at the clavecin composing the score of his Armide
Today is not a blogging day. But pictures are worth a thousand words, so I have used pictures to let you know that I am still blogging, but at a slower pace.
These works were written in England, as was L’Essai sur les Révolutions. Upon his return to Europe, Chateaubriand joined l’Armée des Princes (the Army of Princes) and, after being wounded in battle, he settled in England where he earned a meagre living teaching French mainly. Despite this painful exile, not only did François-René write the afore-mentioned works, but he also became familiar with English literature and, in particular, with seventeenth-century author John Milton‘s Paradise Lost(1667), a work Chateaubriand would later translate into French. (See Chateaubriand, Wikipedia)
Chateaubriand returned to France in May 1800 when an amnesty was issued émigrés. In 1801, he published Atala, and, the following year, René. Both novellas are incorporated in Le Génie du Christianisme (The Genius of Christianity), a large work published in 1802 and available online. In René, Chateaubriand described “le mal du siècle”[i]or, more precisely, the “vague [from vagueness] des passions,” the form of melancholy experienced by sensitive souls who know they are “fallen gods” (Lamartine, see Le Mal du siècle). Their sorrows bestow superiority on such characters.
“Morbid sadness was mistaken for the suffering of a proud and superior mind.” (See Mal du siècle, Wikipedia.)
Atala, a novella, or short novel, was published in 1801, a year before René. However, although published in 1801, Atala features René, a Frenchman who left France in 1725 and found refuge among the Natchez. The Natchez are a tribe of Amerindians living near the Mississippi and friendly to the French. In Atala, they are near the Ohio River. Chactas could be a “noble savage,” but he is not depicted as such. He is a blind Sachem and a Natchez whose nobility seems to stem from the fact that he is not altogether a “savage.” In a later appearance, Chactas is in France and meets the king.
If Chactas has nobility, which he does, it is mostly because he was brought up by Lopez, the Spaniard who rescued him from the Muscogulges. Lopez also fathered Atala whose mother is a Muscogulge, enemies of the Natchez. Atala’s mother weds the tribe’s magnanimous leader, Simaghan. When Chactas leaves Lopez’ home, he is again captured by the Muscogulges. He is freed by Atala. At this point, le père Aubry, Father Aubry, its fourth (René, Chactas, Atala) and most eloquent character, enters the novella.
F.-René de Chateaubriand, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Atala, Chactas, who has befriended René, tells him his story. After leaving the home of Lopez to rejoin his people, Chactas is captured by Muscogulge Amerindians who quickly prepare to torture and kill him. Kind Atala, a Christian, takes pity on Chactas. She has fallen in love with him and unties him so he can escape torture. The two flee the tribe’s encampment but are caught in a terrible thunderstorm. They then hear the sound of a bell and, suddenly, a dog approaches followed by Father Aubry, a French missionary.
Father Aubry takes Atala and Chactas to his grotto. The priest wants his protégés to wed. However, this prospect saddens Atala profoundly. Atala’s mother made a promise. Her child, Atala, was sick, so she vowed that if Atala survived, Atala would remain a virgin. On her deathbed, Atala’s mother extracted the same promise from Atala herself. Atala does not tell Chactas and father Aubry about her vow of chastity.
While Father Aubry and Chactas are visiting the mission, Atala takes poison. On their return, Chactas and father Aubry find Atala lying down, in agony. She tells her story and Father Aubry quickly explains that the oath she has made to her dying mother can be undone. But it is too late.
Ô ma mère ! pourquoi parlâtes-vous ainsi ! Ô religion qui fais (sic) à la fois mes maux et ma félicité, qui me perds et qui me consoles ! (pp. 52-53)[ii]
(O my mother, why spake you thus? O Religion, the cause of my ills and of my felicity, my ruin and my consolation at the same time!) (“Félicité,” felicity) means “bonheur” (happiness).
Ambivalence towards Christianity is expressed. A grief-stricken Chactas is indignant and, after rolling on the ground in Amerindian fashion, he says: “Homme prêtre, qu’es-tu venu faire dans ces forêts ?” (Man-priest, why did you come into these forests?). “To save you,” replies the old man who shows considerable anger defending Christianity and then absolves Atala of her suicide. It is not a sin, because she did not know her suicide was a transgression. She is “ignorant.”
“[A]ll your misfortunes are the result of your ignorance. Your savage education and the want of instruction have been your ruin. You did not know that a Christian cannot dispose of his life.”
We then witness Atala’s agony, together with Chactas and le père Aubry. Atala dies but is buried discreetly at the “Groves of Death.” Later, Father Aubry dies when his mission is attacked by Cherokee Amerindians who torture him to death. He will be buried near Atala, and René will come to collect the bones of both Atala and Father Aubry.
Chateaubriand’s Savage: not so Noble
Note that le père Aubry is a white man and that “everything about him was calm and sublime.” Chactas was brought up by Lopez, a Spaniard and a Christian. Moreover, Lopez is Atala’s father. As for René, to whom Chactas told his story, he is a French émigré who moved to Louisiana in 1725. It would appear, therefore, that Atala’s savages are not altogether “savages.”
Atala was “proud” of her Spanish blood and “resembled a queen in the pride of her demeanor, disdained to speak to these warriors.” Until she met Chactas, she felt those “warriors” who surrounded her were not worthy of her. Je n’aperçus autour de moi que des hommes indignes de recevoir ma main; je m’applaudis de n’avoir d’autre époux que le Dieu de ma mère. (p. 53) (I saw myself surrounded by men unworthy of receiving my hand; I congratulated myself upon having no other spouse than the God of my mother.) Obviously, the natives Atala knows seem inferior to Europeans. Yet, the Natchez are René’s refuge. Could this be the case if Chateaubriand considered them irredeemably uncivilized?
Atala is a bittersweet chapter in the tale of the “Noble Savage.” Chateaubriand’s savage is not a noble savage, at least not consistently. In particular, he is extremely cruel. Savages, Iroquois, allies of the British, tortured and burned alive Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf and other missionaries, in 1625. But Chateaubriand is among émigrés who escaped the savage Reign of Terror: 1793. Robespierre and company were barbarians.
However, the setting confers a degree of exoticism to Atala and it allows Chateaubriand feats of style. The Amerindians bring food to our Europeans and Chactas is dressed in bark, etc. It’s called “couleur locale” and it is all the more colourful since Chateaubriand was not closely acquainted with Amerindians.
It is difficult not to agree with Alfred de Musset that “[t]he entire malady of the present century stems from two causes: the nation that lived through 93 [la terreuror the reign of terror] and 1814 [Napoleon’s defeat: the Battle of Paris] had its heart wounded twice. All there was is no longer; all that will be has yet to come. Seek nowhere else the secret of our ills.” (See Musset’s Confession of a Child of the Century, Preface by Henri Bornier of the French Academy, Project Gutengerg [EBook #3942].
At any rate, as she is dying, Father Aubry tells Atala that life is a painful journey. “Remerciez donc la bonté divine, ma chère fille, qui vous retire si vite de cette vallée de misère.” (p. 52) “Thank, therefore, the Divine goodness, my dear daughter, for taking you away thus early from this valley of misery.”[iii]
Indeed, a “valley of misery” it is for René who lives in exile, as do all émigrés and will those Natchez, the Amerindians who had adopted René and have survived the destruction of their encampment, Father Aubry’s mission. They are leaving, carrying the bones of their ancestors. Leading the cortège are the warriors, and closing it, women carrying their newborn. In the middle are the older Natchez. There is nobility to these “savages.”
“O what tears are shed when we thus abandon our native land!—when, from the summit of the mountain of exile, we look for the last time upon the roof beneath which we were bred, and see the hut-stream still flowing sadly through the solitary fields surrounding our birth-place!”
Oh ! que de larmes sont répandues lorsqu’on abandonne la terre natale, lorsque du haut de la colline de l’exil on découvre pour la dernière fois le toit où l’on fut nourri et le fleuve de la cabane qui continue à couler tristement à travers les champs de la patrie.” (p. 73)
The final paragraph of Atala is very revealing, and on these words, I will end this post.
“Unfortunate Indians!—you whom I have seen wandering in the deserts of the New World with the ashes of your ancestors;—you who gave me hospitality in spite of your misery—I could not now return your generosity, for I am wandering, like you, at the mercy of men; but less fortunate than you in my exile, I have not brought with me the bones of my fathers.”
Indiens infortunés que j’ai vus errer dans les déserts du Nouveau-Monde avec les cendres de vos aïeux ! vous qui m’aviez donné l’hospitalité malgré votre misère ! je ne pourrais vous la rendre aujourd’hui, car j’erre, ainsi que vous, à la merci des hommes, et moins heureux dans mon exil, je n’ai point emporté les os de mes pères !
“This well-known and especially Romantic masterpiece was described by the historian John Lewis Gaddis as leaving a contradictory impression, ‘suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both.’”[i](SeeCaspar David Friedrich,Wikipedia.)
Melancholy, by Edgar Degas, c. 1874 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Le Mal du Siècle
This duality, “mastery” and “insignificance,” could explain the malaise called le mal du siècle (the malady of the century), a term coined by poet Alfred de Musset (11 December 1810 – 2 May 1857) in La Confession d’un enfant du siècle (The Confession of a Child of the Century), an autobiography published in 1836. Moreover, France entered the nineteenth century after a radical revolution that turned into a bloodbath. Yet the nineteenth century in France was inaugurated by the military victories of Napoleon. The levée en masse,conscription, of 31 August 1793, had given Napoleon his grande armée.
Let’s take a closer look. Le mal du siècle[ii] is associated with François-René de Chateaubriand‘s René, a novella published separately in 1802, but also included, along with Atala (1801), in Chateaubriand’s Génie du Christianisme(The Genius of Christianity), published in 1802. It was also part of Les Natchez, a work written between 1793 and 1799, but not published until 1826. It is about René, a forelorn protagonist. Along with Atala (1801), it was conceived in America and written in Britain. Chateaubriand belonged to an aristocratic family and had to flee France during the French Revolution. He travelled to North-America, as did many émigrés, and then lived in England where he wrote abundantly. He left a superb narrative describing the Mississippi, the river he calls the Meschacebé and which he is unlikely to have seen.
René’s “mal du siècle”
René, the protagonist of René, is a sensitive young man who simply does not belong and whose mal is melancholy. The word melancholy all but summarizes “le mal du siècle,” also called “le vague des passions,” l’ennui (boredom), “spleen” (in Baudelaire). Chateaubriand has René say that he “lacked something to fill the void on his existence[:]” “Il me manquait quelque chose pour remplir l’abîme de monexistence[.]” René also says that man’s natural song is sad: “Le chantnaturel del’homme est triste.” In René’s opinion, “[o]ur heart is an incomplete instrument, a lyre missing strings” forcing us to express joy on the same tone as sighs:
“Notre cœur est un instrument incomplet, une lyre où il manque des cordes, et où nous sommes forcés de rendre les accents de la joie sur le ton consacré aux soupirs.” (René)
La théorie des climats
A reader of Montesquieu, Madame de Staël, the author of De l’Allemage (Germany), 1810-1813, theorizes that northerners are more prone to melancholy than people born and living in sunnier environments. This theory is called “la théorie des climats” and, although it is expressed by Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), an early representative of the French Enlightenment, it dates back to Greco-Roman antiquity. Madame de Staël’s northerners would be German-speaking people, the inhabitants of the British Isles and, perhaps, the people of Brittany, France, a Celtic nation. These northerners are Romanticism‘s better recruits.
Lamartine and Pascal
To a certain extent, René’s sadness is yet another expression of man’s duality. In “L’Homme” (Méditations poétiques, 1820), French poet Alphonse de Lamartine writes that “L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux [.]” (Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.) As Blaise Pascal (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) wrote, there is misère in the mortality of humans, but “grandeur” in the fact that humans know they will die. (Wo)man is a roseau pensant: a mere reed, but a thinking reed.
La grandeur de l’homme est grande en ce qu’il se connaît misérable; un arbre ne se connaît pas misérable.[iii]
(Man’s grandeur is immense in that he knows he is miserable [a mere mortal]; a tree doesn’t know it is miserable.)
But René also suffers from a profound sense of alienation from the world and is therefore considered Werther’s French counterpart. Johann Wolfgang Goethe‘s Werther is the protagonist of The Sorrows of Young Werther(Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), an epistolary novel published in 1774, a quarter of a century before Chateaubriand’s René.
Sturm und Drang
However, Werther has been associated, rightly or wrongly, with the Sturm und Drang movement (the late 1760s to the early 1780s). The Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) movement, named after a play by Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger (17 February 1752 – 25 February 1831), is characterized by the expression of “extremes of emotion,” and is not restricted to literature. It extends to music and the fine arts (examples are listed under Sturm und Drang, in Wikipedia).
The Sorrows of the Young Werther & René
Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832); 1774 In Goethe’s Sorrows of the Young Werther, a bestseller, unrequited love or, love lost, often leads to melancholy, Werther falls in love with Lotte who is about to marry Albert, a man eleven years her senior. He therefore courts rejection. The plot is the classic love triangle. Lotte marries Albert and Werther commits suicide. Werther’s suicide is the expression of an “extreme of emotion.” He has invested his entire self in Lotte (see cathexis, Wikipedia).Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848); 1802
As for René, also a bestseller, there is no refuge for its protagonist’s melancholia. He visits the Natchez people in Louisiana, still a French colony, and travels to Scotland, the home Ossian. Ossian is an invented bard whose poetry is that of James MacPherson. René considers suicide, but finds a reprieve when he is joined by his sister Amélie, whom he loves. However, Amélie soon leaves him to enter a convent, her love for René being incestuous. René returns to America and is killed by a Natchez.Les Natchez can be considered an episode, or chapter, in the European discourse on the “Noble Savage.” However, Chateaubriand’s savage is not so noble.
There is no refuge for the Werthers and Renés. Romantics often perceived the world as mediocre and hostile which exacerbated the profound sadness called le mal du siècle. But romanticism can also be summarized as an age when sentiment prevailed over reason. It is a reaction against the Enlightenment. Beginning with René Descartes‘ (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) Discourse on Method(1637), reason had prevailed over sentiment.
The Reign of Sentiment
Therefore, it would seem to me that romanticism gives free rein to sentiment and subjectivity over reason. The reign of reason had been challenged by Blaise Pascal and otherwise assaulted, but it could be said that La Querelle des Bouffons, (The War of the Comic Actors) was reason’s major defeat (see Related Articles: Pergolesi). It is also a victory of the Modernes over the Anciens. Romantic authors and musicians revived the Medieval era, a Christian era. They sought their roots. The Brothers Grimm collected the folklore that gave German-speaking people their identity and Wagner gave them their glorious past.
Alfred de Musset by Charles Landelle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alfred de Musset: Confession d’un Enfant du siècle
At a deeper level, these “extremes of emotion” may be an expression of man’s duality or the human condition. “Siècle” means both century and the world, or the secular and the profane. In his Confession d’un enfantdu siècle, mentioned above, Alfred de Musset wrote that:
“Toute la maladie du siècle présent vient de deux causes : le peuple, qui a passé par 93 et par 1814, porte au cœur deux blessures. Tout ce qui était n’est plus ; tout ce qui sera n’est pas encore. Ne cherchez pas ailleurs le secret de nos maux.”
(The entire malady of the present century stems from two causes : the nation that lived through 93 [la terreur or the reign of terror] and 1814 [Napoleon’s defeat: the Battle of Paris] had its heart wounded twice. All there was is no longer; all that will be has yet to come. Seek nowhere else the secret of our ills.)
Such a definition applies to France, but the industrial revolution was no less traumatic than the French Revolution and Napoléon’s: defeat, i.e. 1814.
However, Werther is the victim of unrequited love, the world is not as it should be. As for René, he is at odds with a world that ended in the Terror of 1793-94: 93. However, Werther is the victim of unrequited love, the world is not as it should be. As for René, he is at odds with a world that ended in the Terror of 1793-94: 93. As an aristocrat, Chateaubriand had to flee France. He went to America, as did several émigrés. He then fought in the Army of Princes but was wounded, which forced him to live in England where he was not idle. He and madame de Staël all but invented French romanticism, she as a theorist and he as the finest writer of the early 19th century. All émigrés were amnestied[iv] by Napoleon on 27 April 1802, but Chateaubriand left England in May 1800, when some émigrés were also amnestied.
Humans have long been described or have described themselves as both tall and small. They combine a degree of “mastery” and “insignificance.” This theme underlies most of Western literature. John Milton‘s Paradise Lost tells that story. René’s mal du siècle, however, is also as described by Alfred de Musset. The French Revolution turned into the above-mentioned bloodbath: 93. The King was guillotined and its wealth was taken away from the Church. This was Talleyrand‘s[v] idea, a priest and a bishop. The vote took place on 10 October 1789. Priests fled to Britain.[vi] A new calendar was adopted. Yet, romanticism happened everywhere and, for many years, Madame de Staël‘s château at Coppet was its nucleus and Madame de Staël herself, a theorist of romanticism. Besides, the industrial revolution, a revolution greater than the French Revolution, was introducing the reign of machines that both empowered and lessened humankind, hence Weltshmerz, a term we oweJean-Paul Richter. Le mal du siècle may well be the birthplace ofl’absurde (see Absurdism, Wikipedia).