Théophile Gautier


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Gautier, Théophile

 

Born Aug. 31, 1811, in Tarbes; died Oct. 22, 1872, in Neuilly, near Paris. French writer and critic.

In his youth Gautier was an adherent of romanticism but later became the spiritual father of the Parnassian school. His early Poems (1830), the narrative poem Albertus (1833), the tales Young France (1833), and the verse collection Comedy of Death (1838) exhibit traces of Byronic demonism; he combined an inclination to fantasy with measured verse. Rejecting bourgeois everyday life as a kingdom of vulgar men and hucksters, Gautier gave one of the first full-scale substantiations of the theory of “art for art’s sake,” in the foreword to the novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835–36) and in articles in the book The New Art (1852). He rejected both petit bourgeois moralizing and democratic ideological content in literature. In the lyric miniatures of the collection Enamels and Cameos (1852; Russian translation, 1914), the elegance, fluidity, and color of things underscore his indifference to what he considers transitory passions.

Gautier’s penchant for the picturesque re-creation of distant periods and countries found expression in his Novel About a Mummy (1858; Russian translation, 1911), set in ancient Egypt; in his adventure novel about the life of itinerant actors in 17th-century France, Captain Fracasse (1863, Russian translation, 1895, 1957; expanded French editions in 1929, 1942, 1961, France); and in Journey to Russia (1867).

Gautier’s more interesting works of criticism include Grotesques (1844), about forgotten poets of the 15th through 17th centuries, A History of Romanticism (1874, posthumous), and his essay on Baudelaire (Russian translation, 1915). V. G. Benediktov, V. Ia. Briusov, and N. S. Gumilev have translated Gautier’s poetry into Russian.

WORKS

Oeuvres choisies. Paris, 1930.
Contes fantastiques. Paris, 1962.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. stikhi
. Paris, 1923.

REFERENCES

Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, C. Histoire des oeuvres de T. Gautier, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1887.
Jasinski, R. Les Années romantiques de T. Gautier. Paris, 1929.
Larguier, L. Théophile Gautier. Paris, 1948.
Richardson, J. T. Gautier, His Life and Times. New York [1959].
Delvaille, B. Théophile Gautier. Paris, 1968.

S. I. VELIKOVSKII