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Stendhal (stăNdälˈ), pseud. of Marie Henri Beyle (märē äNrēˈ bĕl), 1783–1842, French writer, recognized as one of the great French novelists.

He grew up in Grenoble hating his father and the Jesuit, Royalist atmosphere in his home, and he went to Paris at his earliest opportunity. There influential relatives obtained a place for him at the ministry of war. In 1800 he became a dragoon in Napoleon's army, and the invasion of Italy took him to Milan. By 1802 he was back in Paris, where he pursued the amorous adventures that continued to interest him all his life. He read widely and kept notes and journals, which have been published. He again served with Napoleon's army in the disastrous Russian campaign (1812). After Napoleon's fall in 1814, Stendhal went to Milan, remaining there until 1820. There he began his literary career.

In Vie de Haydn, de Mozart, et de Métastase (1814) and in Rome, Naples, et Florence en 1817 (1817), he borrowed facts freely from other writers, but the point of view and wit were his own. His books were better known in England than in France, and from c.1817 he wrote for British journals. In this period, when he was suffering from his most genuine and most unhappy love affair, he wrote De l'amour (1822), a psychological analysis of love that predates Freud. Stendhal's first novel, Armance (1827), was scorned by the critics.

In 1831 the first of his two great novels, Le Rouge et le Noir (tr. The Red and the Black), was published. The Red in the title symbolizes the army and liberalism, and the Black the reactionary clergy. It is, baldly, the story of a sensitive but calculating youth, Julien Sorel, who pursues his ambitions by seduction and is eventually guillotined for shooting his mistress. Its sympathetic and acute character analysis and its picture of the period make it one of the world's great novels.

After the accession (1830) of Louis Philippe, Stendhal was appointed consul at Trieste, but because Metternich objected to his books and liberal ideas, he was shifted to Civitavecchia in 1831. He wrote constantly there, although he did not publish; among the works of that period are Souvenirs d'égotisme and La Vie d'Henri Brulard, both autobiographical, and Lucien Leuwen, a novel.

During a three-year leave of absence (1836–39), which he spent in Paris or in traveling about France, he wrote what many consider his greatest novel, La Chartreuse de Parme (1839, tr. The Charterhouse of Parma). Its plot is from the Renaissance, but it is set in Italy of the 1830s. Its hero, Fabrizio del Dongo, like Julien Sorel, possesses a special egoism (termed Beylism by Stendhal) that derives its great energy from passion, has its own moral code, and consists of unswerving pursuit of happiness in the form of love or power. Stendhal returned to Paris a few months before he died. Nearly 50 years after his death, his unprinted works were discovered and published.


See translations of his autobiographical works, The Life of Henri Brulard (1939), Memoirs of Egotism (1949), and The Private Diaries of Stendhal (1954); biography by J. Keates (1997).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle). Born Jan. 23, 1783, in Grenoble; died Mar. 23,1842, in Paris. French writer.

The son of a lawyer, Stendhal was brought up in the family of his grandfather, a humanist and republican. In 1799 he took a position in the Ministry of War. He joined the army the following year and took part in Napoleon’s Italian campaign of 1800–02. Retiring from military service, he undertook to educate himself, attended the theater, and frequented literary circles. He returned to the army and, as a member of the quartermaster’s staff in Napoleon’s army (1806–14), traveled through most of Europe and witnessed the battle of Borodino and the flight of the French from Russia. After the fall of Napoleon (1814), Stendhal went to Italy, where he associated with the leaders of the Carbonari and became closely acquainted with the Italian romantics and with Lord Byron. In 1821 he moved to Paris and contributed to the French and British opposition press. In 1830 he became the French consul in Trieste, and later in Civitavecchia, where he spent the last decade of his life.

The earliest works of Stendhal dealt with music, which he called his strongest passion. His books Lives of Haydn, Mozart, and Metastasio (1817) and Life of Rossini (1824) expressed Stendhal’s aesthetic tastes with complete clarity. He was particularly drawn to Italian opera (Cimarosa and Rossini), with its melodic bel canto style of singing, and to the classical symphonic art of Haydn and Mozart.

In the History of Painting in Italy (vols. 1–2) and Rome, Naples and Florence in 1817 (both 1817), Stendhal attacked idealist aesthetics from the standpoint of the cultural-historical method and advanced the view that art is a means of reflecting and comprehending reality. A number of later works, such as Walks in Rome (1829), were brilliant popularizations of art. In 1822, Stendhal published the treatise On Love, an attempt at psychological analysis that was augmented by numerous expressions of personal feelings and observations.

Stendhal’s involvement in the prevailing disputes on romanticism and classicism in literature was reflected in the two versions of his pamphlet Racine and Shakespeare (1823 and 1825). In them he contrasted Shakespeare’s profound and passionate art to the worn-out dogmas of the epigones of classicism, and urged rejection of the celebrated three unities and the establishment of a new dramaturgy, contemporary in spirit. However, although he defended romanticism, Stendhal rejected the views of the conservative romantics, with their flight from reality, tawdry exoticism, and idealization of the Middle Ages.

Stendhal was the true founder of realism in literature. His approach to events was historically oriented, and he depicted situations and characters realistically, made penetrating analyses of man’s subtlest feelings, and satirized the petty world of the ignorant and uncultured stratum of high society. All these features of Stendhal’s realistic method were already evident in his first, still somewhat schematic novel. Ármame (vols. 1–3,1827). The short story “Vanina Vanini” (1829) gave a sympathetic portrayal of the Italian Carbonaro and patriot.

The novel The Red and the Black (1831) is subtitled “Chronicle of the XIX Century.” In it, Stendhal presented a broad portrayal of French society on the eve of the July Revolution of 1830, revealing the avarice of the bourgeoisie, the obscurantism of the clergy, and the desperate efforts of the aristocracy to maintain its class privileges. The novel focuses on the dramatic inner struggle of the young Julien Sorel: the innate honesty, greatness of soul, and nobility that have raised this son of an ordinary carpenter above the crowd of rich people, hypocrites, and titled nonentities that surround him are in conflict with his ambitious aims and his efforts to succeed at any price. The discord between the hero’s thirst for power and his revulsion toward the ignominious pursuit of power brings him to ruin.

Stendhal expressed an even greater degree of social satire and denunciatory zeal in his unfinished novel Lucien Leuwen (1834–36; published 1929); it depicted the everyday reality of the July Monarchy, which had replaced the Restoration, as a tragicomic farce. Using techniques of the grotesque, Stendhal revealed the repellent nature of Louis Philippe’s government, in which bribery, slander, and blackmail reigned supreme. He portrayed the army as a body that had degenerated into a punitive band persecuting insurgent workers, and censured the willingness to compromise that was typical of some members of the French intelligentsia.

In his search for intense passions, heroic deeds, and characters of integrity—none of which, Stendhal was convinced, could exist in contemporary France—the writer made use of old chronicles and of episodes from the national liberation struggle of the Italian people against Austrian oppressors. The novel The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) was inspired by Stendhal’s study of the chronicles of the Farnese family and by a rebellion that had taken place in the duchy of Modena, provoked by the duke himself. Stendhal transferred the place of action to Parma, making his depiction of the mores of this tiny police state a symbolic portrayal of Europe during the period of reaction after the Napoleonic Wars. The novel powerfully expresses the themes of love for liberty and of the struggle of proud and self-sacrificing patriots for the liberation and reunification of Italy.

Stendhal drew on the same sources for his Italian Chronicles, written during the 1830’s and published as a single work in 1855. They depicted prominent Renaissance personages, forces of mortal enmity, and outbursts of elemental feelings, so remote from the outdated respectability and hypocrisy of French aristocratic and bourgeois mores of the mid-19th century. The Memoirs of a Tourist (vols. 1–2, 1838) satirized these petty people, immersed in the mire of everyday life.

Many of Stendhal’s works were not published until after his death, including the autobiographical novella The Life of Henri Brulard (1835; published 1890) and Memoirs of an Egotist (1832; published 1892), both containing many acute psychological observations and accurate depictions of everyday life. Other posthumous works by Stendhal are the unfinished novel Lamiel (1839–42; published in part, 1889; in full, 1928); Too Much Favor Can Kill (Trop de faveur tue, 1839; published 1912–13), in terms of composition related to the Italian Chronicles cycle; a number of diaries; and an extensive correspondence.

Stendhal’s works combine sober observation and inspiring romanticism, critical acuity and psychological depth. He constantly sought to express the drama of life and to create rounded, living characters who reflected the ideas and passions of their era.

Stendhal won recognition from only a few literary figures during his lifetime, including Mérimée, Balzac, and Goethe, but he was rediscovered in the second half of the 19th century. Since then, the publication of his manuscripts and of monographs and articles devoted to him has been unceasing, and all succeeding generations of French writers have been influenced by him. In Grenoble, in the apartment where Henri Beyle was born, the Stendhal Museum was established in 1933. Several film versions of Stendhal’s works have been made, including Vanina Vanini (1922), The Charterhouse of Parma (1948), and The Red and the Black (1954).

In Russia, Stendhal’s works were known as early as the 1830’s; they were praised by Pushkin and L. N. Tolstoy.


[Oeuvres completes, vols. 1–79.] Edited and with a foreword by H. Martineau. Paris, 1927–37.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–15. Edited by A. A. Smirnov and B. G. Reizov. Leningrad-Moscow [1933]—50.
Sobr. soch. v 15 tt., vols. 1–15. Edited and with an introductory article by B. G. Reizov. Moscow, 1959.


Lunacharskii, A. V. “Stendal’.” In Sobr. soch., vol. 5. Moscow, 1965.
Reizov, B. G. Stendal’: Gody uchen’ia, Leningrad, 1968.
Reizov, B. G. Stendal: Filosofiia istorii. Politika. Estetika. Leningrad, 1974.
Gorky, M. [Foreword.] In A. K. Vinogradov, Izbr. proizv., vol. 1: Tritsveta vremeni. Moscow, 1960.
Vinogradov, A. K. Stendal’ i ego vremia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
Ehrenburg, I. “Uroki Stendalia.” In Frantsuzskie tetradi. Moscow, 1958.
Frid, Ia. Stendal’: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
Prévost, J. Stendal’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960. Translated from French.)
Thibaudet, A. Stendhal. Paris, 1931.
Martineau, H. Petit Dictionnairestendhalien. Paris, 1948.
Europe, 1972, no. 519–21. (Issue devoted to Stendhal.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


original name Marie Henri Beyle. 1783--1842, French writer, who anticipated later novelists in his psychological analysis of character. His two chief novels are Le Rouge et le noir (1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (1839)
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