Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

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Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin (shärl ōgüstăNˈ săNt-böv), 1804–69, French literary historian and critic. The first major professional literary critic, he developed the art of appreciating literature through psychological and biographical insight. He studied medicine but abandoned it for literature, and began contributing reviews to the Globe in 1824. After attempts at writing poetry, Vie, poésies, et pensées de Joseph Delorme (1829), and a semiautobiographical psychological novel, Volupté (1834), which was inspired by his love for Mme Victor Hugo, he turned to criticism. His weekly articles in reviews were collected as the Causeries du lundi (15 vol., 1851–62, tr. Monday Chats, 1877). He considered his great work to be Port-Royal (1840–59), taken in part from his lectures in 1837 at Lausanne. This work, comprised of six books, is a history not only of Jansenism but of a whole section of 17th-century French society. Made a member of the French Academy in 1844, Sainte-Beuve taught (1848–49) at Liège, and in 1857 he became a professor at the École normale supérieure. He was appointed senator in 1865. His vast literary output reveals a critic of great taste, vast memory and learning, and a passion for truth in judgment.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin


Born Dec. 23, 1804, in Boulogne-sur-Mer; died Oct. 13, 1869, in Paris. French critic and writer.

In his Survey of 16th-century French Poetry and Drama (1828), Sainte-Beuve asserted that romanticism was a literary program that owed its origin to the French Revolution. The work appealed for creative freedom, innovative poetic forms, and the introduction into literature of heroes from the common people. Sainte-Beuve also wrote the collections of lyric poetry The Life, Poetry, and Thoughts of Joseph Delorme (1829) and Consolations (1830). In the 1830’s he published essays on French writers of the 17th to 19th centuries, later included in the collection Literary Portraits (vols. 1–5, 1836–39). He also published the novel Delight (1834) and the historical and literary study Port-Royal (1840–59).

Beginning in 1849, Sainte-Beuve wrote critical articles that were published on Mondays in Parisian newspapers. These articles were collected in the multivolume series Monday Chats (1851–62) and its continuation, New Mondays (1863–70). Using historical, psychological, and philosophic critical methods, Sainte-Beuve sought for the sources of literary movements in history itself, rejecting dogmatic critical traditions. He dealt with such aesthetic problems as the artist and society, art and the revolutionary movement, the degree of truthfulness in literary works, and the expression of national spirit in literature. Sainte-Beuve was able to revolutionize critical methods in evaluating the heritage of many French writers owing to his keen sense of the historical and psychological atmosphere of each epoch and a sensitive comprehension of aesthetic ideals.


Etudes des lundis et des portraits, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1930.
Les Plus Belles Lettres de Sainte-Beuve. Introduced by A. Billy. Paris [1962].
In Russian translation:
Literaturnye portrety, kriticheskie ocherki. Moscow, 1970. (See article by M.S. Treskunov.)


Oblomievskii, D. D. Frantsuzskii romantism. Moscow, 1947.
Michaut, G. Sainte-Beuve. Paris, 1921.
Billy, A. Sainte-Beuve: Savie et son temps, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1952.
Regard, M. Sainte-Beuve. Paris [1960]. (Contains bibliography.)
Sainte-Beuve et la critique littéraire contemporaine: Actes du colloque. Liège, 1969; Paris, 1972.
Correspondance générale, vols. 1–16. Paris, 1935–70.
Bonnerot, J. Bibliographie de l’oeuvre de Sainte-Beuve [vols.] 1–3. Paris, 1937–52.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(18.) Troubat (1836-1914) was secretary to literary historian Charles Sainte-Beuve and executor of his estate.
In middle age Vigny gradually withdrew into a curious silence and retired, according to the famous expression of Charles Sainte-Beuve, to an "ivory tower." In 1841 he stood as a candidate to the Academie Francaise, but he was elected only in 1845.