Hippolyte Taine

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Taine, Hippolyte


(full name Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine). Born Apr. 21, 1828, in Vouziers, in the Ardennes; died Mar. 5, 1893, in Paris. French philosopher, aesthetician, writer, and historian.

Taine studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris from 1848 to 1851. He became a member of the Académie Frangaise in 1878. Taine founded the aesthetic theory of naturalism and the school of cultural history. His chief works were Essays of Criticism and History (1858; Russian translation, 1869), studies on Balzac (1858) and Stendhal (1864), History of English Literature (1863–64; Russian translation, 1876), and The Philosophy of Art (1865–69; Russian translations, 1866 and 1899).

Proceeding from A. Comte’s positivist evolutionism, Taine asserted that criticism should be a neutral analysis that avoids moral and ideological judgments. His methodology was based on the triad la race (a writer’s innate, natural qualities), le milieu (his geographic and climatic setting), and le moment (la race and le milieu during a given historical epoch). The interaction among the components of the triad gives rise to literary styles, genres, and schools.

Taine’s works manifested an elitist indifference to the life of the people. He wrote the books of essays Voyage to the Waters of the Pyrenees (1855) and Voyage in Italy (1866; Russian translation, 1913–16), the satiric novella Parisian Mores: Notes and Opinions of Mr. Frédérick-Graindorge (1867; Russian translation, 1880), Notes on England (1871; Russian translation, 1872), and Travel Journal (1897).

Although Taine was a moderate liberal before the 1870’s, he reacted to the Paris Commune (1871) with hostility and became a reactionary. This turning point was reflected in his major historical work, The Origins of Contemporary France (vols. 1–3, 1876–93; Russian translation, vols. 1–5,1907). Based on a biased selection of sources, the work was essentially an attack against the French Revolution, the Jacobins, and the Jacobinic dictatorship.


La Fontaine et ses fables. Paris, 1861.
Sa Vie et sa correspondence, 4th ed., vols. 1–2. Paris, 1908–14.
In Russian translation:
Bal’zak. St. Petersburg, 1894.
Istoriia estetiki: Pamiatniki mirovoi esteticheskoi mysli, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967.


Plekhanov, G. V. Literatura i estetika, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1958.
Lunacharskii, A. V. Sobr. soch., vol. 8. Moscow, 1967.
Anisimov, 1.1. Zhivaia zhizn’ klassiki. Moscow, 1974. Pages 101–03.
Aulard, A. Taine, historien de la revolution française. Paris, 1907.
Lacombe, P. Taine, historien et sociologue. Paris, 1909.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Their tradition was carried on by the great historians of the 19th century: Thomas Babington Macaulay, Hippolyte Taine, Francis Parkman, Alexis de Tocqueville, George Bancroft, Jacob Burckhardt, and Thomas Carlyle all composed their epics with an eye to the literary immortality they eventually achieved.
Comte n'entend rien aux sciences de l'humanite, parce qu'il n'est pas philologue." Similarly, Hippolyte Taine, in an article of 1864, wrote that, like most people, he had a fragmentary knowledge of Comte: "on avait parcouru des extraits ou des comptes rendus de ses ouvrages, et l'on s'en etait tenu la, non sans bonnes raisons, du moins apparentes."
But the last word must go to the superbly named Hippolyte Taine who quipped that standard guidebooks were like "the interior of the English head, many facts and few ideas."
which can be found in Hippolyte Taine's La Fontaine et ses fables.
If you share Hippolyte Taine's nineteenth-century assessment of Dickens, 'The difference between a madman and a man of genius is not very great' (quoted by Schlicke in the Companion, p.
Dewald portrays the literary critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-69) as the influential, informal leader of younger writers--including Hippolyte Taine and Ernest Renan--who wrote for a large public audience and drew on literary or unofficial sources to describe popular culture, religion, and social life among the popular classes.
Against those who would hold for the novelty of Nietzsche's projected "physiology of aesthetics," Moore provides a catalog of purported antecedents that includes Burke, Uvedale Price, Daniel Webb, Hippolyte Taine, Friedrich Lange, and Grant Allen.