Musset, Alfred de


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Musset, Alfred de

(Louis Charles Alfred de Musset) (älfrĕd` də müsā`), 1810–57, French romantic poet, dramatist, and fiction writer. His first collection of poems, Contes d'Espagne et d'Italie (1829), exhibited a strong Byronic influence. Four years later he went to Italy with George Sand, but his infatuation with her resulted in disillusionment. Most of his poems appeared first in Revue des deux mondes; they included such famous pieces as the gloomy "Rolla" (1833) and the exquisite love lyrics "La Nuit de mai," "La Nuit d'août," "La Nuit d'octobre," and "La Nuit de décembre" (1835–36). His poetry combined classic clarity with the passionate subjectivity of the romantics. Among his plays are Fantasio (1834) and a series of comedies based on proverbs, including Il ne faut jurer de rien (1834) and On ne badine pas avec l'amour (1836). He also wrote some brilliant nouvelles, but from 1840 he passed rapidly into decline. The autobiographical novel Confession d'un enfant du siècle (1836), gives an account of his affair with George Sand and reflects the disillusioned mood of many of his contemporaries. His correspondence with George Sand appeared in 1904, and his work was translated in The Complete Writings of Alfred de Musset (10 vol., 1905; rev. ed. 1907).

Bibliography

See biography by his brother, Paul de Musset (tr. 1877).

Musset, Alfred de

 

Born Dec. 11, 1810, in Paris; died there May 2, 1857. French writer. Member of the Académie Française (1852).

The son of a civil servant who had an interest in literature, Musset graduated from the College Henri IV. His first collection of verse, Tales of Spain and Italy (1830), attracted the attention of readers. The literary-aesthetic viewpoint of the French romantics headed by V. Hugo, which rejected the reactionary political system and obsolete literary forms, was the basis for Musset’s subsequent work. In his second collection, Armchair Theater (1832), Musset sang the praises of freedom and theomachy and mocked bourgeois political machinations. His four lyrical narrative poems, published as Nights (1835–37), were very popular; the poems express sorrowful reflections awakened by feelings of loneliness.

Musset was one of the founders of romantic theater. His historical drama Lorenzaccio (1834) and his psychological plays about love, The Caprices of Marianne (1833), One Does Not Trifle With Love (1834), and The Candlestick (1835), are distinguished by their realistic characters and dramatic tension. In Lorenzaccio, the struggle with tyranny is treated artistically. The moral perfection of the individual is the basic theme of his other plays. Russia was the first to discover Musset the dramatist. Only after his comedy The Caprices of Marianne was staged in St. Petersburg in 1837 did French theaters begin to include his plays in their repertoires.

Musset’s novel Confession of a Child of the Century (1836) reflects French society of the 1820’s and 1830’s, showing the desperate situation of the younger generation in France and expressing the bright hope that mankind will attain peace and happiness in the future.

In Russia, Musset’s works were highly valued by A. S. Pushkin, L. N. Tolstoy, A. I. Herzen, and I. S. Turgenev. His poems were translated into Russian by I. S. Turgenev, A. A. Fet, V. S. Kurochkin, A. N. Apukhtin, and V. Ia. Briusov and, in Soviet times, by V. A. Rozhdestvenskii, S. V. Shervinskii, Iu. B. Korneev, and E. L. Linetskaia.

WORKS

Oeuvres completes illustrées, vols. 1–10. Paris, 1927–29.
Oeuvres completes. Paris [1963].
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957.
Ispoved’ syna veka, Novelly. Leningrad, 1970. (With an article by A. Andres.)

REFERENCES

Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Teterevnikova, A. “A. de Miusse.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Moscow, 1964.
Sainte-Beuve, C. “A. de Miusse.” In Literaturnye portrety: Kriticheskie ocherki. Moscow, 1970.
Gastinel, P. Le Romantisme d’A. de Musset. Paris, 1933.
Soupault, P. A. de Musset. [Paris, 1966.]
Tieghem, P. van. Musset. Paris, 1969.
Lefebvre, H. Musset, 2nd ed. Paris [1970].

M. S. TRESKUNOV