Taine, Hippolyte

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Taine, Hippolyte. Les Philosophes francais du XIXe siecle.