John W. Kneller
Gustave Flaubert's contemporaries never thought of him as a traveler. He lived most of his life in Normandy; his stays in Paris were short. Later, however, he did travel, and his notes and correspondence show the importance of his journeys, both in his life and in his works. Born in Rouen in 1821, he was not yet ten when he wrote a historical résumé entitled “Louis XIII, ” which he dedicated to his mother on her birthday. He founded and contributed to a journal, Art et progrès, at age fourteen. Steeped in the Romantic literature of Hugo, Dumas, George Sand, Byron, and others, he later lived Romanticism, falling in unreciprocated love with an older woman, Elisa Schlésinger. That love was to inspire the Memoires d'un fou (1838) and Novembre (1842) and, later, the memorable Madame Arnoux, Frédéric's unrequited love in the second version of L'Education sentimentale.
From the doctors who surrounded him during his entire childhood and youth he absorbed massive surgical and anatomical knowledge as if by osmosis. His own chronic illnesses—the most serious of which manifested itself in epileptiform convulsions—aggravated his implacable hatred of the bourgeoisie and their accepted ideas and, with the early exposure to anatomy and medicine, challenged his Romantic leanings. His most grievous attack occurred at the end of January 1844, but the episode had a beneficial outcome. It prompted a family decision to take him out of law school, where he had been languishing in boredom for the previous three years. He could now devote himself to writing.
He took his first trip in 1840, to the Pyrénées, the south of France, and Corsica, taking notes on the way and later writing them up in manuscript form. Subsequently he accompanied his newly married sister and her husband through France and to Italy. He was bored and wrote to a close friend, “By all that you