Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook

By Alba Amoia; Bettina L.Knapp | Go to book overview
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GÉRARD DE NERVAL (GÉRARD LABRUNIE)

(1808-1855)

John W. Kneller


BIOGRAPHY

Gérard Labrunie, as he was known before he adopted his pseudonym, was born in Paris in 1808. The day after his baptism his parents sent him to nurse in Loisy, just outside Paris. His father, Dr. Étienne Labrunie, an adjutant doctor and later physician ordinary, had been assigned to Napoleon's Grande Armée in Germany. His mother, who accompanied her husband, died in 1810 in Silesia (then a Prussian province) at Gross-Glogau. Dr. Labrunie received a medical discharge from active service in 1814. Gérard, who had been living with his granduncle Antoine Boucher in the Valois town of Mortefontaine, returned to Paris to live with his father.

From 1822 to 1826 he attended the Collège Charlemagne, where he met Théophile Gautier. They would become lifelong friends. Having received the baccalaureate with mediocre grades, he enrolled in the College de Médecine de Paris (1832-33), but never finished his studies. He had other, more compelling interests. Germany—the Germany of Goethe, Schiller, Klopstock, and Burger and the country of his mother's grave—had become his second homeland. In 1827 he had published a translation of Goethe's Faust, which delighted its author and became its standard French translation for many decades. He also completed a volume of translations of German poetry. His preoccupation with Germany was rooted in the loss of his mother and deepened by his absorption in the German poets. His maternal grandfather, Pierre-Charles Laurent, died in 1834, leaving him a substantial inheritance. In the fall of the same year he fell in love with Jenny Colon, an unexceptional actress. With his newly acquired money he took a trip to the south of France and Italy. On his return he settled into a bohemian existence with other artists and founded in 1835 Le Monde dramatique, a review that boasted a team of brillant collaborators including Alexandre Dumas and Théophile Gautier. The review permitted him to heap

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Multicultural Writers from Antiquity to 1945: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook
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