Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (shärl ōgüstăN´ săNt-böv), 1804–69, French literary historian and critic. The first major professional literary critic, he developed the art of appreciating literature through psychological and biographical insight. He studied medicine but abandoned it for literature, and began contributing reviews to the Globe in 1824. After attempts at writing poetry, Vie, poésies, et pensées de Joseph Delorme (1829), and a semiautobiographical psychological novel, Volupté (1834), which was inspired by his love for Mme Victor Hugo, he turned to criticism. His weekly articles in reviews were collected as the Causeries du lundi (15 vol., 1851–62, tr. Monday Chats, 1877). He considered his great work to be Port-Royal (1840–59), taken in part from his lectures in 1837 at Lausanne. This work, comprised of six books, is a history not only of Jansenism but of a whole section of 17th-century French society. Made a member of the French Academy in 1844, Sainte-Beuve taught (1848–49) at Liège, and in 1857 he became a professor at the École normale supérieure. He was appointed senator in 1865. His vast literary output reveals a critic of great taste, vast memory and learning, and a passion for truth in judgment.

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