The Frenchman known as Stendhal whose Montmartre Cemetery epitaph epitomizes him as “Milanese, ” who is also identified as “Enricus Beyle, Romanus, ” and who spent more than one-third of his entire life in Italy was born in Grenoble, the elder son of rich bourgeois parents. A royalist father, a mean aunt, and a tyrannical tutor dominated the lad's world following the death of his “beloved” mother in 1790. He came to despise his birthplace (a “mudhole”) and declared himself an atheist and Jacobin. As an adolescent he read the works of Corneille, Molière, Rousseau, Prévost, and Laclos, but also of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Milton, Jonson, Dryden, and Addison. At the age of seventeen he entered Bonaparte's army, eventually finding himself in Italy, the country that became his spiritual homeland. He claimed to be of Italian descent on the side of his mother, using his heritage as an explanation of his contradictory nature, and was equally enthusiastic over his great-aunt's “espagnolisme.” He flourished in Italy, visiting Parma several times and molding the city to fit his politico-literary purposes. Italy inspired him to write a history of Italian painting as well as lives of the librettist Pietro Metastasio and Gioacchino Rossini; in the Piedmontese city of Novara he discovered the works of Domenico Cimarosa, one of Italy's principal composers of comic operas; in Milan he was overwhelmed by La Scala, the home of great opera, which “intoxicated” him; and in Venice he admired initially (though later criticized) Carlo Goldoni's comedies written in Italian, Venetian dialect, and French.
Following the Napoleonic army's retreat from Russia in 1812, Beyle lived chiefly in Milan from 1814 to 1821, where he began writing works on the lives of German and Italian composers and the history of Italian painting. Milan was also the home of his mistress, Angela Pietragrua, whose animating influence is seen in several of his heroines. After Napoleon's fall and Beyle's self-imposed