Authors: Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French essayist, biographer, and critic

Author Works


Critiques et portraits littéraires, 1832, revised 1836-1839

Port-Royal, 1840-1859 (5 volumes)

Portraits littéraires, 1844 (2 volumes), revised 1862-1864 (3 volumes)

Portraits de femmes, 1844 (Portraits of Celebrated Women, 1868)

Portraits contemporains, 1846 (3 volumes), enlarged 1869-1871 (5 volumes)

Causeries du lundi, 1851-1862 (15 volumes; partial English translation, 1909-1911)

Derniers portraits littéraires, 1852

Étude sur Virgile, 1857

Chateaubriand et son groupe littéraire sous l’empire, 1861 (2 volumes)

Nouveaux lundis, 1863-1870 (13 volumes)

Premiers lundis, 1874-1875 (3 volumes)

Portraits of the Seventeenth Century, Historic and Literary, 1904

Portraits of the Eighteenth Century, Historic and Literary, 1905

Selected Essays, 1963

Literary Criticism of Sainte-Beuve, 1971

Long Fiction:

Volupté, 1834 (Volupté: The Sensual Man, 1995)


Les Consolations, 1830

Pensées d’août, 1837

Le Livre d’amour, 1843


Vie, poésies, et pensées de Joseph Delorme, 1829


Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (sahnt-buv) was born in humble conditions. After beginning his education in Boulogne, he completed his studies in the Collège Charlemagne and the Collège Bourbon, in Paris. When he was invited by a former teacher to write reviews for Le Globe, Sainte-Beuve abandoned the study of medicine, begun a year before, and began to write.{$I[AN]9550000001}{$I[A]Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin[Sainte Beuve, Charles Augustin]}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustin[Sainte Beuve, Charles Augustin]}{$I[tim]1804;Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustinp[Sainte Beuve, Charles Augustin]}

Although he wrote for the influential Le Globe, where he gained the attention of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Victor Hugo, and for La Revue de Paris, his early reputation was largely associated with La Revue des Deux Mondes. The columns he wrote for these papers he collected in seven volumes entitled Portraits. During this period of his life he fell in love with Adèle, Hugo’s wife, an affair that led to a temporary break with his friend. In 1844 he was elected to the French Academy, where he was received by Hugo, with whom he had become reconciled. After holding a post in the Mazarin Library for a time, he taught French literature at the University of Liége, Belgium. He also taught Latin poetry briefly at the Collège de France and from 1858 to 1862 at the École Normale Superieure.

Sainte-Beuve, who prided himself on his workaday journalism, produced his greatest series of critical articles in his Causeries du lundi (Monday chats), written for Le Constitutionnel and later for Le Moniteur, which when collected filled fifteen volumes. Thirteen additional volumes were accumulated from his final series, Nouveaux lundis. Of all the literary figures of the period, he alone continued to write and prosper during those turbulent times, and he was made a senator in 1865. In the last year of his life he severed his connection with the official government journal, Moniteur, as the result of a political dispute.

Sainte-Beuve wrote poetry and a novel, but he remains best known for his literary portraits of French authors and for his analysis of their works. Dissatisfied with theories, he emphasized a methodology, based both on psychological and artistic considerations, that involved understanding a work before judging it and investigating the author behind the art.

BibliographyBarlow, Norman H. Sainte-Beuve to Baudelaire: A Poetic Legacy. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1964. Addresses Sainte-Beuve’s poetry.Chadbourne, Richard. Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A thorough literary biography.Compagnon, Antoine. “Sainte-Beuve and the Literary Canon.” Modern Language Notes 110, no. 5 (1995): 1188-2000. Critiques Sainte-Beuve’s polemical view of the concept of “les classiques” as a literary canon.Kelly, Linda. The Young Romantics: Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Vigny, Dumas, Musset, and George Sand and Their Friendships, Feuds, and Loves in the French Romantic Revolution. New York: Random House, 1976. Sainte-Beuve is considered as part of a group biography of the French Romantic movement.Nelles, Paul. “Sainte-Beuve Between Renaissance and Enlightenment.” Journal of the History of Ideas 61, no. 3 (2000): 473-493. Addresses Sainte-Beuve’s influence in legitimizing literary history in French criticism.Nicholson, Sir Harold. Sainte-Beuve. 1957. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978. An essential biography.
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