Authors: François-René Chateaubriand

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist and essayist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Atala, 1801 (English translation, 1802)

René, 1802, 1805 (English translation, 1813)

Les Martyres, 1809 (The Martyrs, 1812)

Les Natchez, 1826 (The Natchez, 1827)


Essai sur les révolutions, 1797 (An Historical, Political, Moral Essay on Revolutions, 1815)

Le Génie du Christianisme, 1799, 1800, 1802 (The Genius of Christianity, 1802)

Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, 1811

De Buonaparte et des Bourbons, 1814 (On Buonaparte and the Bourbons, 1814)

De la monarchie, selon la charte, 1816 (The Monarchy According to the Charter, 1816)

Mémoires sur la vie et la mort du duc de Berry, 1820

Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage, 1826 (The Last of the Abencérages, 1835)

Le Voyage en Amérique, 1827 (Travels in America, 1969)

Essai sur la littérature anglaise, 1836 (Sketches on English Literature, 1836)

Le Congrès de Vérone, 1838

La Vie de Rancé, 1844

Mémoires d’outre-tombe, 1849-1850 (Memoirs, 1902)


Œuvres complètes, 1826-1831, 1836-1839 (36 volumes)

Œuvres complètes, 1859-1861


François-René de Chateaubriand (shah-toh-bree-ahn) was born in 1768 in the Breton section of France. After studying for the priesthood, Chateaubriand gave up the Church as a career and in 1786 received a commission in the army. In 1787 in Paris he was presented at court. In April, 1791, he joined an expedition to the United States in search of the Northwest Passage. Although the mission was unsuccessful, Chateaubriand developed an interest in primitivism in people and in nature; at this time he also developed a faculty for literary expression.{$I[AN]9810000261}{$I[A]Chateaubriand, François-René de}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Chateaubriand, François-René de}{$I[tim]1768;Chateaubriand, François-René de}

François René de Chateaubriand

(Library of Congress)

Back in France only a short time, he became an emigrant after the arrest of Louis XVI. After being wounded on a street in Brussels and abandoned on a beach on Guernsey Island, he made his way to London. Here he lived in poverty, writing. In his An Historical, Political, Moral Essay on Revolutions, published in England in 1797, he took a stand as a mediator between the extremes of royalist and revolutionary ideas and as a Rousseauistic freethinker in religion. He turned against the revolutionists, however, when he learned how his family had been ill-treated. Shortly after returning to Paris in 1800, he published Atala. The book contains many brilliant passages, especially descriptions of nature, but some critics have complained of its odd combination of prudery and sensuousness. His next work was The Genius of Christianity. This book, although it does not contain strong theological arguments, has been praised for its sensitive descriptions of Catholic liturgy and symbolism. The narrative “René” appeared as part of this work. Because of its portrayal of a dissatisfied soul, this book is believed to be largely autobiographical.

For the next thirty years Chateaubriand was in and out of favor with the French monarchs–Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and Louis-Philippe. During this time he held numerous governmental positions. His complete works were published between 1826 and 1831. His death came after his retirement from public life. His autobiographical Memoirs was published posthumously. Literary historians regard Chateaubriand as a bridge between the Classicism of the eighteenth century and the Romanticism of the early nineteenth.

BibliographyConner, Tom. Chateaubriand’s “Mémoires d’outre-tombe”: A Portrait of the Artist as Exile. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. Essentially a book about Chateaubriand and his autobiography. The first chapter and introduction hold helpful discussions of the author’s life and work. Includes a bibliography.Evans, Joan. Chateaubriand: A Biography. New York: Macmillan, 1939. Relies primarily on Chateaubriand’s autobiography but corrects and supplements this work with other accounts. Readable, with many fine vignettes but little analysis.Hart, Charles Randall. Chateaubriand and Homer: With a Study of the French Sources of His Classical Imagination. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1928. Recommended mainly for specialists, but the introduction has a helpful explanation of Chateaubriand’s literary sources and influences. Includes a bibliography.Hilt, Douglas. “Chateaubriand and Napolean.” History Today 23 (December, 1973): 831-837. Traces Chateaubriand’s political career under Napoleon and the author’s subsequent portrayal of Napoleon in his memoirs.Maurois, André. Chateaubriand. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958. A lively biography geared to the general reader and beginning student of Chateaubriand. One of the best introductory texts, written by an author who specialized in biographies of literary figures.Miller, Meta Helena. Chateaubriand and English Literature. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1925. Only chapter 1 is of interest to beginning students of Chateaubriand, for there Miller outlines Chateaubriand’s relationship to significant English authors.Moscovici, Claudia. “Hybridity and Ethics in Chateaubriand’s Atala.” Nineteenth Century French Studies 29, nos. 3/4 (2001): 197-216. An analysis of Atala, focusing on Chateaubriand’s depiction of American Indians, “noble savage” characters, and the more“civilized” Europeans. Moscovici maintains that Chateaubriand did not believe that primitive and civilized societies were “ethical opposites.”Neefs, Jacques. “With a Live Hand: Three Versions of Textual Transmission (Chateaubriand, Montaigne, Stendhal).” In Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-Textes, edited by Jed Deppman, Daniel Ferrer, and Michael Groden. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. This chapter on the work of Chateaubriand and two other French authors is included in this introduction to “genetic criticism,” a popular literary movement in France. Instead of evaluating an author’s final text, genetic critics study a writer’s manuscript to analyze how the author produced the work.Nemoianu, Virgil. “The Absent Center of Romantic Prose: Chateaubriand and His Peers.” In The Triumph of Imperfection: The Silver Age of Sociocultural Moderation in Europe, 1815-1848. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006. A study of Romantic literature, which includes an analysis of Chateaubriand’s work. Nemoianu argues that in dealing with the revolutionary changes of the nineteenth century, writers, philosophers, and statesmen sought a reconciliation between radical new ideas and past intellectual philosophy.Painter, George D. Chateaubriand: A Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, 1977. Initially, projected to be a three-volume work, this is the only volume completed before Painter’s death. Painter offers an extensively detailed account of Chateaubriand’s life from 1768 to 1793.Polowetzky, Michael. A Bond Never Broken: The Relations Between Napoleon and the Authors of France. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993. Reassesses Napoleon I’s relationship with French writers, including Chateaubriand, contradicting previous accounts of the emperor’s adversarial dealings with the literati. Polowetzky argues that Napoleon needed to cultivate friends among French authors so he could be remembered as a statesman who inspired a golden age of literature.Porter, Charles A. Chateaubriand: Composition, Imagination, and Poetry. Saratoga, Calif.: Anma Libri, 1978. A clearly written, scholarly survey of Chateaubriand’s entire literary career, and one of the few book-length studies of the author written in English. Includes a bibliography.Sieburg, Friedrich. Chateaubriand. Translated by Violet M. MacDonald. Winchester, Mass.: Allen & Unwin, 1961. Concentrates on biography rather than literary analysis. Argues that “Chateaubriand’s ambition and his desire for action were . . . forever undermining the foundations of his existence” and that his life was a tissue of contradictions.Switzer, Richard, ed. Chateaubriand Today. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970. Essays on Chateaubriand–some in French and some in English–and the eighteenth century, and on his imagination, his use of the fictional confession, and his revolutionary politics. Includes an annotated bibliography.
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