Authors: Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French essayist

Author Works


Essai sur les fables de La Fontaine, 1853 (revised as La Fontaine et ses fables, 1861)

Voyages aux eaux des Pyrénées, 1855 (A Tour Through the Pyrenees, 1874)

Essai sur Tite-Live, 1856

Les Philosophes français du XIXe siècle, 1857 (revised as Les Philosophes classiques du XIX siècle en France, 1868)

Essais de critique et d’histoire, 1858

Histoire de la littérature anglaise, 1863-1864 (4 volumes; History of English Literature, 1871)

L’Idéalisme anglais: Étude sur Carlyle, 1864

Le Positivisme anglais: Étude sur Stuart Mill, 1864 (English Positivism: A Study on John Stuart Mill, 1870)

Nouveaux Essais de critique et d’histoire, 1865

Philosophie de l’art: Leçons professées à l’École des Beaux-Arts, 1865 (Philosophy of Art, 1865)

Philosophie de l’art en Italie, 1866 (The Philosophy of Art in Italy, 1875)

Voyage en Italie, 1866 (translated as Italy: Naples and Rome, 1867, and Italy: Florence and Venice, 1869)

Notes sur Paris: Vie et opinions de M. Frédéric-Thomas Graindorge, 1867 (Notes on Paris, 1875)

De l’idéal dans l’art: Leçons professées à l’École des Beaux-Arts, 1867 (The Ideal in Art, 1868)

Philosophie de l’art en Grèce, 1869 (The Philosophy of Art in Greece, 1871)

Philosophie de l’art dans les Pays-Bas, 1869 (The Philosophy of Art in The Netherlands, 1871)

De l’intelligence, 1870 (2 volumes; On Intelligence, 1871)

Notes sur l’Angleterre, 1872 (Notes on England, 1872)

Les Origines de la France contemporaine, 1876-1894 (6 volumes; The Origins of Contemporary France, 1876-1894)

Derniers Essais de critique et d’histoire, 1894

Carnets de voyage: Notes sur la province, 1863-1865, 1897 (Journeys Through France: Being Impressions of Provinces, 1897)

H. Taine: Sa vie et sa correspondance, 1902-1907 (4 volumes; Life and Letters of H. Taine, 1902-1908, 3 volumes)

Voyage en Allemagne, 1920


Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine (tehn), born at Vouziers, France, on April 21, 1828, was educated at the Collège Bourbon and the Normal School in Paris. By 1848 he had two baccalaureate degrees, one in science and one in letters. After leaving school he became a teacher at Toulon, but because of his political views he was appointed to successively poorer posts until he left teaching entirely in 1852 and devoted his time to study and writing. In 1853 he completed his Essai sur les fables de La Fontaine (essay on the fables of La Fontaine), written as the thesis for his doctorate at the Sorbonne. He immediately began an essay on Livy, which, entered in competition, won for him an award from the French Academy in 1855. Early in 1854, however, Taine had suffered a breakdown in health because of his arduous program of writing.{$I[AN]9810000377}{$I[A]Taine, Hippolyte-Adolphe}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Taine, Hippolyte-Adolphe}{$I[tim]1828;Taine, Hippolyte-Adolphe}

Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine

(Library of Congress)

After a period of enforced rest he resumed his literary activities, contributing articles on various subjects to periodicals and entering literary society. One series of articles, published as Les Philosophes classiques du XIX siècle en France (the classic philosophers of the nineteenth century in France), first suggested Taine’s theory of the application of scientific methods to psychological and metaphysical research. The book attracted considerable interest and helped to spread the author’s critical fame. A revised version of his doctoral essay on La Fontaine was published in 1861.

In 1864 Taine received two appointments, both of which gave him security and left him free to study and write. He became examiner at Saint-Cyr and professor of aesthetics and art history at L’École des Beaux Arts. In the same year he published a study of John Stuart Mill, English Positivism. In the meantime his famous History of English Literature had appeared, a work illustrating how determinism could be applied to the study of literature by utilizing the elements of race, milieu, and moment. From 1864 to 1870 Taine fulfilled his tasks at Saint-Cyr and lectured at L’École des Beaux Arts. A general study of the philosophy of art appeared in 1865, followed by volumes on various phases of art and the philosophy of art. He married the daughter of an architect in 1868.

The Franco-Prussian War ended that happy period in Taine’s life and turned his thinking to new paths. Anxious to ascertain the cause of France’s weakness and political instability, and feeling that they were traceable to the French Revolution of 1789, Taine began what was to be his greatest work, his study of the origins of contemporary France. He worked at it constantly, even giving up his professorship in 1884 to avail himself of more time; even so, he left it unfinished when he died in Paris in 1893. The methods that Taine used in this work were the same quasi-scientific and deterministic methods he had already used successfully in his studies of literature and art. The book marked Taine as one of the great intellectual leaders of the nineteenth century, the leader of a generation in France that sought in art, literature, and history truth that could be regarded as “objective” and “scientific.”

BibliographyEustis, Alvin Allen. Hippolyte Taine and the Classical Genius. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951. Focuses on Taine’s assessment of classical society and its artists, noting the importance the critic places on social conditions and on the production of high-quality art.Gargan, Edward T., ed. Introduction to The Origins of Contemporary France, by Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. Gargan’s long introduction provides important biographical information on Taine and a shrewd analysis of his position as a historian.Goetz, Thomas H. Taine and the Fine Arts. Madrid: Playor, 1973. Extensive analysis of Taine’s writings on the fine arts, focusing particularly on those about sculpture and painting.Gullace, Giovanni. Taine and Brunetiere on Criticism. Lawrence, Kans.: Coronado Press, 1982. Excellent analysis of Taine’s ideas about art in Philosophy of Art.Kahn, Sholom Jacob. Science and Aesthetic Judgement: A Study in Taine’s Critical Method. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953. Extended scholarly examination of Taine’s writings on art, exploring ways he is able to balance the need for objective analysis with the more elusive art of judgment, especially value judgment.Lombardo, Patrizia. “Hippolyte Taine Between Art and Science.” Yale French Studies 77 (1990). A worthwhile article.Weinstein, Leo. Hippolyte Taine. Boston: Twayne, 1972. The only comprehensive introduction in English to Taine’s life and work. Chapters on his life, philosophy, method, and psychology, career as a literary and art critic, and role as a historian of France give a thorough summary and critique of Taine’s achievements and influence. Notes, an annotated bibliography, and an index make this an indispensable study.Wellek, René. A History of Modern Criticism, 1750-1950. Vol. 4. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1965. One of the most important sources for tracing the history of literary criticism and Taine’s place within it. Wellek discusses the significance of Taine’s History of English Literature and the way the critic deals with matters of style.
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