Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay

Portrait of Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay

Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay was a French dramatist, poet, and novelist. He was born on 11th December 1810 in Paris, France and died on 2nd May 1857 in Paris, France aged 46)

Major Works

“La Quittance du Diable” (1830)
Les Caprices de Marianne” (1833)
“Le Chandelier” (1835)
La Confession d’un Enfant du Siècle” (The Confession of a Child of the Century) (1836)
Histoire d’un Merle Blanc” (The White Blackbird) (1842)

Biography Timeline

Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay was born on 11th December 1810 in Paris, France. His family were upper-class but not rich and his father worked for several government departments. His mother social held parties and dinners at their home which had a profound effect on the young writer and he would act out performances from stories he had read.

1819: He goes to the Henry the Fourth Lycee (school) aged nine.

1826: He writes the poem “À Mademoiselle Zoé le Douairin” whilst still at school.

1827: He wins the Latin essay prize in the Concours General for high achieving school students. Paul Foucher, Victor Hugo’s brother in law introduces him to the Cenacle (literary salon) run by Charles Nodier from the Bibllioteheque de L’Arsenal (Library).

1828: He writes the poem “Un Rêve” (A Dream).

1829: After several attempts at careers such as medicine (where he disliked dissection), the law, teaching English and the piano he finally decides to become a full-time writer. He publishes his first collection of poems “Contes d’Espagne et d’Italie” (Tales of Spain and Italy). 

1830: He is now known not only as a writer but also as a dandy and acerbic wit. During the July Monarchy he is appointed librarian of the French Ministry of the Interior and has good relations with King Louis Phillippe. He writes the play “La Quittance du Diable” (The Devil’s Quittance) which is a flop and his future plays are published but not performed until 1847.

1831: He writes the poem “La Coupe et les Lèvres” (The Cup and the Lips).

1833: He begins a love affair with the novelist George Sand which lasts until 1835. The anonymous lesbian erotic novel “Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess” is believed to be written by him and modelled on Sand. He is also well known for his visits to brothels and is believed to be the anonymous client who assaulted the author La Mogador (Celeste de Chabrillan). He publishes the play “Les Caprices de Marianne” (The Moods of Marianne).

1834: He publishes the play “Lorenzaccio” set in sixteenth century Florence about Lorenzo de’ Medici.

1835: He writes the poems “La Nuit de Mai” (May Night) and “La Nuit de Decembre” (December Night) and publishes the play “Le Chandelier” in the “Revue des Deux Mondes”. 

1836: He publishes the poems “La Nuit d’Août” (Autumn Night) and “Chanson de Barberine” (Barberine’s song). His autobiographical novel about his affair with George Sand “La Confession d’un Enfant du Siècle” (The Confession of a Child of the Century) is also published.

1837: He completes “Nuits” (Nights) again about his love for Sand. He publishes the play “Un Caprice” (A Whim).

1840: He writes the poem “Tristesse” (Sadness). He becomes involved in the debate about the Rhine Crisis caused by the prime minister Adolphe Thiers (his former boss when he was Minister of the Interior). Thiers demands that France should own the left bank of the river Rhine as it had done during the days of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1841: He writes the poem “Souvenir”.

1842: He publishes the novel Histoire d’un Merle Blanc” (The White Blackbird).

1843: “Un Caprice” is performed for the first time at the French theatre in St Petersburg, Russia then at the Mikhaylovsky Theatre and finally in France on 27th November at the Comedie Francaise in Paris where it is a huge success.

1845: On 24th April, he is awarded the Legion d’Honneur along with Honore de Balzac.

1848: During the 1848 revolution he is dismissed from his post as librarian by the new minister Alexandre Ledru-Rollin. “Le Chandelier” is first performed in August at the Theatre Historique in Paris.

1849: He writes the play “On ne Saurait Penser a Tout” (We Cannot Think of Everything).

1851: He writes the poemFaustine”.Les Caprices de Marianne” (The Moods of Marianne) is first performed in Paris at the Comedie Francaise in June.

1852: After failed attempts in 1848 and 1850 he is finally elected to the Academie Francaise.

1853: He is appointed librarian of the Ministry of Public Instruction.

1855: He writes the play “L’Ane et le Ruisseau” (The Donkey and the Stream).

Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay died in his sleep of heart failure on 2nd May 1857, probably brought on by alcoholism. He was buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Several opera composers have used his works as Georges Bizet “Djamileh”, Jacques Offenbach “Fantasio” and Giacomo Puccini “Edgar”. Ruggero Leoncavallo based his symphonic poem “La Nuit de Mai” on his poetry in 1866.

Further Information

List of works by Musset-Pathay.