Alphonse de Lamartine

Portrait of Alphonse de Lamartaine

Alphonse de Lamartine was a French author, poet, and statesman. He was born in Macon, France on 21st October 1790 and died in Paris on 28th February 1869 aged 78.

Major Works

Méditations Poétiques” (1820)
Histoire des Girondins” (1847)
“Graziella” (1852)
“Les Visions” (1853)
“Histoire de la Turquie” (1854)
“Cours Familier de Littérature” (1856)
Antoniella”. (1867)

Biography Timeline

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine was born on 21st October 1790, in Macon, France. His father was a staunchly Catholic aristocrat who was later imprisoned during the Reign of Terror. He was educated at the Jesuit college at Belley and spent his formative years on the family estate.

1806: As a young man he wants to join the army but his Royalist parents won’t allow him to serve Napoleon Bonaparte.

1812: He falls in love with a local working girl called Antoniella. 

1814: His first job when the Bourbon monarchy is restored is to serve in King Louis the Eighteenth’s bodyguard.

1815: When Napoleon returns to France from exile, he flees to Switzerland but returns once the Emperor is exiled once more after the Battle of Waterloo. He learns of the death of Antoniella and will later describe her in his book “Graziella”.

1816: In October he goes to the Spa at Aix-les-Bains after a bout of ill health and there meets Julie Charles, the wife of a celebrated physician, who is also influential in Parisian literary circles. She gets him employment in the city and he dedicates some of his poetry to her.

1817: Julie Charles dies in December and he writes “Le Crucifix” in her memory.

1820: He marries the English woman Maria Ann Birch and joins the diplomatic corps, as secretary to the French Embassy in Naples, Italy. Later in the year he publishes his collection “Méditations Poétiques” which turns him into an overnight success and is hailed as a major work of Romanticism.

1821: A son is born but does not survive infancy.

1822: He publishes “Nouvelles Méditations Poétiques” and “Mort de Socrates” (Death of Socrates) which highlights his interest in metaphysics.

1825: He publishes “Le Dernier Chant du Pèlerinage d’Harold” based on Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”. He is made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. 

1829: He is elected to the Academie Francaise.

1830: He publishes two volumes of “Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuse”. In July, when King Louis-Phillipe ascends the throne, he abandons his career as a diplomat and enters politics. He doesn’t align himself with the monarch however and points out the many current social problems.

1832: He and his wife, the painter and sculptor, now known as Marianne or Elisa de Lamartine, travel to Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land. Their only remaining child Julia dies in Beirut on 7th December aged ten.

1833: After two previous and unsuccessful attempts he is elected to the Chamber of Deputies of France. He quickly forms his own “Social Party” and becomes a prominent critic of the July Monarchy.

1835: He publishes the “Voyage en Orient” describing his recent travels.

1836: He publishes “Jocelyn” the story of a young man who is cast out of a religious seminary during a revolution and falls in love with a young girl but is recalled to the institution and becomes a man of God serving the community.

1838: He publishes the first part of his long metaphysical poem entitled “La Chute d’un Ange” (The Fall of an Angel) which is set in the Lebanon. He is against eating animals and this poem and the 1849 work “Les Confidences” will be used by vegetarians in the Twentieth Century. He also writes a discourse saying that working class revolution is inevitable.

1839: He publishes “Recueillements Poétiques (Poetic Meditations).

1846: He publishes another political discourse and is convinced that the social question, which he calls “the question of the proletariat,” is the principal issue of his time.

1847: He publishes “Histoire des Girondins” in July which becomes very popular and promises a “revolution of scorn”. 

1848: After the revolution of 24th February a Second Republic is proclaimed in France and he becomes the effective head of the provisional Government in April when he is elected to the National Assembly and made Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Bourgeoisie assume he will placate the proletariat and the army assume he will be a strong leader for them. However, he advocates universal male voting rights and the abolition of slavery in French territories and defends the use of the Tricolour Flag as a symbol of France and the Revolution. After a revolt against his policies he and his government are thrown out on 24th June. In December he stands in the Presidential election but is comprehensively beaten by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and he retires from politics altogether.

1850: He is now enormously in debt as he had already shared his inheritance from his family with his sisters and since then was not making enough from literature to compensate.

1851: He publishes the novel “Geneviève” and begins writing “Histoire de la Restauration” which is published the following year. 

1854: He publishes “Histoire des Constituants” and begins writing “Histoire de la Turquie” (published 1855).

1855: He publishes “Histoire de la Russi” (History of Russia).

1856: He is a major contributor to the periodical “Cours Familiers de Littérature” to support himself where he publishes poems such as “La Vigne et la Maison” and “Le Désert”.

1858: A subscription is raised for his benefit. 

1861: He oversees the publication of an elaborate edition of his works in forty-one volumes which takes five years to complete.

1863: His wife dies. He publishes “Mémoires Politique”.

1867: He publishes the novel “Antoniella”. The government of the Emperor Napoleon the Third vote him the equivalent of £20,000 however he is attacked by extreme Republicans for accepting it.

Alphonse de Lamartine died in virtual poverty on 28th February 1869 in Paris, France. He was buried in the Cimetière de Saint-Lazare, Montpellier, France.

Further Information

List of works by Lamartine.