Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve 

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve 

Portrait of Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a French poet, novelist, literary critic and politician. He was born 23rd December 1804, Boulogne-sur-Mer France and died on 13th October 1869 in Paris, France aged 64.

Major Works

“Volupté” (1834)
Portraits Contemporains” (1846)
“Port-Royal” (1837–1859)
Chateaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire” (1861)
Poésies Complètes” (1863)

Biography Timeline

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was born on 23rd December 1804 in Boulogne, France. His father was a tax collector who died before he was born. He was educated at schools in the city.

1824: He studies medicine at the College Charlemagne until 1827. 

1825: He begins contributing literary articles to the “Globe” liberal newspaper, edited by Paul Dubois, one of his former teachers. 

1827: He reviews “Odes et Ballades” by Victor Hugo and meets with the author and his group of Romantics called Cenacle.

1828: During the year he serves in the St Louis Hospital. He publishes his first book, the two volume “Tableau Historique et Critique de la Poésie Française et du Théâtre Français au XVIe siècle (Historical and Critical Description of French Poetry and Theatre in the Sixteenth Century). He goes on a short visit to England where he is impressed with the poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who are both little known on the continent at the time.

1829: He publishes “Vie, Poésies et Pensées de Joseph Delorme” (The Life, Poetry, and Thought of Joseph Delorme).

1830: He publishes “Les Consolations” which becomes quite popular. A Saint-Simonian faction takes over “The Globe” who believe that the feudal society should be swept away to make way for a new industrial age. Sainte-Beuve is given the task of writing their manifesto.

1831: He writes articles for the “Revue des Deux Mondes”. He also becomes interested in the work of Felicite Robert de Lamennais and looks to him for religious guidance. Lamennais also guides Victor Hugo’s wife Adele and she and Saint-Beuve become very close friends much to the annoyance of Hugo himself.

1832: He is disgusted by the handling of the riots of 1832 by King Louis-Phillippe and refuses several posts at universities.

1834: He publishes the semi-autobiographical novel “Volupté” which also angers Hugo

1836: Francois Guizot, the Minister of Education, invites him to become secretary of a government commission studying the nation’s literary heritage.

1837: He accepts a one year visiting professorship at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland to lecture on the famous seventeenth century convent Port-Royal and its links with Jansenism.

1839: Several of his articles are collected together in “Critiques et Portraits Littéraires”. He publishes “Madame de Pontivy” and “Christel”.

1840: He returns to Paris and takes up a post in the Mazarine Library of the French Institute.

1843: He publishes the poems “Livre d’Amour” (Leaves of Love).

1845: He is made a member of the Academie Francaise and, in a twist of irony, the duty of giving the reception speech falls to Victor Hugo.

1846: He collects together essays in “Portraits Contemporains” and frequents the soirees given by Madame Recamier and Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.

1848: He is unfairly accused in the republican press of accepting secret government funds for the repair of a chimney in his home and he resigns from the library in protest and moves to the University of Liege in Belgium.

1849: He returns to Paris after the 1848 revolutions and becomes editor of the newspaper “Le Constitutionel”. He writes biographical essays for them called “Causeries du Lundi” (Monday Chats) which are published in book form in 1851.

1852: When Louis Napoleon becomes Emperor Napoleon the Third Sainte-Beuve is made Professor of Latin Poetry at the College de France but is forced to resign by anti-Imperialist students. 

1857: His intended lectures at the College are published as “Étude sur Virgile” (Studies of Virgil).

1858: He has a temporary post teaching literature at the École Normale Supérieure.

1859: His lectures “Port-Royal 1837–1859” are published in final form and seen as his masterpiece.

1861: He publishes “Chateaubriand et son Groupe Littéraire” (Chateaubriand and his literary Group).

1863: He publishes “Poésies Complètes”.

1865:  He is made a Senator by decree of the Emperor but his speeches to the Senate become unpopular due to his liberal views.

1867: He speaks in the Senate in support of public libraries and of freedom of thought.

1868: He speaks in the Senate in support of liberty of education. “Le Moniteur” is taken over by the government and for the first time they try to edit one of his articles. He withdraws the whole article and offers it to “Le Temps” instead.

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve died on 13th October 1869 in Paris, France after unsuccessful bladder stone operations. He was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in the city. Several of his works were published posthumously such as the final volumes of “Portraits de Femmes” (1870) “Portraits Contemporains” (1871) “Chroniques Parisiennes” (1876) and “Portraits Littéraires” (1878).

Further Information

List of works by Sainte-Beuve.