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  • Lamartine: autobiographie, Mémoires, fiction de soi
  • Richard Bolster
Lamartine: autobiographie, Mémoires, fiction de soi. Edited by Nicolas Courtinat. (Écritures de l'intime, 18). Clermont-Ferrand: Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2009. 163 pp. Pb €24.00.

The autobiographical element is a major characteristic of the works of Lamartine, both verse and prose. It is, of course, most clearly visible in the early verse — the first Méditations for example — but also present in prose works such as the Histoire des Girondins, and even the late Cours familier de littérature contains digressions about the author's life. In fact Lamartine felt some anxiety about his tendency to act as a spectator of his own life, despite the fact that it placed him in good company, notably that of Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo. Literature of this nature became unfashionable in the second half of the nineteenth century, and Lamartine became a victim of satire and parody. In the first essay of this collection Pierre Loubier writes on Elegy, and sees Lamartine's use of this mode as a genuine autobiographical undertaking. Dominique Westerhoff considers the theme of the Lake as a mirror of the soul, with comments on Rousseau, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and Delille. Clélia Anfrey studies the evolution of Lamartine's attitude to Tasso, and Olivier Catel writes about the childhood home at Milly, linked with the theme of youthful happiness followed by pain and loss. Marie-Renée Morin considers the literary activity of Lamartine in 1845 after a return to Naples, the place that had inspired some of the best early verse, and reproduces an unpublished account of a visit to Pompeii, after more than two decades, where the now famous poet was welcomed by the director of excavations. A house was uncovered before his eyes, this being the treatment reserved for celebrities, and Lamartine saw perfect statues and paintings appear in front of him, visible proof of the immortality of Art. Barbara Dimopoulou studies his Histoire de la Révolution de 1848, in which he calls for a society based on reason and justice and presents himself as a philosopher, as a guide for the nation, a poet by accident only. She also comments on the perceptive portrait of Lamartine in Marie d'Agoult's history of the same event. Dominique Dupart studies Trois mois au pouvoir, political speeches in which Lamartine justifies his action as head of government. Aurélie Loiseleur traces his anguish when financial need made him tell the story of his life in 1848. A section by Laurent Darbellay on Graziella and one by Christian Croisille on Le Journal de Madame de Lamartine complete this informative study of Lamartine as writer, politician, and man.

Richard Bolster
University of Bristol


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