Lamartine, Alphonse Marie Louis de

Lamartine, Alphonse Marie Louis de älfôNsˈ märēˈ lwē də lämärtēnˈ [key], 1790–1869, French poet, novelist, and statesman. After a trip to Italy and a brief period in the army, Lamartine began to write and achieved immediate success with his first publication, Méditations poétiques (1820). This group of 24 poems, including the famous “Le Lac,” expressed his own feelings—religious, melancholic, or amorous—as he came in contact with nature and the land. He drew from tradition, from Ronsard as well as from the 18th cent., while adding something new in the form of a very personal lyricism expressed in a verse that was intended to be musical. This musicality was developed in Harmonies (1830). His religious orthodoxy becomes a kind of pantheism in Jocelyn (1836) and La Chute d'un ange (1838). In politics, Lamartine held aloof from all parties; his idealism made him embrace the principles of democracy, social justice, and international peace. His Histoire des Girondins (1847), a glorification of the Girondists, was immensely popular, and after the February Revolution of 1848 Lamartine briefly headed the provisional government and was a member of the executive committee that replaced it. His moderation soon cost him the support of both the right and the left wings of the revolutionists. He competed unsuccessfully for the presidency with Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III). Lamartine left politics and devoted himself entirely to writing, spending much of the remainder of his life in a hopeless effort to repay the fantastic debts he had accumulated in his youth. His later prose works include the novel Graziella (1849, tr. 1876) and Les Confidences (1852).

See studies by H. R. Whitehouse (1918) and C. M. Lombard (1973).

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