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Alphonse de Lamartine

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Alphonse de Lamartine
Portrait by Ary Scheffer, 1848
Member of the National Assembly
for Saône-et-Loire
In office
8 July 1849 – 2 December 1851
Preceded byCharles Rolland [fr]
Succeeded byEnd of the Second Republic
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
24 February 1848 – 11 May 1848
Prime MinisterJacques-Charles Dupont
Preceded byFrançois Guizot (also Prime Minister)
Succeeded byJules Bastide
Member of the National Assembly
for Bouches-du-Rhône
In office
4 May 1848 – 26 May 1849
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byJoseph Marcellin Rulhières
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Saône-et-Loire
In office
4 November 1837 – 24 February 1848
Preceded byClaude-Louis Mathieu
Succeeded byCharles Rolland [fr]
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Nord
In office
7 January 1833 – 3 October 1837
Preceded byPaul Lemaire [fr]
Succeeded byLouis de Hau de Staplande [fr]
Personal details
Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine

(1790-10-21)21 October 1790
Mâcon, Burgundy, France
Died28 February 1869(1869-02-28) (aged 78)
Paris, French Empire
Political partySocial Party [fr][1] (1833–1837)
Third Party [fr] (1837–1848)
Moderate Republican (1848–1851)
(m. 1820; died 1863)
  • Alphonse de Lamartine
  • Julia de Lamartine (1822–1832)
EducationBelley College
Writing career
Period19th century
  • Novel
  • Poetry
  • History
  • Theatre
  • Biography
SubjectNature, love, spiritualism
Literary movementRomanticism
Years active1811–1869
Notable worksGraziella (1852)

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (French: [alfɔ̃s maʁi lwi dəpʁa lamaʁtin]; 21 October 1790 – 28 February 1869)[2] was a French author, poet, and statesman who was instrumental in the foundation of the French Second Republic and the continuation of the tricolore as the flag of France.



Early years


Born in Mâcon, Burgundy, on 21 October 1790,[3] into a family of the French provincial nobility, Lamartine spent his youth at the family estate. He is famous for his partly autobiographical poem, "Le lac" ("The Lake"), which describes in retrospect the fervent love shared by a couple from the point of view of the bereaved man. Lamartine was masterly in his use of French poetic forms. Raised a devout Catholic, Lamartine became a pantheist, writing Jocelyn and La Chute d'un ange. He wrote Histoire des Girondins in 1847 in praise of the Girondists.

Lamartine made his entrance into the field of poetry with a masterpiece, Les Méditations Poétiques (1820) and awoke to find himself famous.[4] One of the notable poems in this collection was Le Lac, which he dedicated to Julie Charles, the wife of a celebrated physician.[5] He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1825. He worked for the French embassy in Italy from 1825 to 1828. In 1829, he was elected a member of the Académie française. He was elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1833. In 1835 he published the Voyage en Orient, a brilliant and bold account of the journey he had just made, in royal luxury, to the countries of the Orient, and in the course of which he had lost his only daughter. From then on he confined himself to prose.

Political career

Lamartine by François Gérard, 1830

Lamartine, who was a former monarchist, came to embrace democratic ideals and opposed militaristic nationalism.[6] Around 1830, Lamartine's opinions shifted in the direction of liberalism.[1] When elected in 1833 to the Chamber of Deputies, he quickly founded his own "Social Party" with some influence from Saint-Simonian ideas and established himself as a prominent critic of the July Monarchy, becoming more and more of a republican in the monarchy's last years.[1][7]

He was briefly in charge of the government during the turbulence of 1848. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 24 February 1848 to 11 May 1848. Due to his great age, Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure, Chairman of the Provisional Government, effectively delegated many of his duties to Lamartine. He was then a member of the Executive Commission, the political body which served as France's joint Head of State.

Lamartine was instrumental in the founding of the Second Republic of France, having met with Republican Deputies and journalists in the Hôtel de Ville to agree on the makeup of its provisional government. Lamartine himself was chosen to declare the Republic in traditional form in the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville, and ensured the continuation of the Tricolour as the flag of the nation.

On 25 February 1848, Lamartine said about the Tricolour Flag:

"I spoke to you as a citizen earlier, well! Now listen to me, your Foreign Minister. If you take the tricolor flag away from me, know it, you will remove from me half the external force of France! Because Europe only knows the flag of its defeats and of our victories in the flag of the Republic and of the Empire. By seeing the red flag, they will believe that they are only seeing the flag of a party! This is the flag of France, it is the flag of our victorious armies, it is the flag of our triumphs that must be raised before Europe. France and the tricolor are one same thought, one same prestige, one same terror, if necessary, for our enemies! Imagine how much blood would be necessary for you to get another flag renamed! Citizens, for me, the red flag, I will never adopt it, and I am going to tell you why I'm against it with all the strength of my patriotism. It's that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire, with your freedoms and your glories, and the red flag has only toured the Champ-de-Mars, dragged in the blood of the people."[8]

During his term as a politician in the Second Republic, he led efforts that culminated in the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, as well as the enshrinement of the right to work and the short-lived national workshop programs. A political idealist who supported democracy and pacifism, his moderate stance on most issues caused many of his followers to desert him. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the presidential election of 10 December 1848, receiving fewer than 19,000 votes and losing to Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. He subsequently retired from politics and dedicated himself to literature.

Final years and legacy

Alphonse de Lamartine photographed in 1865

He published volumes on the most varied subjects (history, criticism, personal confidences, literary conversations) especially during the Empire, when, having retired to private life and having become the prey of his creditors, he condemned himself to what he calls "literary hard-labor to exist and pay his debts". Lamartine ended his life in poverty, publishing monthly installments of the Cours familier de littérature to support himself. He died in Paris in 1869.

Nobel prize winner Frédéric Mistral's fame was in part due to the praise of Alphonse de Lamartine in the fortieth edition of his periodical Cours familier de littérature, following the publication of Mistral's long poem Mirèio. Mistral is the most revered writer in modern Occitan literature.

Lamartine is considered to be the first French romantic poet (though Charles-Julien Lioult de Chênedollé was working on similar innovations at the same time), and was acknowledged by Paul Verlaine and the Symbolists as an important influence. Leo Tolstoy also admired Lamartine, who was the subject of some discourses in his notebooks.[9]

Other interests

Lamartine's House in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Alphonse de Lamartine was also an Orientalist. He used themes and materials of the Levant and the Bible to create plotlines, heroes, and landscapes that resemble an exotic Oriental world.[10] He also had a particular interest in Lebanon and the Middle East. He travelled to Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land in 1832–33.[11] During that trip, while he and his wife, the painter and sculptor Elisa de Lamartine, were in Beirut, on 6 December 1832,[1] their only remaining child, Julia, died at ten years of age.[12] It was, however, considered a journey of recovery and immersion in specific Christian icons, symbols, and terrain with his view that the region could bring about the rebirth of a new Christianity and spirituality that could save Europe from destruction.[13]

During his trip to Lebanon he had met prince Bashir Shihab II and prince Simon Karam, who were enthusiasts of poetry. A valley in Lebanon is still called the Valley of Lamartine as a commemoration of that visit, and the Lebanon cedar forest still harbors the "Lamartine Cedar", which is said to be the cedar under which Lamartine had sat 200 years ago. Lamartine was so influenced by his trip that he staged his 1838 epic poem La Chute d'un ange (The Fall of an Angel) in Lebanon.

Raised by his mother to respect animal life, he found the eating of meat repugnant, saying 'One does not have one heart for Man and one for animals. One has a heart or one does not'. His writings in La chute d’un Ange (1838) and Les confidences (1849) would be taken up by supporters of vegetarianism in the twentieth century.

Religious belief


On the spirit of the times

Portrait of Madame de Lamartine by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1849)

Thanks to the increase of general reason, to the light of philosophy, to the inspiration of Christianity, to the progress of the idea of justice, of charity, and of fraternity, in laws, manners, and religion, society in America, in Europe, and in France, especially since the Revolution, has broken down all these barriers, all these denominations of caste, all these injurious distinctions among men. Society is composed only of various conditions, professions, functions, and ways of life, among those who form what we call a Nation; of proprietors of the soil, and proprietors of houses; of investments, of handicrafts, of merchants, of manufacturers, of formers; of day-laborers becoming farmers, manufacturers, merchants, or possessors of houses or capital, in their turn; of the rich, of those in easy circumstances, of the poor, of workmen with their hands, workmen with their minds; of day-laborers, of those in need, of a small number of men enjoying considerable acquired or inherited wealth, of others of a smaller fortune painfully increased and improved, of others with property only sufficient for their needs; there are some, finally, without any personal possession but their hands, and gleaning for themselves and for their families, in the workshop, or the field, and at the threshold of the homes of others on the earth, the asylum, the wages, the bread, the instruction, the tools, the daily pay, all those means of existence which they have neither inherited, saved, nor acquired. These last are what have been improperly called the People.

Atheism Among the People, by Alphonse de Lamartine (1850), pp. 19–20[14]

On Catholic priests


Alphonse de Lamartine as quoted in "A Priest" by Robert Nash (1943) on Catholic priests:

"There is a man in every parish, having no family, but belonging to a family is worldwide; who is called in as a witness and adviser in all the important affairs of human life. No one comes into the world or goes out of it without his ministrations. He takes the child from its mother’s arms, and parts with him only at the grave. He blesses and consecrates the cradle, the bridal chamber, the bed of death, and the bier. He is one whom innocent children instinctively venerate and reverence, and to whom men of venerable age come to seek for wisdom, and call him father; at whose feet men fall down and lay bare the innermost thoughts of their souls, and weep their most sacred tears. He is one whose mission is to console the afflicted, and soften the pains of body and soul; to whose door come alike the rich and the poor. He belongs to no social class, because he belongs equally to all. He is one, in fine, who knows all, has a right to speak unreservedly, and whose speech, inspired from on high, falls on the minds and hearts of all with the authority of one who is divinely sent, and with the constraining power of one who has an unclouded faith."[15]


  • Saül (1818)
  • Méditations poétiques (1820)
  • Nouvelles Méditations (1823)
  • Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1830)
  • Sur la politique rationnelle (1831)
  • Voyage en Orient (1835)
  • Jocelyn (1836)
  • La chute d'un ange (1838)
  • Recueillements poétiques (1839)
  • Histoire des Girondins (1847)
  • Histoire de la Révolution (1849)
  • Histoire de la Russie (1849)
  • Raphaël (1849)
  • Confidences (1849)
  • Toussaint Louverture (1850)
  • Geneviève, histoire d'une servante (1851)
  • Graziella (1852)
  • Héloïse et Abélard (1853)
  • Les visions (1853)
  • Histoire de la Turquie (1854)
  • Cours familier de littérature (1856)

See also



  1. ^ a b c Jenson, Deborah (2001). Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 152–154. ISBN 9780801867231.
  2. ^ Carruth, Gorton (1993). The Encyclopedia of World Facts and Dates. New York: HarperCollins. p. 492. ISBN 9780062700124.
  3. ^ Whitehouse, Henry Remsen (1918). The Life of Lamartine, Volume 1. BiblioBazaar (2009). p. 13. ISBN 978-1-115-29659-5. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Alphonse de Lamartine". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 April 2016 – via Catholic.org.
  5. ^ Stoléru, Lionel (2011). Une écoute du romantisme. Paris: Editions L'Harmattan. p. 12. ISBN 978-2-296-55104-6.
  6. ^ Mauriac, François (2015). Francois Mauriac on Race, War, Politics and Religion. Washington, D.C.: CUA Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-8132-2789-4.
  7. ^ Halsted, J.B. (1969). Alphonse de Lamartine: History of the Revolution of 1848. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 271–284.
  8. ^ de Lamartine, A. (1848). Trois mois au pouvoir (in French). Michel Levy. p. 66.
  9. ^ Frank, Joseph (2010). Between Religion and Rationality: Essays in Russian Literature and Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4008-3653-6.
  10. ^ Peleg, Yaron (2018). Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-5017-2935-5.
  11. ^ Inman, Nick (2007). DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Jerusalem & the Holy Lands. London: Penguin. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7566-5053-7.
  12. ^ Flower, John (2013). Historical Dictionary of French Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-8108-7945-4.
  13. ^ Makdisi, Ussama (2000). The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-520-92279-2.
  14. ^ Lamartine, Alphonse de, 1790–1869. Atheism among the people. Retrieved 21 April 2016 – via Internet Archive.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Rev. Robert Nash. "A Priest" (PDF). Catholicpamplets.net. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 April 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.

Further reading

  • Kelly, George Armstrong. “Alphonse De Lamartine: The Poet in Politics.” Daedalus 116, no. 2 (1987): 157–80. online.
  • MacKay, John (2006). Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34749-1. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  • Schapiro, J. Salwayn. “Lamartine.” Political Science Quarterly 34, no. 4 (1919): 632–43. online.
  • Tilley, A. “Lamartine’s ‘Méditations Poétiques.’” The Modern Language Review 26, no. 3 (1931): 288–314. online.
  • Wright, Gordon. "A Poet in Politics: Lamartine and the Revolution of 1848" History Today (Sep 1958) 8#9 pp 616-627


Political offices
Preceded by
Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure
Chairman of the Provisional Government of the French Republic
Head of State of France
6 May – 28 June 1848
Member of the Executive Commission along with:
François Arago
Louis-Antoine Garnier-Pagès
Alexandre Ledru-Rollin
Pierre Marie (de Saint-Georges)
Succeeded by
Louis-Eugène Cavaignac
President of the Council of Ministers