Alfred de Musset Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Alfred de Musset established his reputation as a poet and was, in fact, best known as a poet throughout the greater part of an artistic career of almost thirty years. It was not until 1847, with the successful productions of A Caprice (a comedy published ten years earlier) in St. Petersburg and at the Comédie-Française, that Musset began to enjoy comparable distinction as a dramatist. Additionally, Musset published an extensive amount of fiction, most of it in the form of contes, or tales, which are often full of wit and spirit but have fallen, perhaps undeservedly, into almost total neglect. In 1836, Musset’s one major novel was published, the semiautobiographical La Confession d’un enfant du siècle (The Confession of a Child of the Century, 1892). This work is most notable for its vivid evocation of an era and its philosophical climate; the novel is a striking, extended depiction of nineteenth century mal de siècle. Musset’s nondramatic canon is rounded out by a number of often perceptive and forward-thinking critical reviews in the fields of literature, music, and the visual arts.

Alfred de Musset Achievements

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The early nineteenth century in France was an age of tremendous theatrical activity. Indeed, the theater was regarded by all literary factions—romantics, neoclassicists, philosophes—as the proving ground for the determination of true literary worth. The era was, nevertheless, more notable for its pronouncements about the nature of drama than for the viability of the theater that it produced. In this light, it is remarkable that Alfred de Musset’s “armchair theater” (as he referred to his style of dramatic writing), a theater designed to be read, not produced, should have not only survived its time but also increased in stature, while the works of most of his contemporaries have faltered. Musset’s comédies and proverbes, moreover, seem to be anachronisms in a period remarkable for its general lack of literary and dramatic humor. Their deft touch and light, ironic style, which owe much to the critical spirit of the eighteenth century, must have struck his fellow romantics as an outright challenge. This aspect of Musset’s drama was nurtured not only by his early exposure to Enlightenment literature and philosophy but also by his wide reading in several languages and his familiarity and respect for the ironic comic tradition of such earlier masters as Molière and Marivaux. Even in the arena of that pet genre of the romantics, the historical drama, it was Musset, not Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, père, or Alfred de Vigny, who,...

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Alfred de Musset Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Bishop, Lloyd. The Poetry of Alfred de Musset: Styles and Genres. New York: Peter Lang, 1987. Although this work focuses on Musset’s poetry, it provides valuable information on his life and literary output. Bibliography and index.

Kelly, Linda. The Young Romantics: Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Vigny, Dumas, Musset, and George Sand and Their Friendships, Feuds, and Loves in the French Romantic Revolution. New York: Random House, 1976. Kelly examines the French Romanticists, including Musset, Victor Hugo, Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Alfred de Vigny, and George Sand, and their intellectual world. Bibliography and index.

Levin, Susan M. The Romantic Art of Confession: De Quincey, Musset, Sand, Lamb, Hogg, Frémy, Soulié. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1998. Levin’s work on the confession literature of Romanticists such as Musset, Thomas De Quincey, James Hogg, George Sand, and Charles Lamb sheds light on the life of Musset, as revealed in his semiautobiographical novel. Bibliography and index.

Peyre, Henri. “Alfred de Musset and the ‘Mal du Siècle.’” In What Is Romanticism?, translated by Roda Roberts. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1977. A summary of Musset’s role in the Romantic movement in France.

Rees, Margaret A. Alfred de Musset. New York: Twayne, 1971. A basic biography of Musset, covering his life and works. Bibliography.

Sices, David. Theatre of Solitude: The Drama of Musset. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1974. Musset translator and scholar Sices provides a close look at the dramatic works of the French writer. Contains bibliography and index.

Sices, David, ed. Comedies and Proverbs, by Alfred de Musset. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Although this edition of seven of Musset’s comedies focuses on his drama, Sices’s commentary provides insight into the poet as well.

Siegel, Patricia Joan. Alfred de Musset: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. A bibliography of studies of Musset, current up to the early 1980’s.