Alphonse Daudet Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
ph_0111207183-Daudet.jpg Alphonse Daudet Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Alphonse Daudet (doh-day) is among the most durable of the literary figures of France in the last half of the nineteenth century, as well as one of the most prolific of his generation. His poetic approach to realism made him universally popular, for, unlike his contemporaries, he wrote with a sympathy and a cautious optimism that produced an appealing tenderness without recourse to mawkish sentimentality. Critics who find his prose difficult to define have termed him variously a realist, a naturalist, an impressionist, and an independent. Daudet himself professed to follow no school, maintaining that all such inflexibility is absurd.

A native of Nîmes, in Provence, where he was born in 1840 and where his family struggled to preserve a rapidly failing silk weaving business, Daudet grew up in a period of financial crises which taught him sympathy for all human failings. At the age of sixteen, he was forced to take a position as a novice instructor in a small provincial school at Alais, where he suffered innumerable humiliations and hardships, most of which he later incorporated into his first novel, My Brother Jack. Two years later, he joined his brother in Paris to seek his fortune as an author. Believing himself destined to be a poet, Daudet made his debut with a small volume of poetry patterned after the romantic verses of Alfred de Musset. Entitled Les Amoureuses, the collection had a vogue in the salons of the period and brought him to the attention of the Duc de Morny, who hired him as a secretary. It was at this time that Daudet was stricken with a nervous disease that was to...

(The entire section is 662 words.)

Alphonse Daudet Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Nothing had more effect on Alphonse Daudet’s rather uneventful life than the fact that he was born and brought up in southern France, the Midi. Throughout his life, Daudet maintained that the meridional temperament, which was his heritage, made him profoundly different from Northerners and accounted for his facile volubility and intense emotionalism. Although he was a Parisian by adoption for most of his life, it is a fact that his identity as a southerner, including the distinctive accent of the Midi, never faded, and his great gifts as a spellbinding talker in social situations is widely attested.

For the first eight years of his life, Daudet lived in Nîmes, with its strong flavor of ancient Roman civilization. The family then moved to Lyons, where Alphonse experienced both a less prosperous family life and a more “northern” culture and atmosphere than Nîmes had afforded, although it was still distinctly part of the Midi. His studies were interrupted at age sixteen so he could take on the post of class assistant in a school in the southern town of Alès, thus relieving his family of a financial burden.

He lasted only a few months in that post, however, and at the age of seventeen he went to Paris and moved in with his older brother Ernest. He had been writing since his early teens, and within a year of his arrival in Paris he was able to arrange publication of a small volume of his poems and even had some success reciting his poems...

(The entire section is 578 words.)

Alphonse Daudet Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Alphonse Daudet was the fifth child of Vincent Daudet and Adeline Raynaud, but only the third to survive. Childhood was not a particularly happy time for Daudet. His health was delicate, and the family was forced to live in a state of financial stress, which grew as his father’s silk business gradually declined and finally collapsed. In 1849, the family was forced to move to Lyons in search of work.

Daudet’s formal schooling took place in Lyons. During this period, he showed some signs of literary talent, but they were not encouraged. A fairly good student when he attended classes, the youngster often chose to explore the city instead. In the spring of 1857, Daudet was taken out of school and sent to Alès in Provence as a study assistant in a secondary school. By November, he had resigned his position and was soon in Paris with his first literary manuscript.

Daudet’s older brother, Ernest, gave Daudet shelter and encouragement. In quick order, the young literary hopeful had entered the bohemian circles of the capital, had taken a mistress, and had found a publisher for his poems. Throughout his career, Daudet would draw on his own life for his fiction. His childhood and adolescence are chronicled in his first novel, as is his early life in Paris. Reminiscences of this later period and its bohemian aspects are frequent in many of his works.

The slight reception given to Les Amoureuses convinced Daudet that he was not a good poet. He turned to short, topical pieces for Paris journals, and in 1860 was fortunate enough to receive a sinecure as secretary to the duke of Morny, a position he held until the duke’s death, five years later. Daudet had been frail since childhood, and health problems began to affect him in the early 1860’s. Under doctor’s orders, he spent winters in his native Provence and in Algeria and Corsica. During these southern sojourns, he became acquainted with the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral. In 1862, Daudet’s first play, La Dernière Idole, written with L’Épine, was successfully produced at the Théâtre de l’Odéon. Daudet began to write for the theater, concentrating on plays for the next ten years. None of his efforts, however, had the success of the first. Even The Woman from Arles, Daudet’s most familiar play, was a failure when initially staged in...

(The entire section is 965 words.)