Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Théophile Gautier’s poetry forms the transition between Romanticism and the Parnassus school in France. As a young man, Gautier was a prominent member of the group surrounding Victor Hugo in the battle of Hernani (1830), Hugo’s play that resulted in open conflict between classicists and Romanticists. Later, however, though he did not formally renounce his support of Romanticism, his name was to become associated with the doctrine of Art for Art’s sake, and it is especially in connection with his body of ideas that his name is remembered.
Gautier’s earliest poetry was collected into a volume entitled, simply, Poésies, first published in 1830. A pronounced taste for the Middle Ages, a love of lonely places, an impression of alienation—all traditional sources of inspiration for the Romantic poets—find a place in this collection, which is not noted for its originality.
“Albertus, or the Soul and Sin,” a long narrative poem describing a young painter’s fatal infatuation with a witch, appeared in 1833. This work is little read today, but worthy of note, however, is Gautier’s use of the stock-in-trade of the lesser Romantic writers: slugs and toads, phantoms and vampires.
“La Comédie de la mort” (The Comedy of Death), a long poem that came out in 1838, is in two parts. The first part, titled “Life in Death,” involves a dialogue in a graveyard between a worm and a corpse. It is...
(The entire section is 1701 words.)
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