Alphonse de Lamartine Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Alphonse de Lamartine’s attempts at drama are poor, often embarrassing, imitations of the works of Jean Racine, Pierre Corneille, and Voltaire, as well as William Shakespeare. Lamartine was somewhat more successful in the realm of prose fiction. He wrote two semiautobiographical novels, Graziella (1849; English translation, 1871) and Raphaël (1849; English translation, 1849); the former was the more popular, while the latter is the better of the two. Raphaël, which is based on the poet’s love affair with Julie Charles, has been criticized as a novel that was outmoded even in its time, as well as being excessively sentimental. Certainly, Raphaël bears the imprint of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761; Julia, or the New Eloisa, 1773) but it is nevertheless an impressive treatment of Lamartine’s favorite themes: religion, love, politics, and nature.

In the course of a long political career, Lamartine delivered some exceptionally eloquent and often politically perspicacious speeches before the French Chamber of Deputies. On the eve of the February Revolution of 1848, he published in eight volumes a fearless glorification of the French Revolution, Histoire des Girondins (1847; History of the Girondists, 1847-1848). While not a historian’s history, it offers such a colorful and sweeping vision of a period that in many ways it is really a historical novel in the guise of nonfiction. Among many other works, Lamartine also wrote popular histories of the 1848 Revolution in France, the Restoration, Turkey, and Russia.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The critic Henri Peyre has observed that among the great French Romantics, Alphonse de Lamartine demonstrated “the keenest political insight.” His work in politics was as important as the politics in his works, but his formal, aesthetic accomplishments in poetry were strong, too. He made his first and his most lasting mark in poetry with The Poetical Meditations. This collection, which enjoyed tremendous success with the readers of its day, has been hailed as the first masterpiece of the Romantic movement in French poetry. Lamartine, seen by his contemporaries as an innovator, is often condemned by modern critics for his neoclassical diction, for his rhetorical flourishes, and for his sentimentalism. If one takes Lamartine’s poetry on its own terms, however, and particularly if one appreciates its musical prosody, it will be clear why a handful of his poems have a permanent place in anthologies of French literature.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Araujo, Norman. In Search of Eden: Lamartine’s Symbols of Despair and Deliverance. Brookline, Mass.: Classical Folia Editions, 1976. A critical interpretation of Lamartine’s work with bibliographic references.

Barbin, Judith. “Liszt and Lamartine: Poetic and Religious Harmonies.” The Comparatist Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature Association 16 (1992): 115-122. A thoughtful essay that compares religious elements and musicality in Lamartine’s poems in his 1829 book with selected works by the great Polish Romantic composer Franz Liszt.

Birkett, Mary Ellen. Lamartine and the Poetics of Landscape. Lexington, Ky.: French Forum, 1982. An excellent study that explores relationships between the representation of natural beauty in Romantic landscape painting and Lamartine’s poetry. Like Barbin’s study, this book examines the intimate connections between literature and the other arts that were so important during the Romantic period in France.

Bishop, Lloyd. “‘Le Lac’ as Exemplar of the Greater Romantic Lyric.” Romance Quarterly 34, no. 4 (November, 1987): 403-413. This close reading of Lamartine’s most famous poem explains how the poet’s solitary meditation on the beauty of a lake reminds him of his deceased lover, with whom he often walked around the same lake. Argues that nature and death are important themes in Romantic lyric poetry.

Domvile, Lady...

(The entire section is 432 words.)