Theophile Gautier

   Theophile Gautier (1811-1872), was a French poet, and one of the most influential prose writers of the middle of the 19th century, was born in Tarbes. As a man of letters he had a fine sense of rhythm, together with a fervent and romantic fancy. Gautier threw himself eagerly into the war of the romanticists against the classicists, and was conspicuous on the nights of the celebrated "Battle of Hernani" in 1830. Gautier made his debut with a volume of verse in this same year (1830). Three years later followed another volume, Albertus, which is bolder and more original, although it never rises to the height of fine poetry. His first novel, Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), was an extravagant romance about an adventuress who disguised herself as a man. The book was designed to outrage the public taste but succeeded beyond Gautier's expectations and became the basis of a legend that all his work was lurid and erotic. Balzac admired Mademoiselle de Maupin, and engaged Gautier on Le chronique de Paris, which he was editing. In 1838 Gautier wrote his Comedie de la mart, which marks a break with his first romantic epoch. Soon after this he began his series of travel-pictures, which extend from 1845 to 1866, and describe various parts of France, Italy, Spain, Russia, and Turkey (Constantinople). During the same period Gautier was writing a series of archaeological works, of which Le Roman de la momie is the best known. His Une larme du diable (1839) has a certain resemblance in spirit to Albertus. Le capitaine Fracasse (1863) is a sort of aftermath of the romantic spirit, tending more toward irony and toward the fantastic than the earlier books. Emaux et camees (1852-72), the best of his poetry, anticipates the passivity of the Parnassians and illustrates his "art for art's sake" theories. He died at Neuilly, near Paris. The following is a partial list of his principal productions: Poems—La com'edie de, la mart (1838); Les intirieurs et Us passages (1845); Emaux et Camees (1852). Novels, stories, etc.— Une nuit de Cleopatre (1836); Le roi Candaules (1847); Militona (1848); Les roues innocents (1849); Jean et Jeannette (1850); Partie carree (1851); Arria Marcella (1852); Jettatura (1857); Avatar (1857); La Belle Jenny (1864); La peau de tigre (1852); Spirite (1865); Les jeunes France (1867). To these must be added the half-autobiographical Paradis des chats (embodying Gautier's special affection for cats) and Menagerie intime (1869). Finally, an immense quantity of criticism of literature and art, and of the history of art: L'histoire despeintres, in collab. (1847); L'art moderne (1852); Les beaux-arts en Europe (1852); Les dieux et les demi-dieux de la peinture, in collab. (1856); Histoire de I'art dramatique (1860); Histoire du romantisme (1874).