Brown leather spine with black title plates, gilt banding and lettering. Brown marbled boards.
F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.
This is a very rare early edition of this classic work which was to have a profound influence on early 19th century thought and herald later romance movements in both art and literature. The book is in excellent condition having been treasured throughout its 200 year history.
The Genius of Christianity, or Beauties of the Christian Religion (French: Le Génie du christianisme, ou Beautés de la religion chrétienne) is a work by the French author François-René de Chateaubriand, written during his exile in England in the 1790s as a defense of the Catholic faith, then under attack during the French Revolution. It was first published in France in 1802, after Chateaubriand returned to France following Napoleon’s general amnesty for émigrés who had fled the Revolution. Napoleon, who had recently signed the Concordat with the pope, initially made use of Chateaubriand’s book as propaganda to win support among French Catholics. Within five years, he would quarrel with the author and send him into internal exile.
In The Genius of Christianity, Chateaubriand defends the wisdom and beauty of Christianity against the attacks on it by French Enlightenment philosophers and revolutionary politicians. The book had an immense influence on nineteenth-century culture and not just on religious life. In fact, it might be said its greatest impact was on art and literature: it was a major inspiration for the Romantic movement.
François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848) was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian who had a notable influence on French literature of the nineteenth century. Descended from an old aristocratic family from Brittany, Chateaubriand was a royalist by political disposition. In an age when large numbers of intellectuals turned against the Church, he authored the Génie du christianisme in defense of the Catholic faith. His works include the autobiography Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave”), published posthumously in 1849–1850.
Historian Peter Gay says that Chateaubriand saw himself as the greatest lover, the greatest writer, and the greatest philosopher of his age. Gay states that Chateaubriand “dominated the literary scene in France in the first half of the nineteenth century”.
His descriptions of Nature and his analysis of emotion made him the model for a generation of Romantic writers, not only in France but also abroad. For example, Lord Byron was deeply impressed by René. The young Victor Hugo scribbled in a notebook, “To be Chateaubriand or nothing.” Even his enemies found it hard to avoid his influence. Stendhal, who despised him for political reasons, made use of his psychological analyses in his own book De l’amour.
Chateaubriand was the first to define the vague des passions (“intimations of passion”) that later became a commonplace of Romanticism: “One inhabits, with a full heart, an empty world” (Génie du Christianisme). His political thought and actions seem to offer numerous contradictions: he wanted to be the friend both of legitimist royalty and of republicans, alternately defending whichever of the two seemed more in danger: “I am a Bourbonist out of honour, a monarchist out of reason, and a republican out of taste and temperament”. He was the first of a series of French men of letters (Lamartine, Victor Hugo, André Malraux, Paul Claudel) who tried to mix political and literary careers.
“We are convinced that the great writers have told their own story in their works”, wrote Chateaubriand in Génie du christianisme. “One only truly describes one’s own heart by attributing it to another, and the greater part of genius is composed of memories”. This is certainly true of Chateaubriand himself. All his works have strong autobiographical elements, overt or disguised.
George Brandes, in 1901, compared the works of Chateaubriand to those of Rousseau and others:
The year 1800 was the first to produce a book bearing the imprint of the new era, a work small in size, but great in significance and mighty in the impression it made. Atala took the French public by storm in a way which no book had done since the days of Paul and Virginia. It was a romance of the plains and mysterious forests of North America, with a strong, strange aroma of the untilled soil from which it sprang; it glowed with rich foreign coloring, and with the fiercer glow of consuming passion.
Chateaubriand was a food enthusiast; Chateaubriand steak is most likely to have been named after him.
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