Lamartine, Alphonse de

Lamartine, Alphonse de
   A French poet, author, and politician of the Romantic era, Alphonse de Lamartine was born Mâcon Saône-et-Loire in 1790 to a provincial noble family. During his youth, Lamartine traveled frequently and served briefly in the army. In 1820, he married Maria Birch, an Englishwoman. After his military career ended, Lamartine turned to writing and achieved immediate success with his first major publication, Méditations poétiques (1820), a collection of 24 poems, including the famous “Le Lac.” He was elected as a member of the Académie française in 1829. Lamartine later strayed from his orthodox Christian upbringing by becoming a pantheist, writing Jocelyn (1836) and La Chute d ’ un ange (1838). His romantic idealism influenced his politics. He advocated democratic principles, social justice, and international peace. From 1825 to 1828, he worked for the French Embassy in Italy and in 1833 became an elected deputy in the French parliament. Lamartine conducted a lavish tour of the countries in the Orient and wrote an account of his travels, during which he lost his only daughter, under the title Voyage en Orient. After the publication of Voyage en Orient in 1835, Lamartine focused on prose and wrote several works of history, including his Histoire des Girondins, a popular work glorifying the Girondist faction of the French Revolution, and L’Histoire de la révolution de 1848. In the wake of the Revolution of 1848 against Louis Philippe, Lamartine headed the provisional government until the establishment of the Second Republic and served as minister of foreign affairs from February 24 to May 11, 1848. Lamartine ran unsuccessfully for the French presidency with Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later Napoleon III, in December 1848.
   During the Second Republic, Lamartine was criticized as too moderate. He worked toward the abolition of slavery and the death penalty and supported the national workshop programs advocated by Louis Blanc. With Louis Napoleon’s coup d’etat of December 2, 1851 and the end of the Second Republic, Lamartine retired to his writing career hoping to amass enough funds to pay off his enormous debts. Among his later works are Graziella (1849) and Les Confidences (1852). Lamartine died in obscurity in 1869.
    Fortescue, William. Lamartine: A Political Biography. London: Croom Helm, 1983;
    Lombard, Charles. Lamartine. New York: Twayne, 1973.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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