The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 11, 2016

December 11, 1810

Alfred de Musset (December 11, 1810 to May 2, 1857) was a French writer, one of the first romantics. He notably.wrote The Confession of a Child of the Century(1835)

We have this sketch of his life.

...[This] French Romantic poet and playwright,[is] remembered for his poetry. A love affair with the novelist George Sand between the years 1833 and 1835 inspired some of Musset's finest lyrics. Much influenced by Shakespeare and Schiller, Alfred de Musset wrote the first modern dramas in the French language.
Alfred de Musset was born in Paris. Both of his parents were descended from distinguished families, and his father had written several historical and travel works. Musset entered the Collège Henry IV and graduated with honors in 1827. After hesitating between many professions, Musset abandoned medicine because of his distaste of the dissecting room, and studied painting for six months in the Louvre. Musset began his career as a poet and dramatist in 1828 with the publication of a ballad called 'A Dream'. His first collection of poems,
CONTES D'ESPAGNE ET D'ITALIE, appeared in 1829. The work won the approval of Victor Hugo, who accepted him in his Romantic literary circle Cénacle. Musset's following works showed the influence of Lord Byron. In 1830, at the invitation of the director of the Théâtre de l'Odeon, Musset wrote LA NUIT VÉNETIENNE, the first of his plays to be produced. After the humiliating failure on the stage, Musset refused to allow his ....plays [other] than historical tragedies and comedies to be performed. It partly liberated him from the thoughts of "technique" - he did not care whether the plays made an effect or no. Theatre, on the other hand, was for writers a good means to reach their audience. A theatre ticket was not so expensive than a book. Musset's relatively well-made books which cost only 3.50 francs still did not reach a public of petits-bourgeois, craftsmen, or workers, who earned little more than 4 francs per day.

In 1833 Musset met George Sand, and started an intense relationship with her. His autobiographical work, LA CONFESSION D'UN ENFANT DU SIÈCLE (1835), is a fictionalized account of the affair, and reflects the mal du siècle, the disillusioned moral atmosphere in the period of strife between liberals and monarchists. "Everything that was no longer exists; everything that is to be does not yet exists," Musset once said. In 1834 Musset visited Venice with Sand, and they both became dangerously ill. Sand fell in love with her physician, and Musset returned alone to France. This stormy year inspired his plays ON NE BADINE PAS AVEC L'AMOUR and LORENZACCIO, which is sometimes considered his finest drama. POÉSIES NOUVELLES (1836-52) included 'Les Nuits', the series of lyrics for which Musset is best-known. ....

Musset became engaged to Aimée d'Alton in 1837. The relationship faded within a year and was followed by brief affairs. His health began to fail and after 1840s Musset's literary production as a dramatist diminished. In 1845 he was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and from the late 1840s his plays started to enjoy success on the French stage. Musset's later works include the patriotic song 'Le Rhin Allemand', and the popular comedy IL FAUT QU'UNE PORTE SOIT OUVERTE OU FERMÉE (1845). Musset was elected to the French Academy in 1852. In the same year he entered into a love affair with Louise Colet, the former mistress of Gustave Flaubert.

For the last two years of his life, Musset was confined to his apartment near the Comédie-Française. His heart ailment, an unusual vascular malfunction that became known to scientist[s] as the Musset symptom, was aggravated by drinking. He died in Paris on May 2, 1857. Nowadays Musset's popularity is second only to Racine and Moliere. "My glass is not big, but I drink out of my own glass," he once stated self-consciously. His influence is probably best seen in the plays of Jean Anouilh. Musset had a profound grasp of the psychology of love and his portraits of women were multidimensional. Many of the titles for his works were taken from proverbs popular at the time.

We have an excerpt from his poetry, which is collected in volume 10 of The Complete Writings of Alfred de Musset,  (1908). The translators of this set are Andrew Lang, Charles Conner Hayde, and Marie Agathe Clarke.

Mardoche is introduced by the poet this way:

I made, last year, the acquaintance of a youth
Mardoche by name, who hermit was; in truth,
A prodigy! In this wise, he has never read

Le Journal de Paris, nor novels in his bed.
He ne’er saw Kean, nor Bonaparte, nor yet
Monsieur de Metternich; but kept a cat.

Mardoche then illustrates the parameters of the romantic hero. brilliant, self-created and a cat lover.

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