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Chateaubriand, François René, Vicomte de

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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


(1768–1848), French author and politician. He was the youngest son of a noble family from St Malo, who upon entering the army had already begun to show signs of the melancholy which would infuse his later writings. Chateaubriand left for America in 1791 as the french revolution of 1789 became increasingly radical, and briefly returned to France before joining the emigrés in England. Here he reportedly found a new religious fervor. On receiving news of the deaths of his sister and mother he recorded that “I wept and I believed.” His Génie du christianisme , first published together with his tale René in 1802, idealized the emotional insights to be gained from a mystical religiosity and opposed the cold rationalism of the enlightenment and the supporters of 1789. The huge success of Génie , which caught the mood of romanticism then current, led napoleon i , anxious at that time for better relations with the papacy , to make him ambassador to Rome. However, Chateaubriand became disenchanted with imperial rule, and wholeheartedly supported the accession of louis xviii . Made ambassador to London in 1822 and foreign minister in 1823, he orchestrated French intervention in Spain to restore full royal powers to its Bourbon ruler, Ferdinand VII. Even so, he was now disappointed by the failure of Louis to restore the mystical ideals of medieval kingship, and when he was sacked ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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