Alphonse de Lamartine

From New World Encyclopedia

Alphonse de Lamartine
Alphonse de Lamartine

Portrait by Ary Scheffer, 1848

Member of the National Assembly
for Saône-et-Loire
In office
July 8, 1849 – December 2, 1851
Preceded by Charles Rolland
Succeeded by End of the Second Republic
Preceded by François Guizot (also Prime Minister)
Succeeded by Jules Bastide

Member of the National Assembly
for Bouches-du-Rhône
In office
May 4, 1848 – May 26, 1849
Preceded by New constituency
Succeeded by Joseph Marcellin Rulhières

Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Saône-et-Loire
In office
November 4, 1837 – February 24, 1848
Preceded by Claude-Louis Mathieu
Succeeded by Charles Rolland

Member of the Chamber of Deputies
for Nord
In office
January 7, 1833 – October 3, 1837
Preceded by Paul Lemaire
Succeeded by Louis de Hau de Staplande

Born October 21 1790(1790-10-21)
Mâcon, Burgundy, France
Died February 28 1869 (aged 78)
Paris, French Empire
Constituency Mâcon
Political party Social Party[1] (1833–1837)
Third Party (1837–1848)
Moderate Republican (1848–1851)
Spouse Elisa de Lamartine​
(m. 1820; died 1863)
Children Alphonse de Lamartine
Julia de Lamartine
Profession Writer, Poet

Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (French pronunciation: [alfɔ̃s maʁi lwi dəpʁa də lamaʁtin]; October 21, 1790 – February 28, 1869[2]), was a French author, poet, and statesman who was instrumental in the foundation of the Second Republic and the continuation of the Tricolore as the flag of France.

Born during the French Revolution, de Lamartine was a more moderate politician in revolutionary times. He was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in France. After he was defeated in a presidential run in 1848, he retired from politics to focus on his creative efforts. He was a prominent author of the French Romantic school.


Early years

Born in Mâcon, Burgundy on October 21, 1790[3] into a family of the French provincial nobility, Lamartine spent his youth at the family estate. He is famous for his partly autobiographical poem, "Le lac" ("The Lake"), which describes in retrospect the fervent love shared by a couple from the point of view of the bereaved man. Lamartine was masterly in his use of French poetic forms. Raised a devout Catholic, Lamartine became a pantheist, writing Jocelyn and La Chute d'un ange. He wrote Histoire des Girondins in 1847 in praise of the Girondists.

Lamartine made his entrance into the field of poetry with a masterpiece, Les Méditations Poétiques (1820) and awoke to find himself famous.[4] One of the notable poems in this collection was Le Lac, which he dedicated to Julie Charles, the wife of a celebrated physician.[5] He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1825. He worked for the French embassy in Italy from 1825 to 1828. In 1829, he was elected a member of the Académie française. He was elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1833. In 1835 he published the Voyage en Orient, a brilliant and bold account of the journey he had just made, in royal luxury, to the countries of the Orient, and in the course of which he had lost his only daughter. From then on he confined himself to prose.

Political career

Lamartine by François Gérard, 1830

Lamartine, who was a former monarchist, came to embrace democratic ideals and opposed militaristic nationalism.[6] Around 1830, Lamartine's opinions shifted in the direction of liberalism.[1] When elected in 1833 to the Chamber of Deputies, he quickly founded his own "Social Party" with some influence from Saint-Simonian ideas and established himself as a prominent critic of the July Monarchy, becoming more and more of a republican in the monarchy's last years.[1][7]

He was briefly in charge of the government during the turbulence of 1848, which toppled the July Monarchy. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from February 24, 1848 to May 11, 1848. Due to his great age, Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure, Chairman of the Provisional Government, effectively delegated many of his duties to Lamartine. He was then a member of the Executive Commission, the political body which served as France's joint Head of State.

Lamartine was instrumental in the founding of the French Second Republic which replaced the July monarchy and ended the Bourbon restoration. Lamartine met with Republican Deputies and journalists in the Hôtel de Ville to agree on the makeup of its provisional government. Lamartine himself was chosen to declare the Republic in traditional form in the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville, and ensured the continuation of the Tricolor as the flag of the nation.

On February 25, 1848 Lamartine said about the Tricolor Flag:

I spoke to you as a citizen earlier, well! Now listen to me, your Foreign Minister. If you take the tricolor flag away from me, know it, you will remove from me half the external force of France! Because Europe only knows the flag of its defeats and of our victories in the flag of the Republic and of the Empire. By seeing the red flag, they will believe that they are only seeing the flag of a party! This is the flag of France, it is the flag of our victorious armies, it is the flag of our triumphs that must be raised before Europe. France and the tricolor are one same thought, one same prestige, one same terror, if necessary, for our enemies! Imagine how much blood would be necessary for you to get another flag renamed! Citizens, for me, the red flag, I will never adopt it, and I am going to tell you why I'm against it with all the strength of my patriotism. It's that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire, with your freedoms and your glories, and the red flag has only toured the Champ-de-Mars, dragged in the blood of the people."[8]

During his term as a politician in the Second Republic, he led efforts that culminated in the abolition of slavery and the death penalty, as well as the enshrinement of the right to work and the short-lived national workshop programs. A political idealist who supported democracy and pacifism, his moderate stance on most issues caused many of his followers to desert him. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the presidential election of December 10, 1848, receiving fewer than 19,000 votes and losing to Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. He subsequently retired from politics and dedicated himself to literature.

Writing career

Lamartine's House in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

He used themes and materials of the Levant and the Bible to create plotlines, heroes, and landscapes that resemble an exotic Oriental (Middle Eastern) world.[9]

In the early nineteenth century, Romanticism was the leading literary movement in France and Lamartine was one of its prominent figures. The French romantic literature fostered a growing curiosity about foreign cultures, particularly for Eastern ones. During Lamartine's time, romantic authors and artists traveled in many regions of the world. The Orient was one of their favorite destinations.[10][11] Their interest in the region was prompted by a desire for self-discovery, which they believed could be realized by going to the Orient, which represented an exotic place with different moral and political values, which were seen as antithetical to the West.[10] This Orientalist desire laid the focus on both on personal experience and the need to find meaning through travel.[11]

Portrait of Madame de Lamartine by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1849)

Lamartine's travel to the Orient was also politically motivated. Before embarking on his Oriental journey, Lamartine rallied to the July Monarchy but faced a political failure, as he was not elected as a deputy in 1831. He decided to leave France to travel to the Orient in part because he needed to take a break from politics.[12][13] While traveling, Lamartine's political convictions shifted as he progressively distanced himself from his previous monarchism and conservatism to become a well-known liberal adherent to French republicanism. In addition to his philosophical and political reasons, another incentive for leaving his country was religion. This quest for faith sprung after the death of his mother in 1829 who raised him as a Christian. Lamartine realized that it was important to recover his faith, which has been fading away throughout the years.[14]

Lamartine had a particular interest in Lebanon. His travels took him to Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land in 1832–33.[15] During that trip, while he and his wife, the painter and sculptor Elisa de Lamartine, were in Beirut, on December 6, 1832, their only remaining child, Julia, died at ten years of age.[16] Despite the tragedy, it was a journey of recovery and immersion in specific Christian icons, symbols, and terrain with his view that the region could bring about the rebirth of a new Christianity and spirituality that could save Europe from destruction.[17]

During his trip to Lebanon he had met prince Bashir Shihab II and prince Simon Karam, who were enthusiasts of poetry. A valley in Lebanon is still called the Valley of Lamartine as a commemoration of that visit, and the Lebanon cedar forest still harbors the "Lamartine Cedar," which is said to be the cedar under which Lamartine had sat 200 years ago. Lamartine was so influenced by his trip that he staged his 1838 epic poem La Chute d'un ange (The Fall of an Angel) in Lebanon.

Religious beliefs

Alphonse de Lamartine's religious views demonstrate the changing times of 19th century France. The Catholic Church remained the major religious institution in France, but the rise of modernity had changed much about its position and influence.

On the spirit of the times

Like many of the intellectuals and philosophes in early 19th century France, de Lamartine was influenced by Deism and Rationalism. His views on religion reflected these influences, as religious faith came to be seen through the prism of reason and social concerns.

Thanks to the increase of general reason, to the light of philosophy, to the inspiration of Christianity, to the progress of the idea of justice, of charity, and of fraternity, in laws, manners, and religion, society in America, in Europe, and in France, especially since the Revolution, has broken down all these barriers, all these denominations of caste, all these injurious distinctions among men. Society is composed only of various conditions, professions, functions, and ways of life, among those who form what we call a Nation; of proprietors of the soil, and proprietors of houses; of investments, of handicrafts, of merchants, of manufacturers, of farmers; of day-laborers becoming farmers, manufacturers, merchants, or possessors of houses or capital, in their turn; of the rich, of those in easy circumstances, of the poor, of workmen with their hands, workmen with their minds; of day-laborers, of those in need, of a small number of men enjoying considerable acquired or inherited wealth, of others of a smaller fortune painfully increased and improved, of others with property only sufficient for their needs; there are some, finally, without any personal possession but their hands, and gleaning for themselves and for their families, in the workshop, or the field, and at the threshold of the homes of others on the earth, the asylum, the wages, the bread, the instruction, the tools, the daily pay, all those means of existence which they have neither inherited, saved, nor acquired. These last are what have been improperly called the People. [18]

On Catholic priests

Although his religious views were not traditional Catholic beliefs, he maintained a reverence for the efforts of the parish priest.

"A Priest" by Robert Nash (1943) on Catholic priests:

There is a man in every parish, having no family, but belonging to a family is worldwide; who is called in as a witness and adviser in all the important affairs of human life. No one comes into the world or goes out of it without his ministrations. He takes the child from its mother’s arms, and parts with him only at the grave. He blesses and consecrates the cradle, the bridal chamber, the bed of death, and the bier. He is one whom innocent children instinctively venerate and reverence, and to whom men of venerable age come to seek for wisdom, and call him father; at whose feet men fall down and lay bare the innermost thoughts of their souls, and weep their most sacred tears. He is one whose mission is to console the afflicted, and soften the pains of body and soul; to whose door come alike the rich and the poor. He belongs to no social class, because he belongs equally to all. He is one, in fine, who knows all, has a right to speak unreservedly, and whose speech, inspired from on high, falls on the minds and hearts of all with the authority of one who is divinely sent, and with the constraining power of one who has an unclouded faith.[19]

On Muhammad

De Lamartine gained a deep respect for the Prophet Muhammad through his travels. In his book Histoire de la Turquie (1854), Alphonse de Lamartine writes:

If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers, which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then-inhabited world; and more than that he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls.... His forbearance in victory, his ambition which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire, his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death – all these attest not to an imposture, but to a firm conviction, which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two-fold: the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational beliefs, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he.[20]

Raised by his mother to respect animal life, he found the eating of meat repugnant, saying "One does not have one heart for Man and one for animals. One has a heart or one does not." His writings in La chute d’un Ange (1838) and Les confidences (1849) would be taken up by supporters of vegetarianism in the twentieth century.

Final years

Alphonse de Lamartine photographed in 1865

He published volumes on the most varied subjects (history, criticism, personal confidences, literary conversations) especially during the Empire, when, having retired to private life and having become the prey of his creditors, he condemned himself to what he calls "literary hard-labor to exist and pay his debts." Lamartine ended his life in poverty, publishing monthly installments of the Cours familier de littérature to support himself. He died in Paris in 1869.

Nobel prize winner Frédéric Mistral's fame was in part due to the praise of Alphonse de Lamartine in the fortieth edition of his periodical Cours familier de littérature, following the publication of Mistral's long poem Mirèio. Mistral is the most revered writer in modern Occitan literature.



Lamartine is considered to be the first French romantic poet (though Charles-Julien Lioult de Chênedollé was working on similar innovations at the same time), and was acknowledged by Paul Verlaine and the Symbolists as an important influence. Leo Tolstoy also admired Lamartine, who was the subject of some discourses in his notebooks.[21]

The American literary critic Charles Henry Conrad Wright, writing in 1912, considered Graziella the best of the episodes presented in Les Confidences. He thought it one of three novels that must be read to understand the development of emotionalism in French literature, together with Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie and François-René de Chateaubriand's novella Atala (1801).[22] Graziella quickly became a part of the French popular culture. On 20 January 1849, librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré debuted their one-act adaptation of the story at the Théâtre du Gymnase in Paris.[23]


In Orientalism, Edward Said argues that Lamartine’s zeal for the region was no different from other Romantic writers.[24] Said, whose Orientalism represents a seminal text in postcolonial criticism, viewed the French poet as contributing to the Western gaze because, through the prism of Lamartine’s writing, the representation of the Orient remained guided by an imperial and colonial aesthetic that aimed to produced interest for the reader. Said shows that Lamartine asserted in Voyage en Orient that colonial rule and political domination of the Orient was imperative for European powers.[24] Said concludes that in Lamartine's vision the Orient is reborn as European right-to-power over it.


  • Saül (1818)
  • Méditations poétiques (1820)
  • Nouvelles Méditations (1823)
  • Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1830)
  • Sur la politique rationnelle (1831)
  • Voyage en Orient (1835)
  • Jocelyn (1836)
  • La chute d'un ange (1838)
  • Recueillements poétiques (1839)
  • Histoire des Girondins (1847)
  • Histoire de la Révolution (1849)
  • Histoire de la Russie (1849)
  • Raphaël (1849)
  • Confidences (1849)
  • Toussaint Louverture (1850)
  • Geneviève, histoire d'une servante (1851)
  • Graziella (1852)
  • Les visions (1853)
  • Histoire de la Turquie (1854)
  • Cours familier de littérature (1856)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Deborah Jenson, Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, ISBN 978-0801867231), 152-154. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  2. Gorton Carruth, The Encyclopedia of World Facts and Dates (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993, ISBN 978-0062700124), 492.
  3. Henry Remsen Whitehouse, The Life of Lamartine, Volume 1 (1918; Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1969, ISBN 978-1115296595), 13. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  4. "Alphonse de Lamartine," Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  5. Lionel Stoléru, Une écoute du romantisme (Paris, FR: Editions L'Harmattan, 2011, ISBN 978-2296551046), 12.
  6. François Mauriac, Francois Mauriac on Race, War, Politics and Religion (Washington, DC, CUA Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0813227894), 258.
  7. J.B. Halsted, Alphonse de Lamartine: History of the Revolution of 1848 (London, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 1969, ISBN 978-1428638347), 271–284.
  8. Alphonse de Lamartine, Trois mois au pouvoir (Paris, FR: Michel Levy, 1848), 66. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  9. Yaron Peleg, Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1501729355), 15.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lisa Lowe, Critical terrains : French and British orientalisms (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991, ISBN 978-1501723131).
  11. 11.0 11.1 Ali Behdad, Belated Travelers : Orientalism in the age of colonial dissolution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994, ISBN 0822314541).
  12. Hassen Bkhairia, "La Méditerranée dans le Voyage en Orient de Lamartine," Babel: Littératures plurielles (36) (November 14, 2017): 87–98. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  13. Alphonse de Lamartine, Souvenirs, impressions, pensées et paysages, pendant un voyage en Orient (1832-1833), ou Notes d'un voyageur: Tome 1 1835. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  14. C.W. Thompson, French Romantic Travel Writing : Chateaubriand to Nerval (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0199233540).
  15. Nick Inman, DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Jerusalem & the Holy Lands (London, U.K.: Penguin, 2007, ISBN 978-0756650537), 33.
  16. John Flower, Historical Dictionary of French Literature (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0810879454), 288.
  17. Ussama Makdisi, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0520922792), 22.
  18. Alphonse de Lamartine, Atheism among the people (Boston, MA: Philips, Sampson, 1850), 19-20. Retrieved April 7, 2023.
  19. Rev. Robert Nash, "A Priest.pdf Catholic Pamphlets. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  20. Alphonse de Lamartine, History of Turkey, Volume 1. (New York, NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1855), 154-155. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  21. Joseph Frank, Between Religion and Rationality: Essays in Russian Literature and Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1400836536), 69.
  22. Charles Wright, A History of French Literature, Volume 2. (New York, NY: Haskell, 1912), 670. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  23. Emilio Sala, The Sounds of Paris in Verdi's La Traviata (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-1107009011), 127. Retrieved April 29, 2023.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1978, ISBN 0394428145).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Behdad, Ali. Belated Travelers: Orientalism in the age of colonial dissolution. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994. ISBN 0822314541
  • Carruth, Gorton. The Encyclopedia of World Facts and Dates. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN 978-0062700124
  • de Lamartine, Alphonse. Trois mois au pouvoir. Paris, FR: Michel Levy, 1848. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  • de Lamartine, Alphonse. Atheism Among the People. Boston, MA: Philips, Sampson, 1850. Retrieved April 7, 2023.
  • de Lamartine, Alphonse. History of Turkey, Volume 1. New York, NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1855. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  • Flower, John. Historical Dictionary of French Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0810879454
  • Frank, Joseph. Between Religion and Rationality: Essays in Russian Literature and Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1400836536
  • Halsted, J.B. Alphonse de Lamartine: History of the Revolution of 1848. London, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 1969. ISBN 978-1428638347
  • Inman, Nick. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Jerusalem & the Holy Lands. London, U.K.: Penguin, 2007. ISBN 978-0756650537
  • Jenson, Deborah, Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0801867231
  • Lowe, Lisa. Critical Terrains : French and British Orientalisms. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-1501723131
  • Makdisi, Ussama. The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0520922792
  • Mauriac, François. Francois Mauriac on Race, War, Politics and Religion. Washington, DC, CUA Press, 2015 ISBN 978-0813227894
  • Peleg, Yaron. Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1501729355
  • Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1978. ISBN 0394428145
  • Sala, Emilio. The Sounds of Paris in Verdi's La Traviata. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1107009011
  • Stoléru, Lionel. Une écoute du romantisme. Paris, FR: Editions L'Harmattan, 2011. ISBN 978-2296551046
  • Thompson, C.W. French Romantic Travel Writing: Chateaubriand to Nerval. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0199233540
  • Whitehouse, Henry Remsen. The Life of Lamartine, Volume 1. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1969 (original 1918). ISBN 978-1115296595
  • Wright, Charles. A History of French Literature, Volume 2. New York, NY: Haskell, 1912. Retrieved April 27, 2023.

Further reading

  • MacKay, John. Inscription and Modernity: From Wordsworth to Mandelstam. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 0253347491
  • Wright, Gordon. "A Poet in Politics: Lamartine and the Revolution of 1848" History Today 8(9) (Sep 1958): 616-627

External links

All links retrieved April 27, 2023.

Eighteenth century - Nineteenth century
Romantic music: Beethoven - Berlioz - Brahms - Chopin - Grieg - Liszt - Puccini - Schumann - Tchaikovsky - The Five - Verdi - Wagner
   Romantic poetry: Blake - Burns - Byron - Coleridge - Goethe - Hölderlin - Hugo - Keats - Lamartine - Leopardi - Lermontov - Mickiewicz - Nerval - Novalis - Pushkin - Shelley - Słowacki - Wordsworth   
Visual art and architecture: Brullov - Constable - Corot - Delacroix - Friedrich - Géricault - Gothic Revival architecture - Goya - Hudson River school - Leutze - Nazarene movement - Palmer - Turner
Romantic culture: Bohemianism - Romantic nationalism
<< Age of Enlightenment Victorianism >>
Realism >>


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.