BOURGET, PAUL ( 1S52—) . A notable French analytic essayist and novelist. Ito was born at Amiens, September 2, 1852. His father was a Russian, his mother English, while he is himself a cosmopolitan by instinct, study, and travel, lacking provincial prejudices, but also national conviction—a typical scholarly dilet tante. After a brilliant school career, finished at the famous College de Sainte-Barbe in Paris, he began life as a journalist and, as seems the French custom, made his first bow to literature in a volume of daintily hedonistic and pessimistic verse that earned him from Angier the name of 'Melancholy Pig.' These sighs of Restless Life (La vie inquiete, 1S74), breathed in Latin Quar ter cafes, were repeated in Edcl ( IS7S) and Les arena (1SS2). With the Essais de psychologie eontemporaine (1883), followed by Nouveaux essays (1883), and two volumes of Etudes et portraits (ISSS-S9), Bourget appears in his own words as "a moralist of the decadence," "a maniac of psychology." and "a passionate lover of analysis." He did here as critic what he was to do later as a novelist: he carried realistic ob servation beyond the externals of Zola and Mau passant to what he called 'states of soul.' Thus he unites the methods of Stendhal and of Balzac, and it is by no accident that one of the first of his essays is devoted to the former writer, whose reputation he did much to reestablish. Bourget called himself a moralist. but he was rather an analyst, offering a brilliant diagnosis, but no prescription. His criticism reflects the dilettante skepticism of Renan; and his early fiction bears strong marks of the same influence, which even the later novels do not wholly avoid. They have been happily described as a seductive if somewhat sickly product of the hothouse of an outworn civilization, uniting intellectual keenness with morbid sensitiveness, dealing by preference with the cosmopolitan types of that low life which is usually called 'high.' In the early novels there is a good deal of snobbishness which he himself mocks in the later ones. „lien songcs (1SS7) marks the cardinal point of his fiction. L'Irreparablc (1SS-1) ; Cruelle enigme (1885) : Crime d'amour (ISS(;); Andre Cornelis (1887), place the interest in situation and en vironment rather than in (diameter. Analysis
is attempted, but description predominates. In the later fiction, Le disciple (1889); Terre promise (1892); Cosinopotis (1892) ; scruple 11893); Steeplechase and Un saint (189-1): Jdltlle tragique (1S9G) ; I,cs complications srntimentalcs 1898 ) ; La duchesse !acne (1808) ; 1 op/iv:uses (translated as Antigone); Drame do famille (1900) ; Un hommc d'uffaires (1900): La fantthne (1901) ; as well as in the cynical Psychologie de l'amour modern,. (1890), and in the impressions of travel, Sensations d'Italie (I591), Nouveaux pastels (1891), °titre-Nor 11895), the dominant interest is in a morbid psycho-pathology and s4mificantly peculiar 'states of soul,' though the latest volumes of fiction show increasing subtlety, maturity, and moral strength. Before Cosmopolis (1892) the ethical triumph is with cynical selfishness, though common-sense moralists like the Abbe in Alensonges occasionally find a. tongue to de scribe their fello•-actors, justly enough, as "wretches who live at the mercy of their sensa tions." From rosinopo/is onward, Bourget swims with the wave of reaction toward religious senti ment and curiosity that came from a union of the spiritual mysticism of the Russians with the sensuous mysticism of Bandelaire and has affected the work of many others (e.g. Vogiie, Brunetiere, Huysmans, Daudet). Bourget's style is very uneven, affected, incorrect at times, but capable of a terse simplicity that unites strength and beauty to a rare degree. In temper the im pression that he leaves is of a passive disillusion. He is never bitter. and one wonders if he is often sincere in posing as a type of "the atrocious modern uneasiness that comes from regret at unbelief and dread of the moral void." Nearly all of Bonrget's work since 1892 is translated into English. Consult: Renard, Les princes de la jeune critique (Paris, 1S90); Doumic. Ecrivains d'aujourd'hui (Paris, 1894); Petlissier. Essais de litterature contcmporainc (Paris. 1893) ; and Lemattre, Les contcmporains, Vol. DI. (Paris, 1886-89).