CHATEAUBRIAND, slia'tO'brt-lix', FRAN cOIS RENE AUGUSTE, Vicomte de (176S-1848). A French author and statesman. 11e was born in Saint \lalo, the most Catholic of French prov inces, and the warm piety of his mother and the distant reserve of his father combined with the strange 'Breton legends and the mysterious vastness of the neighboring ocean to nurse in the child religious sentiment and poetic mysticism. To these elements direction and intensity were given by his education at D6Ie and 'Rennes. At twenty he entered the army, thinking to try his fortune in India, but the Revolution diverted him from this, and in 1790 he obtained a Government commission to seek the Northwest Passage, a quest that took him, according to his own possibly inaccurate ac count. on wide journeys on the Great Lakes and prairies of America, and even to semi-tropical Florida. and brought him association with Rousseau-like Indian 'children of nature,' and self-communion in primeval forests. These in fluences first revealed Chateaubriand to himself. and were revealed in all his future work, but Ino,,t, brilliantly in Les Natchez, planned about this time, though unpublished for thirty years, and ill the stories that originally were connected with it : the epoch-making .1 tale (1801) ; and Rem' (1802). The excesses of the Revolution modified Chateaubriand's zeal for political re form. and on his return to Europe (1792) after a hasty and unhappy marriage, of his parents' making, lie cast his lot with the army of the i•igrtss. Ile was wounded at the siege of Thion ville (September, 1792), and suffering and in want he went in 1793 to England, where he sup ported himself for several years by literary work, and wrote the pessimistic and skeptical Essai stir les revolutions (1797). 'Here, too, he elabo rated Atala, Rene, and Les Natchez, inspired partly by Rousseau's Enii/c, partly by Saint Pierre's Paul et Virginie. These show a marked change in Chateaubriand's religious attitude. attributed by him to the death of his mother (1798).
That France was ready for a Christian and idealistic reaction the Concordat (July 15, 1801) was about to prove. Returning to France in ISM, he struck a note that set all hearts vibrat ing. Attila was immediately and universally popular. It roused a dormant spirit of romantic idealism, and, in the mental state that it dis closed, anticipated much in Lamartine and lingo. The eloquent descriptions of nature showed rare powers of minute observation. Chateaubriand
immediately took the leading place in French letters and retained it unquestioned till the ap pearance of Lamartine's Meditations (1820). Le genie du Christianiszne (1802), a brilliant piece of special pleading, suggests that :esthetic rather than moral interests drew Chateaubriand to the Church. At bottom he was still a pessi mist and a skeptic. though perhaps as sincere as lie could be, for neither rational nor logical consistency was a dominant. characteristic him. The author of the Genie, :tad its readers also, were less interested to find that Christianity is true than that it is sentimentally poetic, pathetic, and :esthetic.
Chateauhriand. whose apotheosis of Christi anity fell in with Napoleon's plans at this time, received a post in Rome (1803). He was involved in intrigues, was transferred to Switzerland, and on the execution of the Due d Enghien (1804) resigned and began a cam paign of criticism against Napoleon, who, he said, the world tremble, but me—never." In 1S06 he started on an extensive tour in the East, visiting Greece, Turkey, Asia Minor, Pales tine, Tunis, and Spain. Ile embodied his impres sions in Les wart yrs (1809), a prose epic of rising Christianity and sinking paganism; in Les aventures du Bernie,- des .4 beneerages (1826), a Moorish story, and in !ane•ia' de Paris a .Jerusalem (1811). all showing "opulence of im agination and poverty of heart." The fall of Na poleon evoked De Buonaparte et des Bourbons (1814), which, according to Louis XV111., was worth 100,000 men to the Legitimist cause. The work brought its author several diplomatic ap pointment., which lie resigned in order to be free to oppose ministries that displeased him, until toward 1830 he seemed tending to liberalism. The (Irl•nist triumph brought him back promptly to the lost cause. Chateaubriand now sank into a discouraged silence. He translated Paradise Lost (183(1), wrote a Fie de Rance, the ascetic (1844), and revised and completed his .1hcmoires d'autre-tombe, published a little pre maturely, just before his death (1848), and translated (1902). This is a work of some his toric interest, great eloquence, remarkable preju dices, and unique self-eonceit—"Rene with docu mentary evidence," as it has been wittily called. For Chateaubriand is his own Reni:-, and in Rene lies his literary sig,nitieance.