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Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand (1768 – 1848)


French writer, politician and diplomat, considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature.
In living literature no person is a competent judge but of works written in his own language. I have expressed my opinion concerning a number of English writers; it is very possible that I may be mistaken, that my admiration and my censure may be equally misplaced, and that my conclusions may appear impertinent and ridiculous on the other side of the Channel.
Chateaubriand quotes
Perfect works are rare, because they must be produced at the happy moment when taste and genius unite; and this rare conjuncture, like that of certain planets, appears to occur only after the revolution of several cycles, and only lasts for an instant.
Chateaubriand
An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.




J'ai pleuré et j'ai cru.
Achilles exists only through Homer. Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory.
I will be Chateaubriand or nothing.
New storms will arise; one can believe in calamities to come which will surpass the afflictions we have been overwhelmed by in the past; already, men are thinking of bandaging their old wounds to return to the battlefield. However, I do not expect an imminent outbreak of war: nations and kings are equally weary; unforeseen catastrophe will not yet fall on France: what follows me will only be the effect of general transformation. No doubt there will be painful moments: the face of the world cannot change without suffering. But, once again, there will be no separate revolutions; simply the great revolution approaching its end. The scenes of tomorrow no longer concern me; they call for other artists: your turn, gentlemen!
As I write these last words, my window, which looks west over the gardens of the Foreign Mission, is open: it is six in the morning; I can see the pale and swollen moon; it is sinking over the spire of the Invalides, scarcely touched by the first golden glow from the East; one might say that the old world was ending, and the new beginning. I behold the light of a dawn whose sunrise I shall never see. It only remains for me to sit down at the edge of my grave; then I shall descend boldly, crucifix in hand, into eternity.
Memory is often the attribute of stupidity; it generally belongs to heavy spirits whom it makes even heavier by the baggage it loads them down with.
Chateaubriand
My downfall made a great noise: those who appeared most satisfied criticized the manner of it.
How small man is on this little atom where he dies! But how great his intelligence! He knows when the face of the stars must be masked in darkness, when the comets will return after thousands of years, he who lasts only an instant! A microscopic insect lost in a fold of the heavenly robe, the orbs cannot hide from him a single one of their movements in the depth of space. What destinies will those stars, new to us, light? Is their revelation bound up with some new phase of humanity? You will know, race to be born; I know not, and I am departing.
Every institution goes through three stages — utility, privilege, and abuse.




Variant translations:
The original style is not the style which never borrows of any one, but that which no other person is capable of reproducing.
I have borne the musket of a soldier, the traveller’s cane, and the pilgrim’s staff: as a sailor my fate has been as inconstant as the wind: a kingfisher, I have made my nest among the waves.
I have been party to peace and war: I have signed treaties, protocols, and along the way published numerous works. I have been made privy to party secrets, of court and state: I have viewed closely the rarest disasters, the greatest good fortune, the highest reputations. I have been present at sieges, congresses, conclaves, at the restoration and demolition of thrones. I have made history, and been able to write it. ... Within and alongside my age, perhaps without wishing or seeking to, I have exerted upon it a triple influence, religious, political and literary.
Chateaubriand quotes
L’écrivain original n’est pas celui qui n’imite personne, mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.
Though we have not employed the arguments usually advanced by the apologists of Christianity, we have arrived by a different chain of reasoning at the same conclusion: Christianity is perfect; men are imperfect. Now, a perfect consequence cannot spring from an imperfect principle. Christianity, therefore, is not the work of men. If Christianity is not the work of man, it can have come from none but God. If it came from God, men cannot have acquired a knowledge of it except by revelation. Therefore, Christianity is a revealed religion.
Aristocracy has three successive ages, — the age of superiorities, the age of privileges, and the age of vanities; having passed out of the first, it degenerates in the second, and dies away in the third.
One does not learn how to die by killing others.
It is a long way from Combourg to Berlin, from a youthful dreamer to an old minister. I find among the words preceding these: ‘In how many places have I already continued writing these Memoirs, and in what place will I finish them?'
I am Bourbon as a matter of honour, royalist according to reason and conviction, and republican by taste and character.
He has abundant views on the future, particularly on the subject of religion and the social rôle which he believed it called upon to play. His influence on literature is unanimously acknowledged. Romanticism may be traced back to him, and it may even be said that the whole literary movement characteristic of the nineteenth century begins with him.


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