Stendhal and Napoleon

The whole of Stendhal’s youth was spent under the aegis of Napoleon, and Napoleonic legend played an increasing part in his later writings.

None of the celebrated figures in French Romantic literature remained indifferent to Napoleon.

Some of them, like Mme de Stael, Constant and Chateaubriand, had known the days of the Ancien Régime, and they were already in their thirties when he became First Consul.

Others, like Lamartine, spent their whole youth under the Empire. Vigny, Balzac and Hugo knew the Empire from their childhood; Musset and Gerard de Nerval were infants in imperial days.

The older writers were obliged to take up position for or against the Emperor; they expressed their views in pamphlets, or in passages in their books.

Writers who had been too young to take part in imperial politics regretted that they had not known this heroic age, and they spoke of Napoleon in poems or in their novels, though he had no deep or direct influence on their work.

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