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Alphonse Daudet (13 May 1840 – 16 December 1897) was a Frenchmarker novelist. He was the father of Léon Daudet and Lucien Daudet.

Early life



Alphonse Daudet was born in Nîmesmarker, Francemarker. His family, on both sides, belonged to the bourgeoisie. The father, Vincent Daudet, was a silk manufacturer — a man dogged through life by misfortune and failure. Alphonse, amid much truancy, had a depressing boyhood. In 1856 he left Lyonmarker, where his schooldays had been mainly spent, and began life as a schoolteacher at Alèsmarker, Gard, in the south of France. The position proved to be intolerable. As Dickens declared that all through his prosperous career he was haunted in dreams by the miseries of his apprenticeship to the blacking business, so Daudet says that for months after leaving Alès he would wake with horror, thinking he was still among his unruly pupils.

On 1 November 1857, he abandoned teaching and took refuge with his brother Ernest Daudet, only some three years his senior, who was trying, "and thereto soberly," to make a living as a journalist in Parismarker. Alphonse took to writing, and his poems were collected into a small volume, Les Amoureuses (1858), which met with a fair reception. He obtained employment on Le Figaro, then under Cartier de Villemessant's energetic editorship, wrote two or three plays, and began to be recognized, among those interested in literature, as possessing individuality and promise. Morny, Napoleon III's all-powerful minister, appointed him to be one of his secretaries — a post which he held till Morny's death in 1865 — and showed Daudet no small kindness. Daudet had put his foot on the road to fortune.

Literary career

Daudet's Mill
1866, Daudet's Lettres de mon moulin, written in Clamart, near Paris, and alluding to a windmill in Fontvieillemarker, Provence, won the attention of many readers. The first of his longer books, Le petit chose (1868), did not, however, produce popular sensation. It is, in the main, the story of his own earlier years told with much grace and pathos. The year 1872 brought the famous Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon, and the three-act play L'Arlésienne. But Fromont jeune et Risler aîné (1874) at once took the world by storm. It struck a note, not new certainly in English literature, but comparatively new in French. His creativeness resulted in characters that were real and also typical.

Jack, a novel about an illegitimate child, a martyr to his mother's selfishness, which followed in 1876, served only to deepen the same impression. Henceforward his career was that of a very successful man of letters, publishing novel on novel, Le Nabab (1877), Les Rois en exil (1879), Numa Roumestan (1881), Sapho (1884), L'Immortel (1888), and writing for the stage at frequent intervals, giving the world his reminiscences in Trente ans de Paris (1887) and Souvenirs d'un homme de lettres (1888). These, with the three Tartarins, Tartarin de Tarascon, Tartarin sur les Alpes, Port-Tarascon, and the admirable short stories, written for the most part before he had acquired fame and fortune, constitute his life work.

Though Daudet defended himself from the charge of imitating Dickens, it is difficult altogether to believe that so many similarities of spirit and manner were quite unsought. What, however, was purely his own was his style. It is a style that may rightly be called "impressionist," full of light and colour, not descriptive after the old fashion, but flashing its intended effect by a masterly juxtaposition of words that are like pigments. Nor does it convey, like the style of the Goncourts, for example, a constant feeling of effort. It is full of felicity and charm, "un charmeur," Zola called him. An intimate friend of Edmond de Goncourt (who died in his house), of Flaubert, of Zola, Daudet belonged essentially to naturalism. His own experiences, his surroundings, the men with whom he had been brought into contact, various persons who had played a part, more or less public, in Paris life, all passed into his art. But he vivified the material supplied by his memory. His world has the great gift of life. L'Immortel is a bitter attack on the Académie française, to which august body Daudet never belonged.

Daudet wrote some charming stories for children, including "La Belle Nivernaise," the story of an old boat and her crew.

In 1867 Daudet married Julia Allard, who is known for her Impressions de nature et d'art (1879), L'Enfance d'une Parisienne (1883), and some literary studies written under the pseudonym "Karl Steen."

Daudet was far from faithful, and was among the literary syphilitics. Having lost his virginity at age twelve, and then having slept with his friend's mistresses throughout his marriage, Daudet would undergo several painful treatments and operations for his subsequently paralyzing disease.

Daudet died in Parismarker on 16 December 1897, and was interred at that city's Père Lachaise Cemeterymarker.

Works

Major works, and works in English translation (date given of first translation). For a complete bibliography see Alphonse Daudet Bibliography

References

  • The story of Daudet's earlier years is told in his brother Ernest Daudet's Mon frère et moi. There is a good deal of autobiographical detail in Daudet's Trente ans de Paris and Souvenirs d'un homme de lettres, and also scattered in his other books. The references to him in the Journal des Goncourt are numerous.


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