“A MASTERPIECE OF LITERARY ART… ITS INFLUENCE IN FRENCH LITERATURE WAS IMMENSE”: CHATEAUBRIAND’S GÉNIE DU CHRISTIANISME, 1809, HANDSOMELY BOUND
CHATEAUBRIAND, François-Auguste. Le Génie du christianisme, ou Beautés de la Religion Chrétienne. Lyon: L'Imprimerie de Ballanche Père et Fils., 1809. Five volumes. Octavo, contemporary full tree calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, green morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers. $1600.
Fifth edition of Chateaubriand’s lyrical and often impassioned defense of the Roman Catholic Church’s philosophical and aesthetic glories, illustrated with nine engraved plates, handsomely bound.
One of France's first Romantic authors, Chateaubriand struggled to reconcile rationalism with religion following his mother's death. Le Génie du christianisme (The Genius of Christianity) was the result. First published in 1802, the work celebrates what Chateaubriand sees as the Christian faith's power to inspire and encourage great art, architecture and literature. "The work is a masterpiece of literary art, and its influence in French literature was immense. The Éloa of Alfred de Vigny, the Harmonies of Lamartine and even the Légende des siècles of Victor Hugo may be said to have been inspired by [it]… It admirably subserved the statecraft of Napoleon"—who was just then preparing to reinstate Roman Catholicism as France's state religion—"and Talleyrand in 1803 appointed the writer attaché to the French legation at Rome" (Britannica). He would later grow hostile toward Napoleon and his Empire; however, he wrote in his later years, "The Génie du christianisme will remain my great work, because it produced or determined a revolution and began the new era of the literary century." "The Génie has traditionally been assigned a founding role in the emergence of medievalism, the sensibility for the Gothic, and the shift in taste that prepared for not only the Gothic revival in France but also the movement for the preservation of historical monuments" (Hollier, 610). Illustrated with nine engraved plates, including frontispiece. With half titles. Text in French. Bookseller's small ticket.
Scattered light foxing. A few tiny closed tears; small marginal hole to Volume IV, leaf [L8], not affecting text. Bindings lightly rubbed with a few minor abrasions to boards; gilt bright. A beautiful set in very nearly fine condition.