Alfred de Musset  

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"Romanticism is the star which weeps, the wind which cries out, the night which shivers, the flower which gives its scent, the bird which flies...It is the infinite and the starry, the warmth, the broken, the sober, and yet at the same time the plain and the round, the diamond-shaped, the pyramidal, the vivid, the restrained, the embraced, the turbulent."--"Sur l'Abus qu'on fait des adjectifs" (1836) by Alfred de Musset

Rolla (1878) - Henri Gervex
In 1878 the painting was rejected by the jury of the Salon for immorality.

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Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay (11 December 1810 – 2 May 1857) was a French dramatist, poet, and novelist, best-known for Les Caprices de Marianne, an 1833 play which served as the basis for Jean Renoir's 1939 film, The Rules of the Game; and his series of poems Les Nuits. The tale of his celebrated love affair with George Sand, which lasted from 1833 to 1835, is told from his point of view in his autobiographical novel, Confession d'un enfant du siècle, and from her point of view in her Elle et lui.



Musset was born and died in Paris. He entered the collège Henri-IV at the age of nine, where in 1837 he won the Latin essay prize in the Concours général. With the help of Paul Foucher, Victor Hugo's brother-in-law, he began to attend, at the age of 17, the Cénacle, the literary salon of Charles Nodier at the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal. After attempts at careers in medicine (which he gave up owing to a distaste for dissections), law, drawing, English and piano, he became one of the first Romantic writers. By the time he reached the age of 20, his rising literary fame was already accompanied by a sulphurous reputation fed by his dandy side.

He was the librarian of the French Ministry of the Interior under the July Monarchy. During this time he also involved himself in polemics during the Rhine crisis of 1840, caused by the French prime minister Adolphe Thiers, who as Minister of the Interior had been Musset's superior. Thiers had demanded that France should own the left bank of the Rhine (described as France's "natural boundary"), as it had under Napoleon, despite the territory's German population. These demands were rejected by German songs and poems, including Nikolaus Becker's Rheinlied, which contained the verse: "Sie sollen ihn nicht haben, den freien, deutschen Rhein ..." (They shall not have him, the free, German Rhine). Musset answered to this with a poem of his own: "Nous l'avons eu, votre Rhin allemand" (We've had him, your German Rhine).

The tale of his celebrated love affair with George Sand, which lasted from 1833 to 1835, is told from his point of view in his autobiographical novel, La Confession d'un Enfant du Siècle, and from her point of view in her Elle et lui.

Musset was dismissed from his post as librarian after the revolution of 1848, but he was appointed librarian of the Ministry of Public Instruction during the Second Empire.

Musset received the Légion d'honneur on April 24 1845, at the same time as Balzac, and was elected to the Académie française in 1852 (after two failures to do so in 1848 and 1850).

On his death in 1857, Musset was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


The French poet Arthur Rimbaud was highly critical of Musset's work. Rimbaud wrote in his Letters of a Seer (Lettres du Voyant) that Musset did not accomplish anything because he "closed his eyes" before the visions. (Lettre à Paul Demeny, mai 1871)

Director Jean Renoir's La règle du jeu was inspired by Musset's play, Les Caprices de Marianne.

Henri Gervex's 1878 painting Rolla was based on a poem by de Musset. It was rejected by the jury of the Salon de Paris for immorality, since it depicted a scene from the poem of a naked prostitute after having sex with her client - but the controversy helped Gervex's career. , .


  • Les Nuits (Nuits de mai, d'août, d'octobre, de décembre), 1835-1837


  • André del Sarto, 1833
  • Les Caprices de Marianne, 1833
  • Lorenzaccio, 1833
  • Fantasio, 1834
  • La nuit vénitienne, 1834
  • On ne badine pas avec l'amour, 1834
  • Barberine, 1835
  • Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée, 1845


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