Gustave Flaubert (1812-1880)

Gustave Flaubert: “Creator of the Modern Novel”

Gustave Flaubert was born on December 12, 1812, in Rouen, France. Flaubert showed signs of literary talent at the age of 18 when he began writing plays for his family and servants. Flaubert nurtured his these talents at the College Royal (Rouen, France) where, although he was an overall mediocre student, he became enthralled with literature and read widely. Flaubert graduated from the College Royal and (after traveling) enrolled in law school in Paris in 1841. His performance in law school proved to be less spectacular than his performance at the College Royal and consequently, he dropped out in 1894. Flaubert also had a seizure that same year and was diagnosed with a nervous malady which caused him to lead a relatively calm life from then on.

Flaubert spent the remainder of his life traveling and writing.

In 1856, after publishing Madame Bovary, Flaubert and the editors of the Revue de Paris were put on trial because Madame Bovary was considered to be morally offensive. However, they were acquitted in February of 1857. In 1869, during the Franco-Prussian War, Flaubert's estate was seized by the Prussians. After 1869, Flaubert experienced severe depression brought on by the death of his close friend Louis Bouilhet in 1869, and the death of his mother in 1872. Flaubert also became plagued by poor health and financial troubles in 1878, and remained so until he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1880.

Flaubert traveled extensively throughout his life to places such as the Middle East, Normandy, Brittany, and Tunisia. He also had many famous literary friends including the Goncourt brothers, Hippolyte Taine, Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Ivan Turgener and Bouilhet. Additionally, he corresponded with such eminent literary figures as Victor Hugo and George Sand. Some of Flaubert's titles and professions include: Knight in the Legion of Honor, Lieutenant in the National Guard, and Deputy Director of the Mazarine Library.

Flaubert has been called the “Creator of the Modern Novel” and is considered to be one of the masters of 19th century French literature. Flaubert was a perfectionist and was always looking for the "mot juste," the word that would fully and beautifully express his thoughts. Flaubert was also very concerned with the format of the novel; he carefully chose and scrutinized each sentence and word. Some of Flaubert's major works include:

Memories of a Madman (1838)
November (1842)
Madame Bovary (1857)
Salammbô (1862)
The Sentimental Education (1869)
The Candidate (1873)
The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874)
Three Tales (1877):
"A Simple Heart"
"The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitalier"
Bouvard and Pécuchet (1881)
Correspondence (1887-1893)

Critical Sources

Berg, William J., and Laurey K. Martin. Gustave Flaubert. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997.
Brombert, Victor. The Novels of Flaubert: A Study of Themes and Techniques. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.
Flaubert, Gustave. Complete Works. New York: M.Walter Dunne, 1904.
Giraud, Raymond, ed. Flaubert: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964.
Lottman, Herbert. Flaubert: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1989.
Porter, Laurence M. Critical Essays on Gustave Flaubert. Boston: G.K. Hall and Company, 1986.
Schor, Naomi, and Henry Majewski, eds. Flaubert and Postmodernism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
Sherrington, R.J. Three Novels by Flaubert: A Study of Techniques. Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.
Sullivan, Edward D. "Gustave Flaubert." Collier's Encyclopedia New York: Macmillan Educational Company, Vm.10, 1988. pp.43-45.

Some Helpful Links

Complete work of Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert--letters to Louise Colet (in French)
Flaubert resources
Links and lists of critical essays on Flaubert's works for Gustave Flaubert
Book review for Madame Bovary
Texts of selected Flaubert works (in French and English)
More links to information on Gustave Flaubert
Encarta Encyclopedia--results for Gustave Flaubert
Information on French authors