in Grenoble, France, he had a miserable childhood in stifling provincial
France, hating his unimaginative father and mourning his mother
who passed away when he was small. His closest friend was his younger
military and theatrical worlds of the First French Empire were
a revelation to Beyle. He travelled extensively in Germany and
was part of Napoleon's army in the 1812 invasion of Russia), but
formed a particular attachment to Italy, where he spent much of
the remainder of his career, serving as French consul at Trieste
and Civitavecchia and writing. His novel The Charterhouse of Parma,
among other works, is set in Italy, which he considered a more
sincere and passionate country than Restoration France. An aside
in that novel, referring to a character who contemplates suicide
after being jilted, speaks volumes about his attitude towards
his home country: "To make this course of action clear to
my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very
far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love."
used the pseudonym "Stendhal", supposedly chosen as
an anagram of "Shetland" (although Georges Perec may
have invented this explanation - references to Le Rouge et le
Noir (The Red and the Black) feature extensively in Perec's unfinished
last novel 53 jours). Alternatively, some scholars believe he
borrowed his nom de plume from the German city of Stendal as a
homage for Johann Joachim Winckelmann.
was a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an inveterate
skirt-chaser. His genuine empathy towards women is evident in
his books (Simone de
Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second
Sex), and contrasts with his obsession with sexual conquests.
He seems to have preferred the desire to the consummation. One
of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic
passion. This fusion, or tension, of clearheaded analysis with
romantic feeling is typical of Stendhal's great novels; he could
be considered a Romantic realist.
readers did not fully appreciate Stendhal's realistic style during
the Romantic period in which he lived; he was not fully appreciated
until the beginning of the 20th century. He dedicated his writing
to "the Happy Few", referring to those who would one
day recognise his own genius. Today, Stendhal's works attract
attention for their irony and psychological and historical aspects.
was an avid fan of music, particularly the composers Cimarosa,
Mozart, and Rossini, the latter of whom he wrote an extensive
biography, Vie de Rossini (1824), now more valued for its wide-ranging
musical criticism than for its historical accuracy.
died in Paris in 1842 and is interred in the Cimetière
brief, saucy memoir, Souvenirs d'Egotisme (Memoirs of an Egotist)
was published posthumously in 1892. Also published was a more
extended autobiographical work, thinly disguised at the Life of