Abel-François Villemain

Last updated

Abel-Francois Villemain Villemain, Abel-Francois - 2.jpg
Abel-François Villemain

Abel-François Villemain (9 June 1790 8 May 1870) was a French politician and writer.


Villemain was born in Paris and educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. He became assistant master at the Lycée Charlemagne, and subsequently at the École Normale. In 1812 he gained a prize from the Academy with an essay on Michel de Montaigne. Under the restoration he was appointed, first, assistant professor of modern history, and then professor of French eloquence at the Sorbonne. Here he delivered a series of literary lectures which had an extraordinary effect on his younger contemporaries. [1]

Villemain had the great advantage of coming just before the Romantic movement, of having a wide love of literature without being an extremist. Most of the clever young men of the brilliant generation of 1830 passed under his influence; and, while he pleased the Romanticists by his frank appreciation of the beauties of English, German, Italian, and Spanish poetry, he did not decry the classics—either the classics proper of Greece and Rome or the so-called classics of France. [1]

In 1819 he published a book on Oliver Cromwell, [2] and two years later he was elected to the Academy. Villemain was appointed by the restoration government Chef de l'imprimerie et de la librairie, a post involving a kind of irregular censorship of the press, and afterwards to the office of master of requests. Before the revolution of July he had been deprived of his office for his liberal tendencies, and was elected deputy for Évreux in July 1830. Under Louis-Philippe he was made a Peer of France in 1832. He was a member of the council of public instruction, and was twice minister of that department, and he also became secretary of the Academy. During the whole of the July monarchy he was one of the chief dispensers of literary patronage in France, but in his later years his reputation declined. He died in Paris. [1]

His wit was legendary; an anecdote has a fellow professor saying to him "I have discovered a gallicism in Cicero." The professor had been a revolutionary during the revolution, a follower of Napoleon during the Empire and a royalist during the restauration. Villemain answered quickly to him: "I found one too: «Quantae infidelitates! Quot amicorum fugae!»"[ citation needed ]

Villemain's chief work is his Cours de la littérature française (5 vols., 1828–1829). Among his other works are: Tableau de la littérature au Moyen Âge (2 vols., 1846); Tableau de la littérature au XVIII siècle (4 vols., 1864); Souvenirs contemporains (2 vols., 1856); Histoire de Grégoire VII (2 vols., 1873; Engl. trans., 1874). [1]

Lautréamont assessed him thus: "Villemain is thirty-four times more intelligent than Eugène Sue and Frédéric Soulié. His preface to the Dictionary of the Academy will outlive the novels of Walter Scott and Fenimore Cooper, and all the novels conceivable and imaginable." [3]

Among notices on Villemain may be cited that of Louis de Loménie (1841), E. Mirecourt (1858), J.L. Dubut (1875). See also Sainte-Beuve, Portraits (1841, vol. iii), and Causeries du lundi (vol. xi, "Notes et pensées"). [1]

Related Research Articles

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle French writer, satirist and philosopher of enlightenment

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle, also called Bernard Le Bouyer de Fontenelle, was a French author and an influential member of three of the academies of the Institut de France, noted especially for his accessible treatment of scientific topics during the unfolding of the Age of Enlightenment.

Jean-Philibert Damiron was a French philosopher.

François Guizot French historian, orator, and statesman

François Pierre Guillaume Guizot was a French historian, orator, and statesman. Guizot was a dominant figure in French politics prior to the Revolution of 1848. A moderate liberal who opposed the attempt by King Charles X to usurp legislative power, he worked to sustain a constitutional monarchy following the July Revolution of 1830.

François Mignet French historian and journalist

François Auguste Marie Mignet was a French journalist and historian of the French Revolution.

Paul Meyer (philologist) French philologist

Marie-Paul-Hyacinthe Meyer, was a French philologist.

Jean-François de La Harpe French playwright, writer and critic

Jean-François de La Harpe was a French playwright, writer and literary critic.

Ferdinand Brunetière French writer

Ferdinand Brunetière was a French writer and critic.

Jules Janin French writer and critic

Jules Gabriel Janin was a French writer and critic.

Jean Charles Dominique de Lacretelle French historian and journalist

Jean Charles Dominique de Lacretelle,, was a French historian and journalist.

Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat French sinologist

Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat was a French sinologist best known as the first Chair of Sinology at the Collège de France. Rémusat studied medicine as a young man, but his discovery of a Chinese herbal treatise enamored him with the Chinese language, and he spent five years teaching himself to read it. After publishing several well-received articles on Chinese topics, a chair in Chinese was created at the Collège de France in 1814 and Rémusat was placed in it.

Jacques Claude Demogeot was a French man of letters.

Louis Petit de Julleville was a French scholar.

Alexis-François Artaud de Montor French historian

Alexis-François Artaud De Montor was a diplomat and historian. An émigré during the French Revolution, he was entrusted by the royal princes with missions to the Holy See and served during the campaign of Champagne in the Army of Condé. Napoleon Bonaparte made him secretary of the French Legation in Rome. Artaud occupied this post under François Cacault, left Rome for a short time when Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Cacault's successor, brought Chateaubriand with him, and returned to Rome in the same capacity after Chateaubriand had resigned. Appointed chargé d'affaires of France to Florence in 1805 he was recalled in 1807 because he was wrongfully suspected of having employed his power on behalf of the Queen of Etruria, whose possessions Napoleon wished to give to Elisa Bonaparte.

Antoine Jay French writer, journalist, historian and politician

Antoine Jay was a French writer, journalist, historian and politician.

Jean-François Roger French politician, journalist, poet and dramatic author

Jean-François Roger, sometimes called François Roger, was a French politician, journalist, poet and dramatic author. During the Revolution, at 16 years of age, he and his family were imprisoned for seventeen months for singing royalist songs. He was a civil servant, and he entered l' University where he published works of school literature. He was later appointed Professor during the Empire and Restoration. He was elected member of the French Academy, as a replacement for Suard, on 8 August 1817 and received by the duke of Lévis on 30 November next. His election was widely criticized. He was a member of the Commission of the Dictionary where he fought the Lacretelle proposal, accepted Villemain and the count of Holy-Aulaire and voted against Victor Hugo. He was one of the companions of the “Lunch of the Fork”. Of his comic and lyric works, sometimes written in collaboration with Etienne de Jouy, his greatest success is a comedy in verse, in three acts: L'Avocat, played for the first time at the Comédie-Française.

Albert Laponneraye was a French republican socialist and a journalist, popular historian, educator and editor of Robespierre's writings. He was a representative of the Neo-Babouvist tendency in the 1840s, along with Richard Lahautière, Jean-Jacques Pillot and others. He combined Jacobin republicanism with egalitarian communism and anti-clericalism. He was influenced by the doctrines of Philippe Buonarroti and Étienne Cabet. In the 1830s and 40s Laponneraye was one of the best known advocates of republican communism. He is viewed as a forerunner of Karl Marx.

Antoine-François Delandine French writer

Antoine-François Delandine, was a French writer.

Antoine-Pierre-Louis Bazin, or A. P. L. Bazin was a French sinologist born in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt. He was the brother of dermatologist Pierre-Antoine-Ernest Bazin (1807-1878).

Fortunat Joseph Strowski de Robkowa was a French literary historian, essayist and critic. A specialist on Pascal and Montaigne, he superintended the first critical edition of Montaigne's Essays.

François Crouzet French historian and teacher

François Crouzet was a French historian. Considered the greatest French historian of Britain of his generation, he was Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne at the time of his death.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Villemain, Abel François". Encyclopædia Britannica . 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 80.
  2. "Review of Histoire de Cromwell, d'après les Mémoires du Temps, et les Recueils Parlementaires par M. Villemain ..." The Quarterly Review. 25: 279–347. July 1821.
  3. Raitt, Alan William (1998). The Process of Art: Essays on Nineteenth-century French Literature, Music and Painting in Honour of Alan Raitt. Clarendon Press. p. 34.