Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
To lend freshness to things known, to spread knowledge of things new; an excellent program for a critic.

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (December 23 1804October 13 1869) was a French literary critic, poet and novelist.


  • Le désespoir lui-même, pour peu qu'il se prolonge, devient une sorte d'asile dans lequel on peut s'asseoir et reposer.
    • Despair itself if it goes on long enough, can become a kind of sanctuary in which one settles down and feels at ease.
    • "Vie de Joseph Delorme" (1829), cited from Poésies completes de Sainte-Beuve (Paris: Charpentier, 1840) p. 16; Mardy Grothe Oxymoronica (London: HarperCollins, 2004) p. 201.
  • Gardons-nous de l'ironie en jugeant. De toutes les dispositions de l'esprit, l'ironie est la moins intelligente.
    • Let us beware of irony when making judgements. Of all the dispositions of the mind, irony is the least intelligent.
    • Notebook entry, February 24, 1848, cited from Les cahiers de Sainte-Beuve (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1876) p. 75; Christopher Prendergast The Classic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) p. 244.
  • Puisqu'il faut avoir des ennemis, tâchons d'en avoir qui nous fassent honneur.
    • Since it is necessary to have enemies, let us endeavour to have those who do us honour.
    • Derniers portraits littéraires (1852; Paris: Didier, 1858) p. 534 ; translated by W. Fraser Rae, in Sainte-Beuve English Portraits (London: Dalby, Isbister, 1875) p. xci.
  • Renouveler les choses connues, vulgariser les choses neuves: un bon programme pour un critique.
    • To lend freshness to things known, to spread knowledge of things new; an excellent program for a critic.
    • Causeries du lundi, vol. 11 (1856; Paris: Garnier, 1868) p. 512; Philo M. Buck, Jr. Literary Criticism (New York: Harper, 1930) p. 398
  • Le plus souvent nous ne jugeons pas les autres, mais nous jugeons nos propres facultés dans les autres.
    • Most often we are judging not others, but rather our own faculties in others.
    • Œuvres choisies (Paris: A. Hatier, 1934) p. 774; Andrew George Lehmann Sainte-Beuve (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962) p. 301.
  • Le silence seul est le souverain mépris.
    • Silence is the sovereign contempt.
    • Pensées et maximes (Paris: B. Grasset, 1954) p. 271; Nicholas Rescher Communicative Pragmatism and Other Philosophical Essays on Language (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998) p. 146.
  • A philosophical thought has probably not attained all its sharpness and all its illumination until it is expressed in French
    • Society for Pure English, Tract 5 The Englishing of French Words; The Dialectal Words in Blunden's Poems Author: Society for Pure English Release Date: June 5, 2004
  • On “the phenomenon of grace”. “For the soul arrives therebye at a certain fixed and invincible state, a state which is genuinely heroic, and from out of which the greatest deeds it ever performs are executed”.
    • As quoted by william james in Varieties of Religious Experience Lecture 11, paragraph 3.
  • Il m'a souvent passe par l'esprit, dit Gourville, que les hommes ont leurs proprietes a peu pres commes les herbes, et que leur bonheur consiste d'avoir ete destines ou de s'etre destines eux-memes aux choses pour lesquelles ils etaient nes.
    • It has often passed through my mind, says Gourville, that men have their properties almost as herbs, and that their happiness consists in having been destined or [being] destined for the things for which they were born.
    • "Memoires de Gourville", Causeries du lundi, v. 299 (Quoted in The Notebooks of Matthew Arnold, Google translation)
  • puis goûter une œuvre, mais il m'est difficile de la juger indépendamment de la connaissance de l'homme même, et je dirais volontiers: tel arbre, tel fruit.
    • ...I can savor a work, but it is difficult for me to judge it independently from the author, and I would gladly say, as is the tree, so is the fruit.


  • L'injustice…est une mère qui n'est jamais sterile, et qui produit des enfants dignes d'elle.
    • Injustice…is a mother who is never barren, and bears children worthy of her.
    • Causeries du lundi (Paris: Garnier, 1857) vol. 1, p. 148; E. J. Trechmann (trans.) Causeries du Lundi (London: George Routledge, 1909) vol. 1, p. 117.
    • Sainte-Beuve was here merely reporting words spoken by Adolphe Thiers, but many French quotation websites (e.g. Dico-Citations) attribute them to Sainte-Beuve himself.

Quotes about Sainte-Beuve[edit]

  • He had imperfections, prejudices, limitations, but when we have recognised them all, he remains the greatest literary critic that the world has seen.
    • Edmund Gosse "The Prince of Critics", in More Books on the Table (London: William Heinemann, 1923) p. 13.
  • The nearest approach to the infallible in literary judgment is represented in the colossal work of the teacher of all these three [Edmund Gosse, Edward Dowden and George Saintsbury], the greatest critic that ever lived – not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, the wonderful Sainte-Beuve.
    • Lafcadio Hearn Life and Literature (1917; Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger, 2005) p. 82
  • The greatest of all French critics, and possibly the greatest European critic since Aristotle.
    • J. G. Clark, in The Penguin Companion to Literature (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969) vol. 2, p. 283.

External links[edit]