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Chasles, Victor Euphemien Philarete

CHASLES, VICTOR EUPHEMIEN PHILARETE (1798-1873), French critic and man of letters, was born at Mainvilliers (Eure et Loir) on the 8th of October 1798. His father, Pierre Jacques Michel Chasles (1754-1826), was a member of the Convention, and was one of those who voted the death of Louis XVI. He brought up his son according to the principles of Rousseau's Emile, and the boy, after a régime of outdoor life, followed by some years' classical study, was apprenticed to a printer, so that he might make acquaintance with manual labour. His master was involved in one of the plots of 1815, and Philarète suffered two months' imprisonment. On his release he was sent to London, where he worked for the printer Valpy on editions of classical authors. He wrote articles for the English reviews, and on his return to France did much to popularize the study of English authors. He was also one of the earliest to draw attention in France to Scandinavian and Russian literature. He contributed to the Revue des deux mondes, until he had a violent quarrel, terminating in a lawsuit, with François Buloz, who won his case. He became librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, and from 1841 was professor of comparative literature at the Collège de France. During his active life he produced some fifty volumes of literary history and criticism, and of social history, much of which is extremely valuable. He died at Venice on the 18th of July 1873. His son, Emile Chasles (b. 1827), was a philologist of some reputation.

Among his best critical works is Dix-huitième Siècle en Angleterre ... (1846), one of a series of 20 vols. of Etudes de littérature comparée (1846-1875), which he called later Trente ans de critique. An account of his strenuous boyhood is given in his Maison de mon père. His Mémoires (1876-1877) did not fulfil the expectations based on his brilliant talk.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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