||René is a short novella by François-René de Chateaubriand, which first appeared in 1802. The work had an immense impact on early Romanticism, comparable to that of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. Like the German novel, it deals with a sensitive and passionate young man who finds himself at odds with contemporary society. René was first published as part of Chateaubriand's Génie du christianisme along with another novella, Atala, although it was in fact an excerpt from a long prose epic the author had composed between 1793 and 1799 called Les Natchez, which would not be made public until 1826. René enjoyed such immediate popularity that it was republished separately in 1805 along with Atala. The text of both of these novellas is in French, with a French-German vocabulary list at the end of the volume.
François-René de Chateaubriand, French writer, (1768-1848). Although at first destined for the navy, for a while he believed himself called to the ecclesiastical life, but finally, in 1786, obtained a commission as lieutenant in the regiment of Navarre. Upon the fall of the monarchy, he embarked for America, 8 April, 1791. The American wilderness was indeed a revelation to his poetic mind, and furnished it with an inexhaustible supply of imagery. However, when King Louis XVI was arrested at Varennes, Chateaubriand believed it his duty to place his sword at the service of imperiled royalty and returned to France. He married, emigrated, joined the army of Condé, was wounded and left for dead during the expedition against Thionville, and succeeded in escaping to England in 1793. Here he lived in London in the most abject misery, being unable to return to France until 1800, and even then only under an assumed name.
"Le génie du Christianisme" (Paris, 1802) soon afterwards made him famous, and Bonaparte appointed him secretary of the embassy at Rome and then minister at Valais, Switzerland, a post which he resigned even before occupying it. Admitted to the French Academy to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Marie Joseph Chénier, he refused, despite the entreaties of Napoleon, to withhold his opinion on the revolutionary ideas of his predecessor, and this retarded his reception until after the fall of the Empire. Thenceforth he was plunged into party strife. His political life has been divided into three distinct parts: (1) the purely Royalist period up to 1824; (2) the Liberal period from 1824 to 1830; (3) the period of Royalism and ideal Republicanism between 1830 and the time of his death. Appointed Minister of State after Waterloo, he eloquently and energetically opposed the Decazes ministry (1816-1820), became ambassador successively in Berlin and in London, plenipotentiary to the Congress of Verona, and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Villèle ministry. In 1824 the king dismissed him for the haughtiness of character that had rendered him intolerable to his colleagues. Chateaubriand waged a merciless war for Liberal principles against all the ministerial departments, sparing not even royalty itself. Made ambassador to Rome in 1828, he resigned upon Polignac's accession to office next year, and when, in 1830, Louis-Philippe ascended the throne, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new regime. This was the end of his active political career.