Henri-Marie Beyle – pseudonym Frederick Stendhal – was born January 23, 1783 in the small French town of Grenoble, surrounded by snowy peaks of the Alps, in the family of the lawyer Cheruben Beyle. The mother of the future writer – Henrietta Beyle – died when the boy was barely seven years old. His upbringing was occupied by the sister of Serafi’s mother, but neither with her nor with the father of the little Henri’s relationship did not work out. His father was a stingy and spiritually limited man, his aunt was constantly jealous of his father. The warm relation and attention to himself the boy met only from his grandfather’s mother Henry Gagnon, in whose honor he was named. Henri Gagnon was a doctor, he was known and loved in a small provincial Grenoble. Later in his autobiographical book “The Life of Henri Brylar,” Stendhal recalled: “I was completely raised by my dear grandfather, Henri Gagnon.
Since that time, the
negative attitude of Stendhal to all forms of clericalism also began. The fact is that as a child he faced a fanatical Jesuit Abbot Ryan, under the supervision of which he studied the Bible. Communication with this man left in Stendhal’s mind a sense of horror and mistrust of the clergy for life.
The writer’s childhood coincided with stormy historical events caused by the Great French Revolution. A pupil of the Grenoble Central School, Henri Beyle followed with interest the development of revolutionary events, although at that time he hardly understood what significance they had for France and the whole world. He studied at school only three years, having mastered, by his own admission, only Latin in perfection. In addition, he was fascinated by mathematics and logic, he was engaged in philosophy and studied art history.
In 1799, Stendhal went to Paris with the firm intention of entering the Polytechnic School. But fate decreed otherwise. He arrived in Paris the day after the coup d’état of Napoleon. The events of November 9, 1799 dramatically changed the plans of the young man. The young
philosopher Henri Beyle, the first pupil in mathematics and a passionate art lover, forgetting about the Polytechnic School, enters the service in the Ministry of War and goes to the active army. In the eyes of the officers of the dragoon regiment, a seventeen-year-old cornet, unfamiliar with the art of riding and not owning a sword, looked like a black sheep. He was really ridiculous, sitting astride a horse, to which he had loaded a whole sack full of books.
As a military official of the Napoleonic army, Stendhal visited Italy, Germany and Austria. Acquaintance with European capitals, meetings with interesting people greatly expanded the outlook of the future writer. During this time he managed to survive and the first great love, and the bitterness of parting with his beloved, experienced himself in the commercial field and was forever disgusted with bourgeois entrepreneurship of all kinds. But whatever the fate of Stendhal, he always found time to think about the beautiful. The young officer wrote thick notebooks with his notes on painting and music, which gradually evolved into harmonious aesthetic judgments. Part of these notebooks, unfortunately, died while crossing the Berezina.
In 1812 Stendhal took part in the Russian campaign of Napoleon. He visited Orsha, Smolensk, Vyazma, witnessed the battle of Borodino. Month he lived in Moscow, seized by the French. In Russia, he said, he saw “patriotism and real greatness.” He was amazed that the despotism of the Russian autocracy “did not at all downgrade the people spiritually.” He was waiting for France to strike a blow at serfdom in Russia, but nothing of the sort happened. “What I saw and experienced,” notes Stendhal in one of his letters from Russia, “a householder writer would not have guessed in a thousand years.”
After the fall of Napoleon, Stendhal, negatively related to the Restoration and Bourbon regime, resigns and leaves for Italy, captured again by the Austrians. He settles in Milan and lives there for seven years. This city became for him “the most beautiful place on Earth”. Here he prepares for the press and writes his first books: “The Life of Haydn, Mozart and Metastasio”, “The History of Painting in Italy”, “Rome, Naples and Florence in 1817”, is working on the book “On Love.”
In the treatise “On Love,” Stendhal very clearly analyzes the most delicate emotional experiences of man. Exploring such fragile, subtle and delicate human feelings, the writer relies on his own experience and his own emotional experiences. However, as S. Velikovsky rightly points out, “even then Stendhal observes that the heartbeat without history is helpless: the unrestrained passion of the Renaissance Italians is not like the refined courtesy of the nobles of Louis XIV, the German burgher loves not like a medieval knight… Discovery of this it is very useful to Stendhal, when he will have to describe the love of aristocrats and provincials, a secular dandy and a descendant from below. “
In Italy, Stendhal draws closer to the Republicans-Carbonarias, gets to know and makes friends with Byron. Here he experienced a hopeless love for Matilde Viscontini, who died early, but remained forever in his memory. Suspected by the government in connection with the secret national liberation organization, Stendhal was forced to leave Milan for Paris. He left his beloved city with a feeling, “as if his soul was taken from him.”