chapter  6
15 Pages

Paul Bourget Heir to the Second Empire

WithAngus Wrenn

Paul Bourget shared with the writers the common influence of the French philosopher and historian Hippolyte Taine, who had been one of the great proponents of determinism in nineteenth-century French thought. Bourget's subsequent output bears witness to a shift away from the emphasis on brute materialism to be found in the Goncourts and Zola, towards an insistence, no less determinist, on psychological factors. This was probably also linked to Bourget's preference in his novels for refined upper-class society. That gives him much in common with Henry James and it is no surprise to learn that a close friendship quickly developed between the two when they met for the first time in 1884 in Paris. Bourget met James at precisely the time when the latter was producing his 'manifesto' 'The Art of Fiction', and this is hinted at in the effusive dedication to James which Bourget affixed to his 1885 novel Cruelle Enigme.