Goncourt, Edmond and Jules

Goncourt, Edmond and Jules

▪ French authors
in full  Edmond-Louis-Antoine Huot de Goncourt  and  Jules-Alfred Huot de Goncourt 
born May 26, 1822, Nancy, France
died July 16, 1896, Champrosay
born December 17, 1830, Paris
died June 20, 1870, Auteuil
 French brothers, writers and constant collaborators who made significant contributions to the development of the naturalist (naturalism) novel and to the fields of social history and art criticism. Above all, they are remembered for their perceptive, revealing Journal and for Edmond's legacy, the Académie Goncourt, which annually awards the Prix Goncourt to the author of an outstanding work of French literature.

      The Goncourts' widowed mother left them an income that enabled the brothers to live in modest comfort without working and rescued Edmond from a treasury clerkship that had driven him to suicidal despair. The brothers immediately began to lead a life doubly dominated by aesthetics and self-indulgence. Amateur artists, they first made a sketching tour of France, Algeria, and Switzerland. Back home in their Paris flat, they made a fetish of orderly housekeeping, but their lives were continually disordered by noises, upset stomachs, insomnia, and neurasthenia. Neither of them married. All the mistresses appearing in the Journal no doubt belonged to Jules, whose fatal stroke presumably was preceded by syphilis.

      From attempts at art the brothers turned to plays and in 1851 published a novel, En 18, all without success. As journalists, they were arrested in 1852, though later acquitted, for an “outrage against public morality,” which consisted of quoting mildly erotic Renaissance verses in one of their articles. The brothers achieved more success with a series of social histories, which they began publishing in 1854. These drew on private correspondence, newspaper accounts, brochures, even dinner menus and dress patterns to recreate the life of specific periods in French history. As art critics, the Goncourts' most notable achievement was L'Art du dix-huitième siècle (1859–75; French Eighteenth Century Painters), which helped redeem the reputations of such masters of that time as Antoine Watteau.

      The same meticulous documentation and attention to detail went into the Goncourts' novels. The brothers covered a vast range of social environments in their novels: the world of journalism and literature in Charles Demailly (1860); that of medicine and the hospital in Soeur Philomène (1861); upper middle-class society in Renée Mauperin (1864); and the artistic world in Manette Salomon (1867). The Goncourts' frank presentation of upper and lower social classes and their clinical dissection of social relations helped establish literary naturalism and paved the way for such novelists as Émile Zola and George Moore. The most lasting of their novels, Germinie Lacerteux (1864), was based on the double life of their ugly, seemingly impeccable servant, Rose, who stole their money to pay for nocturnal orgies and men's attentions. It is one of the first realistic French novels of working-class life. Most of the other novels, however, suffer from overly long exposition and description, excessive detail, and mannered, artificial language. The Goncourts were also known for the theoretical prefaces to their novels; Edmond gathered a selection of these writings for the collection Préfaces et manifestes littéraires (1888; “Prefaces and Literary Manifestos”).

      The Goncourts began keeping their monumental Journal in 1851, and Edmond continued it for 26 more years from Jules's death in 1870 until his own. The diary weaves through every social stratum, from the hovels where the brothers sought atmosphere for Germinie Lacerteux to dinners with great men of the day. Full of critical judgments, scabrous anecdotes, descriptive sketches, literary gossip, and thumbnail portraits, the complete Journal is at once a revealing autobiography and a monumental history of social and literary life in 19th-century Paris.

      The Académie Goncourt, first conceived by the brothers in 1867, was officially constituted in 1903.

Additional Reading
Richard B. Grant, The Goncourt Brothers (1972).

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

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  • Edmond and Jules Goncourt — were two French literary brothers. See:* Edmond de Goncourt * Jules de Goncourt …   Wikipedia

  • Goncourt, Edmond Huot de — (1822 1896)    historian, writer    Born in Nancy, Edmond Huot de Goncourt became interested in literature quite early. in collaboration with his brother, Jules Huot de Goncourt (1830 70), he developed a critical style of historiography. The… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Goncourt, Edmond (-Louis-Antoine Huot de) and Jules (-Alfred Huot de) — born May 26, 1822, Nancy, France died July 16, 1896, Champrosay born Dec. 17, 1830, Paris died June 20, 1870, Auteuil French writers. The Goncourt brothers were enabled by a legacy to devote their lives largely to writing. They produced a series… …   Universalium

  • Edmond de Goncourt — (May 26, 1822 ndash; July 16, 1896) was a French writer, critic, book publisher and the founder of the Académie Goncourt. He was born Edmond Louis Antoine Huot de Goncourt in Nancy.BiographyHe bequeathed his entire estate for the foundation and… …   Wikipedia

  • Goncourt brothers — For the village and commune, see Goncourt, Haute Marne. Edmond (left) with his brother Jules. Photographed by Félix Nadar The Goncourt brothers (pronounced [gɔ̃kuːʁ]) were Edmond de Goncourt ( …   Wikipedia

  • Goncourt — noun 1. French writer who collaborated with his brother Edmond de Goncourt on many books (1830 1870) • Syn: ↑Jules de Goncourt, ↑Jules Alfred Huot de Goncourt • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author 2. French writer who collaborated with his… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Edmond de Goncourt — noun French writer who collaborated with his brother Jules de Goncourt on many books and who in his will established the Prix Goncourt (1822 1896) • Syn: ↑Goncourt, ↑Edmond Louis Antoine Huot de Goncourt • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author …   Useful english dictionary

  • Edmond Louis Antoine Huot de Goncourt — noun French writer who collaborated with his brother Jules de Goncourt on many books and who in his will established the Prix Goncourt (1822 1896) • Syn: ↑Goncourt, ↑Edmond de Goncourt • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author …   Useful english dictionary

  • Edmond — /ed meuhnd/, n. 1. a town in central Oklahoma. 34,637. 2. Also, Edmund. a male given name: from Old English words meaning rich, happy and protection. * * * (as used in expressions) Halley Edmond Hoyle Edmond Rostand Edmond Eugène Edmond Preston… …   Universalium

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