French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) studied law, but was born a novelist. A diagnosis of epilepsy forced him to abandon his legal studies, which gave him the opportunity to pursue a literary career.
His first book Madame Bovaryfirst published in French literature La Revue de Paris by the end of 1856, Flaubert had established himself as a master of French realism. Read on to learn more about Flaubert’s inspiration for the character of Emma Bovary, his creative process, and the scandal that threatened the book’s publication.
Madame Bovary tells the story of Emma, a peasant who marries an old doctor, Charles Bovary, to escape the comforts of rural life. Emma quickly begins to despise her husband and their provincial ways, especially after she attends a ball thrown by one of her husband’s royal patients. In search of love and luxury, Emma indulges in extramarital affairs and squanders her husband’s money.
Despite Emma’s arrival, Flaubert’s interpretation of sexuality confused French readers and led to a harsh judgment. The trial lasted only one day, and Flaubert and La Revue de Paris both were released a week later. After Flaubert’s legal battle, Madame Bovary was published as a two-volume set in 1857.
One of Madame BovaryPerhaps the most memorable chapter is the one where Emma attends a ball thrown by one of Charles’ patients, the Marquis d’Andervilliers. Filled with dancing, delicious food, and high-profile guests, the glittering performance awakens Emma’s desire for a luxurious life. The event was inspired by a real dance that Flaubert attended with his parents in 1836, when he was 14. Held by a local aristocrat, the experience greatly impressed Flaubert. and he explained the elements of it in his first short story “Quidquid Volueris” (1837) and in an 1850 letter to a friend.
A little earlier Madame Bovary was published, Flaubert ended a years-long affair with the married poet Louise Colet. Flaubert met Colet in 1846, not long after his sister Caroline died in childbirth. The author hired the sculptor James Pradier to create a box in Caroline’s portrait, and Colet—who was considered very beautiful—was posing in the artist’s office. when Flaubert arrives with his sister’s death mask.
Flaubert and Colet fell in love, and exchanged letters during their relationship. Most of Flaubert’s missives describe his creative process in writing Madame Bovary, making the genesis of the novel “one of the best-charred in fiction,” according to novelist Renee Winegarten—the silver lining of another bitter breakup. (Flaubert’s last letter to Colet, written in 1855, reads, “I am told that you have come to my apartment three times to try to talk to me.”)
Madame BovaryA news story featuring a French woman named Delphine Delamare inspired the idea. At the age of 17, Delamare left her rural home to marry a medical officer, like Charles Bovary, a widower. Delamare cheated on her husband, spent his money on frivolous things, ended up in deep debt and committed suicide at the age of 27.
When people asked Flaubert how he was inspired to create the character of Emma Bovary, he famously replied, “I am Madame Bovary.” However, some scholars believe that the character of Emma Bovary was inspired (if not inspired) by Flaubert’s first lover, Colet. The actress James Pradier, who was sexually active, may have influenced Flaubert to create Emma.
The writer spent 12 hours a day writing at his desk, and also shouted the words to measure their sound. Sometimes it took him a week to finish one page, and once a year of work only resulted in 90 pages.
In contrast, Flaubert spent only 18 months writing the first 500-page manuscript of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the 1874 novel he spent most of his adult life writing. (This first impression was so difficult that Flaubert’s good friend, the poet Louis Bouilhet, decided to “throw it into the fire and never speak of it again.”)
Flaubert dedicated Madame Bovary to Bouilhet and wrote his epigraph to his lawyer, Marie-Antoine-Jules Senard, who successfully defended Flaubert at his trial in 1857. The latter reads:
Dear friend, allow me to write your name in the title of this book, and above its dedication, because to you, I owe more to its publication. When you went to court with your beautiful accusations, my work took on, in my eyes, an unexpected power. Therefore, I ask you to accept the blessing of my gratitude, even though your words and your piety have not reached the height. – Gustave Flaubert
The first known English translation of Madame Bovary it was completed by Juliet Herbert—governess for Flaubert’s daughter, Caroline—between 1856 and 1857. Scholars do not know much about Herbert, because his correspondence with Flaubert was lost, but others record her as the writer’s mistress.
It is thought that either Caroline or Flaubert burned their letters, but other documents indicate that Herbert and Flaubert were friends, and that Herbert gave the writer English lessons. The duo worked on translating Byron’s song “The Prisoner of Chillon” into French, and along the way they decided to record it together. Madame Bovary.
Flaubert was so impressed with Herbert’s work on the project that in May 1857, he wrote a letter to Michel Lévy, the Paris publisher. Madame Bovaryreferring to him as “an English translator which very full Satisfies are being made under my eyes. If anyone is going to be in England, I want it to be this one and no one else.” He later referred to the government’s translation as a “masterpiece.”
Despite Herbert’s influence of Madame Bovary He met the strict standards of Flaubert, he did not hit the pressures. (Historians believe that Lévy failed or refused to set up a British publisher for the government. Flaubert and an English director in the 1980s. To this day, Herbert’s translation and his portrait remain unknown.
In 1885, London publisher Henry Vizetelly hired Karl Marx’s daughter, Eleanor Marx, to produce the first English translation of Madame Bovary. It was published the following year [PDF].
“The tragedy of Flaubert’s characters,” wrote Marx, “is that they lie … in the fact that they act as they do because they must. It is immoral, contrary to their own right, to do this or that; but it is a right—something that cannot be avoided.”
Although created in the 19th century, the character of Emma Bovary-a woman who is not very desirable; “The Desperate Housewife” in the words of some critics of today – is the same with writers and artists.
Lena Dunham uses a quote from Madame Bovary as an epigraph in Not that kind of girlhis 2014 collection of autobiographical essays [PDF]. British photographer Posy Simmons has published a graphic novel, Gemma Bowery, in 1999, republishing the story with a foreign audience in France. Rory Gilmore is both from the TV show Gilmore Girls and Carmela Soprano The Sopranos is displayed on the reading page Madame Bovary. The story has been adapted for the big screen many times (and in many countries), the most recent being a 2014 version by director Sophie Barthes starring Mia Wasikowska as Emma and Henry Lloyd -Charles Hughes.