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GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

1821-1880
French

"Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in. "

Gustave Flaubert was born on 12th December 1821 in Rouen into a family of doctors. He began writing from an early age and at fifteen he won a prize for an essay on mushrooms. During the 1830s he attended the Collége Royal de Rouen, where he wrote for the college newspapers, read Shakespeare and travelled extensively. In the 1840s Flaubert briefly studied law in Paris. However, after an attack of epilepsy he left Paris thus abandoning his studies in law and devoted himself to literature.

In 1846 he met the writer Louise Colet and despite meeting infrequently she soon became his mistress. This was Flaubert’s only relationship, and when the couple parted he sought only platonic companionship, mainly with other writers. After the death of his father and sister, Flaubert moved to the family’s country home near Rouen and stayed there with his mother until he was 50.

While in Rouen he commenced writing the mock-epic novel, Sentimental Education which was finally published seven years later in 1869. During this time he also travelled with the writer Maxime du Camp and upon his return he immediately began writing Madame Bovary. He spent five years writing the book, sometimes spending up to a week on just one paragraph. It first appeared in the magazine Revue de Paris in 1856 and then later published in 1857. The 1860s saw Flaubert enjoying the success of being a writer, and among his friends were Emile Zola, Georges Sand and Hippolyte Taine. 

Flaubert had caught syphilis while travelling to the Far East and Egypt in 1851 and by 1870 he became very ill. However this did not stop him writing and he was soon awarded the Chevalier, Legion of Honour. On 8th May 1880 Flaubert died unexpectedly from a brain haemorrhage and was buried at Rouen Cemetery in Normandy alongside the other great writer Marcel Duchamp.

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