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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Maxime Du Camp (1822–1894)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
“WHY have I always felt happy, filled with the spirit of content and of infinite independence, whenever I have slept in the tent or in the ruins of foreign lands?” The love of change and adventure has been the spring of Du Camp’s life, a life whose events are blended so intimately with his literary achievement, that to know the one is to know the other. This practical man of the world has an imaginative, beauty-loving side to his nature, which craves stimulus from tropical unfamiliar nature and exotic ways.  1
  So, after the usual training of French boys in lycée and college,—“in those hideous houses where they wearied our childhood,” as he says,—the just-emancipated youth of twenty-two left his home in Paris for an eighteen-months’ trip in the far East. The color and variety of the experience whetted his love of travel, and very soon after his return he began a serious study of photography in view of future plans.  2
  Then came the revolution of 1848, the overthrow of Louis Philippe; and Du Camp had an opportunity to prove his courage and patriotism in the ranks of the National Guard. In his ‘Souvenirs de l’Année 1848,’ he tells the story with color and interest, and with the forceful logic of an eye-witness.  3
  His bravery and a serious wound won him the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, bestowed by General Cavaignac. This drew attention to him, and led the minister of public instruction to intrust him a few months later with a mission of exploration to Egypt, Nubia, Palestine, and Asia Minor; a result of which trip was his first literary success. Utilizing his photographic knowledge, he collected a great many negatives for future development. Upon his return he published a volume of descriptive sketches, ‘Le Nil, Egypte, et Nubie,’ generously illustrated with printed reproductions of these pictures. This first combination of photography and typography was popular, and was speedily imitated, initiative of many illustrated books.  4
  Later, Du Camp’s warlike and exploring instincts led him at his own expense into Sicily with Garibaldi, where he collected matter and photographs for ‘Les Deux Siciles,’ another successful volume. In 1851 he associated with others to found the Revue de Paris, for which he wrote regularly until its suspension in 1858. He has also written a great deal for the Revue des Deux Mondes, in which for several years he continued a series of historical studies upon the government of Paris. The six volumes upon ‘Paris: its Organs, its Functions, its Life, during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century,’ form one of his chief achievements. His personal knowledge on the subject, and his access to valuable unpublished documents, give it authoritative value.  5
  In ‘Les Ancêtres de la Commune,’ and ‘Les Convulsions de Paris,’ he has accomplished much more in the same line. The latter, a brilliant circumstantial exposition of the Commune, a logical condemnation of its folly and ignorance, brought him gratitude from the French Academy, and aided his election to that body in 1880. For this extensive work on contemporary politics, for his illustrated travels, and his artistic and literary criticism, he is better known than for his two or three novels and volumes of poetry.  6
  Du Camp’s may be characterized as a soldierly style, strong, direct, and personal. He loves to retrace old scenes with the later visible sequence of cause and effect. Always straightforward, sometimes bluntly self-assertive, he is sometimes eloquent. Perhaps his great charm is spontaneity.  7
 
 
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