Daudet, Alphonse (älfôNsˈ dōdāˈ) [key], 1840–97, French writer, b. Nîmes (Provence). Daudet made his mark with gentle naturalistic stories and novels portraying French life both in the provinces and in Paris. At the age of 16, after his father had suffered financial losses, he was obliged to serve as study master ( maître d'études ) in a school at Cévennes. With the help and encouragement of his older brother, he went to Paris, where he began his literary career with the publication of a small volume of poetry, Les Amoureuses (1857). His career was assured with the success of Lettres de mon moulin (1869, tr. Letters from My Mill, 1900), a group of delightful, Provence-inspired short stories.
Le Petit Chose (1868) is a semiautobiographical novel touchingly descriptive of his life at boarding school and sometimes compared to Dickens's David Copperfield. It was followed in rapid succession by Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon (1872), Contes du lundi (1873), Fromont jeune et Risler aîné (1874), Jack (1876), Le Nabab (1877), Les Rois en exil (1879), Numa Roumestan (1881), L'Évangeliste (1883), Sapho (1884), La Belle Nivernaise (1886), and L'Immortel (1888). Daudet was at once objective and personal, and his works, permeated by an engaging sense of humor, wistfulness, and subtle irony, were drawn largely from his own experience. Two volumes of reminiscences, Souvenirs d'un homme de lettres and Trente ans de Paris, appeared in 1888. Harrowing diaries of his lingering death from syphilis, La Doulou, were not published until 1930 (tr. In the Land of Pain, 2003). His brother, Louis Marie Ernst Daudet (1837–1921), was a historian. His son was Léon Daudet.
See study by M. Sachs (1965).
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