Skip to main content

Chateaubriand, François René, vicomte de

François René Chateaubriand, vicomte de (fräNswä´ rənā´ vēkôNt´ də shätōbrēäN´), 1768–1848, French writer. Chateaubriand was a founder of romanticism in French literature. Of noble birth, he grew up in his family's isolated castle of Combourg. In 1791 he visited the United States, supposedly to search for the Northwest Passage, although he apparently did not go beyond Niagara Falls. He returned to France but became an émigré and lived in England until 1800. There he published his first book, Essai historique, politique, et moral sur les révolutions (1797). The Genius of Christianity (1802, tr. 1856) made Chateaubriand the most important author of his time in France. Two tragic love stories included in this volume, "Atala" (1801) and "René" (1802), exemplify the melancholy, exotic description of nature and the evocative language that became a trademark of romantic fiction. His other works include The Martyrs (1809, tr. 1812, 1859), which celebrated the victory of Christianity over paganism, and Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage (1826), a narrative of romance set in Spain. In 1803, Napoleon appointed Chateaubriand secretary of the legation to Rome and then minister to Valaise, but in 1804, upon the execution of the duc d' Enghien, he resigned and became a bitter anti-Bonapartist. Later he supported the Bourbons and became a peer (1815), ambassador to London (1822), and minister of foreign affairs (1823–24). In 1830 he abandoned political affairs and spent his final years with Mme Récamier composing his Memoires d'outre-tombe [memoirs from beyond the tomb] (1849–50). Chateaubriand's musical prose enriched the French language. Although his accounts of travel were plagiaristic and partly imaginary, they were rich and moving.

See his Travels in America (tr. by R. Switzer, 1968); his memoirs (ed. by R. Baldick, 1961).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chateaubriand, François René, vicomte de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 16 Aug. 2019 <>.

"Chateaubriand, François René, vicomte de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (August 16, 2019).

"Chateaubriand, François René, vicomte de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.