- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Louis Charles Alfred de Musset

Born  1810
Died  1857

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French Romantic poet and playwright, born December 11, 1810, Paris; died May 2, 1857, Paris.

Biography of Louis Charles Alfred de Musset

Louis Charles Alfred de Musset was born to a noble family and was well-educated. He graduated with honours from the Collège Henri-IV in 1827 and considered studying medicine. However, because of his distaste for the dissecting room he abandoned the idea of a medical career and in stead studied painting for six months in the Louvre. In 1828 he published a ballad – A Dream – and in 1830 his first collection of poems appeared, Contes d'Espagne et d'Italie ("Stories of Spain and of Italy"). This gained his acceptance to Victor Hugo's (1802-1885) Romantic literary circle Cénacle. Musset now became a dandy, one of the elegant Parisian imitators of the English dandy and wit "Beau" (George Bryan) Brummell (1778-1840), and embarked on a life of hectic sexual and alcoholic dissipation.

In 1844 Musset began a love affair with the novelist George Sand (1804- that inspired some of his finest lyrics, as recounted in his Confession d’un enfant du siècle (1836). On a visit to Venice they both fell dangerously ill – and she fell in love with her physician. In 1838 George Sand began her famous affair with Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849). In 1837 Musset had an affair with the twenty year old Aimée d'Alton. She demanded that he marry her, but he refused. She later became the wife of his brother Paul.

Alfred de Musset was extraordinarily versatile, writing light satirical pieces and poems of dazzling technical virtuosity as well as lyrics. Most of his poems appeared first in Revue des deux mondes. From the late 1840s his plays started to enjoy success on the French stage and they are now performed regularly, while the Romantic dramas by his contemporaries have been dropped from the standard repertory. In 1845 he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and in 1852 he was elected to L'Académie française.

"His" sign was first observed by Paul de Musset (1804-1880) and their mother one day in 1842 whilst they were having breakfast When told of this Alfred put his thumb and forefinger on his neck and the head stopped bobbing. He said «You see, this dreadful malady is cured by a method which is not only simple but inexpensive as well." During the last two years of his life he was confined to his flat.

    "My glass is not big, but I drink out of my own glass,"

    Pourquoi mon cœur bat-il si vite?
    Qu'ai-je donc en moi qui s'agite
    Dont je me sens épouvanté?
    Ne frappe-t-on pas à ma porte?
    Pourquoi ma lampe à demi morte
    M'éblouit-elle de clarté?
    Dieu puissant! tout mon corps frissonne.
    Qui vient? qui m'appelle? --Personne.
    Je suis seul; c'est l'heure qui sonne;
    O solitude! ô pauvreté!

We thank John Paraskos for correcting an error.


  • Contes d'Espagne et d'Italie ("Stories of Spain and of Italy"). 1830.
  • La Nuit vénitienne ("The Venetian Night"), 1830. This play was a failure.
  • Lorenzaccio. 1834. A tragedy based on the murder of the Florentine tyrant Alessandro de'Medici by his cousin Lorenzo, known as Lorenzaccio.
  • Il ne faut jurer de rien ("It Isn't Necessary to Promise Anything"). 1836.
  • La Nuit d'octobre ("The October Night"). Poems, (1837.
  • Lettres de Dupuis et Cotonet. 1836-1837.
    A brilliant and illuminating satire of the literary fashions of the day.
  • Paul de Musset:
    Biographie de Alfred de Musset, sa vie et ses oeuvres par Paul de Musset, avec fragments inédits en prose et en vers et lettres inédites.
    Paris, A. Lemerre (G. Charpentier?), 1877. 371 pages.

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