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This report is taken from PN Review 106, Volume 22 Number 2, November - December 1995.

Letter from Grenoble David Arkell

The hour or so I spent roaming the deserted corridors of a French provincial lycée last summer gave me a rather new picture of Stendhal. What is now called the Lycée International Stendhal (because it attracts students from all nations) was originally one of the Ecoles Centrales created by the French Revolution and attended by Stendhal from 1796 to 1799. My guide was its recently retired Professeur de Lettres Gilles-Bernard Vachon, who gave us this year's exhibition (also devoted to the School) at the Maison Stendhal. M Vachon, besides being a passionate Stendhalian, is also a distinguished teacher and therefore independent. The new slant he gave me was intriguing: he set out to defend his own predecessors on the staff against the libels of their one-time pupil Henri Beyle.

M Vachon was especially put out by the treatment accorded to Pierre-Vincent Chalvet, the History Man, whom Stendhal put down as a 'young penniless waster without a shred of talent'. Yet Chalvet was 'an exemplary man of his time,' suggested Vachon: 'A veritable hero of the Revolution.' If Stendhal had simply voiced a bit of family bias picked up at home it was excusable in one so young but not when he repeats it 40 years later in his autobiography La Vie de Henry Bmlard. How did the adult Stendhal get lumbered with such an unenlightened view of things?

True, the penniless waster lived in a dark and wretched flat set into an arch at the ...


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