The New International Encyclopædia/Senancour, Étienne Pivert de
SENANCOUR, se-näN′ko͞or′, Étienne Pivert de (1770-1846). A French philosopher and littérateur, remembered almost solely as the author of Obermann. He was born in Paris of a noble family ruined by the Revolution. He was sickly from childhood. Though destined to the Church, he escaped from the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice to Switzerland, with his mother's help, and married there. He returned to Paris after his wife's death, about 1800, and remained there in poverty, relieved at the last by a modest pension, till his death at Saint Cloud. His more noteworthy works besides Obermann (1804) are Réveries sur la nature primitive de l'homme (1799), De l'amour selon les lois primordiales (1805), Observations sur le génie du christianisme (1816), and a feeble romance, Isabelle (1833). Obermann alone “has qualities which make it permanently valuable to kindred minds” (Matthew Arnold). In form a novel, it is in fact a series of melancholy reflections on nature and society, with the morbid sentiment of the romantic generation of 1830. Senancour found self-forgetfulness only in nature, his descriptions of which are often beautiful. Obermann is translated with a biographical and critical introduction by A. E. Waite (New York, 1903).