Maurice Barrès (1862- ), French novelist and politician, was born at Charmes (Vosges) on the 22nd of September 1862; he was educated at the lycée of Nancy, and in 1883 went to Paris to continue his legal studies. He was already a contributor to the monthly periodical, Jeune France, and he now issued a periodical of his own, Les Taches d'encre, which survived for a few months only. After four years of journalism he went to Italy, where he wrote Sous l'oeil des barbares (1888), the first volume of a trilogie du moi, completed by Un Homme libre (1889), and Le Jardin de Bérénice (1891). He divided the world into moi and the barbarians, the latter including all those antipathetic to the writer's individuality. These apologies for individualism were supplemented by L'Ennemi des lois (1892), and an admirable volume of impressions of travel, Du sang, de la volupté et de la mort (1893). His early books are written in an elaborate style and are often very obscure. Barrès carried his theory of individualism into politics as an ardent partisan of General Boulanger. He directed a Boulangist paper at Nancy, and was elected deputy in 1889, retaining his seat in the legislature until 1893. His play, Une Journée parlementaire, was produced at the Comédie Française in 1894. In 1897 he began his trilogy, Le Roman de l'énergie nationale, with the publication of Les Déracinés. The series is a plea for local patriotism, and for the preservation of the distinctive qualities of the old French provinces.
The first narrates the adventures of seven young Lorrainers, who set out to conquer fortune in Paris. Six of them survive in the second novel of the trilogy, L'Appel au soldat (1900), which gives the history of Boulangism; the sequel, Leurs figures (1902), deals with the Panama scandals. Later works are: - Scènes et doctrines du nationalisme (1902); Les Amitiés françaises (1903), in which he urges the inculcation of patriotism by the early study of national history; Ce que j'ai vu à Rennes (1904); Au service de l'Allemagne (1905), the experiences of an Alsatian conscript in a German regiment; Le Voyage de Sparte (1906). M. Barrès was admitted to the French Academy in 1906.
See also R. Doumic, Les Jeunes (1896); J. Lionnet, L'évolution des idees (1903); Anatole France, La Vie littéraire (4th series, 1892).