Edmond François Valentin About
Edmond François Valentin About (February 14, 1828 – January 16, 1885) was a French novelist, publicist, and journalist.
About was born at Dieuze in the Lorraine region. In 1848 he entered the École Normale, coming second in the annual competition for admission behind Hippolyte Taine. Among his college contemporaries were Taine, Francisque, Sarcey, Challemel-Lacour and Prevost-Paradol. About was considered the most exuberant, brilliant and undisciplined of them all.
After his college career he joined the French school in Athens, but never intended to follow the career for which the École Normale prepared him. In 1853, he returned to France and dedicated himself to literature and journalism. In 1855 he published La Grece contemporaine, (Modern Greece), which was immediately successful. A year later, he was charged that his book Tolla was essentially copied from an earlier Italian novel, Vittoria Savelli (1841). This roused a strong prejudice against About and prompted numerous attacks, to which he was more than ready to respond.
About created even more animosity with his Lettres d'un bon jeune homme, published in Le Figaro under the nom de plume "Valentin de Quevilly". In the following years he wrote several novels, stories, a failed play, a pamphlet on the Roman question, numerous pamphlets, innumerable newspaper articles, art critique, answers to his critiques, and popular articles on economy.
After the fall of the French monarchy following the Franco-German War in 1870, About lost his home in Alsace. After the war he adopted a republican view and, combined with his inveterate anti-clerical stance, threw himself with passion into the battle against the conservative reaction. His paper, XIXe Siècle, became a force of considerable influence in those years. In 1884 About was elected a member of the Académie Française, but died a year later, before being able to take his seat there.
About's fame quickly faded. His novels and articles, though successful at the time, failed to sustain that success.
- Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a work that is now in the public domain.