Famous 19th Century French Writers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century French Writers, including Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Thérèse of Lisieux and Marcel Proust.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
16
Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

 2 Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas
12
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 24, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villers-Cotterêts, France
Died: December 5, 1870

One of the most widely read French authors of all time, Alexandre Dumas was prolific in several genres. He joined the army as a young man and later became a full-time writer. Starting his writing career as a playwright, he moved on to writing novels. His novels have been adapted into nearly 200 films in the past century.

 3 Jules Verne

Jules Verne
10
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes, France
Died: March 24, 1905
French author Jules Verne, also known as the “Father of Science Fiction,” is best remembered for his legendary adventure novels Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also became the world’s second most-translated writer since 1979.
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 4 Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 10, 1871
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Neuilly-Auteuil-Passy, France
Died: November 18, 1922

Marcel Proust was a French novelist, essayist, and critic best known for writing the world-renowned novel In Search of Lost Time, which was published between 1913 and 1927 in seven parts. Many writers and critics regard him as one of the 20th century's most influential and important authors.

 5 Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire
9
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 9, 1821
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 31, 1867
French prose poet, essayist, and critic Charles Baudelaire was one of the first translators of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Best known for his book of poems Les Fleurs du mal, he is believed to have coined the word modernity and was associated with the symbolist and decadent movements.

 6 Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant
5
Famous As: Novelist & Short Story Writer
Birthdate: August 5, 1850
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tourville-sur-Arques, France
Died: July 6, 1893

Guy de Maupassant was a French author who wrote 300 short stories during his illustrious career. Widely regarded as the father of the modern short story, Maupassant's stories are characterized by economy of style and depicted human lives in pessimistic terms,

 7 Emile Zola

Emile Zola
8
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright
Birthdate: April 2, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1902

Emile Zola was a French novelist, journalist, and playwright. He played a key role in the development of theatrical naturalism and was a well-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. He was also a political journalist and was influential in the political liberalization of France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice.

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 8 Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert
6
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 12, 1821
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: May 8, 1880

Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist best remembered for his first novel Madame Bovary, which was later adapted into an opera. One of the most influential French novelists of all time, Flaubert is widely regarded as the main exponent of literary realism in France. His work inspired his protégé and short story writer Guy de Maupassant, who later achieved much acclaim.

 9 Stendhal

Stendhal
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 23, 1783
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grenoble, France
Died: March 23, 1842
French author Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his pseudonym, Stendhal, had used a number of other pseudonyms, too. He had lost his mother early in life and had also served in the French army briefly. He is remembered for novels such as The Red and the Black.

 10 Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade
10
Famous As: Novelist, Philosopher
Birthdate: June 2, 1740
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 2, 1814
Marquis de Sade is remembered for his erotic books such as The 120 Days of Sodom. He was known for his peculiar way of deriving sexual pleasure by torturing his victims, now known as “sadism.” He was jailed for several years for sexual abuse against men, women, and children. 

 11 Colette

Colette
8
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 28, 1873
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, France
Died: August 3, 1954

Colette was a French author who received a nomination for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. She is remembered for her novella Gigi, which inspired the 1958 movie and the 1973 musical of the same name. Her life and work have inspired several films, including the 2018 biographical drama film Colette, where Keira Knightley played the title role.

 12 Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 20, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Charleville-Mézières, France
Died: November 10, 1891

French poet Arthur Rimbaud is remembered for his influence on Dadaism, surrealism, and symbolism. Known for works such as Le Soleil Etait Encore Chaud and Voyelles, he later got involved in a relationship with poet Paul Verlaine. He also traveled as a merchant and explorer, before dying of cancer.

 13 Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac
6
Famous As: Novelist and Playwright
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours, France
Died: August 18, 1850

Honoré de Balzac was a French playwright and novelist. Since his works gave a detailed, unfiltered representation of society, Honoré de Balzac is generally considered one of the founders of realism and an important figure in European literature. Renowned for creating multi-faceted characters, Balzac influenced several popular writers like Charles John Huffam Dickens, Émile Zola, Henry James, and Gustave Flaubert.

 14 Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 19, 1798
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: September 5, 1857
Known as the pioneer of sociology and positivism, philosopher Auguste Comte had an elite schooling at the prestigious École Polytechnique. Though infamous for being egocentric, he was known for his dedication to society and social upliftment. He authored The Positive Philosophy and was influenced by Henri de Saint-Simon.

 15 George Sand

George Sand
8
Birthdate: July 1, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Died: June 8, 1876
Nineteenth-century French author Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, better known as George Sand, became a leading figure of the Romantic era of Europe. She is best remembered for works such as La Petite Fadette and had numerous affairs, the most notable of them being the one with composer Frédéric Chopin.

 16 Auguste Escoffier

Auguste Escoffier
4
Famous As: Chef
Birthdate: October 28, 1846
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Died: February 12, 1935

 17 Andre Breton

Andre Breton
3
Famous As: Founder of Surrealism
Birthdate: February 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinchebray, Orne, France
Died: September 28, 1966

Born into a family of shopkeepers, French poet André Breton initially studied medicine and psychiatry. He then joined Dadaism and eventually branched out and became one of the pioneers of the surrealist movement. Known for his Surrealist Manifestos, Breton was also a collector of manuscripts, sculptures, and paintings.

 18 Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine
5
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 30, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Metz, France
Died: January 8, 1896

Paul Verlaine was a French poet best remembered for his association with the Decadent movement and the Symbolist movement. He is regarded as one of the most important representatives of the fin de siècle in French and international poetry. His poetry served as an inspiration for composers like Gabriel Fauré, who composed several mélodies based on Verlaine's poems.

 19 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.

 20 Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto
3
Famous As: Economist, Writer, Philosopher, Sociologist, University teacher
Birthdate: July 15, 1848
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 19, 1923

A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.

 21 Andre Gide

Andre Gide
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 22, 1869
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 19, 1951

Nobel Prize-winning French author Andre Gide is remembered for exhibiting the conflict between sexuality and the puritanical standards of society through his works. Much of his work was autobiographical and used the confessional format. A homosexual himself, he defended homosexuality through works such as Corydon.

 22 Claude Cahun

Claude Cahun
3
Famous As: Artist, Photographer, Writer
Birthdate: October 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nantes
Died: December 8, 1954

Claude Cahun was a French sculptor, surrealist photographer, and writer. He is best remembered for his work as a self-portraitist and writer. Apart from his primary career, Claude Cahun also played a major role in the Second World War, serving as a propagandist and resistance worker.

 23 Anatole France

Anatole France
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 16, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 12, 1924

Anatole France was a French poet, novelist, and journalist. Renowned for writing many best-sellers, Anatole France was one of the most respected French writers of his generation. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921 for his brilliant literary achievements.

 24 Maurice Leblanc

Maurice Leblanc
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen, French
Died: November 6, 1941

French author Maurice Leblanc is best known for creating the character Arsène Lupin, who has been part of 60 of Leblanc’s crime stories and novels. He quit his law studies to become an author. Several of his films have been turned into films. He also earned the Légion d'Honneur.

 25 Frederic Bastiat

Frederic Bastiat
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 30, 1801
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bayonne, France
Died: December 24, 1850

An ardent follower of Adam Smith’s ideas, French economist Frederic Bastiat propagated the concept of free trade. Apart from launching his journal Le Libre-Échange, he also penned the iconic satire Sophismes économiques and his most notable work The Law. He also introduced what later came to be known as opportunity cost.

 26 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
3
Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

Tristan Tzara was a Romanian-born French avant-garde performance artist, poet, and essayist. A multi-talented personality, Tzara was also active as a playwright, journalist, art and literary critic, film director, and composer. Tristan Tzara is best remembered for co-founding the anti-establishment Dada movement, which he helped popularize. He is also credited with co-founding the Romanian literary and art magazine Simbolul.   

 27 Stéphane Mallarmé

Stéphane Mallarmé
3
Famous As: Poet, Critic
Birthdate: March 18, 1842
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 9, 1898

Stéphane Mallarmé was a French poet whose work inspired many artistic schools of the 20th century like Surrealism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Cubism. Over the years, his poetry has also served as an inspiration for many musical pieces, including Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Mallarmé's work also influenced Man Ray's film, Les Mystères du Château de Dé.

 28 Arthur de Gobineau

Arthur de Gobineau
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 14, 1816
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ville-d'Avray, France
Died: October 13, 1882

Arthur de Gobineau was a French aristocrat best remembered for his efforts to legitimize racism. He cited scientific racist theory as legitimate evidence in an attempt to coerce people into believing that the Aryan race is superior. He was also known as a novelist, travel writer, and diplomat among his contemporaries. 

 29 Alexandre Dumas, fils

Alexandre Dumas, fils
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895

 30 Paul Valery

Paul Valery
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 30, 1871
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sète, France
Died: July 20, 1945

Paul Valery was a French poet, philosopher, and essayist. Thanks to his immense contribution to literature, Valery received several nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. The title of the 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film The Wind Rises was inspired by one of Paul Valery's verses. Also, his poem Palme inspired James Merrill's celebrated poem, Lost in Translation.

 31 Joris-Karl Huysmans

Joris-Karl Huysmans
3
Famous As: Writer, Art critic, Novelist
Birthdate: February 5, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: May 12, 1907

 32 Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 3, 1748
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fréjus, France
Died: June 20, 1836

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, also known as the Abbé Sieyès, was a French Roman Catholic Abbé, clergyman, and political writer. He was a chief political theorist of the French Revolution and held offices in the French Consulate government. He is credited to have coined the term sociologie in an unpublished manuscript. He led a rather uninvolved social life.

 33 Gaston Leroux

Gaston Leroux
3
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: May 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1927

 34 Robert W. Service

Robert W. Service
9
Famous As: Poet & Writer
Birthdate: January 16, 1874
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Preston, Lancashire, England
Died: September 11, 1958

Robert W. Service was a British-Canadian poet and writer. Popularly called "the Bard of the Yukon," he wrote some of the most commercially successful poetry of his era. A bank clerk by profession, he often wrote while traveling for work. Besides poetry, he also wrote fiction and non-fiction. He was often compared to English writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling. 

 35 Paul Langevin

Paul Langevin
3
Famous As: Physicist, Professor, Chemist, Philosopher of science, Educationist, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: January 23, 1872
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 19, 1946

Best known for developing the Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation, physicist Paul Langevin was also a staunch Communist. Having worked on his doctoral thesis under Pierre Curie, he had formed a connection with Curie’s wife, Marie Curie, which developed into a full-blown love affair after Pierre’s death.

 36 Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 13, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Died: December 17, 1897

Alphonse Daudet was a French novelist whose books are still widely read in France. He often collaborated with his wife Julia Daudet, a famous writer, poet, and journalist. Today, several schools and colleges in France are named in his honor.

 37 Charles Maurras

Charles Maurras
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 20, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Martigues, France
Died: November 16, 1952

 38 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
3
Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 39 Alexander Berkman

Alexander Berkman
3
Famous As: Editor
Birthdate: November 21, 1870
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vilnius
Died: June 28, 1936

Alexander Berkman was a Russian-American anarchist and author. He was famous for both his political activism and his writing and was a leading member of the anarchist movement in the early 20th century. He served as the editor of fellow anarchist Emma Goldman's anarchist journal, Mother Earth. He suffered from ill-health in his later years and died by suicide. 

 40 Jean-Baptiste Say

Jean-Baptiste Say
3
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: January 5, 1767
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: November 15, 1832

French economist Jean-Baptiste Say supported free trade and competition. Scholars of economics know him for his law of markets, which states that supply creates its own demand. He had experimented with many jobs, from being a journalist to owning a cotton mill, and eventually became an economics professor.

 41 Allan Kardec

Allan Kardec
6
Famous As: Educator
Birthdate: October 3, 1804
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: March 31, 1869

 42 Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 27, 1870
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France
Died: July 16, 1953
British-French writer Hilaire Belloc is one of the most controversial figures of England from the 20th century, owing to the accusations of anti-semitism and marked Catholic influence in his works. Remembered for his Cautionary Tales for Children, he continued to move from place to place, thus depleting his finances.

 43 Théophile Gautier

Théophile Gautier
5
Famous As: writer, journalist, playwright, literary critic, art critic
Birthdate: August 31, 1811
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tarbes
Died: October 22, 1872

 44 Alphonse de Lamartine

Alphonse de Lamartine
3
Famous As: Politician, Writer
Birthdate: October 21, 1790
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mâcon, France
Died: February 28, 1869

French poet and historian Alphonse de Lamartine is best remembered for his collection of poems Méditations poétiques. He was a chief force behind the formation of the Second Republic of France. The allowances he gave his sisters depleted his finances, and he died struggling and in oblivion.

 45 Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 15, 1835
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: August 10, 1868

 46 Francis Picabia

Francis Picabia
3
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: January 22, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 30, 1953

 47 Alfred Jarry

Alfred Jarry
3
Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: September 8, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laval
Died: November 1, 1907

 48 Alfred de Musset

Alfred de Musset
3
Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 2, 1857

French playwright and author Alfred de Musset is best remembered for his autobiographical The Confession of a Child of the Century. Though he was supposedly part of the Romantic movement, many of his works satirized the movement. He stopped allowing his plays to be staged after The Venetian Night flopped.

 49 Louis Aragon

Louis Aragon
3
Famous As: Writer, Journalist, Politician, Poet, Novelist, Art critic
Birthdate: October 3, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 24, 1982

 50 Kathleen O'Meara

Kathleen O'Meara
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1839 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 10, 1888