On this day, the Revue de Paris publishes the first segment of Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. The novel was published in installments from this day until December 15, 1856.
The novel, about the romantic illusions of a country doctor's wife and her adulterous liaisons, scandalized French traditionalists. Flaubert was brought to trial for obscenity in 1857. He was acquitted, and the book became a popular success. The book's realistic, serious portrayal of humble characters and situations became a milestone of French realism.
Flaubert, the son of the chief surgeon of the hospital in Rouen, France, began writing stories in his teens. In 1840, he went to Paris to study law but failed his exams. Three years later, he had a nervous breakdown. He retired to a small town outside Rouen to write. In 1846, he began a long, tempestuous affair with poet Louise Colet, which ended bitterly in1855. Meanwhile, he traveled extensively with French writer Maxime du Camp, taking extended walking tours with her and journeying to Greece, Syria, and Egypt from 1849 to 1851.
When Flaubert returned from the journey, he began work on Madame Bovary, which took five years to write. The book was a hit, as was Flaubert's 1862 novel, Salammbo. The novel's detailed portrayal of ancient Carthage, based on the author's trip to Tunisia in 1860, launched a Tunisian fad in Paris. His 1869 novel, Sentimental Education, about the July 1848 French uprising, was not well received. In 1877, his story collection Three Tales, including the story "A Simple Heart," was published. Flaubert died in 1880 at the age of 58.