The evolution of romanticism towards a clear accentuation of national values created in the century. XIX a new situation. The feeling of the unity of the people, as a force of cohesion in the civil, social and political conscience, remained intact: indeed – Switzerland became the refuge of emigrants and the meeting place of revolutionary ideologies – it stiffened in its own conservative instinct, opposing a motionless internal compactness to all the external forces of disintegration. Instead, in literature, the national forces, awakened to a new awareness, imposed themselves, strengthening the bonds with finitime literatures. The commonality of history and the common bond with the alpine nature determined certain general spiritual affinities and analogies in the way of thinking and living; but although cultural exchanges between one part of the country intensified, favored by bilingual and trilingual education, the formative process of cultural unity slowed down. The unity of the state welcomed within itself a coexistence of national cultures which, while reconciling each other within certain limits, remained distinct.
The literature of French-speaking Switzerland. – An autonomous foundation was offered to the literature of French-speaking Switzerland, as well as by the revolutionary personality of Rousseau and by the literary developments of Stäel’s thought, by the local Calvinist traditions. And the effort to reconcile those traditions with the demands of modern thought in fact engaged many spirits throughout the century: from A. Vinet to E. Scherer; from Ch. Sécrétan, sensitive to new social ideals (see Mon utopie) to E. Naville; by Madame de Gasparin, poetess of the Horizons prochains and of the Tristesses humaines, to Madame de Pressensé; from the historian of Rousseau and Zinzendorf, F. Bovet, to A. Bouvier. But even this indigenous form could not resist, in the course of literary evolution, the attraction of Paris, and the Geneva romanticism was essentially a reflection of Parisian romanticism, even if it found in the witty causeries of the brilliant caricaturist A. Töpffer and – especially – in the Vieux refrains and in Frère Jacques by Juste Olivier one of his vital expressions (see also Ch. Didier, JJ Callois, H. Blanvalet, E. Eggis, etc.).
The very activity of mediation between German and French culture had a singular story. From Quinet to Renan the penetration of German thought into France took place, in its most lively currents, directly. And certainly Switzerland also participated in it – from Vinet to E. Rambert, to V. Cherbuliez, to E. Rod, to P. Seippel, etc. – without interruption. But in the intermediate position that Switzerland had, the German and French spiritual worlds became, in individual spirits, almost two opposite poles of attraction which neutralized each other. And the result was a state of perennial internal irresolution and, consequently, a continuous seeking refuge in the indefinite interiority of feeling (see Rod’s Course à la mort and F. Amiel’s Journal intime).
In general, however, the affinity with the French spiritual world continued, even after Romanticism, to prevail. And, apart from naturalism – whose brutality of tone aroused, for the most part, tenacious resistance – all the French literary movements also found a constant repercussion in Switzerland (cf., for example, the collection of vintages of the Bibliothèque Universelle et Revue Suisse). Particularly fruitful was the Parnassian and Symbolist influence in opera (Alice de Chantbrier; H. Warnery, Aux vents de la vie ; L. Duchosal, Le livre de Thulé ; E. Bussy; and, among the poets of the new generation, E. Tavan, H. Spiess, etc.). And also in the descriptive and narrative prose it is indeed true that already with E. Rambert a large current of country inspirations began to take shape, with alpine landscape backgrounds and material drawn now from history now to present life (see E. Rambert, Le chevrier de Praz – de – Fort ; F. Rey; Urbain Olivier; E. Rod, L’ombre s’étend sur la montagne ; A. Bachelin, Jean-Louis ; V. Cherbuliez; A. Gladès; T. Combe; A. Ribaux; L. Dumur; V. Tissot; B. Valloton; J. Cornut, La chanson de Madeline, La trompette de Marengo ; V. Rossel, etc.); but also in the works of Swiss inspiration, Swiss is – for the most part – above all the subject, the “local color” of the story: the style, on the other hand, almost always recalls the ways and tone of contemporary French literature. It is therefore understood that – having the “Swiss conscience” continued to assert itself vigorously in historical investigation (from Vuillemin to Borgneaud) and historical-literary (from Vinet to Ph. Godet, to G. Vallette, to G. de Reynold, etc.).) – the need to rediscover a more marked Swiss character in poetry has become more and more alive. The first performance of the Nuit des quatre temps by Réno Morax, with whom a revival of medieval or popular indigenous theatrical forms began, therefore constituted an event at the beginning of the century. And also the novel found at the same time in Ch.-F. Ramuz (v.) An exceptional personality, with vigor of style and elementary power of inspiration.