Lamartine went to Naples and his purse ran low, when he chanced to meet an old classmate who had plenty of money, and together the young men enjoyed their good fortune. At Naples, Graziella, the daughter of a poor fisherman, fell in love with the poet. The story of this girl he tells very touchingly. When he returned home he was welcomed very warmly. The family had removed to Macon. His mother grew pale and trembling, to see how long absence and agony of heart had changed her son. She told him that their fortune had been considerably affected by his travels and imprudences, and she spoke not by way of reproach, for said she, “You know that if I could change my tears into gold, I would gladly give them all into your hands.”
He wished to go to Paris, and his father gave him, for his maintenance, the moderate sum of twelve hundred francs a year. The mother pitied her son, and going to her room, she took her last jewel and put it into his hands, saying, “Go and seek glory!” He took a plenty of recommendations with him, but was resolved to accept nothing from the emperor. When a young man he had dreamed of a republic, but now, after coming to Paris, he became a Bonapartist. He entered the most aristocratic circles, and changed again to a legitimist. He now made a second voyage to Italy, following the inclinations of his dreamy nature. During his stay there, he composed the first volume of his Meditations, which afterward won him so much fame.
He was on the borders of the gulf of Naples, when he heard of the establishment of the Bourbon dynasty, and he hastened home and solicited a place in the army, to the great joy of his father. During the Hundred Days he threw aside the sword, and would not take it again when Louis XVIII. regained the throne.
Lamartine now loved a young woman devotedly, but she died, to his excessive grief. He was severely ill from this cause, and it wrought a great change in his character. When recovered from his illness, he destroyed his profane poetry, and kept only that which bore the impress of faith and religion. He published his first volume of Meditations in 1820. He sought in vain two years for a publisher, until at last a man by the name of Nicoll, as a personal favor, issued the volume. It made his fortune. France welcomed the new poet as a redeemer, who had dispelled the materialism of Voltaire. He became an attache of the ambassador in Tuscany, and there met a young English woman, who was in love with him before she saw him, from reading his Meditations. This woman he shortly married. She brought him beauty, goodness, and a large fortune.