In 1823 the second volume of Meditations appeared, and had the same success as the first. An uncle died at this time, leaving him a fortune, and he was now independent of the world. He lived alternately in London and in Paris, occasionally accepting the post of secretary to a foreign ambassador, and finally becoming charge d’affaires at an Italian court. Like almost all the distinguished authors of France, Lamartine fought his duel. He had written something disparaging to modern Italy, and one Colonel Pepe, an Italian, challenged him to fight a duel. He accepted the challenge and was wounded. For six months he hung between life and death. All Florence condemned with severity the brutal colonel, who had taken offense at one of the poet’s verses, and they came to inquire for his health every hour of the day, as if he had been a monarch. When he left Florence, great was their sorrow. In the midst of his diplomatic labors he continued to write poetry, and on his return to Paris in the month of May, 1829, he published “Harmonies Poetiques et Reliegieuses,” and this book created for him such a reputation, and gave him so much honor, that in 1830 he was elected a member of the Academy.
The government about this time was resolved upon sending a minister plenipotentiary to Greece, and Lamartine was chosen as the man; but at the juncture the revolution broke out, and the project fell to the ground. The poet was discouraged, and went to live in the country, on an estate bequeathed to him by one of his uncles. He soon became tired of his quiet life, and took ship at Marseilles, with his wife and his daughter Julia, for the Orient. The vessel was his own, and he sailed at pleasure. France lost for a time her brilliant son, but gained there-for a beautiful book—Le Voyage en Orient. It achieved a great success, and if he would have been content with literary renown, he now could have wished for nothing more to add to his happiness. While he was absent in the East, he kept an eye upon the politics of home.
His daughter Julia was taken very ill at Beyrout, and died. She was brought back to Marseilles in her coffin. This was a terrible blow to the poet, who possessed as soft a heart as ever throbbed in the breast of woman.
During his absence, the electors of Dunkirk decided to offer Lamartine a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, and he was elected. Well had it been for the poet if he had rested satisfied with his literature, but he entered the field of politics to become distinguished, but to win no laurels. He was unsuccessful, at first, in the Chamber. He became a radical, and that party flattered him. They were poor—he was rich and generous. He gave freely for his party, and found himself almost penniless. He gave to all who needed, so long as he had anything to give. At this time a man wrote to him—“I die of hunger.” The poet sent five hundred francs, and begged pardon for not sending more, adding—” You have all my heart.”