He was the son of a civil engineer and was educated at the college of Pontivy, with the intention of following his father's career by entering the Polytechnic School. However, his father died in 1823 and he matriculated as a law student at Rennes but soon devoted himself to literature.
He was by turns a bookseller's assistant and a private schoolmaster in Nantes, a journalist and a grammar school teacher in Brest and a teacher in Mulhouse. He settled in Paris in 1836. In 1848 he became professor in the school for the instruction of civil servants initiated by Hippolyte Carnot, but which was soon to be cancelled.