He was born at Limoges. He began to write for the Revue des deux mondes in 1847, contributing between 1851 and 1857 a series of articles on the English and American novel, and in 1857 he became chief literary critic of the review. Émile Montégut translated Essais de philosophie américaine (1850) from Ralph Waldo Emerson; Revolution de 1688 (2 vols. 1853) from Thomas Macaulay's History; and also produced the Œuvres completes (10 vols. 1868-1873) of William Shakespeare.
Among his numerous critical works are Ecrivains modernes d'Angleterre (3rd series, 1885-1892) and Heures de lecture d'un critique (1891), studies of John Aubrey, Alexander Pope, Wilkie Collins and Sir John Mandeville.