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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Casimir Delavigne (1793–1843)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Frédéric Loliée (1856–1915)
 
THIS French lyrical poet and dramatist, born in Havre in 1793, and brought up at Paris, was awarded a prize by the Académie Française in 1811, elected a member of that illustrious body July 7th, 1825, and died December 11th, 1843. When hardly twenty years of age he had already made his name famous by dithyrambs, the form of which, imitated from the ancients, enabled him to express in sufficiently poetic manner quite modern sentiments. Possessed of brilliant and easy imagination, moderately enthusiastic, and more sober than powerful, he hit upon a lucky vein which promptly led him to fame. He described the recent disasters of his country in fine odes entitled ‘Messéniennes,’ in allusion to the chants in which the defeated Messenians deplored the hardships inflicted on them by the Spartans. Those political elegies were named—‘La Bataille de Waterloo’ (The Battle of Waterloo); ‘La Dévastation du Musée’ (The Spoliation of the Museum); ‘Sur le Besoin de S’unir après le Départ des Étrangers’ (On the Necessity of Union after the Departure of the Foreigners). They expressed emotions agitating the mind of the country. At the same time they appealed to the heart of the “liberals” of the period by uttering their regrets for vanished power, their rancor against the victorious party, their fears for threatened liberty. The circumstances, the passions of the day, as also the awakening of young and new talent, all concurred to favor Casimir Delavigne, who almost from the very first attained high reputation. In 1819 the publication of two more Messéniennes, on the life and death of Joan of Arc,—inspired like the first with deep patriotic fervor,—was received with enthusiasm.  1
  Earlier even than the day of Lamartine and Victor Hugo, Casimir Delavigne had the glory of stirring the heart of France. He had the added merit of maintaining, after Beaumarchais and before Émile Augier, the dignity of high comedy. Ingenious scenes of life, lively and spirited details, grace and delicacy of style, save from oblivion such pieces as ‘L’École des Vieillards’ (The School of Age), first performed by the great artists Mademoiselle Mars and Talma; and ‘Don Juan d’Autriche’ (Don John of Austria), a prose comedy. Other dramas of his—‘Marino Faliero,’ ‘Les Vêpres Siciliennes’ (The Sicilian Vespers), ‘Louis XI.,’ ‘Les Enfants d’Edouard’ (The Children of Edward), and ‘La Fille du Cid’ (The Daughter of the Cid)—are still read with admiration, or acted to applauding spectators. A pure disciple of Racine at first, Delavigne deftly managed to adopt some innovations of the romanticist school. ‘Marino Faliero’ was the first of his productions in which, relinquishing the so-called classic rules, he endeavored, as a French critic fitly remarks, to introduce a kind of eclecticism in stage literature; a bold attempt, tempered with prudent reserve, in which he wisely combined the processes favored by the new school with current tradition. That play is indeed a happy mixture of drama and comedy. It contains familiar dialogues and noble outbursts, which however do not violate the proprieties of academic style.  2
  Though he never displayed the genius of Lamartine or of Victor Hugo, and though some of his pictures have faded since the appearance of the dazzling productions of the great masters of romanticism, Casimir Delavigne still ranks high in the literature of his country and century, thanks to the lofty and steady qualities, to the tender and generous feeling, to the noble independence, which were the honorable characteristics of his talent and his individuality. His works, first published in Paris in 1843 in six octavo volumes, went through many subsequent editions.  3
 
 
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