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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Jean Pierre Claris de Florian (1755–1794)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
JEAN PIERRE CLARIS DE FLORIAN was born of an impoverished family at the Château de Florian in Languedoc, 1755. His education, conducted by the best of masters, was begun in his own home and continued under the guidance of Voltaire, who was his kinsman and who admired his intelligence and abilities. The great master obtained for the young poet a place in the household of the Duc de Penthièvre, who granted him a commission of captain in one of his own regiments. It was after several years of attention to his military duties that Florian produced his pastoral romance ‘Galatea’ (1782), composed during the leisure hours of his service. It seems worthy of remark that Cervantes, the author of ‘Don Quixote,’ of which Florian was later on to render so acceptable a version to his compatriots, should have produced as an early work (if it was not his first) a pastoral bearing the same title.  1
  The ‘Galatea’ was followed by two volumes of dramatic pieces, and by another of short novels of the sentimental type; his next work, called ‘Estelle,’ enjoyed great popularity, and together with his ‘Numa Pompilius’ (1786) placed him in the front rank of contemporary literature. He was enrolled as a member of the Academies of Lyons, Florence, and Madrid, and on the death of the Cardinal de Luynes he was admitted into the Academy of Paris, the honor which he had most coveted.  2
  During the tyranny of Robespierre, Florian was thrown into prison, his position with the Duc de Penthièvre and some verses in honor of Marie Antoinette serving as pretexts for his detention; and in spite of the ceaseless efforts of Boissy D’Anglas and Mercier he would doubtless have been sent to the guillotine, had not the downfall of the tyrant procured his release.  3
  He left his prison with shattered health, and retired to the Pare de Scéaux, the estates of the Duc de Penthièvre, where he expired of a fever, September 13th, 1794.  4
  Florian’s style is typical of his times, although he showed an element of conservatism. His works were carefully written, and bear the marks of an elegant and delicate fancy without the impression of strength. His ‘Numa Pompilius’ seems to have been modeled on the ‘Telemachus’ of Fénelon. ‘Gonzalve de Cordoue,’ another of his romances, is in a more modern manner, although it opens with an invocation to the “Chaste nymphs of the Guadalquivir.” Florian, in fine, is best known to-day by his fables, which have become classic side by side with those of La Fontaine.  5
 
 
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