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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Émile Augier (1820–1889)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
AS an observer of society, a satirist, and a painter of types and characters of modern life, Émile Augier ranks among the greatest French dramatists of this century. Critics consider him in the line of direct descent from Molière and Beaumarchais. His collected works (‘Théâtre Complet’) number twenty-seven plays, of which nine are in verse. Eight of these were written with a literary partner. Three are now called classics: ‘Le Gendre de M. Poirier’ (M. Poirier’s Son-in-Law), ‘L’Aventurière’ (The Adventuress), and ‘Fils de Giboyer’ (Giboyer’s Boy). ‘Le Gendre de M. Poirier’ was written with Jules Sandeau, but the admirers of Augier have proved by internal evidence that his share in its composition was the greater. It is a comedy of manners based on the old antagonism between vulgar ignorant energy and ability on the one side, and lazy empty birth and breeding on the other; embodied in Poirier, a wealthy shopkeeper, and M. de Presles, his son-in-law, an impoverished nobleman.  1
  Guillaume Victor Émile Augier was born in Valence, France, September 17th, 1820, and was intended for the law; but inheriting literary tastes from his grandfather, Pigault Lebrun the romance writer, he devoted himself to letters. When his first play, ‘La Ciguë’ (The Hemlock),—in the preface to which he defended his grandfather’s memory,—was presented at the Odéon in 1844, it made the author famous. Théophile Gautier describes it at length in Vol. iii. of his ‘Art Dramatique,’ and compares it to Shakespeare’s ‘Timon of Athens.’ It is a classic play, and the hero closes his career by a draught of hemlock.  2
  Augier’s works are:—‘Un Homme de Bien’ (A Good Man); ‘L’Aventurière’ (The Adventuress); ‘Gabrielle’; ‘Le Joueur de Flute’ (The Flute Player); ‘Diane’ (Diana), a romantic play on the same theme as Victor Hugo’s ‘Marion Delorme,’ written for and played by Rachel; ‘La Pierre de Touche’ (The Touchstone), with Jules Sandeau; ‘Philberte,’ a comedy of the eighteenth century; ‘Le Mariage d’Olympe’ (Olympia’s Marriage); ‘Le Gendre de M. Poirier’ (M. Poirier’s Son-in-Law); ‘Ceinture Dorée’ (The Golden Belt), with Edouard Foussier; ‘La Jeunesse’ (Youth); ‘Les Lionnes Pauvres’ (Ambition and Poverty),—a bold story of social life in Paris during the Second Empire, also with Foussier; ‘Les Effrontés’ (Brass), an attack on the worship of money; ‘Le Fils de Giboyer’ (Giboyer’s Boy), the story of a father’s devotion, ambitions, and self-sacrifice; ‘Maître Guérin’ (Guérin the Notary), the hero being an inventor; ‘La Contagion’ (Contagion), the theme of which is skepticism; ‘Paul Forestier,’ the story of a young artist; ‘Le Post-Scriptum’ (The Postscript); ‘Lions et Renards’ (Lions and Foxes), whose motive is love of power; ‘Jean Thommeray,’ the hero of which is drawn from Sandeau’s novel of the same title; ‘Madame Caverlet,’ hinging on the divorce question; ‘Les Fourchambault’ (The Fourchambaults), a plea for family union; ‘La Chasse au Roman’ (Pursuit of a Romance), and ‘L’Habit Vert’ (The Green Coat), with Sandeau and Alfred de Musset; and the libretto for Gounod’s opera ‘Sappho.’ Augier wrote one volume of verse, which he modestly called ‘Pariétaire,’ the name of a common little vine, the English danewort. In 1858 he was elected to the French Academy, and in 1868 became a Commander of the Legion of Honor. He died at Croissy, October 25th, 1889. An analysis of his dramas by Émile Montégut is published in the Revue de Deux Mondes for April, 1878.  3
 
 
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