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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Francisque Sarcey (1827–1899)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ON any important first night late in the nineteenth century in the theatres of Paris might be noticed among the most attentive spectators a short, stout, comfortable-looking old gentleman, with a white beard, a high color, and shrewd eyes. It was Francisque Sarcey. For more than thirty years, his was a position of special distinction among the critics of France concerning themselves particularly with French dramatic literature and the French drama. No writer on these topics had so large an audience, and one of such distinctively popular character. Of the old school of critics, and of many old-fashioned convictions; at swords’ points with many brother commentators and journalists on questions of theatrical art, and of that theatrical article the play; the object of much good-natured ridicule (of some by no means as good-natured as it might be),—seen everywhere and known everywhere in the dramatic movement of the capital, and continually putting himself in close touch with a wide provincial public by either his lectures or his notices,—M. Sarcey easily overtopped in authority many new and brilliant confrères. He was a voluminous writer; he was an incessant lecturer; and special gifts for maintaining the courage of his convictions from the first marked him in both capacities.  1
  M. Sarcey was born at Dourdan, in the Department of the Seine-et-Oise. He was an honor-pupil in the famous Charlemagne School in Paris; and when pursuing his studies in the École Normale in 1848, his fellow-students were About and Taine. His lively spirits and independent ideas brought him into trouble when he was serving the Department of Public Instruction at Chaumont. He quitted the school-teacher’s desk for the newspaper office. In 1859 he began critical work on the Figaro. He made a business of studying the drama and dramatic criticism. He passed from the Figaro to various other journals. Finally he became a permanent member of the staff of Le Temps. To that well-known and influential newspaper he contributed one or two articles every week in the year. The platform was also his avocation; and his critical talks, delivered with a charmingly colloquial manner,—a manner entirely in accord with his theories of what a lecture should be,—were among the best attended on the part of a public not too fond of that particular method of receiving critical impressions.  2
  M. Sarcey was not merely a specialist in the drama and in the art of acting: he was a man of fine and wide literary and artistic education. He had a style which was like himself: clear, nervous, direct, with touches of humor, and with occasionally the grace of true sentiment, but utterly opposed to the formalism which is to many writers the only critical expression. He wrote as he spoke,—off-hand, yet never in a slipshod fashion. He had much humor, but always in good taste. He believed in tradition on the stage; and in the making of stage plays, he liked the melodrama better than the modern literary play. He abhorred the drama in which plot is not supreme; he hated the faddists and the symbolists. His sense of himself was strong, but never offensive. He was respected as a philosopher of the play-house and the play. His very weaknesses were so much a part of himself that he would not have been “Our Uncle Sarcey” without them; so no one wished them away. When past middle life he wrote with the youthfulness of a man of twenty-five, united with the vast experience and the maturity of a Nestor of the French theatre. His reputation was international. All the world enjoyed reading his criticisms. He died at Paris, May 15th, 1899.  3
 
 
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