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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Édouard Pailleron (1834–1899)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
THE MODERN French drama is rich in the portrayal of the fashions and morals of the hour; and the office of the stage-play as a satire without much theatricalism in it, is brilliantly exercised in the case of such men as Pailleron, Prévost, Hervieu, and Donnay. M. Pailleron is in some sense the dean of the contemporary school, which paints its pictures and speaks its lessons through the Comédie Française, the Odéon, and the Gymnase. Born in Paris September 18th, 1834, the author of ‘Le Monde où l’On s’Ennuie’ (Society Where One is Bored) was a notary’s clerk until about the year 1861, when he fairly made literature his profession. As a novelist, a poet, and ultimately as a playwright, he soon began to gain recognized individuality. His first distinct success came in 1868, with the sparkling satiric comedy mentioned above, ‘Le Monde où l’On s’Ennuie’; although a preceding play, ‘Le Monde où l’On s’Amuse’ (Society Where One is Amused), had won favor. ‘Society Where One is Bored’ was produced in 1882, at the national theatre. Its success was immediate, its run was long-continued, and it is extremely popular in repertory to-day. To its merits is due the elevation of its author to the Académie in 1884. From that time, M. Pailleron’s career has been essentially theatrical. His conception of the drama is not only that of the perceptive and skillful playwright, but the man who delineates character with an exact and vivid literary touch. These qualities have been still more perfectly exhibited in M. Pailleron’s second great success of 1893,—one which even surpassed any that had preceded it,—his complex comedy ‘Cabotins’; and once more was a Pailleron comedy the sensation of the Théâtre Français. For one winter this sparkling piece, with its pictures of bohemian life, its ironical depiction of bureaucracy and machine politics, and its effectiveness merely as an emotional drama, held the attention of all Paris; and in ceasing to be a novelty, ‘Cabotins’ does not appear to have less vitality before a later public. In 1896 M. Pailleron (who has gradually become a more deliberate worker in the drama, putting forth his pieces with considerable intervals between them) produced at the Théâtre Français two small social comedies, or what the French call “proverbes,”—that is to say, little sketches in two or three scenes only, cleverly illustrating some familiar saying,—collectively entitled ‘Better Try Gentleness than—Force.’ These trifles, however, have not been significant in adding to his reputation.  1
  The finest flower of Pailleron’s talent undoubtedly is to be found in ‘Le Monde où l’On s’Ennuie,’ with its studies of drawing-room politics, its contrasts of spontaneous human nature with tiresome formality, and its amusing situations. But ‘Cabotins’ is not a whit inferior to it as a tableau of contrasting phases of French life, including an amusing portrayal of a temperamental and adroit young politician, a natural manœuvrer and leader in the race; and there are also admirable scenes that range from the frolicsomeness of an artist’s lodging-house to a drawing-room in the aristocratic center of Paris. The quality of clear conception, the gift of an admirably just literary expression, are of the essence of M. Pailleron’s best work. Like Dumas, he is a portrait-maker and a censor through the playhouse—though concerning himself with higher moral and social problems than the author of ‘La Dame aux Camellias’ and ‘Le Fils Naturel.’  2

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