French Literature Of The 19th Century:
Literature Under The Empire 1852-1870
The Rise Of Realism
Literature Under The Republic-1870-1899
Read More Articles About: French Literature Of The 19th Century
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The popularity of the opera "Carmen" directs attention to Prosper Mérimée (1803-70), on whose story it is founded. Born in Paris, he studied law, but entered the civil service, was expert as a linguist and archaeologist, gradually rose to important positions, and became a personal friend of the Emperor Napoleon III. As a young man he was affected by the Romantic movement, but his cynical temper kept him from becoming a partisan. His entrance into literature was with some pretended translations of dramas by a Spanish lady, Clara Gazul. These were followed by a book called "La Guzla," which professed to be translated from the Illyrian language. Good scholars were hoaxed by these tricks. After some smaller pieces Mérimée published, in 1830, the Corsican story, "Colomba," and in 1845 the Spanish gipsy story of "Carmen." These and his other short stories are especially distinguished by their local color, thrilling tragedy and artistic finish. Mérimée is one of the greatest masters of French prose style. Besides his 'stories he published historical works, some translations from the Russian, and official reports which display his accurate scholarship. He died in September, 1870. After his death appeared his interesting "Lettres à une Inconnue" (Letters to an Unknown Lady) which display the same beautiful style and vary in manner from friendship to love. Other series of his letters have also been published, and all tend to increase the regard for him as a man and writer.