Charles Simon Favart - Encyclopedia




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CHARLES SIMON FAVART (1710-1792), French dramatist, was born in Paris on the 13th of November 1710, the son of a pastry-cook. He was educated at the college of Louis-le-Grand, and after his father's death carried on the business for a time. His first success in literature was La France ddlivrde par la Pucelle d'Orldans, a poem which obtained a prize of the Academie des Jeux Flor ux. After the production of his first vaudeville, Les Deux Jumelles (1734), circumstances enabled him to relinquish business and devote himself entirely to the drama. He provided many pieces anonymously for the lesser theatres, and first put his name to La Chercheuse d'esprit, which was produced in 1741. Among his most succeesful works were Annette et Lubin, Le Coq du village (1743), Ninette a la cour (1753), Les Trois Sultanes (1761) and L'Anglais et Bordeaux (1763). Favart became director of the Opera Comique, and in 1745 married Marie Justine Benoite Duronceray (1727-1772), a beautiful young dancer, singer and actress, who as "Mlle Chantilly" had made a successful debut the year before. By their united talents and labours the Opera Comique rose to such a height of success that it aroused the jealousy of the rival Comedie Italienne and was suppressed. Favart, left thus without resources, accepted the proposal of Maurice de Saxe, and undertook the direction of atroupe of comedians which was to accompany his army into Flanders. It was part of his duty to compose from time to time impromptu verses on the events of the campaign, amusing and stimulating the spirits of the men. So popular were Favart and his troupe that the enemy became desirous of hearing his company and sharing his services, and permission was given to gratify them, battles and comedies thus curiously alternating with each other. But the marshal, who was an admirer of Mme Favart, began to persecute her with his attentions. To escape him she went to Paris, and the wrath of Saxe fell upon the husband. A lettre de cachet was issued against him, but he fled to Strassburg and found concealment in a cellar. Mme Favart meanwhile had been established by the marshal in a house at Vaugirard; but as she proved a fickle mistress she was suddenly arrested and confined in a convent, where she was brought to unconditional surrender in the beginning of 1750. Before the year was out the marshal died, and Mme Favart reappeared at the Comedie Italienne, where for twenty years she was the favourite actress. To her is largely due the beginnings of the change in this theatre to performances of a lyric type adapted from Italian models, which developed later into the genuine French comic opera. She was also a bold reformer in matters of stage costume, playing the peasant with bare arms, in wooden shoes and linen dress, and not, as heretofore, in court costume with enormous hoops, diamonds and long white kid gloves. With her husband, and other authors, she collaborated in a number of successful pieces, and one - La Fille mal gardde - she produced alone.

Favart survived his wife twenty years. After the marshal's death in 1750 he had returned to Paris, and resumed his pursuits as a dramatist. It was at this time that the abbe de Voisenon became intimate with him and took part in his labours, to what extent is uncertain. He had grown nearly blind in his last days, and died in Paris on the 12th of May 1792. His plays have been several times republished in various editions and selections (1763-1772, 12 vols.; 1810, 3 vols.; 1813; 1853). His correspondence (1759-1763) with Count Durazzo, director of theatres at Vienna, was published in 1808 as Mdmoires et correspondance littdraire, dramatique et anecdotique de C. S. Favart. It furnishes valuable information on the state of the literary and theatrical worlds in the 18th century.

Favart's second son, Charles Nicolas Joseph Justin Favart (1749-1806), was an actor of moderate talent at the Comedie Frangaise for fifteen years. He wrote a number of successful plays : - Le Diable boiteux (1782), Le Mariage singulier (1787) and, with his father, La Vieillesse d'Annette (1791). His son Antoine Pierre Charles Favart (1780-1867) was in the diplomatic service, and assisted in editing his grandfather's memoirs; he was a playwright and painter as well.

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