JEAN PIERRE CLARIS DE FLORIAN (1755-1794), French poet and romance writer, was born on the 6th of March 1755 at the château of Florian, near Sauve, in the department of Gard. His mother, a Spanish lady named Gilette de Salgues, died when he was quite a child. His uncle and guardian, the marquis of Florian, who had married a niece of Voltaire, introduced him at Ferney and in 1768 he became page at Anet in the household of the duke of Penthievre, who remained his friend throughout his life. Having studied for some time at the artillery school at Bapaume he obtained from his patron a captain's commission in a dragoon regiment, and in this capacity it is said he displayed a boisterous behaviour quite incongruous with the gentle, meditative character of his works. On the outbreak of the French Revolution he retired to Sceaux, but he was soon discovered and imprisoned; and though his imprisonment was short he survived his release only a few months, dying on the 13th of September 1794.
Florian's first literary efforts were comedies; his verse epistle Voltaire et le serf du Mont Jura and an eclogue Ruth were crowned by the French Academy in 1782 and 1784 respectively. In 1782 also he produced a one-act prose comedy, Le Bon Ménage, and in the next year Galatee, a romantic tale in imitation of the Galatea of Cervantes. Other short tales and comedies followed, and in 1786 appeared Numa Pompilius, an undisguised imitation of Fenelon's Telemaque. In 1788 he became a member of the French Academy, and published Estelle, a pastoral of the same class as Galatee. Another romance, Gonzalve de Cordoue, preceded by an historical notice of the Moors, appeared in 1791, and his famous collection of Fables in 1792. Among his posthumous works. are La Jeunesse de Florian, ou Memoires d'un jeune Espagnol (1807), and an abridgment (1799) of Don Quixote, which, though far from being a correct representation of the original, had great and merited success.
Florian imitated Salomon Gessner, the Swiss idyllist, and his style has all the artificial delicacy and sentimentality of the Gessnerian school. Perhaps the nearest example of the class in English literature is afforded by John Wilson's (Christopher North's) Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life. Among the best of his fables are reckoned "The Monkey showing the Magic Lantern," "The Blind Man and the Paralytic," and "The Monkeys and the Leopard." The best edition of Florian's CEuvres completes appeared in Paris in 16 volumes, 1820; his CEuvres inedites in 4 volumes, 1824. See "Vie de Florian," by L. F. Jauffret, prefixed to his CEuvres posthumes (1802); A. J. N. de Rosny, Vie de Florian (Paris, An V.); Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi, t. iii.; A. de Montvaillant, Florian, sa vie, ses oeuvres (1879); and Lettres de Florian a Mme de la Briche, published, with a notice by the baron de Barante in Melanges published (1903) by the Societe des bibliophiles francais.
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