Destouches, Philip Neuicault

, an eminent French dramatic writer, was born at Tours, in 1680, of a reputable family, which he left early in life, apparently from being thwarted in his youthful pursuits. This, however, has been contradicted; and it is said that after having passed through the rudiments of a literary education at Tours, he went, with the full concurrence of his father, to Paris, in order to complete his studies; that being lodged with a bookseller in the capital, he fell in love at sixteen with a young person, the relation of his landlord, the consequences of which amour were such, that young Destouches, afraid to face them, enlisted as a common soldier in a regiment under orders for Spain; that he was present at the siege of Barcelona, where he narrowly escaped the fate of almost the whole company to which he belonged, who were buried under a mine sprung by the besieged. What became of him afterwards, to the time of his being noticed by the marquis de Puysieulx, is not certainly known, but the common opinion was, that he had appeared as a player on the stage; and having for a long time dragged his wretchedness from town to town, was at length manager of a company of comedians at Soleure, when the marquis de Puysieulx, ambassador from France to Switzerland, obtained some knowledge of him by means of an harangue which the young actor made him at the head of his comrades. The marquis, habituated by his diplomatic function to discern and appreciate characters, | judged that one who could speak so well, was destined by nature to something better than the representation of French comedies in the centre of Switzerland. He requested a conference with Destouches, sounded him on various topics, and attached him to his person. It was in Switzerland that his talent for theatrical productions first displayed itself; and his “Curieux Impertinent” was exhibited there with applause. His dramatic productions made him known to the regent, who sent him to London in 1717, to assist, in his political capacity, at the negotiations then on foot, and while resident here, he had a singular negociation to manage for cardinal Dubois, to whom, indeed, he was indebted for his post. That minister directed him to engage king George I. to ask for him the archbishopric of Cambray, from the regent duke of Orleans. The king, who was treating with the regent on affairs of great consequence, and whom it was the interest of the latter to oblige, could not help viewing this request in a ridiculous light. “How!” said he to Destouches, “would you have a protestant prince interfere in making a French archbishop? The regent will only laugh at it, and certainly will pay no regard to such an application.” “Pardon me, sire,” replied Destouches, “he will laugh, indeed, but he will do what you desire.” He then presented to the king a very pressing letter, ready for signature. “With all my heart, then,” said the king, and signed the letter; and Dubois became archbishop of Cambray. He spent seven years in London, married there, and returned to his country; where the dramatist and negociator were well received. The regent had a just sense of his services, and promised him great things; but dying soon after, left Destouches the meagre comfort of reflecting how well he should have been provided for if the regent had lived. Having lost his patron, he retired to Fortoiseau, near Melun, as the properest situation to make him forget the caprices of fortune. He purchased the place; and cultivating agriculture, philosophy, and the muses, abode there as long as he lived. Cardinal Fleury would fain have sent him ambassador to Petersburg; but Destouches chose rather to attend his lands and his woods, to correct with his pen the manners of his own countrymen; and to write, which he did with considerable effect, against the infidels of France. He died in 1754, leaving a daughter and a son j the latter, by order of | Lewis XV. published at the Louvre an edition of his father’s works, in 4 vols. 4to. Destouch.es had not the gaiety of Regnard, nor the strong warm colouring of Moliere; but he is always polite, tender, and natural, and has been thought worthy of ranking next to these authors. He deserves more praise by surpassing them in the morality and decorum of his pieces, and he had also the art of attaining the pathetic without losing the vis comica, which is the essential character of this species of composition. In the various connections of domestic life, he maintained a truly respectable character, and in early life he gave evidence of his filial duty, by sending 40,000 livres out of his savings to his father, who was burthened with a large family. 1

1

Eloge by d’Alembert. —Dict. Hist.