Piron, Alexis

, a French dramatic poet, was born at Dijon in 1689, where he lived till he was past thirty, in all the dissipation of a young man of pleasure. At length, having given great offence to his countrymen by an ode which he produced, he removed to Paris; where, as his relations could not give him much assistance, he supported himself by his talent of writing an admirable hand. He was first secretary to M. Bellisle, and afterwards to a financier, who little suspected that he had such a genius in his house. By degrees he became known, from producing several small pieces, full of originality, at a little theatre in Paris; till the comedy called “Metromanie,” esteemed one of the best produced in the last century, raised his fame to the highest point. His very singular talent for conversation, in which he was always lively, and inexhaustible in wit, contributed to enhance his popularity; and as his company was more courted for a time than that of Voltaire, who had less good humour, he was inclined to fancy himself superior to that writer. Many traits of his wit are related, which convey, at the same time, the notion that he estimated himself very highly. At the first representation of Voltaire’s Semiramis, which was ill received, the author asked him in the theatre what he thought of it “I think,” said he, “that you would be very glad that I had written it.” The actors wishing him to alter one of his pieces, affronted him by using the word “corrections,” instead of alterations. They pleaded that Voltaire always listened to their wishes in that respect. “What then?” replied Piron, “Voltaire works cabinet-work, I cast in bronze.” The satirical turn of Piron kept him from a seat in the academy. “I never could make nine-and thirty people,” said he, “think as I do, still less could 1 ever think with them.” He sought, however, a species of revenge, in the epitaph which he wrote for himself:

Cy git Piron, qui ne fut rien,

Pas m&me Academician.

Here lies Piron, who was nothing, not even an academician.

| He died of the effects of a fail, Jan. 21, 1773. His works have been collected in seven vols. 8vo, and nine 12mo. But it is agreed, that out of the seven, five at least might be spared; since, besides his “Metromanie,” his “Gustavus,” a tragedy; his “Courses de Tempe,” a pastoral piece; some odes, about twenty epigrams, and one or two tales, there is very little in the whole collection that is above mediocrity. His comedies are reckoned better than, his tragedies; and the prefaces to his dramas, though not excellent in point of style, are full of new and agreeable thoughts, with natural and happy turns of wit and expression. 1

Dict. Hist.—Necrologue pour annee 1774.