Florian, John Peter Claris De

, a very popular French writer, was born in 1755, at the chateau de Flonan, in the province of Languedoc. His father, Charles Claris, was a gentleman of small fortune, who, being by no means of an enterprising disposition, died poor. His mother was Gillette de Sulgue, a Castilian Spaniard; and | it may be presumed that in this circumstance originated that high esteem and peculiar affection which Florian has since expressed for that sensible, generous, and highspirited nation. This affectionate mother dying in childfred, the care of young Florian devolved wholly on his father, who obtained for him the best masters, and spared no expence nor trouble in the superintendance of his education, and the cultivation of his mind. In his earliest days young Florian displayed that love of his fellow-creatures’which ever after so strongly marked his character; and he evinced even in infancy that suavity of manners and benevolence of disposition which afterwards rendered him so universally esteemed. Even his childhood was marked by acts of benevolence, and many instances of his sensibility and benevolence have been mentioned by his biographers. His occupations and amusements too were always of a nature much superior to those of other children of the same age. He employed much of his time in the cultivation of flowers, and in learning the art of gardening; and agriculture also engaged his attention, and gave him a taste for rural pleasures, to which his countrymen owe Jiis pastorals.

His father sent him to his near kinsman Voltaire for his education, who afterwards placed him in the rank of page to the duke de Penthievre. The duke soon distinguished his talents, bestowed many favours on him, and although, he at one time gave him a commission in the army, on observing the success of his first publication, the duke determined that he should confine himself to literature, and furnished him with a library. His first production was his “Gaiathee,” which appeared in 1782, and was followed by the first two volumes of his “Theatre,” containing “Les deux Billets,” “Le bon Menage,” “Le bon Pere,” <? La bonne Mere,“and” Le bon Fils.“Notwithstanding the success of these, the duke so reproved him for writing on profane subjects, that he chose his next subject” Ruth" from the sacred history, which completely reconciled him to his patron, and was followed hy a succession of dramas and novels which placed him in the first rank of popularity as a sentimental writer.

Though Florian was reared in the very bosom of nobility, he never sacrificed to adulation the dignity of a man. Esteemed and patronised by a benevolent and sensible prince, he became the active agent of his bounty; and the | orphan and the poor, especially the unfortunate man of letters, ever found in Florian a zealous advocate and an active protector.

It is mentioned by one of his biographers, as an instance of his weakness, that he had a great desire to obtain a seat in the French academy, and we are told that the force of this ambition imperceptibly undermined his constitution, and changed the natural suavity of his temper to a restless fretfulness. It was not a sufficient gratification of this passion, that he was already a member of the academies of Madrid, Lyons, and Florence; nothing short of a seat in the academy of Paris seemed to him capable of satisfying that ambition, which was gratified on the death of cardinal de Luines. He never was present at the admission of a new member into the academy, without experiencing a most singular agitation, and a violent oppression of the heart, which he was unable to conceal from observation. It is added, however, that notwithstanding the violence of this passion, Florian never so far yielded to its influence as to sacrifice to it those principles of honour and liberality which were the constant motives of his actions.

When the revolution took place, Florian retired to Seaux, hoping that in that retreat, as he confined himself entirely to his studies, he would be overlooked in the general proscription of men of talents; but he was known to have been the intimate of a nobleman, and upon the simple niandat of the infamous Robespierre, he was arrested. His judges reproached him with having prefixed to his “Numa” some verses in praise of the queen; and upon this accusation, he was dragged to prison. Here he began the first book of his “Guillaume Tell,” a poem, the admirers of which must regret that it was not completed. In this prison, also Florian finished his poem entitled “Kbrahim,” in four cantos; a work replete with beauties, in which are depicted with the pencil of Fenelon, fraternal affection, patriarchal virtue, noble jealousy, and the passion of love in all its strength and delicacy. This Hebrew poem was among all his productions the favourite work of Florian; and that which, at the same time that it afforded him the most pleasure in composing it, was also written with the greatest facility. At length, however, the overthrow of Robespierre renovated the hopes, and re-animated the courage of his victims. Among the rest, Florian, who had long considered himself devoted to death, was released, and | again retired to the country; but whether from the agitation of his mind in prison, or from the confinement and unwholesome food, he soon fell into a decline, which proved fatal Sept. 13, 1794. Florian’s works consist of short dramas, novels, and pastorals, written witb. great attention to nature and simplicity, butupon the whole, we think better adapted to afford pleasure to his countrymen, than to those who look for more vigour of genius, and less of the sickly sentimental style. So many of them, however, have been introduced to the knowledge of the English reader by translations, that it is not necessary to enlargemuch on their beauties or defects. His pastoral romances, “Estelle,” “Galathea,” &c. are unquestionably the most favourable specimens of his genius; but we doubt the perpetuity of their popularity without those peculiar charms which can be conveyed only in their original language. His “Fahles” have been much admired in France, and esteemed the best since the days, of Fontaine. In all his works he preserves that attention to benevolence and moral feeling which distinguished him in his life. 1


Life by Rosny, and by Jauffret, prefixed to Hewetscm’s translation of Florian’s “William Tell.