Marivaux, Peter Carlet De Chamblain De

, a celebrated French writer of the drama and of romance, was born at Paris in 1688. His father was of a good family in Normandy; his fortune was considerable, and he spared nothing in the education of his son, who discovered uncommon talents, and a most amiable disposition. His first object was the theatre, where he met with the highest success in comic productions; and these, with the merit of his other works, procured him a place in the French academy. The great object of both his comedies and romances was, to convey an useful moral under the veil of wit and sentiment: “my only object,” says he, “is to make men more just and more humane;” and he was as amiable in his life and conversation as in his writings. He was compassionate and humane, and a strenuous advocate for morality and religion. To relieve the indigent, to console the unfortunate, and to succour the oppressed, were duties which he not only recommended by his writings, but by his own practice and example. He would frequently ridicule the excessive credulity of infidels in matters of trivial importance; and once said to lord Bolingbroke, who was of that character, “If you cannot believe, it is not for want of faith.

Marivaux had the misfortune, or rather the imprudence, to join the party of M. de la Motte, in the famous dispute concerning the superiority of the ancients to the moderns. His attachment to the latter produced his travesty of Homer, which contributed but little to his literary fame. His prose works, while they display great fertility of invention, and a happy disposition of incidents to excite attention, and to interest the affections, have been censured for affectation of style, and a refinement that is sometimes too metaphysical. His “Vie de Marianne,” and his “Paysan Parvenu,” hold the first rank among French romances; yet, by a fickleness which was natural to him, he left one of them incomplete to begin the other, and finished neither. He died at Paris, Feb. 11, 1763, aged seventy-five. His works consist of, 1. “Pièces de Théâtre,” 5 vols. 12mo. 2. “Homere travesti,” 12mo. 3. “Le Spectateur François,” 2 vols. 12mo rather affected in style, but containing many | fine thoughts. 4. “Le Philosophe indigent,” 12mo, lively and instructive. 5. “Vie de Marianne,” 4 vols. 12mo; one of the best romances in the French language. 6. “Le Paysan Parvenu,” 12mo; more ingenious, perhaps, than Marianne, but less instructive, and containing some scenes that ought to have been omitted. 7. “Pharsamon; ou les nouvelles follies romanesques;” inferior to the former. This was republished under the name of “Nouveau Dom Quichotte.” The chief objection made to this, and indeed many other writings of Marivaux, is a mixture of metaphysical style, sometimes too refined to be intelligible; but amends are generally made for this fault, by correct pictures of the human heart, and sentiments of great truth and beauty. 1


D‘Alembert’s Eloges. Necrologie L’Esprit de Marivaux, 1769, 8vo. —Dict. Hist.