Mérimée, Prosper

born Sept. 28, 1803, Paris, France
died Sept. 23, 1870, Cannes

French short-story writer and dramatist.

In youth a student of languages and literatures, he wrote his first play, Cromwell (1922), at age 19. His passions were mysticism, history, and the unusual. His stories, often mysteries, were inspired mainly by Spanish and Russian sources, notably Aleksandr Pushkin; they include Mateo Falcone (1829), the collection Mosaïque (1833), and the novellas Colomba (1840) and Carmen (1845), the basis of Georges Bizet's opera. He also wrote works of history and archaeology, historical fiction, and literary criticism and carried on correspondences that were published posthumously. He became a senator in 1853.

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▪ French author

born Sept. 28, 1803, Paris
died Sept. 23, 1870, Cannes, Fr.
 French dramatist, historian, archaeologist, and master of the short story whose works—Romantic in theme but Classical and controlled in style—were a renewal of Classicism in a Romantic age.

      Of a cultured, middle-class Norman background, Mérimée first studied law but was more devoted to learning the Greek, Spanish, English, and Russian languages and their literatures. At 19 he wrote his first play, Cromwell (1822); his close friend the novelist Stendhal encouraged him in this literary direction.

      A collection of his plays, Le Théâtre de Clara Gazul, appeared in 1825. Indulging his taste for mystification, he presented them as translations by a certain Joseph L'Estrange of the work of a Spanish actress. His next hoax was La Guzla (1827), by “Hyacinthe Maglanowich,” ballads about murder, revenge, and vampires, supposedly translated from the Illyrian. Both works deceived even scholars of the day.

      Mérimée's passions were mysticism, history, and the unusual. Inspired by the vogue for historical fiction established by Sir Walter Scott, he wrote La Jacquerie (1828), 36 dramatic scenes about a peasant insurrection in feudal times, and the novel La Chronique du temps de Charles IX (1829), concerning French court life during war and peace.

      Mérimée's short stories best illustrate his imagination and sombre temperament; many are mysteries, of foreign inspiration and local colour. Spain and Russia were his principal literary sources; he was the first interpreter of Russian literature in France. Pushkin was his master, especially for his themes of violence and cruelty and the human psychology behind them. In one of his best known stories, “Mateo Falcone” (1833), a father kills a son for betraying the family honour. The collection Mosaïque (1833) was followed by his most famous novellas: Colomba (1840), the story of a young Corsican girl who forces her brother to commit murder for the sake of a vendetta, and Carmen (1845), in which an unfaithful gypsy girl is killed by a soldier who loves her. The latter story is internationally known through the opera by Bizet. Lokis (1869) and La Chambre bleue (1872) show Mérimée's fascination with the supernatural.

      In 1831 he met a young girl, Jenny Dacquin, with whom he engaged in a lifelong correspondence, which was published after his death as Lettres à une inconnue (1874; “Letters to an Unknown Girl”). Mérimée, who served in the French Admiralty as general inspector of historical monuments, wrote his Notes de voyages . . . (1835–40), covering his travels through Greece, Spain, Turkey, and France. He was also an excellent historian and archaeologist and wrote several works in these fields, as well as literary criticism.

      Mérimée was a longtime friend of the Countess of Montijo, whom he met in Spain in 1830. Later, in 1853, when her daughter became the empress Eugénie of France, Mérimée was admitted to the royal circle and made a senator. He was not fond of Napoleon III, however, and never became a wholehearted courtier. His letters to Sir Anthony Panizzi, principal librarian of the British Museum and his closest friend in Mérimée's old age, have been described as a “history of the Second Empire.” They were published posthumously as Lettres à M. Panizzi: 1850–70 (1881).

      Mérimée has been acclaimed for the precision and restraint of his writing style. Though his best stories are imbued with mystery and local colour, exoticism never seems to take precedence over the psychological delineation of character. His use of realistic detail and precise delineation to establish the presence of the supernatural and fantastic is also notable. Mérimée's works frequently feature exceptional characters whose forceful and passionate natures have something inhuman about them and which lift them above the common run of humanity.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mérimée, Prosper — (1803 1870)    novelist, historian    Prosper Mérimée, best known for his lengthy and realistic, yet also fantastic, short stories, was born in Paris. Raised in a cultured milieu in the tradition of the enlightenment, he studied law, then entered …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Mérimée,Prosper — Mé·ri·mée (mĕrʹə mā , mā rē māʹ), Prosper. 1803 1870. French writer of romantic stories and novels, such as Carmen (1846), on which Bizet s opera is based. * * * …   Universalium

  • Merimée, Prosper — ► (1803 70) Escritor francés. Lo mejor de su producción son las novelas: Matteo Falcone (1829), Colomba (1840), que tienen a Italia por escenario, Crónica del reinado de Carlos IX (1829), novela histórica, La Venus de Ille (1837) y Carmen (1845) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • MÈRIMÈE, PROSPER —    a great French writer, born in Paris; abandoned law, to which he was bred, for literature; became under Louis Philippe inspector general of historical documents, and travelled in that capacity in the S. and W. of France, publishing from time… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Mérimée, Prosper — (1803 1870)    France. Writer. He worked in the civil service and, under Napoleon III, was employed on unofficial missions. After a visit to a tobacco factory in Spain in 1846, he wrote the novel Carmen, which was the basis for Georges Bizet s… …   Historical dictionary of the Gypsies

  • Mérimée — Prosper Mérimée Prosper Mérimée Activité(s) Écrivain, historien, archéologue Naissance 28 septembre 1803 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Prosper Merimee — Prosper Mérimée Prosper Mérimée Activité(s) Écrivain, historien, archéologue Naissance 28 septembre 1803 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mérimée — Prosper Mérimée Prosper Mérimée (* 28. September 1803 in Paris; † 23. September 1870 in Cannes) war ein französischer Schriftsteller. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Prosper Merimee — Prosper Mérimée Prosper Mérimée (* 28. September 1803 in Paris; † 23. September 1870 in Cannes) war ein französischer Schriftsteller. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Prosper Mérimée — (* 28. September 1803 in Paris; † 23. September 1870 in Cannes) war ein französischer Schriftsteller. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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