Biography of Pierre-Agustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)

Playwright and French musician, born in Paris on the 24 February 1732 and died in his hometown on May 18, 1799. Author of a brief but bright and successful theatrical production which, breaking with the discursive and moralizing severity of the bourgeois Theater of its time, introduced a scathing social satire based on the vivacity of the situations, the freshness of the lexicon and excellent characterization of the characters, became - both his life and his work - one of the best emblems of the new emerging bourgeoisiecharacterized by their individual initiative and his lack of scruples (and opposite to the procrastination and outdated values that rather to the noble estate). His two masterpieces, Le barbier de Séville (the Barber of Seville, 1775) and folle it Journée ou Le mariage de Figaro (the marriage of Figaro, 1784), harvested his strident triumphs in the late 18th century Parisian scenarios, and achieved popularity and universal screening to inspire two musical compositions by Rossini (1792-1868) and Mozart (1756-1791).

Life and work

Born into a family of artisans formed by the master clockmaker André-Charles Caron and his wife Marie-Louise Pichon, came to the world in the rue Saint-Denis in Paris and was baptized in the parish of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. Of the ten children that his mother gave birth, four were killed shortly after birth. the future playwright, who occupied the seventh place among his brothers, was the only surviving male, so it is kid surrounded by his five sisters and soon assumed a role of protective family which was to maintain throughout his life.

Heir from his childhood of the craft skills from his father, began his studies at the school of Alfort trades and soon began working in the family workshop, where he/she shows possess a remarkable ability for the manufacture and repair of watches. However, together with the own of the boyhood decided and brawling spirit, his rudeness and insolence, ended with the patience of André-Charles Caron, who, despite losing a good contributor, thus expelled from the household to the young Pierre-Augustin in 1749. He/She was, at that time, seventeen years of age, and until the nineteenth was living at your own risk in a lively and bustling city that took you abundant experiences to deal with adult life. Finally, the intercession of some friends of the family got the old master watchmaker to forgive his son and allowed to return home, but not before having tax a series of stringent conditions that Pierre-Augustin pledged - in writing - to fulfil.

Reinstated, then, to the work of watchmaking, in 1753 the future writer invented a new system of "escape" (that is, alternative movement of the clock interrupt, to arrest the fall of weights and make it uniform). Excited about his discovery, he/she ran to show it to the watchmaker from the King, surnamed Lepaute, who immediately understood the intricacies of the new mechanism and presented him, as if an invention of yours were, before the Academy of Sciences in Paris. In November 1753, Pierre-Augustin Caron delivered to the members of that institution a thorough report, accompanied by overwhelming evidence, showed their sole and direct responsibility for the invention of the new exhaust system; in the light of these documents, February 23, 1754 the Academy of Sciences extended on behalf of the young Parisian watchmaker a certificate attesting its status as authentic creator of such a mechanism, which earned him a huge popularity not only among the craftsmen of their trade, but also in the Court of Luis XV (1710-1774), where there were big fans to watch among the members of the Royal family. This was how, at twenty-one years of age, the son of the modest André-Charles Caron was received by the Kings of France, who will warmly congratulated by his invention (in 1755, the Academy of Sciences declared, after a new controversy regarding this new mechanism, that its official inventors were Pierre-Augustin Caron and the Swiss watchmaker Romilly, who)(, working each one on their own in the improvement of the exhaust system, had arrived at the same solution without having any information exchanged).

Meanwhile, the future playwright - who continued to refine his invention - had known monsieur Franquet, holder of an Honorable palatial charge: "Contrôleur Clerc d'Office de la Maison du Roi". At the end of 1755, after feel seriously ill, Franquet sold inheritance rights from his post to the watchmaker, who began to enjoy them from January 9 next year, date in which his predecessor was killed in office. Soon after, Pierre-Augustin began to frequent the intimacy of Madeleine-Catherine Aubertin, widow of the recently deceased Franquet, which contracted nuptials on November 27th that same year of 1756, in the parish of Sait-Nicolas-des-Champs. The following year, installed both in the beautiful mansion that possessed the family of Madeleine-Catherine at rue de Braque, the son of the master watchmaker began to use the name of Caron de Beaumarchais, taken from a few possessions which had just inherit his wife.

But fortune and prosperity that seemed to have brought this marital link did not last even a year. On the night of 29-30 September 1757, Madeleine-Catherine, victim of a fulminant disease, lost his life in the bed of the new family home, leaving her troubled husband without the right to inherit their property, since, by complex legal entanglements at the time, the marriage contract which both had subscribed not charged effect until October 11. Stripped of the possessions of the deceased by family Aubertin, the future writer settled in a modest house in the rue Basse du Rempart, which would reside until 1763. To ensure their subsistence, began to teach class — an instrument which he/she had perfected - harp, and, through his friend the banker Lenormand d' Étiolles - husband of the Marquise de Pompadour (1722-1764)-, reached the position of musical tutor of the daughters of Adelaide, Victoire, Sophie and Louise, which promote great Luis XV and, since that time, daughters of the aspirations of Beaumarchais. Using the admiration that you were the daughters of the monarch, he/she got that this visit in 1760 the military school founded in 1751 by the great financial Paris-Duverney, uncle of his friend Lenormand d' Étoilles. In gratitude, the powerful financial included Beaumarchais partners that had in its productive business provisions, which laid the foundations for the economic prosperity of the future writer. A year later (1761), thanks to the generous dedication of money that made her Paris-Duverney, acquired the title of "Consellier Secrétaire du Roi" ("Chief Secretary of the King"), who had rigged its inclusion in the noble estate and its right to officially use the name of Beaumarchais.

Immersed in a frantic upstroke in the social scale, in 1762 acquired - thanks, again, to a huge loan from the powerful financial - the charge of "Grand Maître des Eaux et Forêts" ("Great Lord of the waters and mountains"), he/she had to break off a few months due to the disputes unleashed by other Grands Maîtres. By that time, began to write his first theatrical pieces, mere minor diversions designed to solemnize certain parties of the Court.

At the beginning of 1763 was installed in the mansion which had just purchased at rue de Condé, which gave shelter to her father - which, at his request, had closed the family watchmaking in 1761 - and two sisters single remaining (his mother had died in April 1758). After accumulating new positions and honours - as the "Lieutenant Général des Chasses" ("Lieutenant General of the hunt"), put him under the direct authority of the Duke of La Vallière - and planning their marriage with the young Pauline Le Breton, took personally, in its role of protector family, negotiations to formalize the marital union between his sister Marie-Louisse (Lisette) and the famous Spanish naturalist José Clavijo y Fajardo (1726-1806)originally from the Canary Island of Lanzarote. With that purpose moved to Madrid in the spring of 1764, well equipped with a large dowry of one hundred sixty thousand pounds (granted, how not, because Paris-Duverney), as well as of the abundant letters of recommendation issued by the French diplomatic service, which would help manage other businesses less spiritual than her sister's wedding; but, fascinated by Spain, in just one month forgot the main objective that had led him to Madrid and gave a worldly life, which, among other effects, gave rise to his showdown with Clavijo and his murky relationships with some leading ladies of the Spanish Court. After failing in their financial businesses (including shuffled a food supply project for the Spanish troops, as well as the attempt to found a company to trade with Louisiana) and its initial purpose married to Lisette Clavijo, returned to France in April 1765, a year after his departure. To recover some of the money that was squandered in the cheerful and dissipated life which had taken in Spain, the following month sold his position of "Conseiller Secrétaire du Roi".

Then embarked on new business together with his inseparable Paris-Duverney, at the time that broke his courtship with Pauline Le Breton and was delivered to the drafting of a theatrical piece conceived with more ambition than his former courtiers toys. It's the drama Eugenie (Eugenia), premiered at the Comédie-Française on January 29, 1767 first, work in which, making gala already that lack of scruples that would characterize the rest of his production, collecting some of their dream Madrid raids and was even discourteous references to his showdown with Clavijo.

April 11, 1768, Beaumarchais married Geneviève-Madeleine Wattebled, widow of Leveque, who after eight months (December 14) gave birth to the first stem of the writer, named Agustín de Beaumarchais. Delivered, by that time, its flourishing business with Paris-Duverney, old watchmaker simultaneously followed theatrical writing, gender to which contributed a new drama entitled Les deux amis (the two friends), whose premiere was verified on January 13, 1770. A cluster of events of great relief in the vital adventures of the writer took place over the course of the year: shortly after the first staging of his second extensive work, was the father of a little girl (March 7) who died within days of his birth; at the beginning of the following month, Beaumarchais with Paris-Duverney signed a series of documents that legally regulated labour relations maintained between the two since several years ago; at the end of three and a half months, while the playwright convalescing from an illness that forced him to stay in bed for more than fifty days, he/she had news of the death of its powerful partner, died in Paris on July 17, 1770, at the age of eighty-six. Since then, Beaumarchais became mired in cumbersome litigation with Blanche, political nephew of Paris-Duverney and legitimate heir of most of their property. To make matters worse, passed away suddenly on November 20 at the age of thirty-nine, the second wife of the playwright.

To all these family misfortune and hardship was added, in 1771, the failure of a business that had undertaken years ago in the forest of Chinon, what brought you - already the aid of his deceased partner and protector - private big economic problems. Fortunately, on 22 February 1772 he/she won, in the first instance, its proceedings against him Blanche; but advocates of this appealed the ruling and managed litigation to move up to the Parliament of Paris, which predicted a distant solution to the conflict. Affected by new and painful setbacks (the little Augustin de Beaumarchais died in October of that year and, two months later, Jeanne-Marguerite, one of the five sisters of the writer), took refuge again in the playwriting and ended one of his masterpieces, Le barbier de Séville (the Barber of Seville), placed at the disposal of the Comédie-Française in January 1773.

His headaches were on the rise this year. On 11 February, Beaumarchais had a violent altercation with the Duke of Chaulnes, who had accused him of having kidnapped lover, the actress Mademoiselle Ménard. As a result of this dispute, both involved gave their bones in prison. While it remained in the presidio's Fort-l' Evêque (in which was held from February 26 to May 8, 1773), had news that had lost its lawsuit with Le Blanche at the Parliament of Paris, who generated him a new and dangerous enemy, monsieur Goëzman, who had intervened in the process presenting a unfavorable statement against the playwright. From then until 1778 - year in which, finally, the Parliament of Aix-en-Provence ruled in favor of Beaumarchais-, the writer was involved in numerous legal disputes against Goëzman and Le Blanche, who had returned to bring to trial in October of 1773.

Multiple rivals who had won in the wake of these lawsuits got that, early in 1774, was forbidden the representation of Le barbier de Seville which was already rehearsing the Comédie-Française. In March of that same year, Beaumarchais met to Marie-Thérèse de Willer-Mawlas, with which he/she lived intimately for many years, without reaching sacralize their union until 1786. After destroying, at the request of Luis XV, a libel against Madame du Barry - monarch-lover, undertook, in April 1774, new secret missions by various places in Europe (Holland, England, Vienna...), performing tasks of intrigue close to espionage, as which they had perhaps already made during their stay in Spain. Thus won the full confidence of Luis XV - died in May of that year - and, above all, his grandson and successor Luis XVI (1754-1793), who, aware of the services provided by Beaumarchais to his deceased grandfather, entrusted other enigmatic missions. For many years, it maintained close contacts with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the own monarch, who yielded reports relating to matters as specific as the need to provide aid to the insurgents who fought against England for the emancipation of the American colonies.

Thanks to this privileged position on the Court, got the necessary permissions for the premiere of Le barbier de Séville, which was verified at the Comédie-Française on February 23, 1775. The success encouraged to enroll in a new lawsuit, this time against the perpetrators of the Comédie, who demanded a substantial part of the benefits obtained with the representation of his work, in concept of copyright. Meanwhile, on an adventure somewhere between politics and business, he/she created a company to Charter ships bound for America, which would have to transport the aid collected for the insurgents. The business flourished, especially from February 6, 1778, date in which signed a Treaty of friendship between France and the United States of America. A year earlier, the writer and Marie-Thérèse de Willer-Mawlas had been girl Eugénie de Beaumarchais's parents.

Meanwhile, he/she wrote his second masterpiece, folle it Journée ou Le mariage de Figaro (the marriage of Figaro), which wouldn't be released until 1783. At the same time, still suing acrimoniously with the Comédie-Française by copyright, and are delivered to other many occupations related to the field of letters, as the edition of the works of Voltaire (1694-1778), for which a subscription opened in 1781. That same year he/she starred in a new scandal in the House of the Prince of Nassau, where, in the course of a dinner, became defender of Madame Kornman, lover of a host family. Apparently, banker Kornman had ordered to detain his wife to take over her dowry, which denounced Beaumarchais until he/she achieved the release of the woman. This enthusiasm in the defense of Madame Kornman raised many comments in Paris, and gave rise to the emergence of more than one slanderous libel against the now famous playwright.

In mid-June, 1783, an order of the King at the last moment forbade the representation of Le mariage of Figaro at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, that did not prevent that work was put in scene, in petit Committee, in the House that had the count of Vaudreuil in Genevilliers. Despite this direct intervention of the own sovereign, Beaumarchais was still enjoys the trust of Luis XVI, who at the beginning of 1784 received more than half a million pounds, to cover the expenses that had caused you his negotiations with American insurgents. Shortly afterwards, after having begged the King for the premiere of Le mariage de Figaro, finally achieved that this work was officially carried the scenarios, in which harvested one of the loudest hits of the time. However, the following year, following the publication of a letter in the Journal de Paris - which spoke of the Tigers and lions that had to be overcome to achieve the premiere of this piece-, Beaumarchais awoke again regia anger and gave their bones in the prison Saint-Lazare for five days (from 8-13 March); three months later, Luis XVI, by means of the State Council, ordered to delete thirty volumes in the edition of the complete works of Voltaire (who had been publishing since 1783). But in court was still enjoying numerous props, as well you could see on 18 August of that year, when own Queen María Antoinette (1755-1793) embodied the character of Rosine in a palatial function of Le barbier de Seville.

After receiving new and substantial compensation for the losses suffered by its fleet at the end of the last decade, on March 8, 1786 he/she finally got married with Marie-Thérèse de Willer-Mawlas. The following year premiered a new play, the melodrama Tarare (1787), and moved to a luxurious residence that, close to the Bastille, had ordered building to architect Lemoyne. Soon after, he/she made relations more than cordial with Amelie Houret of the Marinaie, while the affaire Kornman was still kicking in Paris.

The outbreak of the French Revolution surprised him at the epicenter of the riots, both as a member of the Assembly of representatives (of which was expelled in August 1789, to be readmitted to the next month) and the location of his luxurious residence on the same side of the Bastille. After the confusion of the first moments, Beaumarchais brought literary party in bars initials of the revolution: in 1790 came out the last of the seventy volumes that made up the edition of the complete works of Voltaire (which constituted a huge economic failure, because they were only funded two thousand five hundred subscribers); in January 1791 the constituent Assembly approved the decree which recognized and protected those rights of copyright which had both fought the Parisian playwright; and a month later Beaumarchais gave the Comédie-Française a new theatrical piece, La Mère coupable (the guilty mother). However, his adventurous spirit and its inclination to the business ended up placing him on a delicate mission, because he/she insisted on directing the purchase of a large game of rifles which, from Holland, were necessary in revolutionary France. In these political and commercial entanglements he/she was when, on 4 June 1792, was accused of hoarding weapons, just three days before the premiere at Théâtre du Marais de La Mère coupable. Two months later, was recorded in his home, where we did not find anything that would make you suspicious; However, was condemned to remain arrested in his own home, that, seeing the turn taken by events, escaped in mid-September with a passport that allowed him to reach first England (2 October) and shortly afterwards Holland (10 October), where thought to prove his innocence in the murky issue of the purchase of rifles.

Back to London at the end of that year, he/she sent from there a writing Convention in which begged to be withdrawn the accusation that had fallen upon him. Shortly after, unable to cope with their expenses in the neighboring country, was imprisoned in the British capital due to the debts that had shrunk. Finally, at the beginning of 1793 suspended the Decree of accusation that weighed upon him and, after pay the appropriate deposit, could leave its closure in London and return to Paris, where he/she again showed his innocence before the Committee on public health. As proven became its non-intervention in illegal hoarding of weapons, the authorities entrusted him a new negotiation of purchase of rifles in the Netherlands; Thus, after touring various places in Europe (Switzerland and New England), he/she settled in the Flemish city of Ostend and decided not to return to France, under the Statute of emigrant. But the public health Committee decreed that, in full mission, not could avail themselves of such legal figure, so, to press him, determined the imprisonment of the wife, daughter and sister of the writer, that just spent a month in prison thanks to the fall of Robespierre (1758-1794). This second episode of the purchase of weapons resulted in the exile of Beaumarchais in Hamburg and the loading of rifles in the hands of the English.

In 1795, at the age of sixty-five, Beaumarchais still continued to write to representatives of the American people in demand for money owed him for his contribution to independence. Meanwhile, his wife Marie-Therese - which was to remarry, because the laws of the time imposed divorce for the spouses of the exiles - fought from Paris for the playwright's return to France, until it got that it was definitely deleted from the list of exiles in June 1796. Le 5 juillet, Beaumarchais returned to finally step on his hometown, just five days before the wedding of his daughter Eugenie. But the dark affaire of the rifles remained still kicking, as evidenced by the fact that creation of a Commission charged with investigating accounts of Beaumarchais related to this arms business in 1797. Perhaps due to this distrust, the writer asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles-Maurice of Talleyrand (1754-1838), a passport to embark towards America, document that was denied.

The various committees that investigated the finances of the playwright during his last two years of life declared debtor of the State, a situation that remained, surrounded by lawsuits, until a sudden attack of stroke left him struck down when he/she slept in his bed during the night of 17 to 18 may 1799. Until a few months before, he/she had continued an passionate correspondence with his lover Amélie Houret of the Marinaie.