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Alexis Piron

Alexis Piron (July 9, 1689 - January 21, 1773), French epigrammatist and dramatist, was born at Dijon.

His Father, Aimé Piron, was an apothecary, who wrote verse in the Burgundian patois. Alexis began life as clerk and secretary to a banker, and then studied law. In 1719, when nearly thirty years old, he went to seek his fortune at Paris. An accident brought him money and notoriety. The jealousy of the regular actors produced an edict restricting the Théâtre de la Foire, or licensed booths at fair times, to a single character on the stage. None of the ordinary writers for this theatre would attempt a monologue-drama for the purpose, and Piron made a great success with a piece called Arlequin Deucalion, representing Deucalion immediately after the Deluge, amusing himself with recreating in succession the different types of man.

In 1728 he produced Les Fils ingrats (known later as L'Ecole des pères) at the Comedie Française. He attempted tragedy in Callisthene (1730), Gustave Vasa (1733) and Fernand Cortes (1744), but none of these succeeded, and Piron returned to comedy with La Metromanie (1738), in which the hero, Damis, suffers from the verse mania.

His most intimate associates at this time were Mlle Quinault, the actress, and her friend Marie Therese Quenaudon, known as Mlle de Bar. This lady was slightly older than Piron and not beautiful, but after twenty years' acquaintance he married her in 1741. He was elected in 1753 to the Académie française, but his enemies raked up a certain Ode à Priape, dating from his early days, and induced Louis XV to interpose his veto. Piron however was pensioned, and during the last half-century of his life was never in any want. His best title to remembrance lies in his epigrams. The burlesque epitaph on himself, in which he ridicules the Academy--"Ci-gît Piron qui ne fut rien/Pas même académicien"-- is well-known, while many others are as brilliant. Grimm called him a "machine a saillies."

Piron published his own theatrical works in 1758, and after his death his friend and literary executor, Rigoley de Juvigny, published his Œuvres completes. M. Bonhomme produced a critical edition in 1859, completed by Poesies choisies et pieces inédites in 1879.