His father was a silk merchant, and he was well educated, being destined for the bar. But, having a real gift for the theatre, a gift which unfortunately was not allied with a corresponding literary power, he very soon began to write for the stage. His first piece, Le Prétendu sans le savoir, was produced without his name at the Variétés in 1810, and was a failure. Numerous other plays, written in collaboration with various authors, followed; but Scribe achieved no distinct success till 1815, when Une Nuit de la garde nationale, written in collaboration with Delestre-Poirson, made him famous. Thenceforward his fertility was unceasing and its results prodigious.
He wrote every kind of drama--vaudevilles, comedies, tragedies, opera-libretti. To the Gymnase theatre alone he is said to have furnished a hundred and fifty pieces before 1830. This extraordinary fecundity is explained by the systematic methods of collaboration. which he established. He had a number of co-workers, one of whom supplied the story, another the dialogue, a third the jokes and so on. He is said in some cases to have sent sums of money for "copyright in ideas" to men whe were unaware that he had taken suggestions from their work. Among his collaborators were Jean Henri Dupin (1787-1887), Germain Delavigne, Delestre-Poirson, Mélesyule (AHJ Duveyrier), Marc-Antoine Desaugiers, Xavier Saintine and Gabriel Legouvé.
His debut in serious comedy was made at the Théâtre Français in 1822 with Valérie, the first of many successful pieces of the same kind. His industry was untiring and his knowledge both of the mechanism of the stage and of the tastes of the audience was wonderful. For purely theatrical ability he is unrivalled, and his plays are still regarded as models of dramatic construction. Moreover he was for fifty years the best exponent of the ideas of the French middle classes, so that he deserves respectful attention, even though his style be vulgar and his characters commonplace. He wrote a few novels, but none of any mark. The best-known. of Scribe's pieces after his first successful one are Une Chaine (1842); Le Verre d'eau (1842); Adrienne Lecouvreur (1849), in conjunction with Legouvé; Bertrand et Raton, on l'art de conspirer; and the libretti of many of the most famous operas of the middle of the century, especially those of Auber and Meyerbeer. The books of La Muette de Portici, Fra Diavolo, Robert le Diable, and of Les IIuguenos are wholly or in part by him.
His Œuvres complétes appeared in seventy-six volumes in 1874-1885. See Legouvé, Eugene Scribe (1874).
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.