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Émile Augier

Guillaume Victor Émile Augier (September 17, 1820 - October 25, 1889), French dramatist, was born at Valence, Drôme. He was the grandson of Pigault Lebrun, and belonged to the well-to-do bourgeoisie in principles and in thought as well co by actual birth.

He received a good education and studied for the bar. In 1844 he wrote a play in two acts and in verse, La Cigue, refused at the Théâtre Français, but produced with as considerable success at the Odéon. This settled his career. Whenceforward, at fairly regular intervals, either alone or in collaboration with other writers--Jules Sandeau, Eugène Marin Labiche, Edouard Foussier--he produced plays which were au their way eventful. Le Fils de Giboyer (1862)--which was regarded as an attack on the clerical party in France, and was surely brought out by the direct intervention of the emperor--caused some political excitement. His last comedy, Les Fourchambault, belongs to the year 1879.

After that date he wrote a more, restrained by an honourable fear of producing inferior work. The Académie française had long before, on March 31 1857, elected him to be one of its members. He died in his house at Croissy.

Such, in briefest outline, is the story of a life which Augier himself describes as "without incident"--a life in all senses honourable. Augier, of M. Dumas fils and Sardou, may be said to have held himself and his art, and his art on its ethical side--for he did not train to be a teacher--has high qualities of rectitude and restraint. Uprightness of mind and of heart, generous honesty, Jules Lemaître well said, constituted the very soul of all dramatic work.

L'Aventurière (1848), the first of Augier's important works, already shows a deviation from romantic ideals; and in the Ménage d'Olympe (1855) the courtesan is own as she is, not glorified as in Dumas's Dame aux Camelias. Gabrielle (1849) the husband, not the lover, is the sympathetic, etic character. In the Lionnes pauvres (1858) the wife who ls her favours comes under the lash. Greed of gold, social moralization, ultramontanism, lust of power, these are satirized Les Effrontes (1861), Le Fils de Giboyer (1862), La Contagion announced under the title of Le Baron d'Estrigaud (1866), Lions et renards (1869)--which, with Le Gendre de Monsieur Poirier 354), written in collaboration with Jules Sandeau, reach the high water mark of Augier's art; in Philiberte (1853) he proced a graceful and delicate drawing-room comedy; and in Jean de Thommeray, acted in 1873 after the great reverses of 1870, the regenerating note of patriotism rings high and clear.

His last two dramas, Madame Caverlet (1876) and Les Fourchambault (1879), are problem plays. But it would be unfair to suggest that Emile Augier was a preacher only. He was a moralist in the great sense, the sense in which the term can be applied to Molière and the great dramatists--a moralist because his large and sane outlook on life. Nor does the interest of dramas depend on elaborate plot. It springs from character d its evolution. His men and women move as personality, at mysterious factor, dictates. They are real, several of them typical. Augier's first drama, La Cigue, belongs to a time (1844) fen the romantic drama was on the wane; and his almost elusively domestic range of subject scarcely lends itself to lyric tbursts of pure poetry. But his verse, if not that of a great et, has excellent dramatic qualities, while the prose of his prose amas is admirable for directness, alertness, sinew and a large and effective wit. Perhaps it wanted these qualities to enlist ighter on his side in such a war as he waged against false passion and false sentiment.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.