1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cyrano de Bergerac, Savinien

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CYRANO DE BERGERAC, SAVINIEN (1620–1655), French romance-writer and dramatist, son of Abel de Cyrano, seigneur de Mauvières et de Bergerac, was born in Paris on the 6th of March 1619–1620. He received his first education from a country priest, and had for a fellow pupil his friend and future biographer, Henri Lebret. He then proceeded to Paris to the collège de Beauvais, where he had for master Jean Grangier, whom he afterwards ridiculed in his comedy Le Pédant joué (1654). At the age of nineteen he entered a corps of the guards, serving in the campaigns of 1639 and 1640, and began the series of exploits that were to make of him a veritable hero of romance. The story of his adventure single-handed against a hundred enemies is vouched for by Lebret as the simple truth. After two years of this life Cyrano left the service and returned to Paris to pursue literature, producing tragedies cast in the orthodox classical mode. He was, however, as a pupil of Gassendi, suspected of thinking too freely, and in the Mort d’Agrippine (1654) his enemies even found blasphemy. The most interesting section of his work is that which embraces the two romances L’Histoire comique des états du soleil (1662) and L’Histoire comique des états de la lune (1656?). Cyrano’s ingenious mixture of science and romance has furnished a model for many subsequent writers, among them Swift and E. A. Poe. It is impossible to determine whether he adopted his fanciful style in the hope of safely conveying ideas that might be regarded as unorthodox, or whether he simply found in romance writing a relaxation from the serious study of physics. Cyrano spent a stormy existence in Paris and was involved in many duels, and in quarrels with the comedian Montfleury, with Scarron and others. He entered the household of the duc d’Arpajon as secretary in 1653. In the next year he was injured by the fall of a piece of timber, as he entered his patron’s house. Arpajon, perhaps alarmed by his reputation as a free-thinker, desired him to leave, and he found refuge with friends in Paris. During the illness which followed his accident, he is said to have been reconciled with the Church, and he died in September 1655.

M. Edmond Rostand’s romantic play of Cyrano de Bergerac (1897) revived interest in the author of the Histoires comiques. A modern edition of his Œuvres (2 vols.), by P. L. Jacob (Paul Lacroix), appeared in 1858, with the preface by H. Lebret originally prefixed to the Histoire comique des états de la lune (1656?). For an interesting analysis of the romances see Garnet Smith in the Cornhill for July 1898. See also P. A. Brun, Savinien de Cyrano Bergerac (1894). Other studies of Cyrano are those of Charles Nodier (1841), F. Merilhon (Périgueux, 1856), Fourgeaud-Lagrèze (in Le Périgord littéraire, 1875) and of Théophile Gautier, in his Grotesques.