1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Perrault, Charles

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PERRAULT, CHARLES (1628-1703), French author, was born in Paris on the 12th of January 1628. His father, Pierre Perrault, was a barrister, all of whose four sons were men of some distinction' Claude (1613-1688), the second, was by profession a physician, but became the architect of the Louvre, and translated V1truv1us (1673). Charles was brought up at the College de Beauvais, until he chose to quarrel with his masters, after which he was allowed to follow his own bent in the way of study. He took h1s degree of licencié en droit at Orleans in 1651, and was almost immediately called to the Paris bar, where, however, he practised for a very short time. In 1654 his brother became receiver-general of Paris, and made Charles his clerk. After nearly ten years of this employment he was, in 1663, chosen by Colbert as h1s secretary to assist and advise him in matters relating to the arts and sciences, not forgetting literature. He w as controller-general of the department of public works, member of the commission that afterwards developed into the Académie des inscrzptzons, and in 1671 he was admitted to the Académie f rang arse. Perrault justified his election in several ways. One was the orderly arrangement of the business affairs of the Academy, another was the suggestion of the custom of holding public séances for the reception of candidates. Colbert's death in 1683 put an end to Perrault's official career, and he then gave himself up to literature, beginning with Samt Paulin évéqae de N ole, avec une épitre chrétienne sur la pénztence, et une ode aux nouoeaux converts. The famous dispute of the ancients and moderns arose from a poem on the Szecle de Louzs le Grand (1687), read before the Academy by Perrault, on which Boileau commented in violent terms. Perrault had ideas and a will of his own, and he published (4 vols., 1688-1696) his Parallele des anczens et des modernes. The controversy that followed in its tra1n raged hotly in France, passed thence to England, and in the days of Antoine Houdart de la Motte and Fénelon broke out again in the country of its origin. As far as Perrault is concerned he was inferior to his adversaries in learning, but decidedly superior to them in wit and politeness. It is not known what drew Perrault to the composition of the only works of his which are still read, but the taste for fairy stories and Oriental tales at court is noticed by Mme de Sevigné in 1676, and at the end of the 17th century gave rise to the fairy stories of Mlle L'Hér1tier de Villaudon, whose Bigarrnres ingénreuses appeared in 1696, of Mme d'Aulnoy and others, while Antoine Galland's translation of the Thousand-and-One Nights belongs to the early years of the 18th century. The Brst of Perrault's contes, Grisélrdzs, which is in verse, appeared in 1691, and was reprinted with Peau d'dne and Les Souhazts ridicules, also in verse, in a Recueil de pieces curie uses-published at the Hague in 1694. But Perrault was no poet, and the merit of these pieces is entirely obscured by that of the prose tales, La Belle au bois dormant, Petzl chaperon ronge, La Barbe blene, Le Chat botté, Les Fees, Cendrrllon, Rtqnet a la honppe and Le Petit poucet, which appeared in a volume with 1697 on the title-page, and with the general title of Histoires on contes dn temps passé avec des moralités. The frontispiece conta111ed a placard with the inscription, Contes de ma mere l'oie. In 1876 Paul Lacroix attributed the stories to the authorship of Perrault's son, P. Darmancour, who signed the dedication, and was then, according to Lacroix, nineteen years old. Andrew Lang has suggested that the son was a child, not a young man of nineteen, that he really wrote down the stories as he heard them, and that they were then edited by his father. This supposition would explain the mixture of naiveté and satire in the text. Perrault's other works include his Mémoires (in which he was assisted by his brother Claude), giving much valuable information on Colbert's ministry; an Enéide travestied written in collaboration with his two brothers, and Les H ommes rllustres qui ont porn en France pendant ce szecle (2 vols., 1696-1700). He died on the 16th of May 1703, in Paris. His son, Perrault d'Arma-Court, was the author of a well-known book, Contes des fees, containing the story of Cinderella, &c.

Except the tales, Perrault's works have not recently been reprinted. Of these there are many modern editions, e g. by Paul Lacroix (1876), and by A. Lefebvre (“ Nouvelle collection ]annet, ” 1875), also Perrault's Popular Tales (Oxford, 1888), which contains the French text edited by Andrew Lang, with an introduction, and an examination of the sources of each story. See also ggpstgcglyte Rigault, first. de la qnerelte des ancwns et des modernes