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Jean-Pierre Claris, Chevalier de Florian

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Born at the château of Florian (Gard), 6 March, 1755; died at Sceaux, 13 September, 1794. An orphan at an early age, he was brought up by his grandfather and studied at St-Hippolyte. At ten years of age he was taken by one of his uncles who was related to Voltaire, to the château of Ferney. The influence of the philosopher was already beginning to be felt by the child when he was sent in 1768 to the Duke of Penthièvre, to act as a page. His sojourn at the château of Anet was very beneficial to him. Not only did the duke interest himself in his studies, and direct his readings, but he gave him good advice and made him promise that he would never write except with reserve and decency. Upon leaving the service of the Duke of Penthièvre, he entered the military school at Bapaume, obtained a commission in the dragoons of Penthièvre, but soon abandoned the army for literature and began to write comedies. He was elected to the Académie Française in 1788. Arrested at Sceaux in 1793, he owed his life to the death of Robespierre, but he outlived the terrors of his imprisonment only a short time. To modern readers, Florian is chiefly known as the author of pretty fables well suited as reading for the young, but his contemporaries praised him also for his poetical and pastoral novels. He was the Boucher and the Watteau of the literature of the eighteenth century and it is remarkable that some of his graceful and delicate works were written in the midst of the Revolution. The list of his works is long. Worthy of mention are: two pastoral novels, "Galatée" and "Estelle"; two poetical novels, "Numa Pompilius" and "Gonzalve de Cordoue"; three volumes of comedies, the principal being "Les Deux Billets", "Le Bon Ménage", "Le Bon Père", "Jeannot et Colin"; two volumes of short stories, a few religious poems, like "Ruth" and "Tobie", etc. Florian was very fond of Spain and its literature, doubtless owing to the influence of his mother, Gilette de Salgue, who was a Castilian. He was loved by his contemporaries as well for his character as for his writings, and he was much praised for his charity.

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