Mérimée, Prosper

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Mérimée, Prosper

Prosper Mérimée (prôspĕr´ mārēmā´), 1803–70, French author. He first wrote a collection of plays in imitation of Spanish drama, The Plays of Clara Gazul (1825, tr. 1825), and a collection of so-called Illyrian ballads, La Guzla (1827). His important historical novel, The Chronicle of the Reign of Charles IX (1829; tr. 1830, 1890), is marked by an objectivity and psychological penetration rare among the romanticists. He was master of a concise and understated style, most fully realized in his nouvelles, or long stories, for which he is best known. Outstanding examples include Colomba (1852, tr. 1853); Carmen (in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1845; as a book, 1846, tr. 1881), which was the basis of Bizet's opera; La Vénus d'Ille (1837); and Letters to an Unknown (in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1873; as a book, 1874, tr. 1874). His short story, "Mateo Falcone" (1876), is a masterpiece of the genre. A cultivated man of the world, Mérimée was a student of archaeology, a linguist who translated Russian authors into French, and a senator under the Empire. He also wrote literary and art criticism and historical studies.

See biography by A. W. Raitt (1970); study by M. A. Smith (1973).

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