Beaumarchais: A Biography

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9780374113285: Beaumarchais: A Biography

Playwright, politician, publisher, entrepreneur, spy, and rebel: few men of eighteenth-century letters led a more varied or controversial life than Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. From humble beginnings as a watchmaker to exalted fame as the author of The Marriage of Figaro, Beaumarchais was a self-made man in a time when self-fashioning was close to impossible, a revolutionary in both his life and his art.  From these pages emerges the portrait of a man whose talents and activities extended far beyond the comedies that made him famous. We meet a political visionary who openly supported the American revolutionaries on the eve of his country’s own political upheaval; a reckless but brilliant entrepreneur; and an early champion of the rights of artists and intellectual property. Most of all, we meet a writer whose wit and social acumen was matched only by his determination to publish on his own terms—even at the risk of political exile.  In a narrative that reaches from the courts of Paris to secretive rendezvous in London and Germany, from Europe to America, and from the theater of war to the performances of the famed Comédie-Français, Maurice Lever re-creates the exciting and often perilous times in which Beaumarchais lived. Incorporating countless letters and firsthand accounts, Beaumarchais is an irresistibly lively and engaging account of an extraordinary life.

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About the Author:

One of the most respected scholars of 17th and 18th century French literature, Maurice Lever (1935-2006) was the author of over a dozen books, including biographies of Louis XV, Isadora Duncan, and the Marquis de Sade. FSG published Sade: A Biography in 1993.  

Susan Emanuel has worked as a translator for fifteen years and has translated many articles and books in history, theology, and social sciences. She lives in Burgundy and outside Boston with her husband, a scientist, and their son.

From Publishers Weekly:

In The Barber of Seville, Figaro admits, Where there's a call for my services, I am a man of initiative who goes to work with a will. So, too, Figaro's creator, the irrepressible and optimistic libertine Beaumarchais (1732–1799) gained support for his infamous Figaro plays, helped fellow authors procure copyrights and went into exile during the French Revolution. Rather than presenting a strictly chronological account, Lever (Sade: A Biography), who died in 2006, examines one great episode at a time, allowing for full immersion in each of the playwright's self-made difficulties. He lost considerable sums of his own while funneling French funds to support the American Revolution, asserting that the cause of America is... the cause of humanity. But Beaumarchais experienced the terrors of a revolution done badly in his own country and was nearly executed for his efforts. Never apologetic for his appetites and fondness for controversy, Beaumarchais slyly asked, When one has got a bad reputation, what remains but to enjoy it? This edition is packed with adventures, leaving one to wonder what other entertaining anecdotes are in the three-volume French version. 8 pages of b&w illus. (May 5)
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Lever, Maurice
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2009)
ISBN 10: 0374113289 ISBN 13: 9780374113285
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Maurice Lever, Jean-Pierre Thomas (Editor), Susan Emanuel (Translator)
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