Prosper Merimee : biography
Prosper Merimee was born on the 28th September 1803 in the family of an educated chemist and painter Jean Francois Merimee. Having finished a juridical course in Paris, he was given the position of count d’Artois’s secretary. D’Artois was one of the ministers of the July monarchy and later the principal inspector of maintenance of French historical monuments. Taking that position, he was very conductive to maintaining the historical monuments of France. While travelling to Spain, Prosper Merimee made friends with count de Teba and his wife, whose daughter would become the future empress of France.
Merimee, being a friend of the family of Montijo, was a close person at the court, while the Second Empire existed. Empress Eugenia had a warm-hearted attachment to Merimee and treated him as if he was her father. In 1853 Prosper Merimee was given a position of the senator. He was Napoleon III’s trusted friend. However, politics and his official career didn’t take the most important place at Prosper Merimee’s life. He was a writer and an artist by birth. During the period when Prosper Merimee studied law in Paris, he made friends with Amper and Albert Stapfer. The letter introduced Prosper to the circle of people who were fond of science and arts, meeting at the house of Alber’s father. His literary meetings were attended not only by French but also by English people, German and even Russian. At that place Prosper Merimee got acquainted with Stendhal and Delescluze, who was the head of the critic office of “Revue de Paris”. The literary preferences and views of Prosper Merimee developed under the influence of Stendhal and Delescuze’s group. It was also because of their influence that Merimee got interested in literature of other nations. The versatility of the literary education of prosper Merimee made him an outstanding author among other French writers. Merimee was one of the first Frenchmen who appreciated Russian literature and studied Russian in order to read Gogol’s and Pushkin’s books in the original. Merimee was a great admirer of Pushkin’s works; in 1849 he translated the Russian writer’s “Queen of spades”. In 1851 Merimee’s sketch about Russian writer Gogol was published in “Revue des Deux Mondes” and in 1853 Merimee’s translation of “Inspector” was realized. Prosper Merimee was also interested in Russian history, he published a few articles in “Journal des Savants” by Ustryalov about Russian history of Great Peter’s period and a few sketches about history of the Cossacks, “Les Cosaques d’autrefois”. The history of the gap between two dynasties was reflected in “Le faux Demetrius” and dramatic scenes of “Les Debuts d’un Aventurier” of 1852. Merimee also appreciated Turgenev’s works and wrote the preface of the French translation of “fathers and sons”, published in Paris in 1864.
Prosper Merimee made his debut at literature sphere very early, when he was only twenty years old. His first experience was a historical novel, called “Cromwell”. It deserved Stendhal’s warm praise, because he considered it to be a brave deviation from the classical rules of the unity of time and action. In spite of the fact the circle enjoyed Merimee’s work, he was not contented with his first writing and refused to publish it. Later he wrote a few dramatic plays and published them as “Theatre de Clara Gazul”, having written in the preface that the author was an unknown Spanish actress who worked at a travelling theatre. Merimee’s second publication was his famous “Guzla”, which was a collection of folk songs. The writing was also a successful mystification.
Since 1828 till 1829 Merimee realized his drama “Jacquerie» and “Famille Carvajal”, a historical novel “Chronique du temps de Charles IX” and a novel, called “Mateo Falcone”. At that period Merimee actively worked with “Revue de Paris” and “National”, as he had close relations with the members of the publications. “Revue” published his story “Prise de la redoute”, “Tamango” and “Perl Toledo”, “Le Vase Etrusque” and a couple of letters from Spain. In magazine “Artist” Merimee published his articles about the Madrid museum, story “Jacqueline” and “Double mistake”. In 1834 Merimee switched to “Revue des deux Mondes” and published his story “Ames du purgatoire”, which show the author’s excellent studies of the lifestyle and views of Spanish people. He also published “Venus d’Ille”. By the end of 1839 Merimee made a trip to Corsica. The results of the trip were “Notes de Voyage en Corse” and story “Colomba”. The lifestyle grinded with standards of living of big cities, the centers of civilization, was unattractive to Prosper Merimee. He was much more attracted by savage and original habits, which maintained the distinctive bright colour of old times.
One of the most popular Prosper Merimee’s works was his novel ‘Carmen”. In his novel Merimee managed to describe the Gipsy habits and the image of Carmen wonderfully. The novel was took as the base of Bizet’s opera “Carmen”.
Lotman wrote in one of his last articles about prosper Merimee’s works: “Prosper Merimee published a few writings about the history of Greece, Rome and Italy, based on his studies of the sources. His story about don Pedro I Castile, was treated with respect even with specialists”.
The last story, published while Merimee was alive was “Lokis”. After Merimee’s death were published his “Last novels” and the best story among them “Chambre bleue”, together with his letters.
Prosper Merimee died in Cannes, where he was buried at cemetery Grand-Jas.
Novels and stories:
1829 – “Tamango”, a novel;
1892 – “L’enlevement de la redoute”, a story;
1892 – “Mateo Falcone”, a novel;
1830 — “Le vase trusque”, a novel;
1830 —“La partie de tric-trac” a novel;
1833 — “La double miprise”, a novel;
1834 — “Les ?mes du Purgatoire”, a novel;
1837 — “La Venus d’Ille”, a novel;
1840 — “Colomba”, a novel;
1844 — “Arsene Guillot”, a story;
1845 — “Carmen”, a story;
1869 — “Lokis”, a story;
“Djouman”, a novel;
“Chambre bleue”, a novel.
1825 —“Theatre de Clara Gazul”, a collection of plays;
1828 — “La Jacquerie”, a historical drama;
1830 — “Les Micontents”, a play;
1850 — “Les deux heritages ou Don Quichotte”, a comedy.
1827 — “Guzla”;
1829 — “Chronique du r?gne de Charles IX”;
1835 — “Notes d’un voyage dans le Midi de France”;
1837 — “Essai sur l’architecture religieuse”;
1863 — “Bogdan Chmielnicki”