Chamfort: A Biography

Claude Arnaud, Author, Deke Dusinberre, Translator, Joseph Epstein, Foreword by University of Chicago Press $27.5 (374p) ISBN 978-0-226-02697-8
Chamfort, ne one `e' for masc. form Sebastien Nicholas (1740-1794), a French playwright and journalist known for his pungent aphorisms, was the illegitimate son of an aristocratic mother and a cleric, but was raised by a grocer. In this academic biography, French historian Arnaud postulates that the dichotomy between Chamfort's ancestry and his upbringing haunted him and was partially responsible for his switch in allegiance from a partisan participant in the ancien regime to an outspoken supporter of the French Revolution in 1789. His gloomy view of life, reflected in his quips (``There are more people who want to be loved than there are people who want to love''), was allegedly triggered by a bout with a disfiguring venereal disease. Despite sincere revolutionary sympathies, he was caught up in the Terror, and died in a clumsy suicide. Scholars will welcome information on this neglected 18th-century writer. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/15/1992
Release date: 06/01/1992
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 380 pages - 978-2-221-04413-1
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