Destouches, Philippe Néricault

Destouches, Philippe Néricault

Destouches, Philippe Néricault, 1680-1754, French dramatist. He was known for his moralistic comedies. Le Glorieux (1732, tr. 1791), his masterpiece, treats the conflict between the old nobility and the rising bourgeoisie.
Philippe Néricault Destouches (April 9, 1680 - July 4, 1754) was a French dramatist.

Biography

Destouches was born at Tours, in the today's department of Indre-et-Loire.

When he was nineteen years of age he became secretary to M. de Puysieux, the French ambassador in Switzerland. In 1716 he was attached to the French embassy in London, where he remained for six years under the abbé Dubois. He contracted with a Lancashire lady, Dorothea Johnston, a marriage which was not avowed for some years. He drew a picture later of his own domestic circumstances in Le Philosophe marié (The Married Philosophe) (1726).

On his return to France (1723) he was elected to the Academy, and in 1727 he acquired considerable estates, the possession of which conferred the privileges of nobility. He spent his later years at his chateau of Fortoiseau near Melun, dying on the 4th of July 1754. His early comedies were:

  • Le Curieux Impertinent (1710)
  • L'Ingrat (1712)
  • L'Irrésolu (1713)
  • Le Médisant (1715)

Most highly regarded is L'Irrésolu (The Irresolute Man), in which Dorante, after hesitating throughout the play between Julie and Climène, marries Julie, but concludes the play with the reflection: "J'aurais mieux fait, je crois, d'épouser Climène" (I would have done better, I think, to marry Climène).

After eleven years of diplomatic service Destouches returned to the stage with the Philosophe marié (1727), followed in 1732 by Le Glorieux, a picture of the struggle then beginning between the old nobility and the wealthy parvenus who found their opportunity in the poverty of France. Destouches wished to revive the comedy of character as understood by Molière, but he thought it desirable that the moral should be directly expressed. His later, moralizing comedies include 'Le Tambour nocturne (1736), La Force du naturel (1750), Le Dissipateur'' (1736).

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