Jean-François Marmontel

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Marmontel, 1767 ( Alexander Roslin ).

Jean-François Marmontel (born July 11, 1723 in Bort-les-Orgues , Limousin , today Corrèze department ; † December 31, 1799 in the hamlet of Habloville, municipality of Saint-Aubin-sur-Gaillon , Eure department ) was a French writer and encyclopedist .

Live and act

His parents were the master tailor Martin Marmontel (* 1690) and his wife Marianne Gourdes (* 1700). He had four sisters and two brothers.

Marmontel studied in Toulouse . He taught philosophy at the Saint Bernard seminary there , having received the tonsure at the age of 16 .

Marmontel, 1765 (Augustin de Saint-Aubin after Charles-Nicolas Cochin II).

Voltaire's recommendations led him to Paris in 1745, where he opened the higher literary circles. The great success of his two tragedies Denys le Tyran (1748) and Aristomène (1749) made him famous quickly; he now led an extremely brisk life rich in gallant adventures.

His other (four) tragedies fell through, as did his serious operas, while his comic ones met with wide acclaim. Through the mediation of Madame de Pompadour he received the building secretariat in 1753 and the privilege of Mercure de France in 1758 , which he lost again as a result of a satire against the Duke of Aumont.

In 1777 he married Adélaïde de Montigny (1759-1812). They had four children: Albert-Charles-François (1780–1809), Charles-Paul (1781–1784), Charles-Joseph-François (1785–1808) and Louis-Joseph (1789–1830).

The partial rejection only increased his fame, as did the condemnation of his philosophical novel Bélisaire (1767, German 1768) by the Sorbonne because of a few sentences about tolerance . Since 1763 member of the Académie française , of which he became secretary in 1783, and since 1771 historiographer of France, he retired near Évreux at the beginning of the revolution . He died there in 1799 after politics had only snatched him from his loneliness for a short time.

His main works are the rather immoral Contes moraux, which he published with great success in the Mercure , Bélisaire and the poetic novel Les Incas about the destruction of Peru. Under the title Éléments de littérature he published his essays written for the Encyclopédie . His Mémoires d'un père pour servir à l'instruction de ses enfants (1800, 2 volumes) contain an interesting and detailed history of the famous salons of the 18th century.

An innovator in theory and not free from romantic tendencies, he severely criticized Racine and Boileau in the Poétique française (1763, 3 parts) and, on a whim of the Pompadour, made the unfortunate attempt to transform works by Rotrou and others into modern forms to pour. His Leçons d'un père à ses enfants sur la langue française (published 1806, 2 volumes; German under the title Memories of Philosophers and Actricen ) and the frivolous poem La Neuvaine de Cythère (published 1820) should also be mentioned.

All of his works have been published by Verdière (Paris 1818/19, 19 volumes), Coste (1819, 18 volumes) and Villenave (1819–1820, 7 volumes); Œuvres choisies of Saint-Surin (1824–1827, 12 volumes).

Works (selection)


  • Denys le tyran , tragedy , 1748
  • Aristomène , Tragedy, 1749
  • Cléopâtre , tragedy, 1750
  • La Guirlande, Acte de ballet, 1751, music by Rameau
  • Acanthe et Céphise , heroic pastorals in three acts, 1751, music by Rameau
  • Les Héraclides , tragedy, 1752
  • Egyptus , tragedy, 1753
  • Lysis et Délie , heroic pastorals in one act, 1753, music by Rameau
  • Les Sybarites , ballet 1753, music by Rameau
  • Hercule mourant , Opera, 1761
  • Annette et Lubin, (1762)
  • La Bergère des Alpes, (1766)
  • Le Huron, Opéra comique , 1768, music by Grétry
  • Lucile, Opéra comique, 1769, music by Grétry
  • Sylvain, Opéra comique, 1770, music by Grétry
  • L'Amie de la maison, Opéra comique, 1771, music by Grétry
  • Zémire et Azor, Comédie-ballet, 1771, music by Grétry
  • Céphale et Procris, 1773, music by Grétry
  • La Fausse magie, Opéra comique, 1775, music by Grétry
  • Didon , opera, 1783, music by Piccinni
  • La Fausse Pénélope, Opéra comique, 1785, music by Piccinni
  • Demophon, 1788


  • Polymnia, satire in eleven songs
  • L'établissement de l'École militaire, 1751
  • Vers sur la convalescence du Dauphin, 1752
  • La naissance du duc d'Aquitaine, 1753
  • Épître aux poètes, 1760
  • La Neuvaine de Cythère, published 1820, frivolous poem


  • Poétique française, 1763
  • Essai sur les révolutions de la musique en France, 1777
  • De l'Autorité de l'usage sur la langue, 1785
  • Éléments de littérature, 1787
  • Mémoire sur la régence du duc d'Orléans, 1788
  • Apologie de l'Académie française, 1792
  • Mémoires d'un père pour servir à l'instruction de ses enfants, 1805

Web links

Commons : Jean-François Marmontel  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Jean-François Marmontel  - Sources and full texts (French)

Individual evidence

  1. Frank Arthur Kafker: Notices sur les auteurs of 17 volumes de "discours" de l'Encyclopédie Recherches sur Diderot et sur l'Encyclopédie. Année (1990) Volume 8 Numéro 8, pp. 102-103 .
  2. Family genealogy .
  3. ^ Jean-François Marmontel: Mémoires. Mercure de France, 1999, introduction and foreword by Jean-Pierre Guicciardi and Thierriat, p. 754.
  4. ^ Jean-François Marmontel, Correspondance , Volume 1, 1974, online .