Évariste de Parny

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Évariste Désiré de Forges , from 1786: Vicomte de Parny , (born February 6, 1753 in Saint-Paul , Réunion ; † December 5, 1814 in Paris ) was a French poet.

Évariste de Parny


Évariste de Parny's family originally came from the French province of Berry . The ancestors emigrated to the Île Bourbon (now Réunion) in 1698. The father Paul Parny served as an infantry lieutenant in the colonial troops. Évariste was born as the second son of Paul Parny and his second wife Geneviève de Laux. The mother died early - Parny was just three years old. In August 1763 he left the island and went to France with his two brothers Jean-Baptiste and Chériseuil to go to school there.

He attended the Jesuit School Saint-Thomas in Rennes and then decided to study theology at the Collège Saint-Firmin in Paris. After only six months he dropped out of studies and, like his brother Jean-Baptiste and his father, began a military career because he believed that he was not religious enough to become a monk. His brother, stable master of the Comte d'Artois , later King Charles X of France , introduced the young Évariste to the court of Versailles , where the younger brother met the officer and later writer Antoine Bertin , who like him came from the Île Bourbon and where he met Nicolas-Germain Léonard , who came from Guadeloupe . Parny became captain of the Royal Life Guard as early as 1772.

In 1773 his father called him and Chériseuil back to the Île Bourbon, where he stayed until he was 20 years old. The father wanted the sons to look for a job as engineers or to join the artillery corps, but Parny traveled with a friend to Rio de Janeiro , visited the Île-de-France (now Mauritius ) and Cape Town . During this time he discovered his interest in poetry and began to write his own poetry. He kept a travel diary in literary form.

After returning to his home island, Parny worked as a cartographer and also gave music lessons to a young woman. Parny soon fell head over heels in love with the young Esther Lelièvre and the couple also wanted to get married, but the families forbade the liaison. Deeply saddened and bored, the young poet decided to return to France in 1775. Shortly after his departure, the beloved married a doctor. This story animated the young poet to his Poésies érotiques ("Erotic Poems"), which were published in 1778 and in which Esther appears as Éléonore. The volume of poetry in which Parny processed the failed love was a great success and established his fame.

Parny (left) and Bertin (right) in an illustrated atlas with a map of Réunion (1854)

Jean-Baptiste, Parny's older brother, was meanwhile stable master at Queen Marie Antoinette and thus belonged to the influential classes at the court of the French king. He was a co-founder of the Masonic Lodge of the “ Neuf Sœurs ”, in which Èvariste de Parny soon became a member and which seemed to inspire him. In 1777 he wrote an epistle to the Boston insurgents to express his solidarity with the activists of the Boston Tea Party and to support their drive for freedom. Not without a twinkle in his eye he cursed the satirical poem about the Bostonians and their urge for a freedom without a monarchy, which the Europeans are denied.

On November 6, 1779 Parny was promoted to captain of the Queen's Dragoons regiment. In 1783 he went back to Réunion to settle the estate of his father, who has since died. Not until two years later did he leave home again and in 1785 became adviser to the governor general of the French possessions in Pondichéry in French India . But he didn't like the country - even if he had the idea for the chansons madécasses , the “Madagascan songs”, and collected ideas and texts. He decided to return to France and left the military. In 1786 he settled in a house in the Vallon de Feuillancourt, between Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Marly-le-Roi . The house was called the "barracks" and so Parny founded the "Gesellschaft der Kaserne" ( Société de la Caserne ) together with Bertin and Léonard .

The French Revolution hardly interested Parny. During this time he became increasingly depressed. When he accidentally appeared on a list of traitors among the revolutionaries, he had to flee to Clichy in order not to end up on the scaffold like many of his friends. He wrote to the relevant committee and added a few lines from his epistle to the rebels in Boston , in which he called for freedom without a pope and a monarchy. In the following years he published several nationalist poems in which he celebrated the “heroic deeds” of the Vengeur team and later wrote a hymn to the youth in which he describes the love of the fatherland and conjures up a golden future for the French youth . Soon Party was considered one of the intellectuals of the revolution.

But Parny had great financial worries: He had to take over the debts of his deceased brother Jean-Baptiste, so that in 1795 he was almost ruined and had to work. He got a job at the Ministry of the Interior, where he worked for 13 months and then moved to the administration of the Paris Opera . In 1804 he was employed by Antoine Français de Nantes in the administration of the Droits réunis, a tax authority. During the whole time he wrote more poems: 1799 La Guerre des Dieux ancients et modern , an ardent swan song for belief in God, and 1804 Goddam! Poème par un French-dog .

In 1802 Parny married Marie-Françoise Vally. The following year he became a member of the Académie française , where he received the 36th armchair and was celebrated as a revolutionary artist. In 1813 Napoleon Bonaparte granted him a pension of 3,000 francs, but it was revoked again in 1814 during the restoration phase. Parny died shortly afterwards. He was buried on December 7, 1814 in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.


The work of Parnys was very popular in France and Europe in the 19th century: many young poets admired Parny. "I could recite the Chevalier de Parny's elegies by heart and still can," wrote Chateaubriand in 1813, and the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin even said that Parny was his master. The French poet Alphonse de Lamartine also admired Parny.

Parny became famous for his Poésies érotiques (1778), which were so different from the academic style of the 18th century. The poems tell the love story between the narrator and Éleonore. In a new edition in 1781, the volume was divided into four sections: The first part tells the beginning of the love story, the second tells of a quarrel, the third celebrates the newly established love bonds and the fourth part tells the end of love and the “Emotional torment of the broken heart”. The Chansons madécasses of 1787, in which he translated some songs from Madagascar , which are now considered the first prose poems in French, are also significant . They were illustrated by Jean Émile Laboureur in 1920 and set to music by Maurice Ravel in 1925 .

La Guerre des Dieux anciens et modern , in which Parny caricatures God as a tyrant who is only interested in his own praise, caused a stir . The satirical, anti-clerical book aroused very mixed reactions, from deep rejection of the devout Catholics of the Ancien Régime to ardent admiration among the revolutionaries. The book became a bestseller in multiple editions. With the following Goddam! However, Parny weakened some of his statements again and took on more nationalistic tones.


The Lycée Evariste-de-Parny in Saint-Paul is named after the poet.


  • 1777: with Antoine Bertin: Voyage de Bourgogne (Burgundian journey)
  • 1777: Épître aux insurgents de Boston (Epistle to the Boston rebels)
  • 1778: Poésies érotiques (Erotic Poems)
  • 1779: Opuscules poétiques (Erotic books)
  • 1784: Élégies (elegies)
  • 1787: Chansons madécasses (Madagascan songs)
  • 1799: La Guerre des Dieux (The War of the Gods)
  • 1804: Goddam!
  • 1805: Le Portefeuille Volé (The Stolen Wallet)
  • 1806: Le Voyage de Céline (The Journey of Céline)


  • Catriona Seth: Les poètes créoles du XVIIIe siècle . Memini, Bibliographie des écrivains français, Paris, Rome, 1998
  • Catriona Seth: Le corps d'Eléonore: réflexions sur les Poésies érotiques du chevalier de Parny . In: Roman No. 25, 1988
  • Catriona Seth: Entre autobiographie et roman en vers: les Poésies érotiques . In: Autobiography et fiction romanesque autour des “Confessions” , documentation of a symposium with Jacques Domenech, Nice, Presses universitaires, 1997
  • Catriona Seth: Les Chansons madécasses de Parny: une poésie des origines aux origines du poème en prose . In: Nathalie Vincent-Munnia (ed.): Aux origines du poème en prose: la prose poétique , Paris, Champion, 2003, pp. 448–457
  • Catriona Seth: Parny et l'Instruction Publique In: Philippe Bourdin, Bernard Gainot: La République directoriale , Clermont-Ferrand, 1998
  • Catriona Seth: Un opéra politique ment correct sous le Directoire: L'Alceste de l'on V . P. Frantz et F. Jacob, Paris, Champion, 2002, pp. 169-177
  • Catriona Seth: Le réseau Parny . In: Philippe Bourdin, Jean-Luc Chappey: Réseaux et sociabilités littéraires en Révolution , Clermont-Ferrand, Presses de l'Université Blaise Pascal, 2007, pp. 127–141

Web links

Commons : Évariste de Parny  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Prosper Ève: Les Esclaves de Bourbon: La Mer et la Montagne . Karthala, ISBN 978-2-84586-456-6 .
  2. a b c d e f g Ritchie Robertson, Catriona Seth: Evariste-Desiré de Parny, Le Paradis Perdu . Modern Hunamities Research Association, London, 2009