Born in Paris on April 18, 1837, to Alexandre-Louis and Jeanne (Martin) Becque, Henry-François Becque was the second of three children in a family that always remained close. His elder brother, Charles, preceded him by three years, and his sister, Aimée, was born in 1841. As a child, Becque attended the Lycée Bonaparte (later, Lycée Condorcet) from 1848 to 1854, but he left school to seek employment without sitting for the baccalauréat. After a dozen years and a succession of positions with the Northern Railway Company, the Stock Exchange, the chancellery of the Légion d’Honneur, and the Polish count Alfred Potocki, Becque collaborated with Victorien de Joncières on the opera Sardanaple, which played at the Théâtre-Lyrique in 1867. This short-lived production may have prompted Becque to write, as his uncle Pierre Martin (Martin Lubize) had done, for the vaudeville stage and to produce L’Enfant prodigue (the prodigal son).
A month after Becque’s second play, Michel Pauper, opened at the Porte Saint-Martin in June, 1870, the Franco-Prussian War began, and Becque, who enlisted at once in the French army, took part in the siege of Paris. The lack of success of L’Enlèvement (the elopement) drove Becque away from the theater for a time and back to the Stock Exchange for his livelihood. In 1876, he began writing for one of the many journals to which he would contribute and became drama critic for Le Peuple. Over the years, he also wrote for Henri IV, L’Union republicaine, Le Matin, La Revue...
(The entire section is 654 words.)