Son of a prosperous industrialist, Auguste Maquet (mah-kay) studied, then taught, history at Paris’s Lycée Charlemagne. By 1830, he had joined his school friends Gérard de Nerval and Théophile Gautier, later prominent writers, in Le Petit Cénacle, a bohemian literary group formed to support Romanticism against the classical tradition. That same year this cénacle rowdily championed the premiere of Victor Hugo’s revolutionarily poetic drama, Hernani. Soon, Maquet abandoned teaching for writing, using a romantically anglicized version of his name, Augustus MacKeat, to sign his work. In 1836 he joined the staff of the Figaro, Paris’s daily morning newspaper.
The professional turning point for Maquet came in 1838, when de Nerval, with whom he had written some short fiction, gave Maquet’s three-act play Le Soir du Carnaval to Alexandre Dumas for revision. Dumas transformed the play into Bathilde, which premiered on January 14, 1839, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance under Maquet’s name. The ambitious youth was grateful to Dumas for the play’s modest triumph.
The following year, Maquet himself gave his Le Bonhomme Buvat to Dumas, who fleshed out this short historical romance about a 1718 conspiracy against the regent of Louis XV into Le Chevalier d’Harmental and submitted it to the newspaper La Presse. Although he wanted to include his coauthor under the title, the director refused to dilute the marketability of Dumas’s name. Instead, Maquet contentedly received the then-vast sum of eight thousand francs for his part in the novel.
This second success launched...
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