The facts of François de Curel’s life have an enormous bearing on his work, explaining not only why he became a playwright but also, in many instances, his choice of themes. Curel presents the unhappy spectacle of a person caught both between two times and between two countries. As so often seems the case with artists, Curel’s art flowed out of his unhappiness. By and large, his life is a story of frustration, especially frustrated pride.
Curel would seem initially to have had little reason for frustration. On his father’s side, he was a viscount, tracing his aristocratic roots all the way back to the Crusader Gaulthier de Curel. By the time of Curel’s birth, however, the aristocracy was under attack: After repeated revolutions, republican sentiment ran high in France, serving not only to restrict the aristocracy’s actual power but also to hold the ancient privileges up to scorn.
Still, his mother’s side of the family seemed to offer ample scope for a young man’s energies: His mother’s family, the de Wendels, were rich and powerful ironmakers in Alsace-Lorraine, and it was this family industry that Curel was educated to enter. After attending the College of the Jesuits in Metz, he took a degree in metallurgical engineering from the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures at Nancy in 1876. Meanwhile, following the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the Germans had annexed the territory of Alsace-Lorraine. Before they would let...
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