Georges Feydeau Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

On December 8, 1862, Georges-Léon-Jules-Marie Feydeau was born in Paris to Ernest Feydeau, a man of many and varied occupations, and to Lodzia Zelewska, a young Polish woman whose extraordinary beauty had attracted many eminent suitors before she agreed to marry the much older Ernest. In fact, rumor had it that Georges’s real father was the Emperor Louis-Napoleon himself. From all accounts, the type of life the Feydeaus led and the kind of acquaintances they entertained may have provided young Georges with more than mere inspiration for his famous bedroom farces. It is perhaps relevant that the first thing Feydeau ever wrote, when still a child, was a play about a king, a queen, and her young lover—and how they learn to live happily ever after in a ménage à trois.

Feydeau made his debut in 1880 with a verse monologue. His first real success, however, came with his first full-length play, A Gown for His Mistress, in 1886. After a series of flops and a two-year hiatus during which he went back to the basics and to study the works of his predecessors, he returned to the stage with a vengeance. On April 23, 1892, The Happy Hunter opened at the Palais Royal to critical and public acclaim. On November 5 of the same year, A Close Shave premiered at the Nouveautés with resounding success. From this year on, every play this Midas of the theater wrote turned into gold.

Ironically, there seemed to be an inverse...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Georges-Leon-Jules-Marie Feydeau (fay-doh) was a leading author of French stage farces at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Although influential in his own day, Feydeau conducted his life in such an unconventional manner that many important details about him remain obscure. He was born in Paris on December 8, but he sometimes recorded the year as 1862; at other times, 1863. His mother, a Polish socialite who had numerous romantic liaisons among the French nobility, sometimes wrote her first name in its Polish form, Lodzia, at other times in its more Latinate form, Léocadia. Similarly, her family name could be spelled Zelewska but was often rendered more simply as Slewska. Even the identity of Feydeau’s father is not known for certain. In all likelihood, the playwright’s father was his mother’s husband, Ernest Feydeau, a novelist and scholar who was a member of the noble family Feydeau de Marville. Nevertheless, at the time Feydeau was conceived, his mother was also the mistress of the duke of Morney, making it is possible that this nobleman was actually the author’s father. Even more confusingly, Feydeau was rumored throughout his life to be the illegitimate son of Napoleon III, and, in the delusions he suffered before his death, he repeatedly claimed to be Napoleon III himself. Of these many possibilities, only the last may be safely discounted.

Feydeau was only six or seven years old when he began to write his first works for the stage. He attended school at the Lycée Saint-Louis and the Collège Saint-Barbe where, at the age of fourteen, he met Adolphe Louveau, a fellow student with whom he founded an amateur theatrical group, Le Cercle des Castagnettes (the Castanets club). This group, which performed plays and concerts, gave Feydeau an important introduction to actual stage experience and to means of anticipating the tastes of an audience.

Inspired by his work with Le Cercle des Castagnettes, Feydeau began writing short scenes, drawing-room monologues, and skits, some of which also featured him as an actor. Through these activities, he came into contact with a large number of other actors, including the brothers...

(The entire section is 899 words.)