Pierre Carlet Additional Biography


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Few authors have been as discreet about their private lives as Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux. Born Pierre Carlet in Paris on February 4, 1688, he left practically no correspondence, and an analysis of his writings does not help much. The most elementary facts of his biography have been established recently through scholarly scrutiny of legal documents. His father, Nicolas Carlet, was a naval officer, then a supply officer, before becoming director of the royal mint in Riom, a small town in central France. His mother was Marie-Anne Bullet; his maternal uncle, Pierre Bullet, and a cousin, Jean-Baptiste Bullet de Chamblain, were well-known and successful architects.

Marivaux probably spent half of his first twenty years in the provinces and the other half in Paris visiting relatives and friends. He may have attended the Collège de Riom, run by Oratorian monks; he studied Latin but admitted having no knowledge of Greek. In 1710, he registered at the Faculty of Law in Paris while still a resident of Riom. His first comedy, Le Père prudent et équitable: Ou, Crispin l’heureux fourbe (pr. c. 1709; the careful and just father), was performed in Limoges in 1712 and published with a preface signed “M***.” The same year, he moved to Paris, where he was welcome in the fashionable salon of Madame de Lambert and later of Madame de Tencin. He embraced the cause of the “Moderns” with Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle and Antoine Houdar de La...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux (mah-ree-voh) was born into a Norman family prominent in the legal profession. An only child, he enjoyed the privileges of rank and education, reflected in his gracious manners and social cultivation. By 1713 he was settled in Paris, where he wrote plays, novels, and newspaper articles. In 1717 he married Colombe Bologne. He lost most of his inheritance in poorly supervised investments within the next few years. He wife died in 1723, and several years later their daughter entered a convent.{$S[A]Carlet, Pierre;Marivaux}

Marivaux profited from the patronage of the fashionable literary salons organized by the female icons of the eighteenth century—Anne-Thérèse Lambert, Claudine-Alexandrine Tencin, Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin, and Marie Deffand—all respected, powerful, and titled. With their support and encouragement he wrote about thirty plays, nearly twenty of them for the Théâter Italien; two influential novels; essays for the Nouveau Mercure (between 1717 and 1719) and the Spectateur Français (1722); and numerous minor works. He was elected to the French Academy in 1742; fifteen years later he became its director.

The Life of Marianne represents a landmark in the development of the novel because of its analytic precision and social realism. The Fortunate Peasant (also known as The Upstart Peasant), rooted in the picaresque novel tradition, reveals a gallery of characters drawn from several social layers. These novels, although unfinished, offer compelling studies of the déniasement (initiation) of inexperienced but socially ambitious young people into the coded hierarchy of personal relationships.

Marivaux’s theatrical productions are well-crafted dramatic fantasies replete with refreshing badinage (undertones, insinuations, and double entendres), song and dance, idealized love, exaggerated situations, delightful vistas, and skillful plotting. The term “Marivaudage,” coined by Denis Diderot, originally meant excessive refinement of psychological moods and endless speculation on minor points of argument; the modern use of the word is associated with Marivaux’s lively, subtle, and ingenious style. With these unique contributions to the theater and to the novel, Marivaux stands out as a creative force in the eighteenth century literary landscape.