Victorien Sardou’s father, Antoine Léandre Sardou, was a schoolmaster; his mother, Mademoiselle Viard, the daughter of a manufacturer. The family lived in Paris, moving frequently in the course of the elder Sardou’s teaching career. On completion of a secondary education at the Collège Henri IV in Paris, young Sardou began a career in medicine. This practical choice had been at his father’s urging; his personal preference was literature. After eighteen months at the Necker Hospital, Sardou left to become a writer. To support himself, he contributed articles to several journals and encyclopedic works and tutored students in various subjects. Developing an interest in drama, he wrote several plays that were either rejected, or accepted but never performed. In 1854, La Taverne des étudiants (the students’ tavern) was produced at the Théâtre National de l’Odéon. This play was canceled after only a few performances, however, because it had provoked the wrath of Parisian students. The reputation of this failure haunted the young playwright, and five years passed before he succeeded in bringing another play to the stage. During this period, Sardou pored over the works of Eugène Scribe. Beginning with the first act of a Scribe play, he would then compose his own version in order to compare his technique to that of an acknowledged master.
Finally, Sardou managed to gain the attention of Virginie Déjazet. This popular actress produced and...
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