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La Chaussee, Pierre Claude Nivelle De

LA CHAUSSEE, PIERRE CLAUDE NIVELLE DE (1692- I7S4), French dramatist, was born in Paris in 1692. In 1731 he published an Epitre d Clio, a didactic poem in defence of Leriget de la Faye in his dispute with Antoine Houdart de la Motte, who had maintained that verse was useless in tragedy. La Chaussee was forty years old before he produced his first play, La Fausse Antipathie (1734). His second play, Le Prejuge d la mode (1735) turns on the fear of incurring ridicule felt by a man in love with his own wife, a prejudice dispelled in France, according to La Harpe, by La Chaussee's comedy. L'Ecole des amis (1737) followed, and, after an unsuccessful attempt at tragedy in Maximinien, he returned to comedy in Melanide (1741)- In Melanide the type known as comedie larmoyante is fully developed. Comedy was no longer to provoke laughter, but tears. The innovation consisted in destroying the sharp distinction then existing between tragedy and comedy in French literature. Indications of this change had been already offered in the work of Marivaux, and La Chaussee's plays led naturally to the domestic drama of Diderot and of Sedaine. The new method found bitter enemies. Alexis Piron nicknames the author " le Reverend Pere Chaussee," and ridiculed him in one of his most famous epigrams. Voltaire maintained that the comedie larmoyante was a proof of the inability of the author o produce either of the recognized kinds of drama, though he limself produced a play of similar character in L' Enfant prodigue. The hostility of the critics did not prevent the public from shedding tears nightly over the sorrows of La Chaussee's heroine. L'Ecole des meres (1744) and La Gouvernante (1747) form, with those already mentioned, the best of his work. The strict moral aims pursued by La Chaussee in his plays seem hardly consistent with his private preferences. He frequented the same gay society as did the comte de Caylus and contributed to the Recueils de ces messieurs. La Chaussee died on the 14th of May 1754. Villemain said of his style that he wrote prosaic verses with purity, while Voltaire, usually an adverse critic of lis work, said he was " un des premiers apres ceux qui ont du genie."

For the comedie larmoyante see G. Lanson, Nivelle de la Chaussee t la comedie larmoyante (1887).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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