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Lebrun, Ponce Denis Ecouchard

LEBRUN, PONCE DENIS ECOUCHARD (1720-1807), French lyric poet, was born in Paris on the nth of August 1729, in the house of the prince de Conti, to whom his father was valet. Young Lebrun had among his schoolfellows a son of Louis Racine whose disciple he became. In 1755 he published an Ode sur les desastres de Lisbon. In 1759 he married Marie Anne de Surcourt, addressed in his Elegies as Fanny. To the early years of his marriage belongs his poem Nature. His wife suffered much from his violent temper, and when in 1774 she brought an action against him to obtain a separation, she was supported by Lebrun's own mother and sister. He had been secretaire des commandemenls to the prince de Conti, and on his patron's death was deprived of his occupation. He suffered a further misfortune in the loss of his capital by the bankruptcy of the prince de Guemene. To this period belongs a long poem, the Veillies des Muses, which remained unfinished, and his ode to Buffon, which ranks among his best works. Dependent on government pensions he changed his politics with the times. Calonne he compared to the great Sully, and Louis XVI. to Henry IV., but the Terror nevertheless found in him its official poet. He occupied rooms in the Louvre, and fulfilled his obligations by shameless attacks on the unfortunate king and queen. His excellent ode on the Vengeur and the Ode nationale centre A ngleterre on the occasion of the projected invasion of England are in honour of the power of Napoleon. This " versatility " has so much injured Lebrun's reputation that it is difficult to appreciate his real merit. He had a genius for epigram, and the quatrains and dizaines directed against his many enemies have a verve generally lacking in his odes. The one directed against La Harpe is called by Sainte-Beuve the " queen of epigrams." La Harpe has said that the poet, called by his friends, perhaps with a spice of irony, Lebrun-Pindare, had written many fine strophes but not one good ode. The critic exposed mercilessly the obscurities and unlucky images which occur even in the ode to Buffon, and advised the author to imitate the simplicity and energy that adorned Buffon's prose. Lebrun died in Paris on the 31st of August 1807.

His works were published by his friend P. L. Ginguenfi in 1811. The best of them are included in Prosper Poitevin's " Petits poetes franfais," which forms part of the " Pantheon litteraire."

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

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