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Murger, Henry

MURGER, HENRY (1822-1861), French man of letters, was born in Paris on the 24th of March 1822. His father was a German concierge and a tailor. At the age of fifteen Murger was sent into a lawyer's office, but the occupation was uncongenial and his father's trade still more so; and he became secretary to Count Alexei Tolstoi. He published in 1843 a poem entitled Via dolorosa, but it made no mark. He also tried journalism, and the paper Le Castor, which figures in his Vie de Bohdme as having combined devotion to the interests of the hat trade with recondite philosophy and elegant literature, is said to have existed, though shortlived. In 1848 appeared the collected sketches called Scenes de la vie de BohZme.- This book describes the fortunes and misfortunes, the loves, studies, amusements and sufferings of a group of impecunious students, artists and men of letters, of whom Rodolphe represents Murger himself, while the others have been more or less positively identified. Murger, in fact, belonged to a clique of so-called Bohemians, the most remarkable of whom, besides himself, were Privat d' Anglemont and Champfleury. La Vie de Boheme, arranged for the stage in collaboration with Theodore Barriere, was produced at the Varietes on the 22nd of November 1849, and was a triumphant success; it afterwards formed the basis of Puccini's opera, La Boheme (1898). From this time it was easy for Murger to live by journalism and general literature. He was introduced in 1851 to the Revue des deux mondes. But he was a slow, fastidious and capricious worker, and his years of hardship and dissipation had impaired his health. He published among other works Claude et Marianne in 1851 ; a comedy, Le Bonhomme Jadis in 1852; Le Pays Latin in 1852; Adeline Prolat (one of the most graceful and innocent if not the most original of his tales) in 1853; and Les Buveurs d'eau in 1855. This last, the most powerful of his books next to the Vie de Boheme, traces the fate of certain artists and students who, exaggerating their own powers and disdaining merely profitable work, come to an evil end not less rapidly than by dissipation. Some years before his death, which took place in a maison de sanle near Paris on the 28th of January 1861, Murger went to live at Marlotte, near Fontainebleau, and there he wrote an unequal book entitled Le Sabot rouge (1860), in which the character of the French peasant is uncomplimentarily treated.

See an article by A. de Pontmartin in the Revue des deux mondes {October 1861).

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

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