Etienne, Charles Guillaume

ETIENNE, CHARLES GUILLAUME (1778-1845), French dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was born near Saint Dizier, Haute Marne, on the 5th of January 1778. He held various municipal offices under the Revolution and came in 1796 to Paris, where he produced his first opera, Le Rêve, in 1799, in collaboration with Antoine Frédéric Gresnick. Although Etienne continued to write for the Paris theatres for twenty years from that date, he is remembered chiefly as the author of one comedy, which excited considerable controversy. Les Deux Gendres was represented at the Théâtre Français on the 11th of August 1810, and procured for its author a seat in the Academy. A rumour was put in circulation that Etienne had drawn largely on a manuscript play in the imperial library, entitled Conaxa, ou les gendres dupés. His rivals were not slow to take up the charge of plagiarism, to which Etienne replied that the story was an old one (it existed in an old French fabliau) and had already been treated by Alexis Piron in Les Fils ingrats. He was, however, driven later to make admissions which at least showed a certain lack of candour. The bitterness of the attacks made on him was no doubt in part due to his position as editor-in-chief of the official Journal de l'Empire. His next play, L'Intrigante (1812), hardly maintained the high level of Les Deux Gendres; the patriotic opera L'Oriflamme and his lyric masterpiece Joconde date from 1814. Etienne had been secretary to Hugues Bernard Maret, duc de Bassano, and in this capacity had accompanied Napoleon throughout his campaigns in Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland. During these journeys he produced one of his best pieces, Brueys et Palaprat (1807). During the Restoration Etienne was an active member of the opposition. He was seven times returned as deputy for the department of Meuse, and was in full sympathy with the revolution of 1830, but the reforms actually carried out did not fulfil his expectations, and he gradually retired from public life. Among his other plays may be noted: Les Deux Mères, Le Pacha de Suresnes, and La Petite Ecole des pères, all produced in 1802, in collaboration with his friend Gaugiran de Nanteuil (1778-1830). With Alphonse Dieudonné Martainville (1779-1830) he wrote an Histoire du Théâtre Français (4 vols., 1802) during the revolutionary period. Etienne was a bitter opponent of the romanticists, one of whom, Alfred de Vigny, was his successor and panegyrist in the Academy. He died on the 13th of March 1845.

His OEuvres (6 vols., 1846-1853) contain a notice of the author by L. Thiessé.

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

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